Halong Bay has long been the premier stop for any tourists. The vacation without Halong Bay cannot fulfill its own role. Nowadays, the bay welcomes 4000-6000 tourists daily. Halong Bay has twice recognized by UNESCO as World Natural Heritage in 1994 and 2000. November 11th 2011, tourists all over the globe voted Halong Bay as 1 of new seven Natural Wonder of the world. The bay is spread in a quite big area of 1553 km2, and containing of more than 3000 islets. Just a small number is inhabited;1969 islets in the World Heritage Site.
Halong Bay is a general concept for 3 bays: Halong Bay in the West, Lan Ha Bay in the South and Bai Tu Long Bay in the Northeast.
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 geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Halong 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 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. HaLong Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mount, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.
According to local legend, when Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, they had to fight against invaders. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. 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. Under magics, numerous rock mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; the forward ships struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth, and then decided to live in this bay. 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-color of the foam made when Dragon’s children wriggled, Long: dragon, Vỹ: tail), present day Trà Cổ peninsula, Móng Cái.
Scientifically, Hạ Long Bay has experienced at least 500 million years in various geological states of orogeny, marine transgression and marine regression. During the Ordovician and Silurian periods (500-410 million years ago), Hạ Long Bay was deep sea. During the Carboniferous and Permian periods (340-250 million years ago), Hạ Long Bay was at shallow sea level.
The dominated uplift movement of neotectonic and recent tectonic influenced deeply on topography of this area, and the present landscape of sea-islands was formed around 7 or 8 thousand years ago by the sea invasion during Holocene transgression begun at about 17-18 thousand years ago. Particularly from the Holocene time, from about 11,000 years ago Cat Ba – Hạ Long area has much archaeological evidence connecting variations in sea levels with the development of ancient cultures such as the Soi Nhu and Ha Long cultures.
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