Situated in the North-East region of Viet Nam, and 165km from the capital of Ha Noi, Ha Long Bay is a part of the Gulf of Tonkin, comprises the sea region of Ha Long City, Cam Pha City and a part of Van Don Island District. To the south-west it borders the island of Cat Ba (Hai Phong City), to the east is the sea, and the main- land follow a coastline of 120km to the north. It stretches between the 106°8' and 107°22' eastern meridians and the 20°45' and 20°50' northern parallels. Ha Long Bay covers a total area of 1,553 sq.km, including 1,969 islands of various sizes, 989 of which have been given names. There are two kinds, limestone and schist, which are concentrated in two main zones: the south-west (belonging to Ha Long Bay), and the south-east (be- longing to Bai Tu Long Bay). The average geological age of the islands is between 250 and 280 million years old. The densely concentrated zone of stone is- lands, grottoes and caves, world famous for its spectacular scenery, forms the central zone of Ha Long Bay which has been listed as one of UNESCO's world heritage sites. This protected site covers an area of 434 sq. km, comprises 775 islands and forms a triangle with Dau Go Island (Driftwood Island) to the west, Ba Ham Lake (Three-Shelter Lakes) to the south, and Cong Tay Island to the east.
Ha Long Bay is located in a tropical and temperate zone. The four distinct seasons are most evident in a year. The annual average temperature is 22.8°C. The average temperature in summer is 26.4°C and the hottest temperature is 37°C. The annual average rainfall is 2,005.4mm. The period from May to October receives the more important rainfall. The winter lasts from 4 to 5 months. Between the main two seasons are a shorter spring and autumn. The period from August to October is typhoon season.
Legend of Ha Long Bay
It has said that, once upon a time, soon after the Viet people established their country, invaders came. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to the earth to help the Viet people fight against their enemy. Right at the time invaders' boats were rushing to the shore, the dragons landed down on the earth. The dragons immediately sent out from their mouths a lot of pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls challenging the invaders' boats. The fast boats couldn't manage to stop and crashed into the islands and into each other and broke into pieces. After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons didn't return the Heaven but stayed on the Earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The lo- cation Mother Dragon landed is nowa- days Ha Long Bay and where Child Dragons descended is now Bai Tu Long. The dragons' tails waving the water cre- ated Long Vi (present Tra Co peninsula) and formed a fine sand beach over ten kilometres long.
Outstanding Universal Values
Ha Long Bay is a spectacular seascape sculpted by nature, comprises of a multi- tude of limestone islands and islets with variety of sizes and shapes rising from the sea. The outstanding features of Ha Long Bay include the magnificent towering limestone pillars and associated notches, arches and caves which are exceptionally well-developed and among the best pre- sented of their type in the world. The re- peated regression and transgression of the sea on the limestone karst over geo- logical time have produced a mature landscape of clusters of conical peaks and isolated towers. Ha Long Bay also displays the full range of karst formation processes on a very large scale and over a very long period of geological time, pos- sessing the most complete and extensive example of its type in the world and pro- viding a unique and extensive reservoir of data for the future understanding of geo- climatic history and the nature of karst processes in a complex environment. Besides, Ha Long's exceptional scenic beauty is complemented by its great bi- ological interest. Ha Long also has been proven by scientists to be one of the first cradles of human existence in the area with several archaeological sites. With such special values, at the 18th Session of UNESCO's Council of World Heritage held on 17 December 1994 in Thailand, Ha Long Bay was officially placed on the list of the World Natural Heritage. In 2000, UNESCO recognized it as the World Heritage for the second time for its geographical and geomor- phologic values. This confirms the global premier value of Ha Long Bay. In addition, Ha Long Bay has been rec- ognized as one of 7 natural wonders of the world since 11 November 2011.
Speaking of Ha Long, one must above all talk of the beauty of its stone, water and sky. In a relatively small area, there are various islands and islets forming some legendary world of stone islands. Ha Long Bay has been called by the great national poet Nguyen Trai (1380-1442): "a wonder of the earth erected towards the high sky/' Seen from above, Ha Long Bay resembles a light blue handkerchief dotted with emerald gems; sometimes clustered to- gether, sometimes isolated. The clever artistic hand of creation has made thou- sands of stone islands simulating familiar personages or animals. Like the constellations of the sky, it's pos- sible to find a familiar form in every is- land of Ha Long Bay: one brings to mind a pair of chickens bobbing on the spa- cious water (Trong Mai Islet); another is like a giant tortoise with half-closed and sleepy eyes (Rua Islet); another is like an old monk joining his hands in prayer to Buddha, with his face turned to the sea
(Ong Su Islet); yet another is like a giant incense-burner standing in the middle of the sea which used to pray the Heaven and the Earth (Dinh Huong Islet); Rong (Dragon) Island looks like a dragon hov- ering above the turquoise water. It is a safe bet that many other islands bearing familiar forms remain undiscovered in the mysterious bay.
The sea of Ha Long is deep blue water throughout all four seasons. In the spring, sailing amidst the waves, the stone islands look to be bobbing on the water. As the summer approaches and the sun is setting on the far horizon, they appear to awake in unison and rise from the blue depths. The whole bay is bright red, and then turns to blue as the crests of the waves run together towards the shore. Orchids and fig trees, growing from fissures in the stone, bloom with snowy flowers. At the sunset, when the mountains' shadows stretch out long across the bay, the water turns grey-blue, before suddenly transforming to a crim- son red as the last of the sun's rays reach the far away islands. For one short in- stant, the whole scene mingles into one colour, and then all light is extinguished. After the moon climbs into the sky, the sea seems to be coated with silver, with the lights of Ha Long City reflected on the surface of the water. As a boat makes its way through this forest of islands by ways of meandering channels, sometimes stone seems to be spread in front of you; forming a wall heeding further progress. Once nearer, the wall appears to crack open as if letting your boat pass. The scenery disappears behind you as yet an- other panorama opens to your view. The winding route seems to be endless, but the beauty of Ha Long Bay does not consist only in the forms of its moun- tains, islands and the colour of its waters, but also in its infinitely rich system of grottoes and caves; concentrated mostly in the middle of the UNESCO-protected area. Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) Grotto bears a modern and refined trait, while Dau Go (Driftwood) Grotto is ample and grandiose and Sung Sot (Surprise) Grotto appears deeply secretive. There are many beautiful examples, closely linked with legends and popular tales, such as Trinh Nu and Trong (Virgin and Male) grottoes and Dong Tien (Fairy Grotto) Lake. Each is a grandiose and re- fined natural architectural creation. It seemed that every island, cave and beach in Ha Long closely linked with the legend and popular tale of love, of the heroic song for safeguarding country... Dis- covering Ha Long Bay is a good chance to witness the romantic and attractive love story which happened only in the legend.
Value of Geology
At the beginning of the Cambrian era (500 to 570 million years ago), the area which now forms Ha Long Bay was basically mainland, submitted to a process of rain erosion. At the end of the period, it was flooded by the advance of the sea west- ward, commencing the existence of Ha Long Bay. During the Odovic and Silurian periods (400 to 500 million years ago), the area of north-east Viet Nam was basically a deep sea, submitted to the constant activity of tectonic plates. At the end of the Silurian period, it underwent a phase of inverse- motion that created mountains deep under the water. From the end of this pe- riod and throughout the whole Devonian period (340 to 420 million years ago), the area was subjected to powerful forces of erosion from the hot and dry climate. At this point, Ha Long was part of a wide mainland that comprised most of today's East Sea.
Due to tectonic activity, the Ha Long area and the entire north-east region were raised from the depths at the end of the Devonian period. In the later Car- boniferous and Permian periods (240 to 340 million years ago), a shallow and warm sea reformed, which existed for approximately 100 million years. It cre- ated two kinds of limestone: the Cat Ba layer of the early Carboniferous period (450m thick); and the Quang Hanh layer of the middle Carboniferous period (750m thick). These two layers consti- tute the majority of the islands of the bay. Passing into the early periods of the Con- temporary era (67 million years ago), Ha Long Bay existed in the environment of a high mountainous mainland due to the influence of strong mountain-forming phases. The middle of the Palaeocene pe- riod saw these motions remain continu- ous and stable, while strong processes of erosion began, and after millions of years, a form of semi-highland topography took shape. The continuation of this erosion has progressively cut the highlands into blocks with altitudes similar to today's mountains. Into the Quaternary era, the process of erosion began dissolving the limestone- rich region of Ha Long. The islands of today's Ha Long Bay are basically rem- nants of these mountains flooded during the early Holocene period. The middle and late Pleistocene epoch (11,000 to 70,000 years ago) marks the period when the famous caves and grottoes of the area formed. Rain water flowed into crevices in the limestone that had formed from tectonic activity. This steady erosion constantly widened the cracks, eventually creating today's formations. The Holocene period (from 11,000 years ago to today), is notable for the advance of the sea. This movement reached its peak 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, forming today's Ha Long Bay. After that, with the sea in a steady process of recession, Ha Long culture began to develop. At the be- ginning of the late Holocene epoch, the level of the water once again increased, forming a marshy floor of canals and streams, and creating the water marks that can be seen on the stone cliffs of today. The most remarkable geological events of Ha Long Bay's history in the last 1,000 years include the advance of the sea, the raising of the bay area and the strong erosion that has formed coral and pure blue and heavily salted water. This process of erosion by seawater has deeply engraved the stone, contributing to its fantastic beauty. Present-day Ha Long Bay is the result of this long process of geological evolution that has been in- fluenced by so many factors. Some of the most remarkable are: the formation of the limestone layer more than 1,000m thick during the Carboniferous and Per- mian periods (240 to 340 million years ago); and the development of the Ha Long depression during the Neogene pe- riod (10 to 26 million years ago). The ero- sion process forming the limestone plain was most active in the Quaternary Pleis- tocene epoch (11,000 to 2 million years ago). It is because of all these factors that visi- tors now visiting Ha Long Bay are not only treated to one of the true wonders of the world, but also to a precious geo- logical museum that has been naturally preserved in the open air for the last 300 million years.
Values of Biological Diversity
Ha Long is also a region of highly-con- centrated biological diversity with many varied ecosystems of salt water-flooded forests, coral reefs and tropical forests, featuring thousands of diverse species of animal and plant life. Ha Long Bay has a very complicated structure with its meandering coastline and many river mouths. Rich and diver- sified sources of food for many species of plants and animals are also found here. In particular, the bay, partitioned by thousands of large and small islands, creates areas of water with an average and stable sea level. Meanwhile, the climate in Ha Long Bay is also very sta- ble, with an average temperature of between 19 and 25°C, and an average heat radiation rate of 17 kcal/ sq. cm/ month. It sees an average rainfall of to 2,200 mm/a year. These favourable conditions have seen the development of many varied ecosys- tems. Results of scientific research show that Ha Long Bay features ecosystems of a tropical ocean region, such as salt water- flooded forests, coral reefs and tropical rain forests. In the sea surrounding Ha Long, coral grows in many places, but is densely concentrated on the eastern and southern sides, far from the mainland.
The coral forests of Ha Long Bay are a wonderful sight, with many extraordinary shapes and diversified colours. When the tide flows, the coral moves with the water, pumping as rhythmically as a heartbeat. At the same time, the reefs are residence to a great number of species: fish (107 varieties), water plants, algae and transitory animals and plants. The salt water-flooded forests also offer especially interesting scenery along the coastline of Ha Long Bay. These forests are chiefly concentrated in the zones of Tuan Chau, Cua Luc and Ba Che. Many species of salt water-flooded plants, the most diversified collection in North Viet Nam, are found here. The tropical rain forest ecosystem also features a rich quantity of species. This is the residence of various rare and pre- cious creatures: deer, weasels, squirrels and in particular, white-tabby and red- haired monkeys. At the same time, there is a system of small caves along the sea, which are the living and development places for many animals and plants: sea- weed, water plants, algae, fish and shrimp. Deeper into the water, there are also many species of shrimp, fish (almost species), abalone and other sea- specialities. Cultural and Historical Values Ha Long was also the cradle of ancient people who helped create the present Ha Long culture. At the end of 1937, a Swedish archaeol- ogist named Anderson, together with two French archaeologist sisters named Conani, journeyed for months through Ha Long sea. They climbed mountains, visited caves, explored the coastline, and founded many stone artefacts: axes, grinding tables, sewing needles and jew- ellery. They called the culture that formed these remnants "Ngoc Vung". In the months and years following, Viet- namese archaeologists continued their research and made many excavations; discovering more archaeological sites, such as Dong Mang, Xich Tho and Soi Nhu. Through an area of some hundreds of square kilometres, they discovered many stone artefacts and pieces of bro- ken designed pottery. In particular, in the central zone of the present world heritage site area, there have been recent discoveries of fascinat- ing archaeological finds: the Me Cung, Thien Long and Tien Ong grottoes. The quantity of ancient shellfish in the Melina Spring, indicated by the 1.5 m-thick heap of shells, amounts to hundreds of cubic metres. Wherever the remnants of the first peo- ples of Ha Long are found, they seem to bear a common characteristic: the same materials, techniques, forms and designs. Scientists have called it the "Ha Long cul- ture of the late period of the New Stone Age/'
Throughout its development, Ha Long has had a particularly important position; being situated on the communication routes between China, Japan and Thai- land. Gradually, it became the centre of cultural and commercial exchanges be- tween these countries and ancient Viet Nam. The book Comprehensive History of Dai Viet reads: "In the second month of the spring of the year of Ky Ty, the 10th year of the reign of Ly Anh Tong (1149), the commercial port of Van Don was es- tablished/' In the long period overlapping the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties, Van Don was a place of busy commercial and cul- tural exchanges between Viet Nam and its South-East Asian neighbours. A re- maining vestige of the ancient commer- cial port is Cai Lang Wharf in Quan Lan Island. Van Don is also a site that witnessed glo- rious feats of war against the invasion of the Yuan-Mongols aggressors. It was here that the enemy, General Truong Ho, had an entire fleet of food supply boats set ablaze by Tran Khanh Du. Closely linked to this animated commercial centre were many religious architectural construc- tions; built to meet the requirements of both traders and the population that practised Buddhism and Catholicism.
Those who arrive in Ha Long Bay are rarely left untouched by the power and beauty of the site. The islands here have been given souls; becoming beings with lives of their own. They may be large or small, of earth or stone, but all seem to "say" something in their distinctive lan- guage.
Dau Go (Driftwood) Island
This island is situated in the south-west side of Ha Long Bay, just 4km from Bai Chay Wharf. It has a peak of 189m, and seen from a distance, has the form of a throne embracing in its arms a lagoon of blue sea. The range of islands has three wide grottoes that may be classified among the most beautiful in Ha Long Bay. They are the Dau Go, Thien Cung and Thien Long grottoes. In the west side of the island is the zone of Ba Hang, the residence of the fishing people of Ha Long. Here the mountain- island walls stretch vertically out of the water amongst picturesque scenery. On the islands there are many species of an- imals: birds, reptiles, and in particular, yellow-haired monkeys. On sunny days, they descend to the base of the island to look for food.
Trong Mai Islet
Trong Mai Islet is situated in the south- west side of Ha Long Bay, 5km from Bai Chay Wharf near to Dinh Huong Islet. In a somewhat large expanse of open sea, the islets seem to grow up from the bot- tom of the deep emerald waters. At the sunset, the islets with the height of over 10m is bright red and in a somewhat tot- tery position.
Their tiny legs support heavy bodies, and it appears that one strong wave could throw the two stone blocks into the sea. However, hundreds of millions of years have passed, and the Trong Mai Islet is still ; there. The image of the islets is the logo of Ha Long Bay and Viet Nam Tourism.
Tuan Chau Island
In the south-west side of Ha Long City, it is Tuan Chau Island, a schist island, very pretty, with a luxuriant forest. It has an j area of 220ha, and to the east and south I are two beaches endowed with very white and fine sand. Tuan Chau is in an important position at the entrance of the waterway system of Thang Long, Bach Dang and Van Don, and this is why it was formerly a military watch station. The Office of Feudal Cus- toms was also installed there. The island also has many archaeological sites pertaining to the ancient Ha Long culture from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. Nowadays, one can go to Tuan Chau Is- land via the 2-km cement road from the mainland. Investments have been poured into the island to turn it into a modern tourist resort. It includes such fascinating extras as the dolphin, sea lion, and seal- performing club, animal circus club, golf court, cultural-sports centre, beach, rural market, ornamental fish lake, villas in Hill 1 and Hill 2 with 300 rooms, guesthouses, five 50-room villas by the beach. The en- semble of five restaurants and one round house built in the pagoda motif can serve up to 1,000 guests at the same time. In Tuan Chau, the Octagonal House where President Ho Chi Minh rested when he visited Ha Long in 1962 now be- came his memorial site.
Situated 14km south-east of Bai Chay Wharf, small Titov Island displays a beach shaped like a crescent moon, and sand that has been washed to a snowy white by the lapping tide. On 22 November 1962, this tiny island had the honour of receiving a visit from astronaut Gher- mann Titov, a hero of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by Ho Chi Minh. To perpetuate the remembrance of their visit, Uncle Ho christened the place Titov Island. Thirty-five years afterwards, on 27 June 1997, Titov returned to the island bearing his name. Deeply moved, he wrote in the souvenir book of the Man- agement Committee of Ha Long Bay: "My deepest thanks to destiny, which has al- lowed me to come back to this tiny is- land/' It has become a beach attracting many visitors.
Dau Be Island
In the south-east side of Ha Long Bay, Dau Be Island is 500m from Hang Trai Is- land to the east, and 28km from Bai Chay Wharf, in an archipelago comprised be- tween the Tra Ngu and Da Le islands. It has an area of 22,863m2, and its highest peak reaches 139m. When speaking of the island, it is impossible not to mention its beautiful Ba Ham Lake.
Ngoc Vung (Gem) Island
Ngoc Vung, or Gem Island, is a pretty site sitting between the Net and Phuong Hoang (Eagle) islands, in Van Don District. Formerly, under the feudal dynasties, this island zone contained a great quantity of rare and precious species of mother-of- pearls. At night, fluorescent pearls would light up the whole region. From above, Ngoc Vung looks like a beau- tiful velvet handkerchief with exquisite white edgings; it seems to float on the water surface. On the east side of the is- land there is a 1km beach with pure white sand. At the centre is a luxuriant benjamin fig tree; it was under this tree that Ho Chi Minh conversed with the population in 1962 during a visit. During the war against the US, the island be- longed to a front of outward islands that served as protection for the eastern wa- terways. It is also on the beach that many stone artefacts were discovered in 1937, open- ing a string of excavations and archaeo- logical research aiming at providing some explanations of the mysteries of the an- cient Ha Long culture.
Quan Lan Island
Quan Lan is a large island belongs to Van Don Island District. It has an area of 11 sq.km, 70km south east of Bai Chay Wharf, 30km from Cam Pha, and 35km from Cua Ong Wharf. It is a part of an is- land range on the outside of the Bai Tu Long Bay. Quan Lan Island stretch toward East - West from the foot of Van Don range to Got Mountain with many high mountains to the east barring waves and winds, protect the villages. The island is situated in an important navigation route that connects China, Japan, Thailand and the Philippines to Viet Nam. Since the 11th century, Quan Lan had been one of the centres of the ancient commercial port of Van Don, which was animated and prosperous at the time.
Today, there are still many vestiges linked to the ancient commercial port. This also explains why the island, lying deep in the sea, has the large pagodas and archaeo- logical sites seen today. On the island there is the Quan Lan Communal House built in the 18th century; exceedingly beautiful and almost entirely preserved. Next to it is Quan Lan Pagoda (Linh Quang Tu) which is dedicated to Buddha and Goddess Lieu Hanh. The pagoda also worships the statue of old Hau, a local person who made lots of contributions to the construction of the pagoda. The statue features a gentle and cheerful old woman, which adds an original char- acter to the pagoda. Beside Quan Lan Pagoda lies Nghe Quan Lan (Due Ong) Shrine which is dedicated to Pham Cong Chinh, a local person who participated in the historical Van Don battle against the Yuan invaders. He was later honoured as a god. Along two sides of the island are tens kilometres of sandbanks. This is the endless resource for glass making which the sea gives to man and it is also the ex- tremely interesting tourism resource in Ha Long. To visit Quan Lan Island, visitors are not only enjoyed the landscape but also take bathing in some nice beaches, Son Hao and Minh Chau, which have white sand, pure and blue sea water and strong waves. On the coast tens of meters away from the beach stand the very green wild pines, which further add to its original charm. Some hotels and guesthouses which hide themselves under the lush fo- liage of casuarinas serve the travellers. Its pristine beauty and pure environment have made it a mecca for tourists. Quan Lan Island features a beautiful land- scape, and at the same time has many valuable sea products such as octopuses, butterfish, mackerel, holothurians, shrimp, and sai sung (sipunculus nudus).
Dinh Huong (Incense Burner) Islet
In the itinerary ofThien Cung-Dau Go- Titov, one finds Dinh Huong Islet or Lu Huong (Incense Burner) Islet to the southwest of Dau Go Island. Passing Cho Da (Stone Dog) Islet and Con Meo (Cat) Islet, one sees an imposing stone slab resting on two other small stone - stands blocked the way. The stone slab resem- I bles a huge incense burner, which lies in the middle of the sea as a holy object to worship the Sky and Earth.
Dau Nguoi (Human head-shaped)Islet
From afar, you can see a 25m islet which reminds us of a huge Egyptian head with a big nose. Its chin lies close to the sea surface. Many people associate it with the image of the Egyptian Sphinx. Dau Nguoi Islet in Ha Long Bay, a masterpiece of na- ture, has its own poetic beauty as it lies amidst seawaters. The islet lies near Luon Cave, 13km away from the tourist wharf.
Ba Trai Dao (Three Peaches) Island
This island consists of three small moun- tains with the height of 23m, seen from afar, resemble three peaches (Ba Trai Dao).
The island connects to a legend of about the romantic love between a youngest fairy who was very pretty with a young and poor fisherman. Because of feeling in love with him, she stole three peaches from the Heaven for him that if he ate, would give him eternal life, allowing them to live together forever. The King of the Heavens discovered the robbery and turned the peaches into stone island. Chastised, the young fairy had to return. Today, Ba Trai Dao is a famous tourist at- traction with three nice fairy beaches, ro- mantic landscape. It is 22km south east of Bai Chay Wharf.
Thien Nga (Swan) Islet
In the waters of Bai Tu Long Bay, a stone islet is bobbing like an alluring and grace- ful swan (Thien Nga) - a swan losing its herd. This stone swan has taken up count- less time and rolls of film of tourists near and far.'
Yen Ngua (Saddle) Islet
Yen Ngua ( Saddle) Islet lies in Ha Long Bay, in the centre of the World Heritage Area. Nature has creatively shaped two pieces of stone, one high and one lower, which are linked together to form an im- posing rock, looking like a saddle. Boats can go through underneath. The whole rock resembles a sewing machine. How wonderful to have such a magnificent but elegant "saddle", jutting some 10m above the sea surface.
Con Coc (Toad) Islet
Con Coc (Toad) Islet is one of the most exquisite works nature has presented Ha Long. Just imagine, an 8m-tall toad sitting to wait for rain amidst the vast- ness of the sea. The Toad Islet lies in the south-east of Ha Long Bay, 17km away from Bai Chay Wharf.
Cho Da (Stone Dog) Islet
In the itinerary of Thien Cung- Dau Go- Titov, one needs 10 minutes boating from Dau Go Island to the Cho Da (Stone Dog) Islet. Some 8m up the islet one can figure out a piece of stone in the shape of a dog sitting with its back to the sea, standing guard for the safety of seagoing boats for millions of years.
Am (Kettle) Islet
On the route to Quan Lan - Ngoc Vung is- lands; Am (Kettle) Islet is situated in Bai Tu Long Bay. An island jutting out of the seawaters, the teapot of the Jade Em- peror, who accidentally dropped it into Ha Long so, its handle was broken.
Ngon Tay (Finger) Islet
On the way to Titov Island, visitors see a stone rock resembling a thump jutting out of the sea. Nature has put the Ngon Tay (Finger) Islet here as a reminder of many interesting extras in the discovery of Ha Long.
Oan (Truncated Sticky Rice) Islet
Situated 300m away from Bai Tho Moun- tain and 5km from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf, a 22m islet stands out in Bai Tu Long Bay. It has the shape of truncated sticky rice which serves as an offering to Buddha. French tourists pay special attention to this islet in 1992, a French famous actress came there to film some shots of the film Indochina. In the islet, some settings are still preserved including the stone-paved road to the beach (often called the Slave Pier), the prisons, etc.
But (Pen) Islet
Some 30-minute boating away from Con Coc Islet, on the way to the Ba Trai Dao (Three Peaches) Island, visitors see a pen bobbing (But Islet) in the seawaters. This constitutes a monument of knowledge Mother Dragon wanted to pass down to the present-day generations. Lying adjacent to Pen Islet is a small at- tractive beach. Tourists can anchor there to take a bath.
Mat Qui (Monster Head) Islet
Boating past Am (Kettle) Islet some 20 minutes, we see Mat Qui (Monster Head) Islet, which protrudes about 30-35m from the waters of Bai Tu Long Bay. Na- ture has carved the rock in the shape of a monster head, with a rough big nose standing out from a distorted face. From whatever angle, one still finds it horrible.
Dau Moi (Worm) Islet
Dau Moi (Worm) Islet lies in the middle of the route between Am (Kettle) Islet and Dua (Chopsticks) Islet in Bai Tu Long Bay. The islet resembles the head of a termite, a kind of insect often seen prior to the rainy season. Dau Moi Islet is listed in the diversified "animal collection" of Ha Long Bay.
Xep (Layer) Islet
Xep (Layer) Islet is a huge, multi-layered, square piece of stone which looks like an Egyptian pyramid built in the middle of Bai Tu Long Bay.
Su Tu Bien (Sea Lion) Islet
On the canoe route to Thien Cung - Dau Go grottoes, one should visit Su Tu Bien (Sea Lion) Islet, which is 10 minutes away from Bai Chay Wharf. Amidst the vast seawaters of Ha Long, you recognize a high rock jutting from the sea, resem- bling a lion stretching.
Soi Sim Island
Soi Sim is a soil island 700m away from Titov Island, and 12km from the Bai Chay Wharf. In the island there are many green trees. The Ha Long Bay Management Board is going to build a system of service and ecological guesthouses equipped with modern facilities. At present, a small beach has been improved and upgraded, adding more charm to the attractive hol- iday resort.
GROTTOES AND LAKES
There are many caves and grottoes dis- tributed throughout the stone islands of Ha Long Bay. The most famous are con- centrated in the central zone of the world heritage area, such as Thien Cung (Heav- enly Palace) Grotto, Dau Go (Driftwood) Grotto, Sung Sot (Surprise) Grotto, Bo Nau (Pelican) Grotto and Ho Ba Ham (Three-Shelter) Lake. There are also other caves and grottoes situated far from Ha Long's coast, such as Tien Ong, Hang Harih and Soi Nhu. The formation developed through vari- ous forms of erosion over millions of years. There are still many sealed caves and grottoes, formed in the carbonate mountains but not yet having an en- trance. Eventually, they will be discov- ered through the effects of nature or man.
Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) Grotto
This recently discovered grotto is one of the most beautiful in Ha Long Bay. It is on the south-west side of the bay, 4km from Bai Chay Wharf. On disembarking from the boat, visitors climb up stone stairs to the mouth of the grotto at the height of 25m. The way to Thien Cung is a perilous one, covered on both sides by thick forest. After entering a narrow gate, the grotto's 130m-long girth opens up. Getting in we are more astonished in front of the very animated and splendid beauty which is made from stalactite. Thien Cung Grotto associates with the legendary love story between a young girl and Dragon Prince. On the east wall of the grotto, there is a grandiose and imposing picture with characters of tales. Legend has it that, beautiful young lady named May (cloud) caught the eye of the Dragon Prince and he fell in love with her. They were betrothed, and their wedding lasted seven days and seven nights in the very centre of the grotto. In honour of the wedding, small dragons flew about through the stalactites and stalagmites, elephants danced together happily, snakes twined themselves around trees and two stone lions danced with their manes flowing in the wind. A large ele- phant, smartly dressed, waited for the bride and the groom. The genies of the south and north stars also came to attend the banquet, and the atmosphere was definitely animated and lively. All these scenes have been seemingly fossilized in the grotto.
In this grotto, many evidences about the legendary story still remained. There is a magnificent picture with fairy characters carved into the wall in the west of the grotto. Four sturdy columns stand sup- port the Heaven in the centre of the grotto. Original shapes and images of birds, fish, and daily activities of people are chiselled from top to bottom of these columns. On the north wall of the grotto, visitors can find a group of fairies seem to dance and sing in honour of the wed- ding. Under the immeasurably high roof, stalactites make a natural stone curtain. Somewhere there is the sound of a drum beating, but it is actually just the noise made by the wind blowing through stone. Standing amidst the emerald sta- lactites and stalagmites, visitors feel as if they were in paradise. Arriving at the last partition of the grotto, a natural gushing stream of water bab- bles throughout the year. Here are three small ponds of clear water. Legend has it that, this was where May bathed her 100 children, bringing them up wisely and happily into adolescence. One path me- anders out of the grotto; it was the way May, together with 50 of her children, took to harvest new lands. The 50 re- maining children, together with their fa- ther, were left to build the native land. Left behind by the mother was the natu- ral stream described above. Going out of Thien Cung Grotto, we have a sensation of just watching a unique, meticulous, interesting fine-art museum which is made by nature, get out of the imagine, ability and intellect of man.
Dau Go (Driftwood) or Giau Go (Wood Hiding) Grotto
The grotto is on Dau Go Island. Seen from afar, the entrance to the grotto appears to be blue, and has a shape similar to that of a jellyfish. After 90 steps up the island, the entrance is reached. The ceil- ing of the grotto is about 25m. Hundreds of stalactites falling down from the roof of the grotto look like a waterfall.
The grotto is divided into three main parts. The exterior is a room with a vault full of natural light. Many forms may be seen in the rock formations of the chamber, de- pending on the imagination of the visitor of course. In the first chamber, in the very middle of the grotto, is a colossal pillar supporting the large vault. On the top of the pillar, there appears to be a monk draped in a long, dark cloak, with his right hand clasping a cane. Crossing the first chamber, one enters the second chamber through a narrow passage. The light here is mysterious, and new images appear in the stone. It makes us having a fear and be inquisitive. The third chamber of the grotto is widely opened. At the end of the grotto is a well of clear water. Looking up in the dim light we recognize that surrounded is the image of an ancient citadel and a scuffle of elephants, horses, man with bristly sword and spear All are making a rush and be petrified suddenly. In 1917, King Khai Dinh came to visit the grotto, and amazed by the beauty of the place, ordered the erection of an en- graved stone stele singing the praises of Ha Long Bay and the grotto. Today, it re- mains to the right-hand side of the en- trance.
Sung Sot (Surprise) Grotto
Situated in the centre of the World Her- itage area, Surprise Grotto is on Bo Hon Is- land, and is one of the finest and widest grottoes of Ha Long Bay. Ascending to the grotto, the way is cov- ered by trees and foliage, and consists of great paved stone blocks. From the wharf, visitors climb up some 50 stone steps to the mouth of the grotto, which lies 25m above the sea level, and then go down some 10 stone steps to reach the mouth. Upon entering the grotto, one can see a legendary world open before tourists' eyes. The grotto covers some 10,000m2; thousands of stalactites form exquisitely carved columns like those in ancient cas- tles. The lively images of human beings, animals, and old trees make us surprise and mesmerize at the stunning beauty of nature. Inside the grotto there is a paved road span over half a kilometre from the en- trance to the exit of the grotto. Light posts line the passage and serve as sign- posts and ornaments. The lighting system with elegant styles adds more charm to the beauty of the grotto.
Sung Sot has two main chambers; the first one being similar to a wide theatre hall. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling, with numerous possible forms and shapes. A narrow passage leads to the second rooms, where a flow of light meets visi- tors. The chamber is so immense it could contain more than 1,000 people at one time. At the side of the entrance, the rock seems to form the shape of a horse with a long sword. Legend has it that, after having defeated the An (Yin) aggressors, Thanh Giong (Saint Giong) helped the population to chase away evil spirits and demons. After this feat, Giong flew to the Heaven, leaving a stone horse and sword to continue to keep the demons away. At the deepest point of the grotto, a "royal garden" appears with a clear pond and a seemingly fascinating landscape of •mountains. Many birds and plants (Ben- jamin figs, cycads and centenary banyan trees) live here. On nice days groups of monkeys might arrive in search of fruit. Sung Sot is one of the largest and most magnificent grottoes in Ha Long Bay. That's why the French called it Grotto of Surprise.
Me Cung (Bewitching) Grotto
Two kilometres south-west of Titov Beach is Me Cung (Bewitching) Grotto. It formed on Lom Bo Island, and seen from afar, the entrance is like the roof of a house denting the island's side. After a narrow crack only allowing one person through at a time, many parti- tions appear. These chambers are some- what small and narrow, but very refined, and with many stalagmites and stalac- tites bearing beautiful forms. Pushing into the grotto, visitors feel like walking in a palace of a Persian king. Hearing the murmur from out of nowhere, you think that Scheherazade is telling the stories of the Thousand and One Nights for her king. Threading your way through narrow pas- sages, you find a dim light from afar, which signals the exit of the grotto. On getting out of the grotto, climb up several rugged stone stairs and look down, you see a large round lake surrounded by the mountain. Its water is blue all year round. The lake is home to many kinds of fish, shrimps, octopuses, algae, see weed, and coral. Lying adjacent to the lake there is an area of old trees popularly known as an alluring "royal garden" On the island, there are many ancient trees casting long reflections on the water of the bay. They are home to many species of birds and animals (monkeys, chamois and varans). Me Cung Grotto has been recognised by archaeologists as one of the vestiges of the pre-Ha Long New Stone Age culture that existed between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Tam Cung Grotto
Tam Cung Grotto lies in May Den, a luxu- riant island nearly isolated from other is- lands, 5km from Sung Sot Grotto to the northeast, belongs to Bai Tu Long Bay. May Den's cliffs are extremely vertical, while its forest is flourishing. The grotto itself is divided into three parts and many beautiful forms can be garnered from the rocky shapes. Entering its first chamber, pushing fur- ther inside, visitors meet a "fairy" whose white beard flies in the wind climbing the mountain. High in the wall of the cham- ber there stand three statues represent- ing prosperity, happiness and longevity (Tam Da), looking down at the earthly world. Going through a narrow passage, one comes to a natural museum of lively animals, including lions, seals, even god of the sea. In the middle of the second chamber lies a stream murmuring all year round, making the two surrounding cliffs rustle. In the last chamber, tourists can find an imposing bas-relief in which are carved elaborate strange images, lying layer after layer in a harmonious lay- out. One can figure out flowers, bamboos, stone curtains, or sleeping elephants...
Kim Quy (Golden Tortoise) Grotto
This grotto is situated on Dam Nam Is- land, with a peak 187m above sea level. The grotto is 100m long and 5 to 10m wide, running in a north-south direction. It is linked to the ancient legend of the Golden Tortoise: after having helped Em- peror Le Loi defeat his enemies, the Golden Tortoise took back the magic sword he had given him, and swam to- wards the sea. Arriving in Ha Long Bay, it met with so many evil spirits and demons hindering its journey that it remained to do battle. After having defeated them all, the Golden Tortoise was so exhausted that it searched for a grotto to rest in, and once inside, turned to stone. A narrow way leads to the interior of the grotto where a stream flows. The stalac- tites here are snow-white and lightly hang from the ceiling. Today in the grotto, it can be found dozing, still with ancient wounds covering its body.
Trinh Nu (Virgin) Grotto - Trong (Male) Grotto
Trinh Nu (Virgin) Grotto is situated on the island range of Bo Hon in the system comprising Sung Sot Grotto, Dong Tien Lake and Luon Grotto. It is 9km south of Bai Chay Wharf. For some fishermen, the Virgin Grotto is home, while for young lovers, it is considered as the symbol of truly love. The French gave this grotto the name La Virgin (the grotto of virgin girl) according to the legend of the romantic love of two couple: a poor beautiful girl and a young fisherman. Legend has it that, there once was a beautiful fisherman's daughter; whose family was so poor that it was in the service of the rich administrator of the fishing zone. He forced the family to give him the girl as a concubine. She al- ready had a lover who at that time was on the high seas catching fish to prepare for their wedding. The administrator; an- gered by her refusal[ exiled her to a wild island where she suffered from hunger and exhaustion. On one frightening night, amidst terrible rain and winds, she turned to stone. It was also the night that her lover knew of her danger; and he rowed his boat in search of her. On the terrible night, the tempest destroyed his boat and Refloated to one of the islands. In o lighting flash he saw his mate in the distance, but his calls were driven away by the wind. He used a stone block to hammer down on the mountain cliffs to announce to her he was nearby. He struck until blood flowed from his hands, and in his final exhaustion, turned to stone (today Male Grotto). Trinh Nu Grotto has three chambers. The first chamber likes a house with flat roof and linked with the next chamber by a narrow window. The second chamber is 8m long, 5m wide, and about 4m high. In- side the grotto many stalagmites and sta- lactites bearing strange forms create on the wall many skilful carving pictures. From the second chamber there is a small door leading to the last chamber which is in rectangle with 60m long, 20m wide.
On the wall many stalagmites fall down which created many lovely pictures: here is a group of girl heart to heart talk, an- other is a picture of phoenix spread with its wing spreading wide. Far from are many pictures of bird. Today, when visiting the Virgin Grotto, vou can still see the petrified girl with her long hair hanging down, and eyes looking towards the mainland. Opposite the Vir- gin Grotto, the Male Grotto is still home to the lover, his face turned towards his mate. His passionate calls and blows against the grotto's walls can still be heard at times.
Hanh Grotto is one of the longest grot- toes in Ha Long Bay, lying 9km west of Cam Pha City. Hanh Grotto seems suit- able for adventures. The mouth of the grotto is very low with 1,300m long. The entrance of the grotto is at the foot of the stone mountain of Quang Hanh. That's why The French named it "Le Tunnel" or Tunnel Grotto. One should visit the grotto at low tide and has to go by small boat to pass through, as this is the time the mouth of the grotto appears, and then must know the time when the tide rises up to get out of the grotto. In front of the present-day mouth stands Ba Co (Three Girls) shrine to dedicated three girls who according to the legend often went to the sea together. One day they caught a pouring rain and took shel- ter in a grotto. They found the scenery so captivating that they forgot the time of ris- ing tide. Locked up in the grotto, they passed away and became Water God. Hanh Grotto is extremely beautiful. The small boat will take you through the stone passageway by lamp-light, casting magical colours on the hanging stalactites. To get there, tourists can hire canoes in Doan Wharf (Hon Gai, Ha Long City) or take a coach to Cam Pha City. At Cam Pha Wharf, one can also hire boats or canoes to go to the grotto. The time for visiting the grotto is from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Situated on Bo Hon Island, 14km to the south of Bai Chay Beach is Luon Cave. In front of the cave is Con Rua Islet, and the Sky Gate is on the right. Here the cliffs stretch vertically out of the pure blue and smooth water. At the water-level, an arched entrance leads to the cave, just at the base of the island. Luon Cave is 60m long, its height varying between 2.5m to 4m according to the state of the tide. Only small boats or rub- ber boats which should be equipped with safety floats can enter. Passing through the pretty entrance, you come across a tranquil round lake, surrounded by luxu- riant trees and high dangerous stone walls.
Benjamin fig trees shade the landscape and many orchids hang their sweet- scented flowers. In the lake, many species abound: shrimp, fish, crab and cuttle-fish. Luon Cave is one of rare caves in Ha Long. This cave is suitable for those who like to discover Ha Long by kayak, a new attractive kind of tour appear in Ha Long in recently years. The beauty of the site is the mingling of a number of fac- tors: the mountain's size and form, the colour of the water and the clouds.
Bo Nau (Pelican) Grotto
Some 2-3km southeast of Trong Mai Islet lies Bo Nau (Pelican) Grotto. The name Bo Nau or Bo Nong is associated with the fact that pelicans often take shelter here. This vaulted grotto covers 200m2. The floor of the grotto is wide and flat, but not deep, and its wall features lots of sta- lactites and stalagmites. At the entrance are three stones, looking like three fairies with their heads close to one another. Two men appear to be play- ing chess, with the third serving as a ref- eree. Turning southward, Bo Nau Grotto enjoys cool wind. Standing there, one can hear the murmur of the sea all year round.
Ba Ham Lake
Ba Ham Lake is found on Dau Be (Calf Head) Island on the south-west side of Ha Long Bay. This island is part of the range of islands at the farthest end of Ha Long Bay, bordering the immense zone Long Chau Sea. Ba Ham Lake is situated in the middle of a narrow, rectangular area, with the all four sides enclosed by vertical cliffs. The lake is a system comprising three wide and round pits, linked together by a narrow and meandering tunnel. Al- though 25km from the shore, it has long been considered an ideal tourism zone. Starting from the entrance, visitors enter the first tunnel, which boasts a forest of stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and various colours. Stalactites hang from the ceiling in a myriad of strange, coloured forms. The deeper one pushes into the tunnel, the darker it be- comes. The river is deep and transparent. Some 100m from the entrance one finds a shaft of light coming from the roof of the tunnel, which reveals different kinds of orchids clinging to the cliff, cycads growing here and there, true duoi ga (a kind of reed with cock's tail-liked yellow leaves) flourishing in clumps. The second tunnel has the same form and its entrance like the first. In the southeast cliff of the second tunnel there grows an old carambola tree. This is home to yellow-hair monkeys, birds, fly- ing squirrels and bats. Lying one cliff away from the second one, the third tunnel is home to various species of bats and yellow butterflies. Here is home to bats and yellow butter- flies. Though outside the grotto the waves and wind blow strongly, inside the cave, the water is transparent and calmly. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the boat's oars.
BEACHES AND MOUNTAIN
Numerous other beaches such as Titov, Tuan Chau, Trang Luoi Liem and Ngoc Vung are situated on nice islands far from the coast. They offer amazing bathing sites and make a wonderful pretext for unforgettable cruises in the bay.
Bai Chay is a large, beautiful, artificial beach, closed to the coast of Ha Long Bay. The lOOm-wide-sandy beach spans over 500m. According to one legend, when the fleet carrying food for the Yuan-Mongolian invaders led by Truong Van Ho came there, the Vietnamese troops and locals under the leadership of Tran Khanh Du set fire to it. The whole fleet was engulfed in fire (Chay). Mean- while, the northeast wind blew hard and further added fuel to it. Fire was so fierce it burned down the forest in the western side of Cua Luc. Hence the name Bai Chay. Now, along the asphalt road winding its way through the white sandy beach and luxuriant casuarinas, it comprises restau- rants, water puppet and traditional music theatres, Hoang Gia Park, water-skiing, and sea motorcycling. Hoang Gia Park lines along Ha Long Road leading from Bai Chay Wharf to the gate of Ha Long Night Market.
Some 14km east of Bai Chay is Titov Beach, which takes the shape of a cres- cent encompassing the island. Small though it might be, it wins kudos for its quiet and airy atmosphere, its clean and clear waters, as well as its alluring land- scape. In 1962, President Ho Chi Minh and the Russian astronaut Germane Titov came to this beach. Hence its name Titov. At present, there has a bar in the island, which also provides swimming costumes, floats, and lukewarm shower. Fresh water was carried to the island from in- land. Titov Beach has become a popular tourist destination.
Ba Trai Dao (Three Peaches) Beach
To Ba Trai Dao Beach, it costs 3.5 to 4 hours by cruise from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf. It has that name as Ba Trai Dao Beach (three peaches), features three small sand beaches embracing small is- lands. These islands, seen from afar, re- semble three peaches. Tourists take bath in this beach only 2-3 hours in a day as in other time the beach is lapping by the tide.
Quan Lan Beach
This beach lies at Quan Lan Island in Bai Tu Long Bay, between Minh Chau and Quan Lan communes of Van Don District, 55km away from Ha Long City. Its pristine beauty features unspoiled environment. The deep blue beach has strong waves and white sand, which spans over several kilometres. Tens of meters away from the beach stand the very green wild pines, which further add to its original charm.
Bai Tho (Poem) Mountain
Bai Tho Mountain lies at the heart of Ha Long City. From afar, the 106m limestone mountain looks like a huge castle with three imposing towers. Its past name Truyen Dang means Light Projecting. This mountain has inspired many poets. In 1468, during his inspection tour to the eastern region, King Le Thanh Tong stopped here. Inspired by the stunning beauty of Ha Long, the King wrote a poem and had it carved into the south- ern side of the mountain. Hence its name Bai Tho (Poem). In 1729, Lord Trinh Cuong composed a poem in response to that of King Le Thanh Tong and also had it carved near the former. The mountain features other poems by Nguyen Can and some other poets. Atop Bai Tho Mountain, you feel sur- prised at the magnificent landscape of Ha Long Bay. In the background of immense emerald waters, of rock bobbing, of high sky, of surrounding flowers and trees, you can figure out the tiny images of boats. Bai Tho makes up one of the beauty spots of Ha Long.
LIFE OF FISHING VILLAGERS IN HA LONG BAY
Ha Long Bay attracts tourists not only by sparkling beauty of the system of is- lands, grottoes, beaches... but also sim- ple charm from the life of the people here. In vaporous and mysterious space of Ha Long, the life of the fishing vil- lagers appears like a fairy story. The boats cleaving the weaves to the sea, the bustling fish market days in early mornings or the red flags with yellow star flying in the wind always make spe- cial attractions for tourists whenever visiting Ha Long Bay.
Cua Van Fishing Village
Located in Hung Thang Ward, Ha Long City, about 20km to the south of Bai Chay Wharf, Cua Van Fishing Village is home to 176 households with more than 750 habitants. Difference with the life on the mainland, all activities of the fishing vil- lagers have attached with the sea. Living mainly by fishing and aquaculture, the boats are houses and also livelihoods of the villagers.
To Cua Van Fishing Village, tourists will be guided to visit Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre - the first floating cultural centre i model in Viet Nam for the fishers. With ■ the area of 330m2, Cua Van Floating Cul- tural Centre is the place to exhibit and in- troduce hundreds of archaeological artifacts, including instruments and tools for catching fishes of ancient Viet- ! namese; many photographs, documen- tary films, publications about folk culture as well as the life of the fishing villagers in Ha Long Bay. It's more interesting for tourists to see the animated sight of going to school by boats. Covering the area of 150m2 at the foot of Ngoc Mountain are 4 classrooms and some small rooms for teachers.j These are the first floating classrooms forj children of the fishing villages in Ha Long sea area. At present, Cua Van has 7 classes, mainly the first grade to the fifth grade. Activities attracting many tourists when visiting Cua Van Fishing Village are cuttle fishing at night, overnight stay at the fishing villagers' houses, listening of ho bien (songs sung out to the boats), ho gioo duyen (love duet songs); enjoyment of sea specialities. Especially, when the village has the festivals or weddings, tourists also have opportunities to listen singing of gheo, cheo duong, dam cuoi.
Vong Vieng Fishing Village
Also belonging to Hung Thang Ward (Ha Long City), Vong Vieng is the second largest fishing village in Ha Long, after Cua Van Fishing Village. Visiting the vil- lage, tourist will be impressed by fresh at- mosphere and bustling daily activities of the locals. Vong Vieng (other name as Vung Vieng) has 60 households with 300 habitants. Like Cua Van Fishing Village, Vong Vieng villagers live in floating houses in close proximity to each other along the fringe of the rock islands. They live mainly by fishing with attractive and unique culture features. The villagers built a floating cul- tural house for community activities and welcoming tourists. To Vong Vieng Vil- lage, tourists will have chances to expe- rience daily life of the fishmen with interesting activities as collecting waste on the sea (belong to "For a green Ha Long" project of Ha Long Bay Manage- ment Board); being guided by the fish- men to cast and draw up the net; enjoying sea specialities; riding kayaks to sightsee scenery around the fishing vil- lage; visiting fish cages and pearl farms, Vong Vieng Grotto; buying souvenirs made from shell... and jewellery made from pearl at the boats... Especially, when darkness falls, under sparkling and fanciful moonlight, tourists will sit on bamboo boats to listen to love duet songs, drop lanterns or catch fishes or cuttlefishes at night together with the fishmen
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