By indexer
27 days ago

The dragon of Halong Bay

Halong Bay, in northern Vietnam, is one of the world’s most remarkable marine landscapes. It is an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, some 1500 sq km in size, that contains around 2000 steep-sided islands and islets, formed from karst limestone some 300 million years ago. Because of their precipitous nature and height (up to 100 metres), most of the islands are uninhabited. Some of the larger islands contain caves and lakes.

The Bay is an important refuge for wildlife, both on the islands and in the water. More than 150 species of coral and 1000 species of fish have been identified, and the area is therefore an important resource for both seabirds and fishermen.

Settlement on the shores of Halong Bay is forbidden apart from fishermen and their families, who live in floating villages of houseboats, but the Bay is still a threatened environment due to the huge number of tourists it attracts and the mess they leave behind them. There are also threats from industrial pollution. Halong Bay has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994, which has been helpful in efforts to maintain its environmental integrity.

But what was that about a dragon? The name Ha Long means “descending dragon”, the legend being that in ancient times the gods sent a dragon to defend the local population from invaders. The dragon chased the invaders back through the bay, swishing its tail as it did so. Any pieces of land that got in its way were cut up into smaller and smaller islands. The grateful locals named the Bay after the dragon, which never left but lives today in a cave deep below the surface of the water, ensuring the well-being of the houseboat dwellers.

That sounds reasonable enough, surely?

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Justin Very interesting