Ha Long Bay

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Magnificent Ha Long Bay, with its thousands of stone island rising from turquoise seas of the Gulf of Tonkin and covering an area of 1500 sq km, Ha Long Bay seems better suited to mythical creatures than to man.

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. 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. Latter, in 2000, Halong Bay once again recognized by UNESCO as "The World Geological & Geomorphologic Heritage" owing to its cultural, aesthetic, bio-geological and economic value.

Thien Cung (Heavenly palace) grotto

 This recently discovered grotto is one of the most beautiful in Halong Bay. Thien Cung is situated on the southwest side of the bay, 4 km from the wharf outside of Halong City. It is located in a small range of islands that resemble a throne embracing two superb grottoes at its core. The way to Thien Cung is perilous, covered on both sides by thick forest. After entering a narrow gate, the magnificent, 130 m long grotto opens up.

According to legend, a beautiful young lady named May (cloud) caught the eye of the Dragon Prince and he fell in love with her. They were betrothed and got married in the very center of the grotto. All of the scenes of their wedding, which lasted for seven days and seven nights, have been seemingly fossilized in the grotto.

In the center, there are four large pillars supporting the "roof of heaven". From the base to the top, many strange images seem to exist in the stone, including birds, fish, flowers and even scenes of human life. On the north wall of the grotto, a group of fairies seems to be singing and dancing in honor of the wedding. Under the immeasurably high roof, stalactites form a natural stone curtain. There is also the sound of a beating drum made by the wind blowing through the stone.

In the last chamber of the grotto, a natural gushing stream of water babbles throughout the year. Here there are three small ponds of clear water. One path meanders out of the grotto. 

Sung Sot (Amazing) cave

It is one of the nicest and widest grottoes of Halong Bay. Ascending to the grotto, the way is covered by trees and foliage and consists of great paved stone blocks. Inside, it is partitioned into three chambers with thousand of stalactites and stalagmites, with numerous possible forms and shapes. 

Ti Top beach

Situated about 7-8 km south-east of Bai Chay lies the small Ti Top Island. It displays a beach shaped like a crescent moon, and sand that has been washed to a snowy white by the tide. On 22 November 1962, this tiny island had the honor of receiving a visit from astronaut Ghermann Ti Top, a hero of the former Soviet Union, accompanied by Ho Chi Minh. To perpetuate the remembrance of their visit, Uncle Ho named the place Ti Top Island. It has now become an attractive beach for tourists and has various of tourist services

Trinh Nu (Virgin) grotto, Trong (Male) grotto
The Virgin Grotto is situated in the island range of Bo Hon, in the system comprised of the Surprise Grotto, Dong Tien Lake, and Luon Grotto. The grotto is 15 km south of Bai Chay Beach. For some fishermen, the Virgin Grotto is home, while for young lovers it is a popular romantic rendezvous site.
According to legend, there once was a beautiful fisherman's daughter, whose family was so poor that they were in service of the rich administrator of the fishing zone, who forced the family to give him their daughter as a concubine. However, the fisherman's daughter already had a lover and refused to marry the administrator. The administrator got angry and exiled her to a wild island where she suffered from hunger and exhaustion. One frightful night she turned to stone. On this same night, her lover, knowing of her danger, rowed his boat in search of her. However, a tempest destroyed his boat, and he floated to a nearby island. In a flash of lightening, he saw his lover in the distance, but his calls were driven away by the wind. In his final exhaustion, he also turned to stone (today's Male Grotto).
When visiting the Virgin Grotto, you can still see the petrified girl with her long hair hanging down and eyes looking towards the mainland. Opposite the Virgin Grotto, the Male Grotto is still home to the lover whose his face is turned towards his mate. At times, his passionate calls and blows against the walls of the grotto can still be heard.

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