Situated in the North-East region of Vietnam, 151 km North-East of Hanoi, Halong Bay is in the Gulf of Tonkin stretching through Halong City, Cam Pha Town, and a part of the island district of Van Don. Halong Bay borders Cat Ba Island in the southwest, the East Sea in the east, and the mainland, creating a 120 km coastline.
Halong Bay is made up of 1,969 islands of various sizes. There are two kinds of islands, limestone and schist, concentrated in two main zones: the southeast (belonging to Bai Tu Long Bay), and the southwest (belonging to Halong Bay). This densely concentrated zone of rock islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves, forms the central zone of Halong Bay, which has twice been acclaimed as the World Heritage by the UNESCO.
Ha Long – Bay of the Descending Dragon
Ha Long literally means Descending Dragon(s). This name is associated with a legend that has been handed down for generations. According to this, during the earliest days of founding the country the Viet people were attacked by foreign invaders through the sea line. Knowing this in advance, God wanted to help the Viet people to expel the enemy by sending Mother Dragon and her children down to Vietnam. When the invaders were about to launch 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 because they fell in love with the beauty of the water and the sea. They decided to remain on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long, and where the Child Dragons came down and bowed their heads to their mother was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Bach Long Vi, now known as Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers.
System of Islands and Caves
Ha Long Bay consists of numerous islands and peaks of different heights, arranged in a zigzag pattern, like the figure of a dragon splashing in the water. This is a hidden bay with a sea area of 1,500 square kilometers along a realm of thousands of islands (mostly limestone) naturally grouped. Many islands are named after the figures that they resemble, such as Frog, Elephant, Fighting Cock, Turtle or Roof Island that may appeal to the imagination of tourists. There are two bigger islands, Tuan Chau and Cat Ba, where there have been permanent inhabitants. Both of them have tourist facilities, including hotels and beaches. There are a number of wonderful beaches on the smaller islands.
Ha Long Bay is a limestone area with many wonderful caves, such as Dau Go, Bo Nau, Trong, Trinh Nu and Sung Sot Cave, each with their own fascinating legend.
Ha Long Bay includes two ecosystems: tropical moist evergreen rainforest, and a marine and coastal ecosystem.
The bay treasures many valuable specialties, such as fish, abalone and shrimps of different kinds. On the islands there are various kinds of birds and animals, including mostly local species of chicken, blue birds, monkeys, bantams, antelopes and iguanas. Pearls and coral can be collected on some islands.