Ha Long Bay: An Attraction Befitting its Name
Many countries claim that they have the “eighth” wonder of the world. Of course, no travel guide or history book can prove that there is indeed an eighth wonder—because there is no such thing as the world’s eighth wonder—although this moniker is nonetheless common. After all, it is certainly unfair that there are only seven named wonders in the world, considering all the marvelous sites and attractions the world has to offer. Vietnam has one such attraction, the Ha Long Bay, and it is perhaps one of the attractions that certainly deserve to be called the eighth wonder of the world, thanks to its pristine condition and its general uniqueness.
The Ha Long Bay is located in the Quang Ninh province of Vietnam. As expected from a country is an interesting and rich biodiversity, Vietnam has two natural sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage list—Ha Long Bay and the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It also has two biosphere reserves, including the Can Gio Mangrove Forest and the Red River Delta, among others. The bay is a popular travel destination for many reasons. For one, the limestone karsts in the area are certainly a sight to behold. The Ha Long Bay also boasts of clear and calm waters, especially during spring and summer. The small isles within the area are also worth taking note of.
Of course, as with any attraction, the Ha Long Bay is does not exist in a bubble. It is affected by the country’s history and culture. The same goes for the Ha Long Bay. For one, it is only during the Doi Moi in 1986 that the Ha Long Bay became yet again accessible to the free world. Remember that several years ago, before the Doi Mo’i, the country was at war with the United States of America—also known as the Vietnam War (or, in Vietnam, the American War). As much as the war had an effect in America, the war also affected Vietnam, which led to the country being closed to international trade until before the Doi Mo’i. This is perhaps the reason why the Ha Long Bay remains to be a clean and pristine attraction, and why many tourists and travelers continue to travel to Vietnam only to enjoy its virginal surroundings and ephemeral atmosphere. During and even after the Vietnam War, many Americans (and other nationalities) began to look beyond their own country for a good vacation spot. And since Vietnam was closed, it did not fall victim to the early ills of tourism. It helped in that the UNESCO included the Ha Long Bay in its World Heritage list, since this provided the attraction with a much-needed protection. Because of this, even though the Ha Long Bay is arguably the country’s most visited natural attraction; it continues to be clean, pristine, and simply beautiful.
But beyond this, the Ha Long Bay offers one interesting history: the myth surrounding it. In fact, this myth tells how important Ha Long Bay is to the country, and how significant it is in the formation of the country. According to myth of the origin of Vietnam, the Con Rong Chau Tien, the gods sent dragons to the Vietnames forefathers while they were defending their land from foreign invaders. These dragons descended on what is now known as Ha Long Bay, and they spitted jades and all kinds of jewels. These jewels became the island and small isles that are dotting the area of the Ha Long Bay. These formed a fortress against the invaders, successfully protecting the land from the foreigners. However, instead of returning to the heavens, the dragon remained on earth and the mother dragon of the dragon family lies on Ha Long, while her children are Bai Tu Long.
Now, of course, Ha Long Bay is a well-known natural wonder and tourist attraction.
The Ha Long Bay has a number of attractions that would certainly entice visitors from all over the world. Unknown to many, the area has more to offer than just the small isles and the karst formation. But, not surprisingly, these are the most sought-after attractions by tourists. The bay has almost 2000 limestone monolithic islands, all of them with very dense jungle vegetation. Only two islands in the bay have permanent residents: the Cat Ba and the Tuan Chau. These two islands house tourist facilities such as beaches and hotels. The Tuan Chau is popular for its two manmade beaches, both of them with white sand. This island is perhaps the most visited area in the Ha Long Bay. The Cat Ba island, on the other hand, is a popular overnight stop for tourists who travel the area. This is because the island is known for its cheap hotels and inexpensive tour packages. The Cat Ba island is named after the Cat Ba Langur, an endangered langur and considered as Asia’s rarest primate.
Other attractions in the Ha Long Bay include the Virgin Grotto on the Bo Hon isle. This site is a famed romantic site, popular among couples and young lovers. Opposite the Virgin Grotto is the Male Grotto. Another popular grotto is the Thien Cung Grotto, located at the southwest side of the Ha Long Bay, around foyr kilometers from the Ha Long city wharf. Lastly, the Bai Tho Mountain is also a famed destination, as it made popular by Emperor Le Thanh Tong. The emperor, also a poet, wrote a poem during one of his visits to the mountain, thus the name of the mountain (Bai Tho literally means “poem” in English).
More than being considered by the locals as the eighth wonder of the world, the Ha Long Bay deserves its local myth. In the myth, the bay originated from the dragons. Considering how beauty, pristine, and precious the Ha Long Bay is, the myth may have been true. Without a doubt, just like the dragon from the legends, the Ha Long Bay is simply too good to be true.
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