2012 World Monuments Watch
Hạ Long Bay lies on Vietnam’s northeastern seacoast, 70 kilometers from Hanoi. A dramatic setting of rocky formations and crystal blue waters, the bay is inscribed on the World Heritage list. It is home to three traditional floating villages that date to the early nineteenth century. These communities are comprised of 400 households, approximately 1,700 people, who live on boats and floating wooden houses in the core zone of Hạ Long bay. Their main livelihood is fishing and aquaculture. Traditionally, each boat in the floating village is a separate household, though the raft or boat always serves more than one function. It is a home, a means of transport, and a source of income. Thousands of visitors see the villages while traveling in Hạ Long Bay; the distinctive traditional lifestyle of the villagers is a unique component of Vietnamese identity. The residents are inextricably linked to their setting, forming an integrated cultural landscape and living tradition. An influx of tourists and associated development has altered this place and with it the social and physical context of these people. Changes in economic activities and in the ecosystem on which the villages thrive directly affect their way of life. Inclusion on the Watch raises awareness of these challenges and promotes strategies of heritage-driven community development, to enable the villages to adapt to these changes and chart a sustainable future.