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Halong attracts around 90% of visitors coming to Vietam It's a Bay that 1,500 square km wide belonging to the Tonkin Gulf of the South China Sea. Though it belongs to the ocean, its wave is calm and unusually emerald. And it has 1969 islands and islets, all are limestone and dolomite, with numerous grottoes, stretches on that 1,500 square km. The tourist who have visited Guilin (China) and Phuket (Thailand) often make a comparison for their similar shape and geographical structure, just to note afterward that Halong is much huger and more diversified. So after a very short time to consider, UNESCO had acknowledged it as the World Heritage in December 1994. This is the 2nd of the four listed World Heritages of Vietnam. In 1991 a scene of the French movie INDOCHINE was taken on the Bay. The film was about the life of a French woman who lived in Vietnam during the French domination in Indochina from mid-19th to mid-20th century, the leading role was by Catherine Deneuve, and all the French-speaking tourist were amazed discovering a spectacular seascape they've never known before. Despite the distance of 170km East of Hanoi that by 1995 took not less than 6-hour driving with 2 river ferries to cross, with inconvenient in and out from the bus, the tourists mark Halong in their itineraries always. Now, it takes not more than 3 hours if you go straight to the Bay. But the tourists love to stop, as they cannot skip the paddy fields, the daily life of farmers and clay workmen, the green bean town and the ceramic town on the new way. Halong may not be a good example for comforts and modern facilities, but from the other (better) side, the area is preserved well from the development of industry and massive tourism.
Located on the south-west side of Ha Long City, Tuan Chau Island is a schist island, very pretty, with a luxuriant forest. It has an area of 220 ha, and to the east and south are two beaches endowed with very white and fine sand.
In 1962, Ho Chi Minh visited Ha Long Bay and made a stop here for vacation. Nowadays, Tuan Chau Island is one of the most attractive destinations in Ha Long City.
The island also has many archaeological sites pertaining to the ancient Ha Long culture from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.One can go to Tuan Chau Island via the 2-km cement road from the mainland. Investments have been poured into the island to turn it into a modern tourist resort. It includes such fascinating extras as the dolphin, sea lion, and seal-performing club, animal circus club, golf court, cultural-sports center, beach, rural market, ornamental fish lake, villas in Hill 1 and Hill 2, guesthouses, five 80-room villas by the beach. In Tuan Chau, the octagonal house where President Ho Chi Minh rested when he visited Ha Long now became his memorial site
Bai Tho (Poem) Mountain lies at the heart of Halong City. From a far, the 106-meter-limestone mountain looks like a huge castle with three imposing towers. Its past name Truyen Dang means Light Projecting. This mountain has inspired many poets.
In 1468, during his inspection tour to the eastern region, King Le Thanh Tong stopped here. Inspired by the stunning beauty of Halong, the King wrote a poem and had it carved into the southern side of the mountain. Hence its name Bai Tho (Poem). In 1729, Lord Trinh Cuong composed a poem in response to that of King Le Thanh Tong and also had it carved near the former. The mountain features other poems by Nguyen Can and some other poets.Atop Bai Tho Mountain, you feel surprised at the magnificent landscape of Halong Bay. In the background of immense emerald waters, of rock bobbing, of high sky, of surrounding flowers and trees, you can figure out the tiny tourism/images of boats. Bai Tho makes up one of the beauty spots of Halong.
Hang Hanh is one of the longest grottoes in Halong Bay, lying 9km west of Cam Pha Town and 20km from Bai Chay Beach. It is 1,300m long and stretches throughout the stone mountain of Quang Hanh.
Hang Hanh Grotto is extremely beautiful. The small boat will take you through the stone passageway by lamp-light, casting magical colours on the hanging stalactites.
The French named it “Le Tunnel” or Tunnel Grotto. The mouth of the grotto is so low one has to go by small boat to pass through.
In front of the present-day mouth stands Ba Co (Three Girls) shrine in a towering piece of stone. Legend has it that: “Once upon a time there were three girls who often went to the sea together. One day, they caught a pouring rain and took shelter in a grotto. They found the scenery so captivating that they forgot the time of rising tide. Locked up in the grotto, they passed away and became Water God.”
Today fishermen usually went to the shrine to pray for their bestowing favors on them
Located about 14 km east from Bai Chay, Ti Top Beach takes the shape of a crescent encompassing the island. Small though it might be, it wins kudos for its quiet and airy atmosphere, its clean and clear waters, as well as its alluring landscape.
In 1962, President Ho Chi Minh and the Russian astronaut Germane Ti Top came to this beach. Hence its name Ti Top. At present, there has a bar in the island, which also provides swimming costumes, floats, and lukewarm shower. Fresh water was carried to the island from inland. The Ti Top Beach has become a popular tourist destination.
Situated in the centre of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage area, Sung Sot or Surprise Grotto is on Bo Hon Island, and is one of the finest 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.
At the deepest point of the grotto, a "royal garden" appears with a clear pond and a seemingly fascinating landscape of mountains. Many birds and plants (benjamin figs, cycads and centenary banyan trees) live here. On nice days groups of monkeys might arrive in search of fruit.
It is situated in the central tourism centre of the Bay, as well as Ti Top Beach, Bo Nau Grotto, Me Cung Grotto and Luon Grotto. French named it "Grotte des surprises" (Grotto of surprise).
At the side of the entrance, the rock seems to form the shape of a horse with a long sword. Legend has it, that after having defeated the An aggressors, Thanh Giong (Saint Giong) helped the population to chase away evil spirits and demons. After this feat, Saint Giong flew to heaven, leaving a stone horse and sword to continue to keep the demons away.
The Bach Dang Stake - Yard was officially recognized as one of Vietnam's historic vestiges on March 22nd, 1988, the 700th anniversary of the great victory at Bach Dang against Mongol invader. The stake-yard is the site where Tran Hung Dao, a national hero of the 13th century, is forever honored. The historic Bach Dang victory at the end of 938 put an end to the thousand-year-long danger of the country being lost and assimilated into China with the disappearance of its own unique Vietnamese national identity
The grotto is on Driftwood Island. Seen from afar, the entrance to the grotto appears to be blue and has a shape similar to that of a jellyfish. After 90 steps up the island, the entrance is reached. The ceiling of the grotto is about 25m. Hundreds of stalactites falling down from the roof of the grotto look like a waterfall.
The name Driftwood Grotto came from a popular story of the resistance war against the Yuan - Mongolian aggressors. In a decisive battle, Tran Hung Dao was given the order to prepare many ironwood stakes here, to be planted on the riverbed of Bach Dang River. The remaining wooden pieces found in the grotto have given it its present name.
And the name Dau Go is associated with the legend that General Tran Hung Dao (1226-1300) hid ironwood stakes in preparation for the Bach Dang battle against the Yuan-Mongolian invaders.
If the Thien Cung Grotto is monumental and modern (in its natural form), then Driftwood Grotto is solemn, but also grandiose. In "Marvels of the World," published in France in 1938, the author called the grotto "Grotte des merveilles" (a site of many marvels)
In 1917, Emperor Khai Dinh came to visit the grotto and amazed by the beauty of the place, ordered the erection of an engraved stone stele singing the praises of Halong Bay and the grotto. Today it remains to the right-hand side of the entrance.
This recently discovered Thien Cung grotto is one of the most beautiful in Halong Bay. It 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 their wedding lasted seven days and seven nights in the very centre of the grotto.
In honour of the wedding, small dragons flew about through the stalactites and stalagmites, elephants danced together happily, snakes twined themselves around trees and two stone lions danced with their manes flowing in the wind. A large elephant, smartly dressed, waited for the bride and the groom. The genies of the south and north stars also came to attend the banquet, and the atmosphere was definitely animated and lively. All these scenes 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. It was the way Mây, together with 50 of her children, took to harvest new lands. The 50 remaining children, together with their father, were left to build the native land. Left behind by the mother was the natural stream described above.