Saturday, 7 August 2010


“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Today we went on a day-long tour to Ha Long Bay in the northeastern part of Vietnam which is 165 Km from Hanoi (see more of my photos here). Ha Long Bay is often touted by proud Vietnamese as the world’s Eighth Wonder. One of the main attractions of Ha long is the bay’s calm water and the thousands of limestone formations dotting the seascape. The Bay’s water is clear during the spring and early summer. Some of the islands are quite large and there are small alcoves with sandy beaches where swimming is possible. Ha Long literally means “descending dragon(s)” and according to local myth, the story goes as follows:

Long ago when their forefathers were fighting foreign invaders from the north, the gods from heaven sent a family of dragons to help defend their land. This family of dragons descended upon what is now Ha Long bay and began spitting out jewels and jade. Upon hitting the sea, these jewels turned into the various islands and islets dotting the seascape and formed a formidable fortress against the invaders. The locals were able to keep their land safe and formed what is now the country of Vietnam. The Dragon family fell so much in love with this area for its calm water and for the reverence of the people of Vietnam that they decided to remain on earth. Mother dragon lies on what is now Ha Long and where her children lie is Bai Tu Long. The dragon tails formed the area of Bach Long Vi known for the miles of white sandy beaches of Tra Co peninsula.

This myth is in line with the Vietnamese myth of their origin Con Rong Chau Tien. This myth describes the union between a king (representing the dragon) and his bride (representing a goddess) giving birth to 100 children which are the ancestors of the Vietnamese people. The Ha Long myth illustrate the Vietnamese belief of their origin and the fact that throughout their history, they are aided by their ancestors, the dragon and the gods, in the defense of their land.

The bay has some surrealistic scenery and the limestone formations are both bizarre and awesome. Over thousands of years the base of many of the formation have corroded to a point where many seem to be balancing on thin air. The shapes and the positioning of these formations often resemble people, animals etc., hence, most are given a name by the locals. Some of the more famous are: Hang Dau Go (Wooden Stakes cave), Hang Bo Nau (Pelican cave), Hang Trinh Nu (the Virgin), Hang Sung Sot (Cave of Awe), Dong Hang Hanh, Dao Tuan Chau (Sentinel Chau Island), Qua Chuong (the bell), Con Voi (the elephant) etc. Now, about one thousand formations have names.

We finished our tour by visiting Thiên Cung cave, which is situated on the south-west side the bay, 4 km from the wharf outside of Ha Long City. The way to Thiên Cung is a steep one, covered on both sides by thick forest. After entering a narrow gate, the grotto’s 130-meter-long chamber opens up. Thousands of stalactites and stalagmites make this a veritable fairy palace. This grotto discovered about 17 years ago, is one of the most beautiful caves in Ha Long Bay. Legend has it, that beautiful young lady named Mây (cloud), caught the eye of the Dragon Prince and he fell in love with her. They were betrothed, and their wedding lasted seven days and seven nights in the very centre of the grotto.

In honour of the wedding, small dragons flew about through the stalactites and stalagmites, elephants danced together happily, snakes twined themselves around trees and two stone lions danced with their manes flowing in the wind. A large elephant, smartly dressed, waited for the bride and the groom. The genies of the south and north stars also came to attend the banquet, and the atmosphere was definitely animated and lively. All these scenes have been seemingly fossilized in the grotto. 
Arriving at the last part of the grotto, a natural gushing stream of water babbles down throughout the year. Here are three small ponds of clear water. Legend has it, that this was where Mây bathed her 100 children, bringing them up wisely and happily into adolescence.

For Music Saturday today, a traditional Vietnamese tune played on the Dan Tranh by Truy.


  1. Beuatiful music Nic!!! Glad your enjoying your vacation!!!

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