Ha Long Bay is perhaps the most spectacular of Vietnam’s natural wonders. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin 170 kilometres from Hanoi, it is an impressive collection of nearly 3,000 islands covering an area in excess of 1,500 square kilometres forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and cliff faces. The breathtaking scenery and unusual geology of the bay led UNESCO to designate Ha Long Bay a World Natural Heritage site in 1994. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands and islets are uninhabited and untouched by man.
The ancient Vietnamese believed that Ha Long Bay was where a giant dragon “descended into the sea”, as the rocky outcrops resemble the humps and scales of a dragon’s back. Another legend says the giant limestone rocks themselves are dragons, protecting Vietnam from hostile invaders. In fact the bay was formed as a result of millions of years of erosion on the limestone rocks. Then when the last ice age finished, the seas rose as the glaciers melted, flooding the entire area transforming hills into the islands we see today.
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