A refreshing breeze coming from the Gulf of Tokin is the perfect accompaniment to the breathtaking beauty of the over two thousand limestone islands emerging from its emerald waters. This is Halong Bay and I am relaxing and enjoying myself on the top deck of a typical junk boat exploring this mythical place.
Halong is also known as “the Bay of Descending Dragons.” According to legend, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors when Vietnam started to develop into a country and needed protection from invaders. The dragons spit jewels that turned into islands along the bay, and magic rocks appeared abruptly from under the sea ahead of the invader’s ships, making them strike the rocks. After the battle, the dragons realized they loved the bay and decided to stay and live here.
It was a long journey – the almost one hundred and fifty kilometers that separates this UNESCO World Heritage Site from Hanoi was longer than expected. Granted, stopping in countryside villages along the way to photograph and interact with locals contributed to that.
Halong Bay is a popular tourist destination, and among the most common activities tourists do here is spending a night on the bay in a cruise boat. There are plenty of offerings and our prior research showed us mixed reviews. We wanted to see and experience the site but avoid the vacationist’s trap – our goal was to have fun and take photos. So instead of taking an overnight cruise we decided to charter our own ship for the afternoon, directing the craft anywhere we pleased. Chartering the boat just for us was great; as we traversed the bay, we asked the captain to take us close to any spot that interested us.
Putting the camera down was hard to do. The rock formations are awesome, and the fisherman villages on the water captivated me. Photographing Halong Bay is easy, as there are opportunities everywhere. I didn’t see any dragons in the bay, but I witnessed a surreal sunset, watched the sky turn red and reflect into the basin, setting it on fire – fire that seemed to come from the spit of a dragon.
I really adored my day and shooting photos in Halong Bay. This is a truly a remarkable place for the landscape photographer. That’s all for now – more coming soon. As always, feel free to leave comments.
If you’d like to travel with me to amazing places and take fabulous travel photos, be sure to photo tour to Iceland in March 2015.