Halong Bay – Vietnam
The Mythical Bay of Dragons
It’s said that dragons once descended from heaven and spouted streams of jade droplets that fell into the waters of Halong Bay, forming thousands of islands and islets to protect the bay and its people from invading marauders.
Today this mysterious body of water, with its nature-sculpted limestone islands and outcroppings that resemble (and are named for) dogs, elephants, toads, monkeys, and other animals and shapes, has the surreal quality of classical Chinese and Vietnamese paintings, especially when the sails of sampans and junks are silhouetted against the horizon like giant butterflies.
More than 100 miles in length, Halong is home to sandy unpeopled beaches and centuries-old floating fishing villages, whose boat people still honor the deities of these timeless waters.
A ragtag fleet of tourist boats and inexpensive personality-free hotels have sprung up around Bay Chai and Hong Gai, but the only way to really experience the hidden lagoons and caves of stalagmites and fantastic rock formations is by joining a kayaking trip and zigzagging your way through the maze of jagged isles.