Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

Ha Long Bay, Dragons, and a Journey Through Vietnam

One of the many things we pride ourselves on here at Smithsonian Journeys is to highlight the amazing and beautiful World Heritage Sites that can be found on our tours. These special sites go through a lengthy and specific process to finally be named on this list. Today, 890 sites have  made the cut: 689 are listed as culturally significant, 176 are natural sites, and 25 are mixed properties. Ha Long Bay, which we'll visit on our Journey Through Vietnam, is one of them.

Ha Long Bay literally translates to "Descending Dragon Bay" which makes one wonder where such a name originated. The story originates as a local legend when the Chinese were invading Vietnam. To protect the people of the region, the gods sent a family of dragons. But instead of fire, the dragons spit out jewels, pearls, and jade that began to make up the islands that blocked the invaders, and as a result, the country of Vietnam was created. After the battles were over, the dragons weren't interested in leaving. Instead, they chose to remain for some sightseeing on Earth and eventually made it their home. Ha Long is where the Mother Dragon chose to settle down, while her children comprise the other islands nearby where they could wiggle their active tails violently and freely.

Today, about 1,600 people call Ha Long Bay their home in four fishing villages. Because of the landscape and the nature of their occupations, this community is unique because it is made up of floating houses and markets.  Unfortunately, there haven't been any dragon sightings recently.

Which legendary mythical creature is your favorite? Dragons, fairies... maybe Pegasus? We want to know!

Enjoy dragon legends, incredible fresh seafood, and shop at a floating market on our Journey Through Vietnam.