The celebrations for Chinese New Year are over, but the Year of the Dragon has only just begun. We chatted to George, our South East Asia expert, and he told us more about the myth of the dragon...
Long revered in Chinese culture, the dragon is associated with power and strength and is believed to have control over rivers, rainfall, hurricanes, and floods...
Flowing from the Tibetan Plateau, through the Yunnan province in China, the mighty Mekong River is often referred to as the Mystic Dragon, surging on to Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam where it is believed to protect but also isolate the region’s ethnic minorities. On its way to the South China Sea, it transforms into The River of Nine Dragons (Song Cuu Long): named after the nine tails, or tributaries of the Mekong delta.
The fiery beast then makes its presence known in Vietnam. Known as the ‘Bay of The Descending Dragon,’ the majestic Halong Bay is said to have been formed by the dragon’s flailing tail, which gouged out the valleys and crevasses, before the beast plunged into the sea and created the islands. Hanoi, likewise is referred to as the ‘City of the Soaring Dragon,’ and images of dragons can be found in many of Vietnam’s tourist sites, including the Imperial Citadel at Hue.
Perhaps the strangest manifestation of the dragon is in the Nong Khai province of Thailand. Here, the people gather to observe the mysterious phenomenon when globes of light rise to the surface of the river. The locals call them ‘Naga Fireballs’ and believe they come from a dragon that dwells in the river.
An equally exciting spectacle is the dragon boat racing festival in Laos. Held in Vientane at the end of the Buddhist lent (October), Boun Xuang Heua involves over 20 ornate and vibrant Dragon Boats which line up for the race on the Mekong river.
If you want to come face to face with real-life ancient dragons, you’ll find them on the desolate yet beautiful islands of Komodo in Eastern Indonesia. Okay, so they’re not actual dragons, but at 3 metres in length, up to 100kg in weight, and with a diet that includes buffalo and deer, they’re still quite something!
- Komodo Dragons on the Volcanic Islands of Indonesia
2012 is definitely the year to be in South East Asia: if you'd like more inspiration, or would like to hear about our unique itineraries, call our experts on: 020 7337 9010