Ha Long Tours
The bay consists of a dense cluster of 3000 limestone monolithic islands, each topped with thick jungle vegetation, which rise spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Dau Go (Wooden stakes Cave) is the largest grotto in the Halong area. French tourists visited in the late 19th century, and named the cave Grotte des Merveilles. Its three large chambers contain large numerous stalactites and stalagmites (as well as 19th century French graffiti).
Some of the islands support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Many of the islands have acquired their names as a result of interpretation of their unusual shapes: such names include Voi Islet (elephant), Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock), and Mai Nha Islet (roof). 989 of the islands have been given names. Birds and animals including bantams, antelopes, monkeys, and iguanas also live on some of the islands.
The bay was World Heritage listed by UNESCO at the 18th meeting of the Committee of the World Heritages of UNESCO (in Thailand on December 17th, 1994). It is one of Vietnam's most popular tourist destinations.
Halong Bay has been the setting for local naval battles against Vietnam's coastal neighbours. On three occasions in the labyrinth of channels between the islands the Vietnamese army stopped the Chinese from landing. In 1288 General Tran Hung Dao stopped Mongol ships from sailing up the nearby Bach Dang River by placing steel-tipped wooden stakes at high tide, sinking the Mongol Dubhai Khan's fleet.
During the Vietnam War, many of the channels between the islands were heavily mined by the navy of the United States, some of which pose a threat to shipping to this day.
The surrounding land region of Halong City is rich with high grade coal deposits, and is operated by the Vietnamese government.
Ha Long Tours
Halong Bay's limestone islands are dotted with caves of all sizes and shapes. Most of these are accessible only by chaerter boat, but some can easily be visited on tour.
Hang Dau Go (Grotto of Wooden Stakes): Know to French as the Grotto des Merveilles (Cave of Marvels), is a huge cave consisting of three chambers, which you reach via 90 steps. Among the stalactites of the first hall, scores of gnomes appear to be holding a meeting. The walls of the second chamber sparkle if bright light is shone on them. The cave derives its Vietnamese name from the third of the chamber. This chamber is said to have been used during the 13th century to store the sharp bamboo stakes that Vietnamese folk hero and war general, Tran Hung Dao, planted in the bed of the Bach Dang River to impale Mongolian general Kublai Khan's invasion fleet. Its the closest cave site to the mainland. Part of the same system, a nearby cave Hang Thien Cung has "cauliflower" limestone growths as well as stalactites and stalagmites.
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. It is the largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and has a surface area of about 140 square km. In November 2004, the Cat Ba Archipelago was approved as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The Cat Ba Archipelago shares the distinctive rugged appearance and scenic beauty of the Ha Long Bay Area, that was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, in 1994. The area is one of the best examples in the world of a Karst landscape invaded by the sea. Some 1500-2000 large and small islands and cliffs rise steeply from the shallow marine waters. Many of these islands reach towering heights of 50 to 100m with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides.
Spectacular rock relief and bizarre rock formations provide evidence of a long history of erosion and landscape evolution through the sculpturing power of water.
The greatest part of the islandsí mountain range like most of the smaller offshore islands of the Archipelago, are covered by tropical moist limestone forest.
Cat Ba Island also has coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats, mangrove forests and willow swamp.
Spectacular scenery and a high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba a special place and it has become a main destination for national and international tourists.
Cat Ba Island is currently inhabited by almost 12000 people, living in 6 communes - of which Cat Ba Town with 7820 people is the largest. The area has two ethnic groups, namely the Kinh and the Chinese-born Vietnamese that are intermingled and not separated into different areas or communities. Based on archaeological remains, it seems that people have inhabited the Cat Ba area for at least 6000 years.
Local livelihoods in the villages are built on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Comparatively new sources of employment and income at the local level are shrimp and fish-farming, and tourism.