Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long) is a
UNESCO World Heritage site located in Quảng Ninh
province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of
limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and
Local legend says that long ago 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
decided to live here then. The place where Mother
Dragon flew down was named Hạ Long, the place where
the dragon children attended upon their mother was
called Bái Tử Long island (Bái: attend upon, Tử:
children, Long: dragon), and the place where the
dragon children wriggled their tails violently was
called Bạch Long Vỹ island (Bạch: white- colour of
the foam made when Children Dragon wriggle, Long:
dragon, Vỹ: tail).
Ha Long Bay is 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
kilometre long coastline and is approximately 1,553
square kilometres in size with 1969 islets. The area
designated by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage
Site includes 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 giants zone.
Soi Nhụ culture (16000- 5000 BCE)
Located in Hạ Long and Bái Tử Long, there are
symbolic archaeological sites such as Mê Cung and
Thiên Long. There are mounds of remains of mountain
shellfishes (Cyclophorus) and spring shellfishes (Melania),
some fresh water mollusk and some rudimentary labour
tools. The main living procedures of Soi Nhụ's
habitants were catching shellfish and fish,
collecting fruits and digging for bulbs and roots.
Their living environment is coastal area unlike
other Vietnamese cultures, for example those found
in Hoà Bình, Bắc Sơn, etc.
Cái Bèo culture (5000- 3000BCE)
Located in Hạ Long and Cát Bà island, its habitants
developed to the level of sea exploitation.
Hạ Long culture (2500- 1500BCE)
History shows that Ha Long Bay has been the setting
for local naval battles against Vietnam's coastal
neighbours. On three occasions in the labyrinth of
channels in Bach Dang river near 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.
System of isles and caves
Thien Cung grotto. The bay consists of a dense
cluster of 1,969 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 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, Tuan
Chau and Cat Ba, that have permanent inhabitants.
Both of them have tourist facilities, including
hotels and beaches. There are a number of wonderful
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
iguanas also live on some of the islands.
Almost these islands are individual towers in a
classic fenglin lanscape which height is from 50m to
100m and height/width ratios up to about 6.
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
Floating fishing villageA community of around 1600
people live on Ha Long Bay in four fishing villages:
Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng
Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating
houses and are sustained by capture fishing and
marine aquaculture (cultivating marine biota).
Originally in Ha Long Bay there was only one fishing
village. Now there are about ten.
In 1962, Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sport and
Tourism arranged Ha Long Bay as National Renowned
The bay was World's Natural Heritage listed by
UNESCO at the 18th meeting of the Committee of the
World Heritages of UNESCO (in Phuket, Thailand on
December 17th, 1994) for its outstanding universal
aesthetic value according to the criteria explained
in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation
of the World Heritage Convention. On December 2nd,
2000 at the 24th meeting of Committee of the World
Heritages in Cairns, Australia, Ha Long Bay was
admitted as a World Heritage Site for its
outstanding geological and geomorphologic value
according to the criteria of that Convention.
Ha Long Bay was introduced to nominate by New Open
World Foundation as World's 7 Natural Wonder.
Geology and geomorphology
History of tectonics
Scientists say that Ha Long Bay has experienced at
least 500 million years in the various geological
states of orogeny, marine transgression and marine
regression. During the Ordovician and Silurian
periods (500-410 million years ago), Ha Long Bay was
deep sea. During the Carboniferous and Permian
periods (340-250 million years ago), Ha Long Bay was
at shallow sea level.
Karst geomorphology value
As of simultaneous combination of ideal factors like
thick pale grey strong limestone layer which is
formed by fine-grained materials, hot and moist
climate and slow tectonic process in whole, Ha Long
bay has had a complete karst evolutionary for 20
million years. There are many of karst topography
kind in Ha Long such as karst field.
Ha Long Bay is host to two ecosystems: a tropical,
moist, evergreen rainforest ecosystem and a marine &
coastal ecosystem. The bay is home to seven endemic
The many islands that dot the bay are home to a
great many other species, including (but likely not
limited to): 477 magnoliales, 12 pteris, 20 salt
marsh flora and 4 amphibia, 10 reptilia, 40 aves,
and 4 mammalia.
Ha Long Bay is perhaps the most popular travel
destination of the country. Foreigners and natives
alike are attracted to its natural, universal
appeal, not to mention the shopping and dining
prospects located close by.
Seafood in Ha Long is diversifying. Cuttle-fish- mực,
oyester- hà, cyclinae- ngán, prawn (penaeidea- tôm
he, panulirus- tôm hùm, parapenaeopsis- tôm sắt...),
spunculoideas- sá sùng, nerita- ốc đĩa, charonia
tritonis- ốc tù và, cà sáy... are popular in many
famous delicious dishes.
Problems of Tourism
With an increasing tourist trade, mangroves and sea
grass beds have had to be cleared and jetties and
wharves have been built for tourist boats.
Fuel and oil, along with tourist litter, have
created pollution problems, which impact on both the
aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem of the islands.
Human waste from portable toilets erected for
tourists, finds its way into the soil and water
surrounding the islands, once more altering the
ecosystem functioning through increased nutrient
Game fishing, often near coral reefs are threatening
many endangered species of fish. Often the fish is
not consumed locally but exported to other markets
around the region.
The delicate limestone cave ecosystems are
diminishing as tourists visiting the caves break off
stalagmites and stalactites. Litter, including wine
bottles, is dropped into cave streams and visitors
exhale carbon dioxide, which has a deleterious
affect on the caves. The mouths of some caves have
been widened to allow tourist access. This increase
in light has lead to an imbalance in the delicate
links between the flora and fauna, and a decrease in
the humidity of the caves.
Nguyễn Trãi wrote about Ha Long Bay: "This wonder is
ground raises up in the middle of the high sky".
Xuân Diệu utter a praise: "Here is the unfinished
works of the Beings...Here is the stones which the
Giant played and threw away". Nguyên Ngọc
summarized: "...to form this first- rate wonder,
nature only uses: Stone and Water...There is just
only two materials themselves chosen from as much as
materials, in order to write, to draw, to sculpture,
to create everything...It is quite possible that
here is the image of the future world". Ho Chi Minh
remarks: "It is the wonder that one cannot impart to
others". Pham Van Dong embarrassed: "Is it one
scenery or many sceneries? Is it the scenery in the
world or somewhere?". Nguyễn Tuân recognized that:"
Only mountains accept to be old, but Ha Long sea and
wave is young for ever".
Che Lan Vien sensed:
"Hạ Long, Bái Tử Long- Dragons were hidden, only
stones still remain
On the moonlight night, stones meditate as men..."
Lord Trịnh Cương overflowed with emotion: "Mountains
are glistened by water shadow, water spill all over
Huy Cận was agitated: "Night breathes, stars wave Ha
In popular culture
It was the theme of Robocon (Asian Pacific Robot
Contest) hold in Vietnam in 2007: "Discover Ha Long"
The band dredg wrote a song titled Ha Long Bay.
In the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies,
James and Wai Lin attempt to chase down Elliot
Carver played by Jonathan Pryce in the Ha Long Bay
It was featured on the Amazing Race 10 on "Leg 4",
which was originally aired on October 8, 2006.
It was featured in the programme The Hairy Bikers'