Halong Bay is a body of water of approximately 1,500 square kilometres in north Vietnam with a 120 kilometre coastline, in the Gulf of Tonkin Gulf of Tonkin near the border with China, and 170 kilometres east of Hanoi. Ha Long Bay - means "Bay of the Descending Dragon" in the Vietnamese language.
Overview of Halong bay:
HALONG BAY WONDER
Halong bay consists of a dense cluster of 3000 limestone monolithic islands, each topped with thick jungle vegetation, which rise spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Dau Go (Wooden stakes Cave) is the largest grotto in the Halong 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).
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 iguanas also live on some of the islands.
Halong bay - Vietnam
The bay was World Heritage listed by UNESCO at the 18th meeting of the Committee of the World Heritages of UNESCO (in Thailand on December 17th, 1994). It is one of Vietnam's most popular tourist destinations.
Halong Bay has been the setting for local naval battles against Vietnam's coastal neighbours. On three occasions in the labyrinth of channels between the islands the Vietnamese army stopped the Chinese from landing. In 1288 General Tran Hung Dao stopped Mongol ships from sailing up the nearby Bach Dang River by placing steel-tipped wooden stakes at high tide, sinking the Mongol Dubhai Khan's fleet.
During the Vietnam War, many of the channels between the islands were heavily mined by the navy of the United States, some of which pose a threat to shipping to this day.
The surrounding land region of Halong City is rich with high grade coal deposits, and is operated by the Vietnamese government. Click here to see Halong Bay Map
HISTORY OF THE NAME "HALONG"
"Ha Long" is literally translated as "Bay of Descending Dragons." Prior to the 19th century, this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Ha Long Bay, old historical books often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don. Not until the late 19th century did the name of Halong Bay appear on a French Marine Map. "The Hai Phong News", a French newspaper of the time, had an article, "Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay", reporting the following story: In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, captaining the 'Avalanse' reported seeing a huge sea snake on Ha Long Bay.
This was also witnessed by many of the crews. Thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal looking like a dragon resulted the name of Ha Long Bay is not known (Reference "Quang Ninh: Art and Culture" published in 2002).
There is also a local legend, which has been handed down, relating to the name Ha Long Bay, which tells the following tale:
"Long ago, in the first founding days, the Viet people were attacked by foreign aggressors. The Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her band of Child Dragons to help the Viet people fight the invaders. While the enemy vessels were launching massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended in flocks from the sky. They spat out innumerable pearls which changed into jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that checked the enemy's advance and smashed their vessels to pieces.
After the invaders were driven out, Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to Heaven but stayed on earth, right at the place where the battle occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long, and where the Child Dragons came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Long Vi, the present-day Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers."
Halong bay - Vietnam
Caves & Grottos
Halong Bay's limestone islands are dotted with caves of all sizes and shapes. Most of these are accessible only by chaerter boat, but some can easily be visited on tour.
Cave in Halong bay
Hang Dau Go (Grotto of Wooden Stakes): Know to French as the Grotto des Merveilles (Cave of Marvels), is a huge cave consisting of three chambers, which you reach via 90 steps. Among the stalactites of the first hall, scores of gnomes appear to be holding a meeting. The walls of the second chamber sparkle if bright light is shone on them. The cave derives its Vietnamese name from the third of the chamber. This chamber is said to have been used during the 13th century to store the sharp bamboo stakes that Vietnamese folk hero and war general, Tran Hung Dao, planted in the bed of the Bach Dang River to impale Mongolian general Kublai Khan's invasion fleet. Its the closest cave site to the mainland. Part of the same system, a nearby cave Hang Thien Cung has "cauliflower" limestone growths as well as stalactites and stalagmites.
Hang Sung Sot (Surprising Cave): is a popular cave to visit. It too has three vastand beautiful chambers, in the second of which there is an astonishing pink-lit "penis rock" (realy, its the only way to discribe it), which is regarded as a fertility symbol. It too requires a hike up steps to reach it, and a loop walk through the cool interior takes you back to the bay. Hang Bo Nau, another impressive cave can be visited nearby.
Hang Trong (Drum Grotto): is so named because when the wind blows through its many stalactites and stalagmites, visitors think they can hear the sound of distant drumbeats.
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