Halong Glory Cruise
Ha Long Bay (literally: “Descending Dragon Bay”; Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and part of Van Don district. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.
Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000-7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000-5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000-3,500 years ago. Ha Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mout, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.
500 years ago, Nguyen Trai praised the beauty of Ha Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it “rock wonder in the sky”. In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam listed Ha Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Ha Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criteria vii, and listed for a second time according to criteria viii.
According to local legend, when the Vietnamese were fighting Chinese invaders, the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. The people kept their land safe and formed what later became the country of Vietnam. After that, dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the earth, and then decided to live here. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Hạ Long, the place where the dragon’s children attended upon their mother was called Bái Tử Long island (Bái: attend upon, Tử: children, Long: dragon), and the place where the dragon’s children wriggled their tails violently was called Bạch Long Vỹ island (Bạch: white- colour of the foam made when Dragon’s children wriggled, Long: dragon, Vỹ: tail).
Ha Long Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam, from E106°56′ to E107°37′ and from N20°43′ to N21°09′. The bay stretches from Yên Hưng district, past Hạ Long city, Cẩm Phả town to Vân Đồn district, bordered on the south and southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the north by China, and on the west and southwest by Cát Bà island. The bay has a 120 km long coastline and is approximately 1,553 km² in size with about 2000 islets. The area designated by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage Site incorporates 434 km² with 775 islets, of which the core zone is delimited by 69 points: Đầu Gỗ island on the west, Ba Hầm lake on the south and Cống Tây island on the east. The protected area is from the Cái Dăm petrol store to Quang Hanh commune, Cẩm Phả town and the surrounding zone.
The climate of the bay is tropical, wet, sea islands, with two seasons: hot and moist summer, and, dry and cold winter. The average temperature is from 15°C- 25°C, and annual rainfall is between 2000mm and 2200mm. Ha Long Bay has the typical diurnal tide system (tide amplitude ranges from 3.5-4m). The salinity is from 31 to 34.5MT in the dry season and lower in the rainy season.
System of isles and caves
The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 3,000 limestone monolithic islands (although locals claim there are only 1,969 as this is the year of Ho Chi Minh’s death), each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Đầu Gỗ (Wooden stakes cave) is the largest grotto in the Ha Long area. French tourists visited in the late 19th century, and named the cave Grotte des Merveilles. Its three large chambers contain large numerous stalactites and stalagmites (as well as 19th century French graffiti). There are two bigger islands, Tuần Châu and Cat Ba, that have permanent inhabitants. Both of them have tourist facilities including hotels and beaches. There are a number of beautiful beaches on the smaller islands.
Some of the islands support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Many of the islands have acquired their names as a result of interpretation of their unusual shapes. Such names include Voi Islet (elephant), Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock), and Mai Nha Islet (roof). 989 of the islands have been given names. Birds and animals including bantams, antelopes, monkeys, and lizards also live on some of the islands.
Almost all these islands are as individual towers in a classic fenglin landscape with heights from 50m to 100m, and height/width ratios of up to about six.
Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands. For example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.