Halong Bay (literally: “Descending Dragon Bay”; Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam.
Situated in the North-East region of Vietnam, 151 km North-East of Hanoi, Halong Bay is in the Gulf of Tonkin stretching through Halong City, Cam Pha Town, and a part of the island district of Van Don. Halong Bay borders Cat Ba Island in the southwest, the East Sea in the east, and the mainland, creating a 120 km coastline.
Halong Bay is made up of 1,969 islands of various sizes. There are two kinds of islands, limestone and schist, concentrated in two main zones: the southeast (belonging to Bai Tu Long Bay), and the southwest (belonging to Halong Bay). This densely concentrated zone of rock islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves, forms the central zone of Halong Bay, which has twice been acclaimed as the World Heritage by the UNESCO.
Halong literally means Descending Dragon(s). This name is associated with a legend that has been handed down for generations. According to this, during the earliest days of founding the country the Vietnamese were attacked by foreign invaders through the sea line. Knowing this in advance, God wanted to help the Viet people to expel the enemy by sending Mother Dragon and her children down to Vietnam. When the invaders were about to launch massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended in flocks from the sky. They spat out innumerable pearls which changed into jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that checked the enemy’s advance and smashed their vessels to pieces.
After the invaders were driven out, Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to Heaven because they fell in love with the beauty of the water and the sea. They decided to remain on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Halong, and where the Child Dragons came down and bowed their heads to their mother was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Bach Long Vi, now known as Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers.