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Halong Bay

Halong Bay, VietnamBai Tu Long National Park
Bai Tu Long National Park is situated in Bai Tu Long bay in Van Don district, Quang Ninh province. The topography of Bai Tu Long bay is similar to that of Ha Long bay, immediately to the south:
limestone islands and islets, surrounded by marine waters. One distinctive feature of Bai Tu Long bay is
Ba Mun island, a larger island, composed of schist, sand and gravel, not limestone. Ba Mun island consists of a narrow strip of land, 18 km long and, on average, 1 km wide. The highest point on the island is Cai Quyt peak at 307 m. A number of streams originate on the central ridge of the island, most of which are seasonal.
Bai Tu Long National Park supports about 2, 000 ha of lowland evergreen forest, most of which is on Ba Mun. This forest has, however, been heavily disturbed by selective timber extraction and very little undisturbed forest remains. On Tra Ngo Island, however, significant stretches of limestone forest still remain.
Tree species diversity is high in the forest in the national park, with no one family dominating. Common tree species include members of the Caesalpiniaceae, Theaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Myrtaceae and Sapotaceae families. A total of 398 vascular plant species have been recorded on Ba Mun Island to date, four of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam: Decussocarpus fleuryi, Goniothalamus chinensis, Morinda officinalis and Smilax glabra.
The national park also includes a number of significant patches of mangrove forest. The dominant mangrove species is Aegyceras corniculata, while Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Kandelia candel and Rhizophora stylosa are also present. The Ang valley on Tra Ngo island contains the largest patch of mangrove forest in the national park. It can be accessed through Cai De cave, a 2 km-long tunnel, which connects the valley to the sea.
Despite the national park's isolation from the mainland, it supports a high diversity of terrestrial fauna. Prior to 1975, the fauna of Ba Mun island was the most diverse and abundant known in Quang Ninh province. Subsequent decades of illegal hunting and timber extraction have, however, significantly reduced the diversity of the island's fauna (Anon. 1998). According to the investment plan for the former Ba Mun Nature Reserve (Anon. 1998), Eurasian Wild Pig Sus scrofa and Red Muntjac Muntiacus muntjak still occur, although the presence of other large mammal species, such as Asian Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, could not be confirmed.
The national park has been the focus of preliminary ornithological surveys. A single globally threatened species has been recorded: Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea (Eames and Tordoff in prep.).
Bai Tu Long National Park education centre opens
QUANG NINH — It was not just the young who appeared fascinated by the new environmental education centre in Bai Tu Long National Park, north of Ha Long Bay.
Older residents of Minh Chau Commune, Van Don Island closely inspected the exhibits on the plant and animal life that live in the park’s 15, 700ha of sea, tidal and island land at the center’s opening day on March 5.
"I want to learn more about the local environment but there are not many trees left, " said Kieu Van Vien, from nearby Na San Village.
"The local rangers patrol the forest very strictly to protect what we have left. But I hope the centre will teach everyone about protecting the environment."
Unlike Ha Long Bay, few tourists make it to Bai Tu Long Bay. However, logging, poaching, over-fishing and the pollution from the province’s large coal mining industry are placing substantial pressure on the environment.
Poverty in the communes that surround the park mean it is frequently entered illegally as people search for food or to steal logs or hunt valuable animals to make ends meet.
Park director Nguyen Duc Tuy said an education environment centre in the national park was necessary for local community as well as tourists.
"It is significant component of our awareness strategy that will facilitate the area’s understanding of park issues."
Bai Tu Long National Park, in the northern province of Quang Ninh, was set up by the Government in 2001. The park covers the islands of Ba Mun, Tra Ngo Lon, Tra Ngo Nho, Sau Dong, the Sau Nam islands and another 20 smaller karst islands.
The park has 494 different plant species, 37 animals, 96 bird species, 15 amphibian species, 22 species of reptiles and 391 marine animals, according to a biodiversity study by British NGO Frontier Viet Nam.
One of the most endangered animals in the park is the dugong, also known as a sea cow. Listed in Viet Nam’s Red Book, the dugong is a large whale-like sea mammal that is in fact, more closely related to the elephant than the whale. Minh Chau fishermen found a 500kg dugong in park waters last December.
Safeguarding the park’s ecosystem is difficult because the area’s main communes of Minh Chau, Quan Lan, Ban Sen, Van Yen and Ha Long are far apart, spread across several islands, chief park ranger Pham Van Sy said.
Frontier Viet Nam has two projects in the park, focusing on evaluating biodiversity, improving the community’s environmental awareness and training forest rangers in research methods and collecting statistics on the local flora and fauna.
"I hope the centre will play an important role in addressing these issues and raising awareness not only the local community but among visitors, " said Leo Bottrill, chief of representative Frontier-Vietnam. — VNS.


Ha Long bay
Ha Long Bay is northern Vietnam's biggest attraction, one of the most magnificent natural splendors of the Far East. "Ha Long" means "Where the Dragon Descends into the Sea." From the emerald-green waters of Ha Long Bay some 3000 limestone and dolomite islands (. or "grottos") rise jaggedly from the Gulf of Tonkin like medieval stone cathedral spires, or the scales on a dragon's back. Local lore has it that an enormous dragon created the bay, grottos and outcroppings as it thrashed its way toward the open sea to prevent the intrusion of enemy navies. Today, local fishermen still report encountering a giant sea beast called Tarasque, sort of the Nessie of the East Sea.
Ha Long Bay affords some of Vietnam's most spectacular scenery, including beautiful limestone formations, rock arches, gin-clear water, virtually inaccessible lagoons, sheer cliffs, peaceful coves, eerie caves, secluded strips of white, powdery sand, and thousands of limestone islets. Like sculpted cartoon characters, these islets are fancifully named: Frog Island, Face Island, the Isle of Wonders and the Isle of Surprise. Chinese junks glide over the teal-hued bay between the grottos, which are densely carpeted in neon-green ficas, mangrove and spiky cacti. Pearl oyster farms are tucked into tight channels between the towering, limestone cliffs. Primitive floating fish hatcheries are spun across the waters between the grottos like neglected spider webs. This maritime mountain range reaches for a distance of more than 100 kilometers and covers an area of some 1553 square kilometers.
Two major battles were fought in Ha Long Bay during the 10th and 13th centuries. In 1882, French Captain Henri Rivière was beheaded here after trying to capture the region's enormous coal deposits. The locals paraded his head from village to village. The French weren't amused, and decided that Vietnam should be permanently annexed as a French colony.
Coal remained the mainstay of local industry until recent years, when hydroelectric projects in both Vietnam and China (where much of the coal was destined) largely relegated it to the proverbial back burner. Locals have diverted their attention from the coal mines to the gold mine of tourism. Nevertheless, coal mining remains an eyesore to the more adventurous travelers who decide to head to Mong Cai in Vietnam's far northeast.
Ha Long's only natural drawback is the weather: It can be horrible. It is often damp, rainy and cold, particularly during the winter months. Visitors during the winter tend to spend most of their time in the bay itself, as Ha Long's waters remain bathtub-warm year-round. If Ha Long were, say, a thousand kilometers closer to the equator, this would be paradise on Earth. As it is, it's still darn close. Catch the area on a nice day, particularly during the spring and fall months, and you're in for one of the biggest treats of your Vietnam visit.


Kim Quy Grotto
Kim Quy Grotto or Golden Tortoise Grotto is situated on Dâm Nam Islet, with a peak 187 m above sea level. Dâm Bac Islet is in the front of the grotto and Soi Sim Islet in the back.
The grotto is 100 m long and 5 to 10 m wide, running in a north-south direction.
A narrow way leads to the interior of the grotto where a stream flows. The stalactites here are snow-white and lightly hang from the ceiling.
It is linked to the ancient legend of the Golden Tortoise: after having helped Emperor Lê Loi defeat his enemies, the Golden Tortoise took back the magic sword he had given him, and swam towards the sea. Arriving in HaLong Bay, it met with so many evil spirits and demons hindering its journey that it remained to do battle. After having defeated them all, the Golden Tortoise was so exhausted that it searched for a grotto to rest in, and once inside, turned to stone.
Today in the grotto, it can be found dozing, still with ancient wounds covering its body.


Thien Cung Grotto or Bewitching Grotto
Two kilometres south-west of Ti Top island is the Thien Cung (Heaven Palace) Grotto or Bewitching Grotto. It formed on Lom Bò Island, and seen from afar, the entrance is like the roof of a house denting the island’s side.
After a narrow crack only allowing one person through at a time, many partitions appear. These chambers are somewhat small and narrow, but very refined, and with many stalagmites and stalactites bearing beautiful forms.
Threading your way through narrow passages, you find a dim light from afar, which signals the exit of the grotto. On getting out of the grotto, climb up several rugged stone stairs and look down, you see a large round lake surrounded by the mountain. Its waters are blue all year round. The lake is home to many kinds of fish, shrimps, octopuses, algae, see weed, and coral. Lying adjacent to the lake there is an area of old trees popularly known as an alluring “royal garden”.
It is dry and well-ventilated, and features a thick layer of shells forming the foundation of the entrance. Formerly, this layer was 1.2-meter-thick and semi-fossilized. In the course of research, there was also a fossilized animal’s skeleton discovered in the interior. The Thien Cung Grotto has been recognized by archaeologists as one of the vestiges of the pre-Ha Long new Stone Age culture, which existed between 7, 000 and 10, 000 years ago.
Pushing into the grotto, tourists feel like walking in a palace of a Persian king. Hearing the murmur from out of nowhere, you think that Scheherazade is telling the stories of the Thousand and One Nights for her king.
On the island, there are many ancient trees casting long reflections on the water of the bay. They are home to many species of birds and animals (monkeys, chamois and vagrants).


The Trinh Nu Grotto or Virgin Grotto
The Trinh Nu Grotto or Virgin Grotto is situated on the island range of Bo Hòn in the system comprising the Sung Sôt Grotto, Ð?ng Tiên Lake and Luon Grotto. It is 15 km south of Bãi Cháy Beach. For fishermen, the Virgin Grotto is their house, but for young lovers, it is considered as the symbol of truly love, and is the romantic place for taking oath of love.
Entering Trinh Nu Grotto, one finds in the middle of the grotto a stone statue of a lying-girl with her long hair hanging down who is looking to the sea in a vain hope.
Situated opposite to Trinh Nu Grotto, Trong (or Male) Grotto has a stone statue of a boy who turns his face to Trinh Nu Grotto. One still hears his vain scream in tune with the wind blowing into the cliff somewhere.
Legend has it, there once was a beautiful fisherman's daughter, whose family was so poor that it was in the service of the rich administrator of the fishing zone. He forced the family to give him the girl as a concubine. She already had a lover who at that time was on the high seas catching fish to prepare for their wedding. The administrator, angered by her refusal, exiled her to a wild island where she suffered from hunger and exhaustion. On one frightening night, amidst terrible rain and winds, she turned to stone.
It was also the night that her lover knew of her danger, and he rowed his boat in search of her. On the terrible night, the tempest destroyed his boat and he floated to one of the islands. In a lighting flash he saw his mate in the distance, but his calls were driven away by the wind. He used a stone block to hammer down on the mountain cliffs to announce to her he was nearby. He struck until blood flowed from his hands, and in his final exhaustion, also turned to stone (today’s Trong Grotto).
Tourists also find Trinh Nu Grotto attractive partly because of its association with a fanciful love legend: “Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl who deeply loved each other. However, they were so poor that they could not be able to get married. The boy decided to go offshore fishing with a hope that he could get enough money for his marriage. And the girl painfully waited in vain for her fiancé. She finally took a small boat and rowed to the sea to look for him. So immense is the sea, and so many are the islands, the boy, therefore could not hear her doleful call, though he was just several canals away. Exhausted, the girl lied in a grotto, looking to the sea and got petrified after the last call. The boy got lost in a grotto nearby, shouting to call the girl in vain. The echo of their call through the cliff was so moving. At last, the boy became exhausted and petrified in the grotto - present-day Trong Grotto.”
Today, whenever passing this place, tourists can still hear his faint call.


Ba Ham Lake
Situated on the south-west side of Ha Long Bay, Ba Ham Lake is found on Ðau Bê Island (Calf Head Island) in Lan Ha Bay. This island is part of the range of islands at the farthest end of HaLong Bay, bordering the immense zone Long Châu Sea. Ba Ham Lake is situated in the middle of a narrow, rectangular area, with the all four sides enclosed by vertical cliffs.
The lake is a system comprising three wide and round pits, linked together by a narrow and meandering tunnel. Stalactites hang from the ceiling in a myriad of strange, colored forms. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the boat’s oars. On the island are many species of plants such as orchids, Benjamin figs, banyans and cycads, which blossom throughout the year. It is also the home of yellow-haired monkeys, birds, flying squirrels and bats. Under the deep blue surface of the water are the animated lives of shrimp and fish.


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