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Dragons in Vietnam

In the Asian lunar calendar, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which makes it a perfect time to plan a trip to Vietnam, the country shaped like a sinuous dragon. According to mythology, the Vietnamese people stem from the union of a dragon and a fairy and the dragon is one of the main symbols of Vietnam.

The word for dragon in Vietnamese is 'Rong', or 'Long', and many places across the country are named after dragons or have dragon legends attached to them.

Perhaps the most well known is the thousand year old capital, Hanoi, which was originally called 'Thang Long' (Rising Dragon). As the story goes, in 1010 King Ly Thai To wanted to relocate the capital from Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh province and chose a central, low lying site to the northeast in an area known as Long Do (the Dragon's Navel). He apparently saw a cloud hovering just above what is now called West Lake (in the northern part of the city), which morphed into a dragon, rose up from the water and disappeared into the heavens. He perceived this as a good omen and decided to establish the capital where it still stands to this day.

Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province, one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is the Bay of the Descending Dragon with Bai Tu Long (Little Dragon Bowing to Its Mother) Bay to the east and Cat Ba Island, formerly known as Phu Long (Floating Dragon), to the southeast.

Many mountains in Vietnam are associated with dragons, such as Long Doi (Hill of Dragons) in northern Ha Nam province, Long Tu (Dragon's Moustache) in Quang Ninh province and Long Truong (Mother Dragon Surrounded by Her Children) in Ha Tinh, as well as the Thanh Long (Blue Dragon) mountain in Quang Binh and the Rong (Dragon) mountain range in Thua Tien-Hue.

Dragon images appear in many forms across Vietnamese art. They feature in numerous poems and paintings, and temples, pagodas and communal houses are full of exquisite dragons carved in wood and stone.

The dragon also symbolizes water, which is essential for agriculture, the mainstay of the Vietnamese economy throughout history. It embodies the power, prosperity and spirit of the people as well as the strength of the nation and its long, proud, and noble history.

The Year of the Dragon is an auspicious time to visit Vietnam, truly a country of dragons, and experience the wonders of its traditions as well as its progression into the future. 

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