Viet Nam By Maciek & Agnieszka Czaplinski
Hạ Long Bay (literally: "Descending Dragon Bay"; Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and part of Van Don district. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Hạ Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters. Hạ Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geodiversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Hạ Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species. Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000-7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 70005000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000‐3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mout, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy. 500 years ago, Nguyen Trai praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it "rock wonder in the sky". In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam listed Hạ Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.
According to local legend, when the Vietnamese were fighting Chinese invaders, the gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. The people kept their land safe and formed what later became the country of Vietnam. After that, dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the earth, and then decided to live here. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Hạ Long, the place where the dragon's children attended upon their mother was called Bái Tử Long island (Bái: attend upon, Tử: children, Long: dragon), and the place where the dragon's children wriggled their tails violently was called Bạch Long Vỹ island (Bạch: white‐ colour of the foam made when Dragon's children wriggled, Long: dragon, Vỹ: tail
Hạ Long Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam, from E106°56' to E107°37' and from N20°43' to N21°09'. The bay stretches from Yên Hưng district, past Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town to Vân Đồn district, bordered on the south and southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the north by China, and on the west and southwest by Cát Bà island. The bay has a 120 km long coastline and is approximately 1,553 km² in size with about 2000 islets. The area designated by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage Site incorporates 434 km² with 775 islets, of which the core zone is delimited by 69 points: Đầu Gỗ island on the west, Ba Hầm lake on the south and Cống Tây island on the east. The protected area is from the Cái Dăm petrol store to Quang Hanh commune, Cẩm Phả town and the surrounding zone.