Ha Long Bay
Hạ Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination in Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and is a part of Vân Đồn District. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes. Hạ Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long Bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà Island to the southwest. These larger zones share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.
Hạ Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Hạ Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistoric human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000–7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mount, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.
500 years ago, Nguyễn Trãi praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it “rock wonder in the sky”. In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of North Vietnam listed Hạ Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to Criterion VII, and listed for a second time according to Criterion VIII.
What is also of interest to tourists who visit Ha Long is the rich tradition of ancient Viet culture found in the area, with the Soi Nhu culture being the oldest culture, followed by Cai Beo, then Ha Long.
Soi Nhu people: the first culture discovered
The Soi Nhu culture was first detected by Swedish archaeologist, geologist and paleontologist Johan Gunner Andersson in 1938. On digs in the area, he found evidence of ancient Vietnamese in Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long area.
In 1967, Vietnamese archaeologists uncovered stone tools, ceramic fragments as well as human and animal fossils in Soi Nhu cave. Piecing together the archaeological evidence, it was clear that the Soi Nhu people subsisted on shellfish, supplemented by local fruits and vegetables.
Subsequent geological studies have revealed that Soi Nhu culture existed between 6,000 to 18,000 years ago, and were scattered across the Gulf of Tonkin in Ha Long, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha.
Cai Beo people: advancing the culture
Around the same time as Johann Andersson’s uncovered the existence of the Soi Nhu people in 1938, French archaeologist Madeline Colani discovered the Cai Beo culture. These peoples lived in the Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay areas some 4,000 to 7,000 years ago, and were a continuation of the Soi Nhu culture.
Excavations in these areas have yielded a rich supply of over 500 artifacts used by the Cai Beo: pestles and mortars, grinding tables, axes, nets, statues and unfired pottery, as well as human and animal bones. Bronze implements and decorated pottery have also been uncovered that indicate that the Cai Beo culture was quite advanced.
Ha Long Culture
In the late Neolithic Age to the Early Metal Age – between 3,000 to 4,500 years ago – the Gulf of Tonkin was home to the Ha Long culture. Also known as the sea culture, the Ha Long people occupied Ha Long, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha.
The Ha Long people were essentially fisherman, and many artifacts associated with their way of life – including nets, implements and boats – have been discovered on the islands and in the caves of the bay.
The legend behind
Halong Bay’s legend has it that the Gods wanted to protect Vietnam against warfare so they sent dragons to shield the country from invaders. These dragons showered precious gems onto the area – including jade and emeralds – which were transformed into the islands and islets of Ha Long Bay. These islands and islets offered natural protection against trespassers and attackers, and provided the perfect setting for protective ambushes by the Vietnamese warriors.
Often, like magic, mountains of rock would rise protectively from the ocean, and sink the ships of invaders.
Once Vietnam was secure as a nation, the dragons toured the world in peace. When the tour was complete, the mother dragon descended to Ha Long – the name literally means descending dragons – and settled there, while her dragon children found sanctuary on Bai Tu Long and Bach Long Vi islands.
References to “Ha Long” did not appear in Vietnamese literature until the early 19th century; instead the area was referred to as the seas of Giao Chau, Luc Chau, Luc Thuy, Van Don, Hai Dong or An Bang. And it was only towards the later part of the 19th century that Ha Long Bay appeared on French navigation maps of the Tonkin Gulf.
Geographic location, administration:
Ha Long Bay – which occupies an area of 1,553 km2 – is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, 170 km east of Hanoi. It belongs to Ha Long City in the Quang Ninh province. In the north-west lies Ha Long City, north-east lies Bai Tu Long Bay, and on the south-west lies Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay.
The climate of Ha Long is mild. Temperatures range from 19° – 25° Celsius, with rainfall peaking to 250 mm in August of each year. Ha Long receives around seven hours of sun daily. Learn more about weather in Ha Long Bay by seasons to know your best time to set sail.
Today, Ha Long Bay is home to more than 1,500 people who are mainly concentrated in fishing villages on around 40 islands. They live on boats, or floating houses built on plastic barrels and earn their living by fishing and aquaculture, or by trade.
Beautiful islands: Tuan Chau, Titov, Soi Sim, Bo Hon, Rang Dua, Reu
Beautiful beaches: Tuan Chau, Bai Chay, Ba Trai Dao, Titov, Soi Sim, Ngoc Vung
Beautiful caves: Sung Sot, Luon, Tien Ong, Thien Cung, Dau Go, Trinh Nu
Things to do: Overnight cruising, Discover cave, Kayaking, Visit fishing village, Visit island, Spa, Cooking Class, BBQ on board/beach, Tai Chi exercises, Swimming, Dining, Reading, Sunbathing, Sightseeing, View sunrise & sunset.
Fly to Hanoi then arrive Halong Bay by land or air, make your way to Tuan Chau Island – the gateway to Ha Long Bay. Day cruises depart from the outer harbor area of the Marina, while overnight cruises depart from the inner harbor area.