Legend of the dragon
Halong means “dragon descending“, and its name is steeped in local legend. The story goes that the heavenly celestial dragon and her offspring were ordered by the Jade Emperor to halt an invasion from the sea. To combat this, the dragons spewed out bits of jade and jewels that turned into wondrous islands and karst formations on contact with the water, thereby scuppering the enemy ships.According to other versions of the legend, the bay was created when the dragon flung herself into the water, on the way, her swishing tail dug deep valleys and crevices in the mainlad, which were subsequently filled by the sea. Regardless, the dragon was so pleased with her creations that she settled among them. She is said to live under the bay to this day. Some people claim to have seen this Vietnamese equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster, a black creature resembling a snake about 30 metres in length. Called a “Tarasque” by former French residents of the area, enterprising boat owners ave made a career out of taking tourists in search of the beast.
Legends aside, the geological explaination is that the karst outcrops were formed by a giant limestone seabed that eroded over the centuries until only their pinnacles were left behind. Many of these limestone piles have strange and wondrous shapes, some of which are known to local fishermen by fanciful nicknames like the Dog, Turtle and Toad, derived from the rocks’ uncanny resemblance to the shape of certain animals. Over time, rain and the elements created caves within some of these limestone rocks, several of which can be visited.