Halong Bay is located in the Northeast of Vietnam, 180 km far from Hanoi city. It is in the coastal area stretching from 1060 56’ to 1070 37’ east longitude and 200 43’ to 210 09’ north latitude. On the world map, Ha Long Bay borders to China in the north and in the east it is adjacent to the East Sea.
Halong Bay has been recognized twice by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area for its universal values of landscape, geology and geomorphology, respectively in 1994 and 2000, an area of 434 sq. km. including 775 islands.
Halong Bay History, Legend about its Name
Ha Long is literally translated as "Bay of Descending Dragons" Prior to the 19th century, this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Ha Long Bay, old historical books often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don. Not until the late 19th century did the name of Halong Bay appear on a French Marine Map. “The Hai Phong News”, a French newspaper of the time, had an article, “Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay”, reporting the following story: In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, captaining the ‘Avalanse’ reported seeing a huge sea snake on Ha Long Bay. This was also witnessed by many of the crews. Thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal looking like a dragon resulted the name of Ha Long Bay is not known (Reference “Quang Ninh: Art and Culture” published in 2002).
There is also a local legend, which has been handed down, relating to the name Ha Long Bay, which tells the following tale:
“Long ago, in the first founding days, the Viet people were attacked by foreign aggressors. The Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her band of Child Dragons to help the Viet people fight the invaders. While the enemy vessels were launching massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended in flocks from the sky. They spat out innumerable pearls which changed into jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that checked the enemy’s advance and smashed their vessels to pieces.
After the invaders were driven out, Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to Heaven but stayed on earth, right at the place where the battle occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long, and where the Child Dragons came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Long Vi, the present-day Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers.”
Situated in the North-East region of Vienam, 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 and today there are many luxury Halong bay cruises in Cat Ba and Van Don port.
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 is belonging to Bai Tu Long Bay, and the southwest is 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, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bay itself has an area of 43,400 ha, consists of 775 islands, and forms a triangle with the island of Dau Go-Driftwood Grotto to the west, the lake of Ba Ham-Three Shelter Lake to the south, and the island of Cong Tay to the east.
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 Heavenly Residence Grotto, Driftwood Grotto, Surprise Grotto, and Three Palace Grotto.
Halong Bay has many links to the history of Vietnam. For example, there are such famous geographical sites as Van Don which is site of an ancient commercial port, Poem Mountain which engravings of many poems about emperors and other famous historical figures, and Bach Dang River which is the location of two fierce naval battles fought against foreign aggressors.
It has been proven by scientists that Halong Bay 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.