Where the dragon descends to the sea.
Legend has it that Ha Long Bay was formed when a great dragon charged the coast as a last ditch effort to scatter Northern invaders hell bent on taking ancient Vietnam. When the battle was over, the gigantic beast dove into the ocean, its tail violently gouging valleys and grottoes as it went. The ocean quickly reclaimed the disfigured landscape, and thus, Ha Long Bay was born. The actual explanation revolves around erosion, but that’s nowhere near as mystically endearing. Although today it is ripe with stilted houses that follow the mannerisms of jagged limestone columns jutting from the bay, it still resembles something one might have seen in the early days of Earth’s formation. The view borders on surreal, but chartering a boat and going out to get a better look at her environment is a completely ethereal experience. It’s as if one can feel the passage of time slip by while sailing between towering pillars and limestone caverns painstakingly carved by Mother Nature herself.
After spending some time sailing the emerald waters of Ha Long, we boarded a smaller vessel known as a junk boat and set off to navigate the waterways of Vung Vieng, a small fishing village set in the middle of the Gulf of Tonkin. There isn’t much in terms of fanfare on the tiny, floating island, but in hindsight, that’s what makes the village so special. It facilitates the needs of its inhabitants without imposing man made gaudiness to interrupt the flow of such a pristine environment. Little boats filled with onlookers like ourselves only served to reinforce our belief that the sight before us was one rampant with a beauty so engrossing that it inspired unabridged curiosity. The charm of this lake dwelling community floats in peaceful ignorance of its bold location, and it encouraged the same within us. Just being out on the water and listening to the quiet ambiance was enough to soothe even the most tumultuous of spirits. In the end, our trip to Hanoi was an experience we wouldn’t trade for the world, but it was a fast paced one. The city is alive and moving at what seems to be a million miles per hour, so to have the opportunity to slow down and connect with this remote location, in all its simplistic grandeur, is what makes Ha Long Bay a must see site well worth the day trip.