Ha Long Bay located about 170 kilometres northeast of Hanoi is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. The bay is formed by thousands of limestone karsts and isles of different shapes and size emerging from the waters. This unique and mystical landscape has been honoured twice in 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed to be Vietnam’s most beautiful place and the number-one tourist attraction in the northeast. One of the best experiences to explore this amazing bay is to spend a night aboard a deluxe imperial boat.
Ha Long Bay can literally be translated to the “Descending Dragon Bay”. As the legend goes the bay was created when dragons flew from heavens spitting jewels and jade to the sea forming a natural fortress against invaders. This multi kilometres long bay is located in the Quang Ninh province and is part of Ha Long City. The whole of Ha Long Bay has about 2000 islets in an 1,500 km2 area, however the core and most popular part has around 775 islets in a 334 km2 radius.
The Ha Long Bay ecosystem is one of the world’s most diverse and rich. It is said that the limestone has gone through 500 millions years of formation in different conditions and environments. Today the bay contains tropical evergreen, oceanic and sea shore bio systems. It includes everything one can dream of such as offshore coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, small freshwater lakes, amazing grottos, caves and sandy beaches. The bay is also home to a variety of endemic floral and faunal species.
One of the most spectacular natural attractions is the hidden Hang Sung Sot cave which was created over millions of years by wind and waves. Located on Bo Ho Island, once known as the “Ile de la Surprise” by the French, the cave hosts 3 large size chambers. The most popular containing a phallus shaped rock, which was once fertility symbol and worshiped by the locals.
Not far from the Hong Cai harbour can be seen the famous floating villages where locals not only live but also do business and children even go to floating schools.
Some scientist believe that prehistoric human were the first living in the region followed by many different societies including the ancient Soi Nhu culture some 15,000 years ago, the Cai Beo culture (7,000-5,000 BC) and the Hạ Long culture some 5,000 years ago.
It is hard to describe in words the natural beauty of this bay. One must discover it by himself and be amazed by those thousands of mysterious islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. It is perhaps Mother Nature greatest masterpiece.