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Ha Long Bay is located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay form from thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. The bay has a 120 kilometre long coastline and is approximately 1,553 square kilometres in size with 1969 islets. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands, for example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst
Halong Bay is situated in the Western side of the Gulf of Tonkin in Northeastern Vietnam. The bay is approximately 35 km (21 miles) Northeast of the port city of Hai Phong and approximately 170 km (105 miles) by road from the capital Hanoi. The town of Halong is situated on the coast to the North of the bay. It takes 3.5 hours to drive from Hanoi to Halong takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Halong Bay is formed by Cat Ba island to the South, Ngoc Hung and Van Canh islands to the East and the Vietnamese coastline to the North and West. The bay covers a total area of 1,553 square kilometers (600 square miles). Occupying the heart of the bay between Halong town and Cat Ba island, the central World Heritage area stretches for 434 square kilometers (167 square miles)
Natural Features/ Islands and Karsts
Halong Bay is very famous for its greatest attraction, including 1,696 islands, islets and rocky karst outcrops. 989 of these islets and rocky outcrops have been been given imaginative names by the locals over the years. These have been derived from their perceived shapes and include names such as Man’s Head, Fighting Cocks, Wading Ox and Wallowing Buffalo.
Caves and Grottos
Another exceptional geological feature of Halong Bay is the number of limestone islands which have caves and grottoes within them. The total number of caves has never been determined and there are almost certainly more which are yet to be discovered. In order to preserve the natural state and integrity of the large number of caves and grottos in the World Heritage Area, only some are open to visitors. The most commonly visited are Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) cave, Dau Go (Wood Tip) grotto, Sung Sot (Surprise) cave and Trinh Nu (Virgin) grotto.
The shapes and formations on the sides and rooves of the caves, many now being part of local folklore and legends, bear witness to the different stages of formation over the ages. Some cave features, such as calcified shell-beds, are the direct result of ancient human activity
Sea and Lakes
The lower chambers of some caves and grottos are below sea level. Due to the porous nature of limestone, these chambers are often partially filled to form tidal lakes and pools. Although most of these are shallow, the depths of some have never been determined. The geomorphology of Halong Bay indicates that it is almost certain that there are undiscovered and fully entombed lakes within many of the islands. Dau Be (Goat’s Head island) alone has 6 different tidal lakes.
The sea in Halong Bay is generally less than 10 meters (33 feet) deep and boasts a rich biodiversity of about 1,000 species of marine animals. Over 160 species of coral have been identified. Coral reefs make up 30% of the seabed and in some areas as much as 80% of the seabed is covered in coral reefs. Most coral reefs are at a depth of 4-6 meters.
Archeological evidence suggests humans may have inhabited the area in and around Halong Bay for as long as 18,000 years. Some of these are distinctly different enough to have been given their own names, such as the Soi Nhu from the Mesolithic age and the Halong culture from the Neolithic age. Van Don in the Southeast of the bay was once one of the most important trading ports in Vietnamese ancient history.
There is perhaps a greater number of myths, legends and folklore surrounding Halong Bay than any other area in Vietnam. The current name of the bay (Descending Dragon) is itself a mystery. Some say it can be attributed to the French in the late 1890’s, others say it comes from a famous Vietnamese folk tale.
Myths and folklore surround many of the caves and grottos. Tales of life’s love lost; of forbidden love forever together cast in stone; wedding celebrations of truly celestial splendor; of poverty and power, and more.
Under cover of darkness the Vietnamese drove the stakes into the bed of the upper reaches of the Bach Dang river mouth (near present day Hai Phong) until the tips of the stakes were hidden just below the surface of the water at low tide.
The shallow draft Vietnamese ships continued to move about, positioning themselves for battle, feinting attacks and creating diversions. When preparations were complete, Tran Hung Dao waited for favorable wind and tide conditions. Late in the year 1288, the conditions were right.
The Vietnamese forces assembled in battle formation and set out to engage the Han fleet. After ensuring the Chinese fleet was fully engaged, the Vietnamese ships turned against the ebbing tide and fled back into the Bach Dang river. The Chinese followed in hot pursuit, growing ever more certain of victory
As the tide reached its full ebb, the deeper draught Chinese ships became impaled on the stakes. The smaller, nimbler Vietnamese fleet then picked off each impaled ship one-by-one, like lions might harass and harangue a much larger wounded elephant ... until the final demise