Halong Bay is an attractive landscape of approximately 1,500 square kilometres in north Vietnam with a 120 kilometre coastline, in the Gulf of Tonkin near the border with China, borders Cat Ba Island – the unforgettable fantastic island to the south-west and 170 kilometres east of Hanoi.
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.
Halong Bay is undoubtedly Asia’s most enchanting destination, defined by a myriad of limestone island formations rising out of the emerald waters. Halong Bay is also home to 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 hawk, langur and squid… Some species are particularly rare and can be found no where else.
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.
Hạ Long Bay is also attached to glorious pages of Vietnamese history, with famous sites such as Vân Ðồn, a bustling trade port in the 12th century, charming Bài Thơ Mountain, and not very far away from here is the Bạch Đằng River which witnessed two famous naval battles of the Viêt’s ancestors against invaders. Also, Hạ Long is one of the cradles of human kind with the glorious Hạ Long culture in the late Neolithic age, discovered at such archeological sites as Ðộng Mang, Xích Thổ, Soi Nhụ and Thoi Giếng.
Latest, Ha Long Bay of Vietnam has become one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, according to preliminary voting results. This information was released on the website of the New Open World Organization early on Nov. 12.2011.
The name “Halong ” is literally translated as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’’.
Legend of the name “Halong Bay”
The legend of Hạlong has it that, “Once upon a time, soon after the Việt people established their country, invaders came. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to earth to help the Việt people fight against their enemy. Right at the time invaders’ boats were rushing to the shore, the dragons landed down on earth. The dragons immediately sent out from their mouths a lot of pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls challenging the invaders’ boats. The fast boats couldn’t manage to stop and crashed into the islands and into each other and broke into pieces.
After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons didn’t return Heaven but stayed on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The location Mother Dragon landed is nowadays Hạlong Bay and where Child Dragons descended is now Bái Tử Long. The dragons’ tails waving the water created Bạch Long Vĩ (present Trà Cổ peninsula) and formed a fine sand beach over ten kilometers long”.
Halong World Natural Heritage:
Situated in the North-East region of Vietnam, Halong Bay is a bay in the Gulf of Tonkin comprised of regions of Halong City, the township of Cam Pha, 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, 989 of which have been given names. There are two kinds of islands, limestone and schist, which are 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 stone islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves, forms the central zone of Halong Bay, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bay itself has an area of 43,400 ha, consists of 775 islands, and forms a triangle with the island of Dau Go (Driftwood Grotto) to the west, the lake of Ba Ham (Three Shelter Lake) to the south, and the island of Cong Tay to the east.
Viewed from above, Halong Bay resembles a geographic work of art. While exploring the bay, you feel lost in a legendary world of stone islands. There is Man’s Head Island, which resembles a man standing and looking towards the mainland. Dragon Island looks like a dragon hovering above the turquoise water. La Vong Island resembles an old man fishing. There are also the islands of the Sail, the Pair of Roosters, and the Incense Burner, which all astonishingly resemble their namesakes. The forms of the islands change depending on the angle of the light and from where the islands are viewed. At the core of the islands, there are wonderful caves and grottoes, such as Thien Cung (Heavenly Residence Grotto), Dau Go (Driftwood Grotto), Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), and Tam Cung (Three Palace Grotto).
Halong Bay has many links to the history of Vietnam. For example, there are such famous geographical sites as Van Don (site of an ancient commercial port), Poem Mountain (with engravings of many poems about emperors and other famous historical figures), and Bach Dang River (the location of two fierce naval battles fought against foreign aggressors).
It has been proven by scientists that Halong was one of the first cradles of human existence in the area at such archeological sites as Dong Mang, Xich Tho, Soi Nhu, and Thoi Gieng. It is also a region of highly-concentrated biological diversity with many ecosystems of salt water-flooded forests, coral reefs, and tropical forests featuring thousands of species of animal and plant life.
With all this in mind, the 18th meeting of the Committee of the World Heritages of UNESCO (in Thailand on December 17th, 1994), officially recognized Halong Bay as a natural heritage site of worldwide importance the first time.
Brief History of Tectonics:
570,000,000-500,000,000 BC : Beginning of theCambrian era
The area, which now forms Hạ Long Bay, was basically mainland, submitted to a process of rain erosion.
End of the Cambrian period :
The area was flooded, commencing the existence of Hạ Long Bay.
500,000,000-400,000,000 BC : Ordovician and Silurianperiods
The area of north-east Vietnam was basically a deep sea, submitted to the constant activity of tectonic plates.
End of the Silurian period
It underwent a phase of inverse-motion that created mountains deep under the water.
420,000,000-340,000,000 BC :
End of the Silurian period and throughout the whole Devonian period
The area was subjected to powerful forces of erosion from the hot and dry climate. At this point, Hạ Long was part of a wide mainland that comprised most of today’s East Sea and Chinese continental shelf.
End of the Devonian period
Due to tectonic activity, the Hạ Long area and the entire north-east region were raised from the depths
340,000,000-240,000,000 BC:Later Carboniferous and Permian periods
The formation of the limestone layer more than 1,000 m thick. A shallow and warm sea reformed, which existed for approximately 100 million years. It created two kinds of limestone: the Cát Bà layer of the early Carboniferous period (450 m thick); and the Quang Hanh layer of the middle Carboniferous and the early Permian period (750 m thick). These two layers constitute the majority of the islands of the Bay.
67,000,000 BC : End of the Cretaceousperiod
Hạ Long Bay existed in the environment of a high mountainous mainland due to the influence of strong mountain-forming phases.
Middle of the Paleoceneperiod
These motions remain continuous and stable, while strong processes of erosion began, and after millions of years, a form of semi-highland topography took shape. The continuation of this erosion has progressively cut the highlands into blocks with altitudes similar to today’s mountains
26,000,000-10,000,000 BC : Neogene period
The development of the Hạ Long depression
2,000,000-9000 BC : Pleistocene epoch of theQuaternary period
The process of erosion began dissolving the limestone-rich region of Hạ Long, after that, forming the limestone plain was most active
68,000-9000 BC : Middle and latePleistocene epoch
Period when the caves and grottoes of the area formed.
Early Holocene period
The islands of today’s Hạ Long Bay are basically remnants of these mountains, flooded. Rainwater flowed into crevices in the limestone that had formed from tectonic activity. This steady erosion constantly widened the cracks, eventually creating today’s formations.
9000-5000 BC : Holocene period
This period is notable for the advance of the sea.
5000-2000 BC : The movement of the sea reached its peak and forming today’s Hạ Long Bay.
2000-1000 BC : With the sea in a steady process of recession, Hạ Long culture began to develop.
Beginning of the late Holocene epoch
The level of the water once again increased, forming a marshy floor of canals and streams, and creating the water marks that can be seen on the stone cliffs of today.
This confirms the global premier value of Halong Bay.