The Gulf Of Tonkin
The legendary Gulf of Tonkin, bounded by both Vietnam and China, covers three bays: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. Peppered with over 3,000 islands, the Gulf of Tonkin creates truly majestic and breathtaking views. Resulting from millions of years of erosion, the islands feature numerous grottoes and caves, lagoons and coral reefs which display an amazing range of biodiversity.
The Gulf of Tonkin’s amazing seascape and scenic beauty, has made it a dramatic backdrop and filming location for countless movies and documentaries, perhaps most famous of which is the French classic “Indochine”, set during Vietnam’s colonial era.
History & Tales:
While Hanoi’s old name is Thang Long (Ascending Dragon), Halong literally means Descending Dragon. And like many other Vietnamese towns’ names, Ha Long Bay has the origin from a legend. Once upon a time, Vietnam was invaded shortly after they started building the country. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to help Vietnamese people. The dragons emitted from their mouths many pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls stopping the invaders’ boats.
These boats crashed into the islands and broke into pieces. Vietnamese won the battle thanks to the tricky battle field. After the victory, the dragons decided to stay on the bay and the pearls still remained. The location that Mother Dragon landed is then called Ha Long Bay and where Child ones descended is Bai Tu Long Bay.
The annual temperature of Ha Long bay is 22.8 Celcius degree, suitable for tourists to travel all year round. The best time to visit is from March to August, because during this time, tourists have the chance to shoot exotic photos with blue sky and sea as smooth as mill pond. It’s cloudy and rainy in autumn and chilly in winter. Especially, the period between August and October is the typhoon season.
What to do
Visitors to Ha Long shouldn’t miss Bai Chay beach (Scorched Beach – close to the coast of Ha Long Bay), whose sand is dark. People often mistakenly think that this is due to the climate or lack of wind in this area. However, the weather here is quite pleasant and the temperature is around 22oC. From Tuan Chau Island, you can taking a cruise trip around Halong is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Bay (More about cruising in Halong Bay).
The limestone formations are both bizarre and awesome. They are Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace Cave) – 4km from the wharf outside of Ha Long City, Dau Go (Wooden Stakes Cave) – 8km south of Bai Chay, Bo Nau (Pelican Cave) , Trinh Nu (Virgin Cave) – 15km south of Bai Chay, in the island range of Bo Hon, in the system comprised Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), Dong Tien Lake and Luon Grotto, etc.