Halong BAY, NATURAL WONDER OF Vietnam
Ha long bay attains world heritage status.
On 14 December 1994, at 17.00 hours, at the famous Le Meridien hotel in the southern city Phuket, Thailand, the World Heritage Committee unanimously decided recognize Ha Long Bay as an area of world heritage value.
The fact was warmly welcomed by the Vietnamese people and by all countries as good news. So , from now on, the list of world heritage includes a natural heritage of Vietnam, further enriching the treasure of mankind’s heritage.
HALONG BAY’ LEGEND
Where and when does the name Ha Long originates from? The following related by the local people:
“In the olden day when the Viet people began to discover their country, foreign aggressors came. The Emperor of Jade sent Mother Dragon and a heard of Children Dragons to help the Viet fight the invaders. While enemy vessels, were launching massive attacks against the mainland, dragons descended in flocks from the sky.
They spited out a considerable amount of pearls. These precious stones changed immediately into jade stone islands. Here they were linked together to form a citadel, there they spread out into a battlefield to check the enemy advance and create favorable for the Viet to gain victory.
After the aggressors were driven out, Mother Dragon and Children Dragons did not return to the Heaven’s Court and remained on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The spot where Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long and Children Dragon came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails wriggled violently was named Long Vi, I .e the present Tra Co peninsula with its beach spreading over dozens of kilometers of smooth sand”
Most of Ha Long islands are limestone islands concentrated in Hong Gai bay and schist islands grouped in Cam Pha Bay . Today the land islands like Tuan Chau, Ngoc Vugn, Quan Lan Reu Thua Cong are inhabited by people and animals as a result of transformation of schist islands.
Ha Long terrain comprises islands, mountain alternated with sea depressions which are salted flat expanses of mangroves, and abrupt limestone islands; this is a quite contradictory relief. The terrain is the most ancient of one of the territory of North Vietnam.
Prior to and in the primeval times, was a part of the immense region of mountain ranges alternating with sea depression like the present island area of south east Asia. This terrain was the result of great undulations such as the Caledonian (300 million years ago) Hersinian (250 million years ago) folds. These undulations also shaped sediments of different categories of stones from the lime.
Stone lying deep in the water (in the carbon age) to quartzite along the seashore. In the same period of these undulations, a layer of organic limestone of thousand meters took shapes: it was origin of the limestone ranges of Bac Son, Dong Van, Sa Phin Sa Chay and thousands of stone islands in Ha Long Bay.
Tanks to the motion of into being with 1.600 islands of various forms.
After the Hersinian fold , the terrain of North Vietnam bore a changing and contradictory character, that is to say stone islands alternated with sea depressions.
175 millions years ago, Indosinad orogery much more powerful than two previous folds turned sea depression into the mainland, creating South east Asian land in general and North Vietnam in particular.
However, there were as which had not influenced by the Indosiniade orogery and still maintained its relief unchanged after the Hersinian fold, i.e. Mountain islands alternated with sea depressions in which there were lime clay sediments and salted sediments, ha Long terrain is just one of these areas.
Others sedimentary deposits were buried along with vegetation belonging to fern species and were turned into present northeast coal mine.
So Ha Long terrain comprises bow like islands mountain alternated with profound sea depressions shaped after the Hercinian fold 250 millions years ago. Though since then the earth’s crust has experienced successive undulations, Ha Long terrain has not fundamentally changed.
Its why tourists visiting Ha Long do not only come to see a wonder created by the earth under sky but also a very valuable geological museum kept in the open air for 250 million years, a museum on the primitive face of the territory of Vietnam.
Grottos at different levels on stone islands of Ha Long Bay are not only palaces of Nature but also testify to the seawater encroachment in different ages. At Bo nau and Trinh Nu grottos entrances, one still finds the encroached water level 4-6 meters higher than the present one.
That is the consequence of Ris and Wur glaciers raising the sea water level: It is called the late Pliocene marine transgression, 30.000-40.000 years ago. Then the last glaciers lowered the sea and ocean water, and the sea retreated from the Bac Bo Gulf. The traces of ancient rivers have still remained at the bottom of Ha Long Bay. They are formed in this area.
18.000 years ago, the last glacier raised the ocean water level called the Flandirian marine transgression, drowning the plain of Ha long Bay into the sea. And returning to the relief of mountain islands alternated with sea depressions. After the marine transgression reached the maximum level about 3.000 years ago, the sea gradually retreated and the present table level has been maintained.
So the transformations of the earth’s crust over 250 million years as from the Hercinian orogeny have left traces at different levels on Ha Long Bay, in which the present relief of the Bay mountain islands alternated with profound sea depression is the most ancient remaining terrain of North Vietnam.
The distinguishing features of Ha long lie only in its interesting and charming landscape, not only the fact that it preserves vestiges of changes of the earth’s crust, but also in that it has a rich, rare precious fauna and flora. And it may be considered a zoo, a zoological and botanical garden.
As regards Ha Long ‘s fauna , mention should be made of the riches of shrimp and fish species.
According to initial estimates by the Quang Ninh sea Product Services, Ha Long has 1.000 fish species , of which 730 have been identified . Ha Long fish comprise mostly fo those living near the bottoms of the sea and those close to the surface. Ha long has delicious fish species such as stromatcus, mackerel, tunny-fish.
Among fish species such as herring, gizzard-shad, lizard-shad, lizard-fish long -jawed anchovy etc. Usually caught in hauls fish netted in the bay herring gizzard-shad, lizard fish account for 54% of 3.000-4.000 tons. Ziggard- shads live near islands, when laying eggs they emigrate to estuaries. At Quan lan island, people catch 2 tons of gizzard-shads in one haul. Catching time lasts from October to April of next year.
Ha long is an environment appropriate for most tropical fish. Ha long has a relatively mild climate. The temperature does not change much from one season to another: in the cold season, the average is 16-17 degree C . Salt concentration of Ha long bay is quite high compared with other Vietnamese seawaters, from 23-34,5%. The tide amplitude is large, but the bay has no waves and is calm most of the year. The formation of stone island forests in the bay turns Ha long into a gigantic pond, which suits the living conditions of many fish species. On the other hand ephemera pouring from estuaries into the bay constitutes abundant feed for fish. The above favorable conditions helps fish in Ha Long to have a stable life the whole year.
They don’t need to emigrate like fish of other areas.The special features of Ha long also bring a bout particular distribution of fish species here. In other seawaters, large fish, wild fish live offshore, in the deep sea, which is favorable for them to seek shelter and feed. At ha Long , the seashore is sloppy and the bottom is deep. The forest of islands spreads out shape creating dark blue tones on the water surface. The deep bay is covered by shades and has caves, so large fish a wild fish can live near the shore, hidden amongst the shelter of island forests.
Ha long has many squid species calamary, cuttlefish. When boiled they are sweet and nutritious. The squid species having the highest output and nutritional value is cuttlefish.
Fish, shrimp, squid and crab are reputed sea products of Ha Long and other areas of Vietnam . But Ha Long has some special sea areas don’t have.
Pearl oysters are on eof these special sea products. From ancient times, Ha Long sea was reputed as having many pearl oysters. Among Ha long’ special sea products is Sa Sung, less known to tourists but of high economic and nutritional value.
Ha long has 2 corla species: a branch and a fan species. Branch species are slender like tuberose or dense like a bush wood losing its leaves in winter. Fan species re fan – shaped or curved like a lotus petal, a lid or a dish.
Many other sea products exist plentifully in Ha long waters that other sea areas don’t have such as sea-slug, stockiest formerly only available to be presented to kings, area granosa famous on the Indochina market for a time. On fine days, on market day along side Ha long’s shore, we can see fresh shrimp, fish, crab and snail species displayed everywhere for sale in the market and this illustrates the richness and generosity of Nature in Ha Long.
If Ha Long sea has a lively life in the four seasons, with shrimp and fish species, forests of islands are, day and night , bustling with wild beasts and mountain birds.
Ha Long’s islands are abundant in wild beasts such as the white-headed monkey, antelope, iguana, fox, rabbit, flying squirrel, wild boar spotted deer, monkey barking deer, and mouse- bodied bat.
Ha Long has many bird species in its tropical forests: leaf bird, dove, pleasant, picus, halcyon, black-collared starling and little egret. But what is attractive for people who are fond of birds are parrots that can reproduce the human voice. In the mornings when the sun begins to rise up along the edge of island forests, the twitter of parrots lessens the deserted atmosphere of remoter seawaters. Formally the French liked very much Ha Long ‘s red billed and green-tailed parrots and used to sell them to the owners of birth gardens in Paris.
The vegetation cover of Ha Long’ s islands is quite diversified, including primitive and artificial forests, with precious woods, and flower specious.
Ha Long is wonderful artistic work of the Nature: It is a sophisticated coordination of sculpture and painting, of strength, grace and picturequeness. Ha Long is not a static piece of art work but incessantly changes in its appearance is also changed when looked at from different angles, creating unusual sceneries, making visitors fell surprised and embraced.
Ha Long is the only sea in area in Vietnam where, on a not very large surface, stand thousands of islands with a variety strange forms. These mountain islands gather together in two large sea groups, one, is the south and southwest of the Bay and the other in the east? Between these two mountain islands groups, is a fan shaped profound sea depression without any island in between wants to give visitors a comprehensive panoramic view of the wonderful landscape.
If the sea areas of mountain islands were viewed form a plane the surface of the bay would look like an emerald green mirror twinkling with multiform blue gems. Islands in Ha Long Bay are not monotonous and dreary but constitutes lively word with the appearance of mysterious living beings. Almost every island has a familiar shape which makes us think of the living world. This form looks like a fisherman, fog’s head. Others have the appearance of a pair fighting cocks , of a toad, a cat a galloping horse on the water surface etc. It seems all of them have inner feeling full of mystery and idyllic dreams.
When sailing in Ha Long Bay with thousands of big and small stone islands of being in a word creatures that were petrified millions of years ago. Look at the foot of Stone Island close to the water surface. Here the sea has perseveringly carved delicate and strange figures with many strata and layers sewing as ornament similar to that on stone columns of temples.
Some islands have their foot eroded so deeply that it appears to bee fragile to support such as heavy mass of the huge island body, which becomes so grotesquely unproportionate.
The wonderful carving of Nature has turned Ha Long islands into real works of sculpture. And natural relief pictures which constitute a unique, lively architectural ensemble in the shape of a pyramid, a parallelepiped or a cone, standing imposingly in middle of the sea depression like a grandiose symbol of the past. Some islands have the form of enormous cubes, black and smooth as if they were made of well planned iron wood; others are curved the shape of an elephant tusk which has been made sharper and more pointed by the wind as it soars further in to the sky. Others are formed by separate stone blocks piled up one upon another into a pyramid or lined into a row of several peaks bay looking of an unfinished work of sculpture or the ruins of a collapsed ancient palace.
To go sailing in Ha long is perhaps the most peasant way of visiting the bay; one could silently slowly admire different corners of the mysterious clusters of islands.
From Bai Chai, the boat will take us rapidly across the Bay of Hong Gai to the southern and southwestern island area. In the distance, the islands appear to be a solid citadel wall separating the high seas from the waters near the coast and making the horizon line. When the boat comes nearer, the citadels wall suddenly breaks up and a multitude of sea lanes open to our eyes winding and passing through the citadel wall. The boat glides on the dark blue water in the shades of steep faced mountain. Sometime when we go sailing, a line of island suddenly stands in front of us baring the lands, we thought that we are driven to an impasse. But when our boat reaches the islands, they seem to make room for us to pass by and open unexpected ways leading us to a forest of others islands which are both familiar and alien.
A great number of tourists are surprised at and feel a passion for the scenery of Ha Long bay now appearing, now disappearing, with so quick changes in a moment
In spring when the vegetation cover around Ha Long begins to produce blooms and buds, the Bay becomes a mysterious world of nature.
Early in spring in Ha Long, island flicker on the vast silvery screen of mist, in which dark blue mountain tops bob now appear, now disappear. The coarse, strong, rugged stone mountain become suddenly soft and flexible as if they were painted with a quill. When the sun rises high in the sky fog in the surface of the bay gradually melt away, only left a thin membrane moving on the islands. The later look like gray haired fairies sitting meditatively on the bluish green surface ion the bay, reflecting in the bottom of the bay , making an impression that stone islands have roots.
Summer in Ha Long is the season of southeast wind. The endless wind blowing from the ocean across ranges of mountain islands brings the mainland the freshness of high seas. In summer, if one stays in Bai Chai tourist resort on will make the most of the very fresh wind blows unceasingly from the sea. Tourist of all corners flock into Ha Long, take a rest in Bai Chay or Tra Co Peninsula to benefit from wind and take a sea bath. After one night of struggle with the high seas, fishing boats make their ways through the southern forest of islands and gather on the wharves. They’re white, brown, red sails fully as a gigantesque bouquet of fragrant flowers of the sea. Sunrise on Ha Long Bay is really a wonderful view. All tourists who come to Ha long for the first time earnestly wish to see with their own eyes this memorable moment in Ha Long.
In summer in Ha Long Bay, the sun shines over the water surface rippled with silvery gentle waves. Stone mountain lines up showing their bare ruffed breast. Here and there, tuffs of orchids grow on cliffs; their yellow, white, violet soft blossoms emit sweet fragrance in the healthy atmosphere of the sea.
In the evening, when stone islands turn from blue to dark violet, there remains only the blazing red coal globe which gradually moves to the west, then disappears behind the row of islands, casting golden glows on the skyline. That is the moment when Bai Chay beach has a bustling life.
Summer in Ha Long is a season of tourism and swimming. On land road and waterway, tourist flock into Ha Long with an earnest desire to admire a natural wonder. Along the one kilometer windy and sunny beach of Bai Chay, tourists in their swimming costume take either sea bath or sunbathe with such animation as a festival. On Ha Long wharves, airy and stand ready to bring tourists to the mysterious word.
In mid summer when the oceanic wind suddenly stops blowing and the hot, a coming shower or a typhoon originating from the Pacific Ocean. In ha long, showers usually drop at noon or a short moment after noon; black clouds suddenly cover the clear blue sky, then come thunder in successive peals and repeated lightning. Strong wind begins to blow. In some violent storm, columns of water rise up suddenly from the surface of the bay fire horse. And Ha long has its typical beauty in a storm.
In a moon of autumn, sitting on Ha Long shore, we will find that Ha long is dashingly beautiful and mysterious. The quite surface of the bay looks likes a mirror reflecting the silvery moonlight gleamy like mercury. At moonrise or at moonset, the islands appear in half lighted, half dark scenery, only the wind blow and sea breaths are heard. Islands, which are so familiar in day time, become alien and mysterious at night.
Ha Long aesthetic value does not only lie in the shape of mountains, colors of the sky but is also hidden in grottoes. The most beautiful cave of Ha long Bay, in my opinion, is Thien Cung grottoes. (Heaven Cave)
In 1994, the guardians of Dau Go grotto explored the surrounding and they discovered a new cave that so far no one has set foot on. This is a Thien Cung grotto, also called Bach Tuyet grottoes. It lies in the same island as the Dau Go grotto, about 150-m away from the later. Its opening is small and looks on the North, on the almost perpendicular wall of the island, about 80-m above water. The opening of Thien Cung is about 25m above that of Dau Go. It was previously unheeded because its opening was small and high and covered by climbing wild plants.
Thien Cung is the largest and highest situated among the caves in Ha Long Bay.To visit the grotto, we must climb the steep slope, crawl under the climbing liana, amidst the good smell of orchids and the singing of birds. Visitors will have the pleasure of mountain climbing and the enthusiasm of being on the way to Heaven.
The Thien Cung has a rectangular section, about 25m wide, 250m long, and 20m high, lying in the North South direction. From its opening looking inside, we have the impression that it is very spacious and abroad. The further we go inside the more surprised and deeply impressed we are by the Wonder of Nature. On the opposite Eastern and Western walls are too giant magnificent bas-reliefs representing men and animals and also strange shapes that we have never imagined…The lines of the sculptures, rough or smooth to touch, the stone cutting is clear and neat, Here are representation of a kneeling elephant, a cuirass horse with brilliant swords and shields. Looking to the ceiling in the east we are amazed by the living fugues of the Heaven Court: The Emperor of Jade, the thunder God, the Nam Tao and the Bac Dau god with their beards and hairs floating like clouds.
There are fine looking fairies with their gorgeous clothes, absorbed in their dancing and singing. Hanged in the middle of the air is the marvelous stick of Monkey King who made disturbances to the Heavenly Court. Now and then, the stick emits light, it 2 meter long a circular section perfectly straight as if some one has leaned it on a stalactite at one end and at the middle of the grotto ceiling and on the eastern weal at the other.
Each wall of the grotto is a wonder; each compartment
of the grotto is a sculptural masterpiece. Under the high and broad vault, the light blues of the stalactites and stalagmites make them look like being silver-plated . Standing among this world of strange shapes, both real and unreal, we believe having been lost in the mysterious and overwhelming Heavenly Place.
Sung Sot grotto lies in the Ho Hon Island the same row of islands with Trinh Nu grotto. To visit this grotto, one should walk under a large parasol of vegetation, on lottery stone stairs. The grotto has two compartments: The outside one of 30m high looks like a perfectly square waiting hall. The smooth vertical partitions are similar large man walls. The skilful hands of Nature have covered the compartment with a modest violet blue paint with here and there some rosy veins.
From the outside to the inside compartment, one has to go through a 3 meters long passage, so narrow that there is barely enough rooms for one person. This inside compartment is a quiet building decorated with lively stones statues. What is brought in relief is at the entrance a group of another as if they were discussing confidential army affaires. Lying at the feet of “army generals” are petrified crocodiles, lion’s cubs and squirrels. Awhile imposing stalagmite and stands in the middle of the floor of the grotto’ if looked at more carefully, it has the shape of an army officer clothed in an overcoat, standing akimbo with face up looking ahead.
The visitor goes form surprise to surprise so this grotto has this name ‘Surprise grotto’.
HA LONG CULTURE
Ha Long is not only the concrete image of thousands of large and small islands in limpid and blue seawater. Today, according to archaeological research, Ha Long is till symbol of an ancient culture: Ha Long culture
VAN DON THE MOST ANCIENT FOREIGN TRADE SEA PORT OF VIETNAM
Van Don, now belonging to Van Hai archipelago, lying in the south east of Ha Long Bay, located on Bai Tu longBay, was considered by Nguyen Trai a wonder of country which has very beautifully depicted in his writings.
The complete History of Dai Viet writes “In the Ky Ty year, the 10th year of Ly Anh Tong reign(1149) in spring the second lunar month, Javanese and Siames merchant ships entered the East Sea for trade. They were concentrated in island area, called Van Don, for trading precious goods, and presenting local products”
QUAN LAN: ISLAND OF RUINS HAD PLENTY TO OFFER
These days sleepy Van Don Island may seem like it is being left behind by a rapidly-changing world.
However, the locals will be only too happy to tell you of a time when the island occupied centre stage in the nation’s history.
For this unassuming community on the perimeter of picturesque Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province has a glorious heritage. It was the country’s first international commercial sea port in the 12th century and the site of the first successful naval battle against foreign invasion in the early 13th century.
Now, it is hoped that the island’s dramatic past, coupled with its unspoiled natural beauty, will make the island a place of action again, this time as a prominent eco-tourism destination.
A joint venture has ambitious plans to offer a tour of Van Don’s pristine wilderness, where tourists can stay in stilt houses, swim, scuba-dive, and trek through the forest to see the ruins of the old port.
Food abundant out there
If you ask the islanders whether they have any plans to increase their meagre incomes, they will look somewhat confused. There is plenty of food on the island, they reply – it’s there for the taking in the wild.But apart from the abundant food supply, the island’s residents seem blissfully unaware that they are living on a veritable gold mine. The island is rich in a number of resources that are only just starting to be developed.
The vast stretches of white sand dunes along Van Don’s coastline are one example. The sand is now being used for crystal and glass-making industries.
Just below the sand lies another source of wealth: sea worms. These dried worms fetch up to VND500,000 per kilo on the nearby Chinese market. Hunters require just a shovel and bucket in order to rake in a comfortable living.
With an area of only 60sq.km, space to farm on the island is scarce. Locals have adapted to the conditions as best they can, and the island is now a patchwork of terraced lots slotted in amongst limestone mountains and beaches. Here, residents grow wet rice, vegetables and cash crops such as ground nuts, tea, and sweet potatoes.
However, it is the sea that truly provides the key to the heart and sou