Halong Bay insight cruise

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In any country visited, we all have great impressions of its natural landscapes and people. The beauty of nature in particular will often stun us and leave a sweet memory for lifetime. 

And that is true when we visit Halong Bay and is charmed by its magnificence and natural beauty. Perhaps, it is difficult to find another place where we can admire the majestic and romantic beauty as in Ha Long Bay of Vietnam. Many foreigners often ask me "What is the most beautiful place in Vietnam? Our country has several places that must be visited, and each of them has its own features, but perhaps to indulge our yourselves in the sea, mountains and the sky, probably Ha Long Bay is the number one” I say.

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HaLong Bay

And more than once I visited the Bay. Most often, visitors come and go and then return as they have been seduced by the beauty of the landscapes. Each visit leaves me a sweet memory. After traveling to Ha Long Bay many times, I must write something about this natural heritage of the World. 

Quang Ninh province, a holy land, a land of ancient Vietnamese cultures, is located in the Northeast of Vietnam. This region marked the introduction of Buddhism into Vietnam. On the way to Ha Long Bay, tourists will pass by Yen Tu Mountain. Before King Tran Thai Tong (1225-1258) turned to Buddhism in Yen Tu Mountain, many followers practiced Buddhism there. King Tran Nhan Tong (1279-1293) then selected Yen Tu Mountain to be a Buddhism Centre of the country and founded the Truc Lam Zen School in Vietnam. In 14th century, the Yen Tu and Quynh Lam (Dong Trieu Town) became the center of Buddhism in Vietnam.

Quang Ninh is famous not only for its ancient Buddhism culture but also for a natural World Heritage of Halong Bay. Ha Long Bay is located in the Gulf of Tonkin and is made up of 1,969 islands of various sizes, 989 of which have been given names. The bay itself has an area of 434 square km, 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

Hang Dau GO

Ha Long Bay is a natural gift for the Vietnamese and mankind in the world. History of this region is recorded in legends passed orally from one generation to another generation or in geological studies of scientists. 

The legend of Ha Long Bay

Ha Long means “Descending Dragons." Halong bay was formed by changes of geological structures. Who first called it Halong and when? In folklore generations of the Vietnamese people tell a legend that forms Halong Bay. In the mind of the Vietnamese, they were all siblings of dragon and fairy. In the publication of Vietnam Cultures (1989-1995) by the Central Art and Cultures Committee in Hanoi in 1995, there was an article saying that in the first days, the Viet people were attacked by foreign aggressors. The Jade Emperor sent 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 dragon pearls which changed into jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that blocked the enemy’s advance and smashed their vessels to pieces.

 After the invaders were driven out, the Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to the Heaven but stayed on earth, right at the place where the battle occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long bay, and where the Child Dragons came down was Bai Tu Long bay. 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.”

Other legends say that at a time when a country had invaders, a dragon flying along the river down to the sea and landed in the coastal Northeast blocking steps of aquatic invaders. The place where the Dragon landed is called Ha Long.

Folk stories associated with the concept of the origin of the Vietnamese people as "Dragon and Fairy" are often interesting. Dragon and Fairy is the traditional power of the people which has been symbolized and perhaps naming this sea land Halong Bay was made by folks in the region.  Today, many mountainous islands in Ha Long Bay are named as Dragon including The Dragon, Dragon Eyes, Hon Rong, Cai Rong, Long Chau, Bach Long Vi Island.

Some archaeological findings and historical records on Ha Long

Archaeological discovery

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. In 1937, the discovery of a stone on Ngoc Vung Island has caused a stir among the French archaeologists. Studies from a Swedish archaeologist named Anderson, together with two French archaeologist sisters named Conani showed findings of many stone artifacts: axes, grinding tables, sewing needles and jewelries in Halong which belong to the Neolithic era. They called the culture that formed these remnants “Ngoc Vung”

After 1945, the Vietnam scientists and the Soviet archaeological experts conducted many large-scale reconnaissance surveys in Ha Long Bay and surrounding areas. The 1960 surveys found at Tan Mai sites chair of the apes and subsequent excavation arrows from the Hung Kings. These findings allowed the confirmation of a Ha Long culture between 3500-5000 years ago.

Since 1960, the surveillance and studies about archeology has been opened widely at over 40 locations including the Dong Mang, Xich Tho, Column 8, Cai Dam (Ha Long city), Soi Nhu, thoi Gieng (Mong Cai), Ha Giat (Van Don), Hon Hai Tien, etc and have led to important conclusions to prove the existence of prehistoric man in the Ha Long Bay area. It not only has Ha Long culture from 3-5 millennia ago but also has Soi Nhu culture in the range of 18000-7000 BC which is widely distributed in Ha Long Bay area and Bai Tu Long with the typical sites at Me Cung, Tien Ong, Thien Long. The remaining relics are mainly products which have been used as foods such as nuts mount (cyclophorus) and spring snails (Melania) and some fossils of freshwater mollusk and some rudimentary labor tools built and constituted the cultural layer.

Beside Soi Nhu culture, Cai Beo culture was also discovered, in the range 7000-5000 BC which is considered as a linkage between Soi Nhu culture before and Ha Long culture later. Cai Beo sites focused primarily on Cat Ba Island (Hai Phong) and Giap Khau, Ha Gian in Ha Long Bay. Cai Beo culture is a strong evidence of facing the sea from an early age of the ancient Vietnamese, is the convergence of many factors, nuances of cultural differences on a line traditional shingle in Vietnam and Southeast Asia thousands of years ago.

Continued without interruption throughout the primary process, three cultures called Soi Nhu Ha Long-Cai Beo-on Ha Long Bay area contains certain values, to prove Halong bay and surrounding areas once has been a cradle of human culture. The characteristics of this culture were not fully decoded, and the results of the archaeological reconnaissance in recent years continue to reveal new surprises, one of which is the discovery of East relics in 2006. In a cave in the East, the archaeologists discovered cell aggregates prehistoric, stone axes, pieces of ceramic pots, fine sediments can be used as foods and hundreds of beads made from shells. It is also one of the three areas on Halong bay which found the prehistoric man after Soi Nhu and Hai CoTien Islet.

History and poetry

Ha Long entered the history of Vietnam a long time ago, and it was also an interesting topic for poets to describe its beauty and magnificence. Ha Long Bay is also associated with the development of the nation's history with landmarks such as Van Don – a famous ancient trading port of the time (1149). Dai Viet Complete History stated that "In the Ky Ty year, the 10th year of King Ly Anh Tong's reign (1149), in Spring, the second lunar month, Japanese and Siamese merchant ships entered the East Sea for trade. They were concentrated in an island area, called Van Don, for trading precious goods, and presenting local products." Van Don trading port with the typical characteristics such as having many islands, islands of horizontal and vertical rock, sea divided into several pools, a deep channel and airtight, which helps safe anchorage for boats not threatened by storms. These location features made this area become crowded in trade with the region and many parts of the world.

Interestingly, before the 19th century, the name Halong was not recorded in the bibliography of Vietnam. When it comes to the Ha Long Bay area today, ancient history was often written with the name of Giao Chau, Luc Chau, Luc Thuy, Van Don, Hai Dong, An Bang, etc. Over the period of history, the name of Ha Long has changed. In Ly and Tran Dynasties, its name is Hoa Phong, Hai Dong, An Bang, Van Don, Ngoc Son or Luc Thuy. The name Ha Long (dragon landed) officially appeared in some bibliographies and the maritime map of France from the late 19th century.

By the late 19th century, on the Hai Phong News published in French, there was an article about the appearance of the dragon-like creature in the bay area today with the title "Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay". The article said that when the French lieutenant Legderin, captain of Avalence and his crew encountered a giant sea snake three times (in 1898, 1900 and 1902). Perhaps, Europeans think of these animals as Asian dragons, mythical creatures revered in the Vietnam culture in particular and Asian cultural countries in general. It is the Vietnamese legend of Mother Dragon and Child Fairy landing in this Northeast Island, and the appearance of strange animals living in reality that gave Ha Long Bay its name as we hear today. 

The theme of Halong entered into poems and songs naturally. In 1468, King Le Thanh Tong had a cruise on Halong bay after visiting the Northeast of the country. Inspired by the natural beauty, he made a poem and ordered that it was carved onto the Bai Tho Mountain, which got its name since then. 

Halong Bay can be seen as a magnificent masterpiece of the creation and of nature that turns thousands of dumb soulless stone islands into fantastic sculptural and artistic works of different graceful shapes, both familiar and strange to human beings. With such special values, at the 18th Session of UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held on 17 December 1994 in Thailand, Hạ Long Bay was officially placed on the list of the World Natural Heritage. In 2000, UNESCO recognized it as the World Heritage for the second time for its geographical and geomorphologic values. This confirms the global premier value of Hạ Long Bay as a pride of Vietnam.


See other travel updates of this destination:

- Tips on Halong Bay Cruises

- Reasons to Consider a Halong Bay Cruise

- Halong Bay Cruise FAQs

- One Halong afternoon without you

- Magical moments in Halong Bay

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