HALONG BAY – QUANG NINH PROVICE – VIETNAM
Halong Bay is located in the northeastern part of Vietnam and constitutes part of the western bank of Bac Bo Gulf, including the sea area of Halong City and Cam Pha Town and part of Van Don island district. It abuts Cat Ba Island in the southwest. Toward the west is the shore with a 120 km-long coastline. It is located within 106o58’-107o22’ east longitude and within 20o45’- 20o50’ north latitude. The site is 1553 sq. km with 1969 islands of various sizes, of which 989 have been named.
The islands in Halong Bay are mainly limestone and schist islands most lying in the two main areas: the southeastern part of Bai Tu Long Bay and southwestern part of Halong Bay. These islands represent the most ancient images of a geographical site having a tectonic age of from 250 million to 280 million years. They are the result of many times of rising and lowering processes of the continent to form a karst. The process of nearly full erosion and weathering of the karst created the unique Halong Bay in the world. In a not very large area, thousands of islands with different forms look like glittering emeralds attached to the blue scarf of a virgin. The area where many stone islands concentrate has spectacular scenes and world-famous caves and is the center of Ha Long Bay Natural Heritage, including Halong Bay and a part of Bai Tu Long Bay.
The area is recognized as the World Natural Heritage that is the area of 434 sq. km with 775 islands. It looks like a giant triangle with Dau Go Island (in the west), Ba Ham Lake (in the south) and Cong Tay Island (in the east) as its three angle points. The nearby area is the buffer area and areas classified as national beauty spots in 1962 by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Viewed from above, Halong Bay looks like an extremely vivid huge drawing. This is a wonderful and skilful masterpiece of the Creation and of nature that turns thousands of dumb soulless stone islands into fantastic sculptural and artistic works of various graceful shapes, both familiar and strange to human beings. Thousands of islands emerging uneven in the fanciful waves look strong and magnificent but also mild and vivid. Amidst these islands we feel as if we were astray in a petrified legendary world. There are many names given to islands according to their shapes and forms. This one looks like somebody heading toward the shore: Hon Dau Nguoi (Human Head Islet); that one looks like a dragon hovering above the sea surface: Hòn Rông (Dragon Island); another looks like an old man sitting fishing: Hon La Vong; some look like big sails struggling amidst the wind to set off for the sea: Hòn Cánh Buồm (Sail Island); then two islands look like a pair of chicken lovingly playing with each other above the sea: Hon Trong Mai (Male and Female Chicken Island); and amid the vast sea stands an island like a big incense burner like a ritual offering to Heaven: Hon Dinh Huong (Incense Burner Island). All are so real that people are taken aback by them. Those stone islands have experienced unpredictable changes over time and they take different shapes from different angles of view. Here, we come to realize that they are not dumb inanimate things but are vivid and soulful.
Inside the stone islands are various breath-taking caves, such as Thien Cung cave, Dau Go cave, Sung Sot cave, Trinh Nu cave, Tam Cung cave and others. These are really magnificent palaces of the Creation on earth. Long ago, Halong Bay has been called by the great national poet Nguyen Trai: “a wonder of the earth erected towards the high sky”. Many men of letters from all over the world have been taken aback at the grandiose scenery of Halong. They seem to get puzzled and incompetent as their treasure of vocabulary is not rich enough to depict the splendor of this place.
Halong Bay is also attached to glorious pages of Vietnamese history, with famous sites such as Van Don, a bustling trade port in the 12th century, charming Bai Tho Mountain, and not very far away from here is the Bach Dang River which witnessed two famous naval battles of the Viet’s ancestors against invaders. Also, Hạ Long is one of the cradles of human kind with the glorious Halong culture in the late Neolithic age, discovered at such archeological sites as Dong Mang, Xich Tho, Soi Nhu and Thoi Gieng.
Halong is also home to great biodiversity with typical eco-systems like mangrove forest, coral and tropical forest. It is also home to thousands of plants and animals of numerous species, for example shrimp, fish and squid. Some species are particularly rare and can be found no where else.
With such special values, at the 18th Session of UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held on 17 December 1994 in Thailand, Hạ 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 geomorphologic values. This confirms the global premier value of Hạ Long Bay.
Thien Cung Grotto
It is situated on the south-west side the bay, 4 km from the wharf outside of Ha Long City. The way to Thiên Cung is a perilous one, covered on both sides by thick forest. After entering a narrow gate, the grotto’s 130-meter-long girth opens up. Getting in we are more astonished in front of the very animated and splendid beauty which is made from stalactite. On the east wall of the grotto, there is a grandiose and imposing picture with characters of tales.
Going out of the Thiên 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.
This grotto is recently discovered, one of the most beautiful grottoes in Hạ Long Bay.
Legend has it, that beautiful young lady named Mây (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 elephant, 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 the centre are four large pillars supporting the “roof of heaven.” From the base to the top, many strange images seem to live in the stone: birds, fish, flowers and even scenes of human life. On the north wall of the grotto a group of fairies seem to dance and sing in honour of the wedding. 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.
Arriving at the last partition of the grotto, a natural gushing stream of water babbles throughout the year. Here are three small ponds of clear water. Legend has it, that this was where Mây bathed her 100 children, bringing them up wisely and happily into adolescence. One path meanders out of the grotto; it was the way Mây, together with 50 of her children, took to harvest new lands. The 50 remaining children, together with their father, were left to build the native land. Left behind by the mother was the natural stream described above.
Sung Sot Grotto
Situated in the centre of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage area, the Sửng Sôt or Surprise Grotto is on Bồ Hòn Island, and is one of the finest and widest grottoes of Hạ Long Bay.
Ascending to the grotto, the way is covered by trees and foliage, and consists of great paved stone blocks.
Inside, it is partitioned into two 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 visitors. The chamber is so immense it could contain thousands of people at one time.
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 (benjamin figs, cycads and centenary banyan trees) live here. On nice days groups of monkeys might arrive in search of fruit.
It is situated in the central tourism centre of the bay, as well as Ti Tốp Beach, Bô Nâu Grotto, Mê Cung Grotto and Luồn Grotto. French named it “grotte des surprises” (grotto of surprise) From the wharf, you climb 50 steep stone stairs to the mouth of the grotto, which lies 25 m above the sea level. Going down some 10 stone stairs, you reach the mouth of a grotto. The grotto covers some 10,000 m2. Inside the grotto there have thousands of stalactites and stalagmites along the 500-meter paved passage. Light posts line the passage and serve as signposts and ornaments. The lighting system with elegant styles adds more charm to the beauty of the grotto.
Dau Go Grotto
The grotto is on Driftwood 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 ceiling of the grotto is about 25 m. 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, depending on the imagination of the visitor of course.
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.
The name Driftwood Grotto came from a popular story of the resistance war against the Yuan – Mongolian aggressors. In a decisive battle, Trân Hưng Ðậo was given the order to prepare many ironwood stakes here, to be planted on the riverbed of Bạch Ðằng River. The remaining wooden pieces found in the grotto have given it its present name.
And the name Giâu Gô is associated with the legend that General Trân Hưng Ðạo (1226-1300) hid ironwood stakes in preparation for the Bạch Đằng battle against the Yuan-Mongolian invaders.
If the Thiên Cung Grotto is monumental and modern (in its natural form), then Driftwood Grotto is solemn, but also grandiose. In “Marvels of the World,” published in France in 1938, the author called the grotto “Grotte des merveilles” (a site of many marvels)
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.
The second chamber is narrow. Here, the stalactites look smaller but more graceful. One feels like going to a pagoda with a monk in meditation so that one steps more gently.
The third chamber features high stone columns out of which nature has carved images of a large kingdom, of heroes and soldiers holding swords and spears rushing up, of war elephants and horses or lions, etc. All of them suddenly was petrified and remained there for good.
Up in the 30-meter roof of the grotto, one can figure out small, soft and even concave spots, which look like patterns in the ceiling of a theater. A huge piece of stone stands up to the ceiling by the grotto’s mouth. This evidences one of the typical karst-style grottoes with high scientific values.
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 Ân aggressors, Thánh Gióng (the Saint Gióng) helped the population to chase away evil spirits and demons. After this feat, Saint Gióng flew to heaven, leaving a stone horse and sword to continue to keep the demons away.
Situated on Bồ Hòn Island, 14 km south of Bai Chay Beach is the Luon Grotto. In front of the grotto 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 grotto, just at the base of the island. Passing through the pretty entrance, you come across a tranquil round lake, surrounded by luxuriant trees and high dangerous stone walls. Monkeys run to and from in groups, 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.
This is an enclosed group of islands. It connects with the sea via a 4-meter-wide, 100-meter-long, and 3-meter-high mouth. Inside the grotto, the 1-km2 brackish lake is surrounded by mountains. On the cliff one still find traces of fossils of fresh-water snails, which prove that men used to live there and this must have been a deep valley then.
The beauty of the site, is the mingling of a number of factors: the mountain’s size and form, the colour of the water and the clouds.
Me Cung Grotto
Two kilometers south-west of Ti Tốp Beach is the Me Cung cave or Bewitching Grotto. It formed on Lom Bò Island, and seen from a distance, 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 partitions appear. These chambers are somewhat small and narrow, but very refined, and with many stalagmites and stalactites bearing beautiful forms.
Threading your way through narrow passages, 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 waters 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”.
It is dry and well-ventilated, and features a thick layer of shells forming the foundation of the entrance. Formerly, this layer was 1.2-meter-thick and semi-fossilized. In the course of research, there was also a fossilized animal’s skeleton discovered in the interior. The Mê Cung Grotto has been recognized 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.
Pushing into the grotto, tourists 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.
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).
Trinh Nu Grotto
The Trinh Nữ Grotto or Virgin Grotto is situated on the island range of Bồ Hòn in the system comprising the Sửng Sôt Grotto, Ðộng Tiên Lake and Luồn Grotto. It is 15 km south of Bãi Cháy Beach. For fishermen, the Virgin Grotto is their house, but for young lovers, it is considered as the symbol of truly love, and is the romantic place for taking oath of love.
Entering Trinh Nữ Grotto, one finds in the middle of the grotto a stone statue of a lying-girl with her long hair hanging down who is looking to the sea in a vain hope.
Situated opposite to Trinh Nữ Grotto, Trống (or Male) Grotto has a stone statue of a boy who turns his face to Trinh Nữ Grotto. One still hears his vain scream in tune with the wind blowing into the cliff somewhere.
Legend has it, 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 already had a lover who at that time was on the high seas catching fish to prepare for their wedding. The administrator, angered 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 he floated to one of the islands. In a 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’s Trống Grotto).
Tourists also find Trinh Nữ Grotto attractive partly because of its association with a fanciful love legend: “Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl who deeply loved each other. However, they were so poor that they could not be able to get married. The boy decided to go offshore fishing with a hope that he could get enough money for his marriage. And the girl painfully waited in vain for her fiancé. She finally took a small boat and rowed to the sea to look for him. So immense is the sea, and so many are the islands, the boy, therefore could not hear her doleful call, though he was just several canals away. Exhausted, the girl lied in a grotto, looking to the sea and got petrified after the last call. The boy got lost in a grotto nearby, shouting to call the girl in vain. The echo of their call through the cliff was so moving. At last, the boy became exhausted and petrified in the grotto – present-day Trống Grotto.”
Today, whenever passing this place, tourists can still hear his faint call.
Bo Nau Grotto
Some 2-3 km southeast of Trống Mái Islet lies Bo Nau Grotto or Pelican Grotto. This vaulted grotto covers 200 m2. The floor of the grotto is wide and flat, but not deep, and its wall features lots of stalactites and stalagmites.
At the entrance are three stones, looking like three fairies with their heads close to one another. Two men appear to be playing chess, with the third serving as a referee.
Bồ Nâu Grotto is one of the beauty grottoes in HaLong Bay.
The name Bồ Nâu or Bồ Nông is associated with the fact that pelicans often take shelter here. If Ðầu Gỗ Grotto lies completely inside the island, Bồ Nâu opens its mouth at the side of the island. Stalactites fall down from the roof of the grotto in different clusters. Meanwhile stalagmites grow up in different shapes and layers. Is this that the life out there is so noisy that the three fairies have to choose this tranquil place to play chess? Turning southward, Bồ Nâu Grotto enjoys cool wind. Standing there, one can hear the murmur of the sea all year round.
Tam Cung Grotto
The Tam Cung Grotto or Three-palace Grotto is situated in the centre of Hạ Long Bay, 5 km from Sửng Sôt Grotto to the northeast. The grotto itself is divided into three parts; after threading the stone cracks, you find the first chamber. Many beautiful forms can be garnered from the rocky shapes.
Continuing on to the second chamber, the bumpy way leads to a spring with fresh water. The last room contains further incredible stone depictions.
Hang Hanh is one of the longest grottoes in Halong Bay, lying 9 km west of Cam Pha Town and 20 km from Bãi Cháy Beach. It is 1,300 m long, and stretches throughout the stone mountain of Quang Hanh.
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.
The French named Hang Hanh “Le Tunnel” or Tunnel Grotto. The mouth of the grotto is so low one has to go by small boat to pass through.
To get there, tourists can hire canoes in Ðoan wharf (Hòn Gai, Hạ Long City) or take a coach to Cẩm Phả. At the Cẩm Phả wharf, one can also hire boats or canoes to go to the grotto. One should visit the grotto at low tide, as this is the time the mouth of the grotto appears. Remember to bring along torches before starting the journey. It takes one some 60 to 90 minutes to complete the trip. Hang Hanh Grotto seems suitable for adventures. Another matter of no less important is that the boatmen must be experienced or else you will get locked up in this deep “Water Palace”.
In front of the present-day mouth stands Ba Cô (Three Girls) shrine in a towering piece of stone. Legend has it that: “Once upon a time there were three girls who often went to the sea together. One day, they caught a pouring rain and took shelter in a grotto. They found the scenery so captivating that they forgot the time of rising tide. Locked up in the grotto, they passed away and became Water God.”
Today, fishermen usually went to the shrine to pray for their bestowing favours on them.
Tam Cung Grotto lies in Mây Đèn, a luxuriant island nearly isolated from other islands. Mây Ðèn’s cliffs are extremely vertical, while its forest is flourishing.
Entering its first chamber, one can hear the sound of t’rung or stone musical instrument from near and far. Pushing further inside, tourists meet a “fairy” whose white beard flies in the wind climbing the mountain. High in the wall of the chamber there stand three statues representing prosperity, happiness and longevity, looking down at the earthly world. From the ceiling falls down a stalactite which resembles the bud of a hydrangea among a garden of stone flowers. 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 layout. One can figure out flowers, bamboos, stone curtains, or sleeping elephants.
Kim Quy Grotto
Kim Quy Grotto or Golden Tortoise Grotto is situated on Dâm Nam Islet, with a peak 187 m above sea level. Dâm Bac Islet is in the front of the grotto and Soi Sim Islet in the back.
The grotto is 100 m long and 5 to 10 m wide, running in a north-south direction.
A narrow way leads to the interior of the grotto where a stream flows. The stalactites here are snow-white and lightly hang from the ceiling.
It is linked to the ancient legend of the Golden Tortoise: after having helped Emperor Lê Loi defeat his enemies, the Golden Tortoise took back the magic sword he had given him, and swam towards the sea. Arriving in Hạ 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.
Today in the grotto, it can be found dozing, still with ancient wounds covering its body.
Ba Ham Lake
Situated on the south-west side of Hạ Long Bay, Ba Hầm Lake is found on Ðầu Bê Island (Calf Head Island) in Lan Hạ Bay. This island is part of the range of islands at the farthest end of Hạ Long Bay, bordering the immense zone Long Châu Sea. Ba Hầm 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. Stalactites hang from the ceiling in a myriad of strange, coloured forms. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the boat’s oars. On the island are many species of plants such as orchids, benjamin figs, banyans and cycads, which blossom throughout the year. It is also the home of yellow-haired monkeys, birds, flying squirrels and bats. Under the deep blue surface of the water are the animated lives of shrimp and fish.
Although 25 km from the shore, it has long been considered an ideal tourism zone. The entrance is a open semi-circular hole in the flat stone wall on the north-west side of the island, 4 to 5 m above the sea.
Starting from the entrance, tourists enter the first tunnel, which boasts a forest of stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and various colours. They fall down the water surface like the roots of banyan or ficus trees. The deeper one pushes into the tunnel, the darker it becomes. The river is deep yet so clear that one can see shoals of fish swimming. Some 100 m 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, trúc duôi gà (a kind of reed with cock’s tail-liked yellow leaves) flourishing in clumps. In the southeast cliff of the second tunnel there grows an old carambola tree, which bears fruits all year round. Tourists can find groups of monkeys, flying squirrels, or silver-headed parrots gathering in its branches. Lying one cliff away from the second one, the third tunnel is home to various species of bats and butterflies.
Amidst the tranquil atmosphere, you feel like boating in an abyssal well walled by mountains. Ba Hầm Lake is one of the beauty spots of Hạ Long Bay.
Yen Ngua Islet
The Hon Yen Ngua or Saddle Islet lies in Hạ 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 imposing 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 10 m above the sea surface.
Ga Choi Islet ( Fighting Cocks Islet ).
Ga Choi is situated on the south-west side of Hạ Long Bay, 5 km from the tourist wharf near to Ðỉnh Hương Islet. In a somewhat large expanse of open sea, the island seems to grow up from the bottom of the deep emerald waters. At sunset, the island with the height of over 10 m is bright red and in a somewhat tottery 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 Trống Mái is still there. The image of the island is the logo of Hạ Long Bay and Vietnam Tourism.
Cho Da Islet ( Stone Dogs Islet )
In the itinerary of Thiên Cung – Ðầu Gỗ – Ti Tốp, after visiting Thiên Cung and Ðầu Gỗ, one needs 10 minutes boating to the Cho Da Islet or Stone Dog Islet.
Some 8 m 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.
Dau Nguoi Islet ( Human Head Islet )
From a far, you can see a 25-meter 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.
The Ðau Nguoi Islet in Ha Long Bay, a masterpiece of nature, has its own poetic beauty as it lies amidst seawaters. The islet lies near Luồn Cave, 13 km away from the tourist wharf.
Ngon Tay Islet ( Finger Islet )
On the way to Ti Tốp Island, visitors see a stone rock resembling a thump jutting out of the sea.
Nature has put the Hon Ngon Tay (Finger) Islet here as a reminder of many interesting extras in the discovery of Halong.
Ba Trai Dao Islet ( Three Peaches Islet )
This island consists of three small mountains with the height of 23 m, 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 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 three stone islands. Chastised, the young fairy had to return.
Today, Ba Trai Dao islet is a famous tourist attraction with three nice fairy beaches, romantic landscape. It is 22 km from south north of Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf.
Su Tu Bien Islet ( Sea Lion Islet )
On the canoe route to Thiên Cung – Ðầu Gỗ Grottoes, one should visit Hon Su Tu Bien or Sea Lion Islet, which is 10 minutes away from the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf.
Amidst the vast seawaters of Halong, you recognize a high rock jutting from the sea, resembling a lion stretching.
Con Coc Islet ( Toad Islet )
Hon Con Coc or Toad Islet is one of the most exquisite works nature has presented Hạ Long. Just imagine, an 8-meter-tall toad sitting to wait for rain amidst the vastness of the sea.
The Toad Islet lies in the southeast of Hạ Long Bay, 17 km away from the tourist boat wharf.
Thien Nga Islet ( Swan Islet )
In the waters of Bái Tử Long Bay, a stone islet is bobbing like an alluring and graceful swan (Thien Nga) – a swan losing its herd.
This stone swan has taken up countless time and rolls of film of tourist near and far.
Am Islet ( Tea Pot Islet )
On the route to Quan Lan – Ngọc Vừng islands; Ấm Rock or Kettle Islet is situated in Bái Tử Long Bay. An island jutting out of the seawaters, the teapot of the Jade Emperor, who accidentally dropped it into Hạ Long so, its handle was broken.
But Islet ( Pen Islet )
Some 30-minute boating away from the Con Cóc Islet, on the way to the Ba Trái Ðào (Three Peaches) Island, visitors see a pen bobbing (Bút Islet) in the seawaters. This constitutes a monument of knowledge Mother Dragon wanted to pass down to the present-day generations.
Lying adjacent to the Pen Islet is a small attractive beach. Tourists can anchor there to take a bath.
Mat Quy Islet ( Devil Eyes Islet )
Boating past the Ấm Islet some 20 minutes, we see Mặt Quỷ Islet or Monster Head Islet, which protrudes about 30-35 m from the waters of Bái Tử Long Bay.
Nature 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 find it horrible
Xep Islet or Layer Islet is a huge, multi-layered, square piece of stone which looks like an Egyptian pyramid built in the middle of the Bái Tử Long Bay, Cẩm Phả District.
Dau Moi Islet lies in the middle of the route between Am Islet and Ðua 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. Ðầu Mối Islet is listed in the diversified “animal collection” of Hạ Long Bay.
Situated 300 m away from Bài Thơ Mountain and 5 km from the Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf, a 22-meter islet stands out in Bái Tử Long Bay.
It has the shape of truncated sticky rice, which serves as an offering to Buddha. French tourists pay special attention to this rock as in 1992; a French famous actress came there to film some shots of the film Indochina.
In the island, some settings are still preserved including the stone-paved road to the beach (often called the Slave Pier), the prisons, etc.
Soi Sim is an soil island 400 m away from Ti Tốp Island, and 7-8 km from the Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf. In the island there are many ancient trees. The Hạ Long Bay Management Board is going to build a system of guesthouses equipped with modern facilities.
At present, a small beach has been improved and upgraded, adding more charm to the attractive holiday rest.
Quan Lan Island
Quan Lạn Island belongs to Bái Tử Long Bay; part of an island range on the outside of the gulf of Bắc Bộ. It has an area of 11 sq. km, and features eight populated hamlets. Quan Lạn Island stretch toward East – West from the foot of Vân Đồn Range to the Gót Mount with many high mountains to the east barring waves and winds, protect the villages. The island is situated on an important navigation route that connects China, Japan, Thailand and Philippines to Vietnam.
Along two sides of the island are tens kilometres of sand beaches. This is the endless resource for glass making which the sea gives to man and it is also the extremely interesting tourism
Since the 11th century, Quan Lạn had been one of the centres of the ancient commercial port of Vân Ðồn, 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 archaeological sites seen today. On the island there is the Quan Lạn Communal House built in the 18th century; exceedingly beautiful and almost entirely preserved. Next to it is Quan Lạn Pagoda (Linh Quang Tự), which is dedicated to Buddha and God Liêu Hạnh.
The pagoda also worships the statue of old Hậu, 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 character to the pagoda. Beside Quan Lạn Pagoda lies Nghè Quan Lạn (Ðức Ông) Shrine, which is dedicated to Phạm Công Chính, a local people who participated in the historical Vân Ðồn battle against the Yuan invaders. He was later honored as a god. Quan Lạn has many valuable sea products such as octopuses, butterfish, mackerel, holothurian, shrimp, and sái sùng.
Ha Long, one of the World Heritages, comprises thousands of big and small islands. Each one has its own characteristic with various caves: Sung Sot Cave,Thien Cung Cave, Trinh Nu Cave. Tuan Chau Island is the only soil island of all. It is not only a place having beautiful natural surroundings: pine trees, lakes, beautiful beach…but also where President Ho Chi Minh chose to be the relax place of other State officials’ and his when they came here in 1959.
On the total area of 400 ha, Tuan Chau has the population of 1500. As planned, the total area of Tuan Chau will be widen to 675 ha. It enjoys the advantage of having both road and river transportations. It is about 18 km away from National Highway No.1. This route is an important blood vessel of the robust Hanoi – Hai Phong – Quang Ninh economic triangle. It takes about 3 hours from Mong Cai ( 2 hours by boat) and 1 hour from Hai Phong.
Tuan Chau island’s name is the combination between ‘linh tuan’ (the patrolman) and ‘tri chau’ (district chief) because in the feudal time, the royal army set up a guard station here to patrol and defend the borderland. Prior to 1999, the island’s residents suffered from a very modest living standard.There was no power network and no clean water. Roads were only trails and there was no mechanical means of transportation. Tuan Chau was a very poor town where fishing with very rudimentary tools is the only means of living.
The first project of great significance was to link Tuan Chau and the National Highway No18 by building a road. The work was officially started on February 28th, 1998. All company staff had to overcome numerous hardships to achieve this difficult task, which translated people’s dream into reality.
Tuan Chau has become well- known to both international and domestic tourists as an attractive destination with:
- a dolphin&seal club
- a circus
- a crocodile club
- an (artificial) beach with 4 km long.
- a Vietnamese culinary area
- a hotel and resort area of 5-star standard (200 rooms)
- a water recreation park with activities such as motor racing, canoeing, parachuting, water skiing, etc.
- Ha Long Bay sight- seeing services by canoe, boat, helicopter.
- a high tech water fountain with music playing, laser lighting and film projecting on water
Situated about 7-8 km south-east of Bãi Cháy lies the small Ti Tốp Island. It displays a beach shaped like a crescent moon, and sand that has been washed to a snowy white by the tide. On 22 November 1962, this tiny island had the honour of receiving a visit from astronaut Ghermann Ti Tốp, a hero of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by Hồ Chí Minh. To perpetuate the remembrance of their visit, Uncle Hồ named the place Ti Tốp Island. It has now become an attractive beach for tourists and has various of tourist services
Thirty-five years afterwards, on 27 June 1997, Ti Tốp returned to the island having his name. Deeply moved, he wrote in the souvenir book of the Management Board of Hạ Long Bay: “My deepest thanks to destiny, which has allowed me to come back to this tiny island.” It has become a beach attracting many visitors.
When speaking of the beautiful islands of Hạ Long Bay, one must speak of Bồ Hòn Island or Soap-Berry Tree Island, not only because of its splendid scenery, but also as it is one of the largest in the area. There are many grottoes located here, such as the Surprise, Luồn, Virgin and Male grottoes. There is also a concentration of high mountains with vertical cliffs like citadel wall; mountains follow closely make a huge beautiful watercolour picture on the sea.
There are various species of plants such as benjamin fig trees, cycads and orchids… and animals are monkeys, deer and chamois. Perhaps, Bồ Hòn Island famous for the grotto system hiding inside it. Each of them has their own marvellous beauty and is related to the moved legends.
Ngọc Vừng, or Gem Island, is a pretty site sitting between the Nét Islet and Phượng Hoàng (Phoenix) Island, in the Vân Ðồn District. From above, Ngọc Vừng looks like a beautiful velvet handkerchief with exquisite white edgings; it seems to float on the water surface. On the east side of the island there is a kilometres-beach with pure white sand. At the centre is a luxuriant benjamin fig tree; it was under this tree that Hồ Chí Minh stood and conversed with the population in 1962 during a visit.
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. So there are several islands having name “Ngọc” such as Ngọc Vừng (dazzling pearl), Minh Châu (Ngọc Châu)…
During the war against the US, the island belonged to a front of outward islands that served as protection for the eastern waterways.
It is also on the beach that many stone artefacts were discovered in 1937, opening a string of excavations and archaeological research aiming at providing some explanations of the mysteries of the ancient Hạ Long culture.
On the south-east side of Hạ Long Bay, Ðầu Bê Island is 500 m from Hang Trai Island to the east, and 28 km from the Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf, in an archipelago comprised between the Trà Ngư and Ðá Lẻ islands outside Hạ Long Bay (seaport of Lan Hạ Bay).
It has an area of 22,863 sq. m, and its highest peak reaches 139 m. When speaking of the island, it is impossible not mention to Ba Hâm Lake, a famous spot which people had known long time ago.
Located in Bai Tu Long Cong Tay Island is a spot in the tour around the Ngoc Vung, Quan Lan islands. It is about 40km from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf and takes 90 minutes from Cam Pha to the island by ordinary ship and 30 minutes by express ship.
Cong Tay Island is compared with the Cinderella in a fairy tale. Cam Pha Coal, Construction and Wharf Company built the site into a destination for sigh-seeing and relaxation at weekend. Near the beach is a network of all-conveniences rest houses and restaurants. From the rest houses you can go to the beach on a red brick paved road lined on the two sides by straight rows of coconuts. You can relax by lying on a hammock under the shade of coconut while having a view of the sea or reading books.
Cong Tay has becoming an attractive tourist destination. Rest houses and service facilities are being updated and completed to cater to the needs of tourists.
On the south-east side of Hạ Long Bay, about 25 km from Bãi Cháy Wharf, Cống Ðỏ is in Bái Tử Long Bay in the region which recognised as the World Heritage. It has an area of 23,363 sq. m, and its mountain reaches a peak of 172 m. The island features many lagoons, which are the residence of numerous species of sea-life, such as shrimp, crab, fish, squid and aquatic plants. On the south-west side of the island, there is a wide coral reef displaying a myriad of colours.
Coral reef ecosystem is more than 700 m long and 300 m wide. It is preserved almost undamaged. In the future, there are plans for the development of a zone for scuba-diving. On the south-east side of the island, vestiges of the ancient commercial port of Vân Ðồn were discovered. This confirms beliefs that Cống Ðỏ Island once held an important position in terms of foreign trade.
Bai Chay is a large, beautiful, artificial beach, closed to the coast of Hạ Long Bay. The 100-meter-wide-sandy beach spans over 500 m. Early in the morning or in late afternoon, thousands of people liven up the atmosphere here.
The asphalt road winds its way through the white sandy beach and luxuriant casuarinas. The Hoàng Gia Tourism Company has invested in diverse services for tourists. The Bai Chay tourist site is fast changing into one of the most captivating of this kind in Hạ Long City. It comprises restaurants, water puppet and traditional music theatres, Hoàng Gia Park, water-skiing, and sea motorcycling. The Hoàng Gia Park lines along the Hạ Long road leading from the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to the gate of the Hạ Long Night Market.
There are many legends associated with the name Bai Chay. 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. Meanwhile, 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.
Another legend has it that the western side of Cua Luc used to be a wharf for seagoing boats. Acorn-barnacles firmly attached to these boats’ sides and underneath, and might wreck the boats. The local population had to use casuarinas leaves to burn acorn-barnacles. From Hon Gai and other neighboring places, people always see a blaze from there, so they called it Bai Chay.
Ba Trai Dao Beach
To the Ba Trái Ðào Beach, it costs 10 hours by cruise from Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf. It has that name as Ba Trái Ðào Beach (the three peaches), features three small sand beaches embracing small islands.
These islands, seen from afar, resemble three peaches. Tourists take bath in this beach only 2-3 hours in a day as in other time the beach is lapped by tides.
Ti Top Beach
Some 14 km east of Bai Chay is Ti Top Beach, which takes the shape of a crescent 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 landscape.
In 1962, President Hô Chí Minh and the Russian astronaut Germane Ti Top came to this beach. Hence its name Ti Top. 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 inland. The Ti Top Beach has become a popular tourist destination.
Tuan Chau Beach
Some 8 km away from the Bãi Cháy Tourist Wharf, Tuần Châu is a sandy artificial beach which stretches over 3 km.
Heading to the holiday resort in Tuần Châu Island Resort, besides swimming, tourists can enjoy such fascinating extras as sightseeing, entertainment, and sports activities, including climbing or camping in the eco-tourism zone.
Situated 15 km from Quan Lan Beach, the famous Minh Chau Beach is proud of its white sand which do not stick to one’s foot.
Visitors can go to the camping site there to stay overnight. Tourists can go there via Cam Pha, crossing Tai Xa Ferry (near Cua Ong Temple), to Cai Rong Town. After this 9-km road, tourists catch a boat at Cai Rong Port.
The trip to Quan Lan Island takes about 3 hours. On the way, one should visit some other islands for sightseeing. On reaching Minh Chau Beach in Quan Lan Island, tourists can enjoy swimming and taste delicious seafood.
Ngoc Vung is one of the offshore beach which is still kept pristine and unspoilt. Situated to the south of Ngoc Vung Island, some 34 km southeast of the tourist boat wharf, this beach boasts clear waters all year round.
Its 3-km sandy stretch sparkles in the sunlight. Apart from swimming and sightseeing, tourists can also enjoy fresh delicious seafood supplied by local fishermen.