The little dragon
Often called the baby of Ha Long Bay, beautiful and diverse Bai Tu Long Bay holds its own
The Vietnamese nation was invaded so often in ancient times that God was moved to send a dragon and its child to fight the enemies.
After the fighting was over, the dragon refused to return to heaven. The mother became Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon) and her children, Bai Tu Long Bay (Dragon children cheering their mother). The children are beautiful, like the mother, but not as well known.
Located around 200 kilometers to the northeast of Hanoi, Bai Tu Long Bay includes the seas off Cam Pha Town, Ha Long Town and Van Don District.
The bay hosts hundreds of large and small islands of various characteristics. One island looks as if it were made by piling up stone bowls. Locals call it Dong Chen (Bowl Pile). Yet another, called Dua (chopstick), is like a giant chopstick lying on the water surface.
Quan Lan Island does not have a particularly striking shape like its neighbors, but it has sandy and rather wild beaches, like Ngoc Vung and Minh Chau, alongside a 300-year-old primeval forest.
The sixth lunar month is festival season on the island. No locals are allowed to leave, but visitors are welcome to join the festivities.
Other islands carry different flavors. Ban Sen Island, for instance, brings to tourists cups of tea produced from trees whose seeds were first sowed hundreds of years ago. Meanwhile, Minh Chau Island presents the pristine lifestyle of a fishing village.
Like its mother, Ha Long Bay has several caves such as Dong Trong Cave and Hang Quan Cave. The latter served as a Vietnamese army base during the Vietnam War.
Other attractions at the bay include temples dedicated to famous generals during the feudal period and seafood specialties like snout otter clams (Lutraria Rhynchaena), locally known as tu hai.
National ‘water park’
Covering nearly 16,000 hectares of land on 30 islands, Bai Tu Long National Park boasts considerable biodiversity with mangrove forests and coral reefs that are home to rare flora and fauna.
The park also has considerable archeological significance with scientists finding traces of people who lived there 14,000 years ago.
Located at the end of a mangrove forest, Doi (Bat) Cave is the home of thousands of bats and other animals like foxes and otters, while the Cai De Cave, about one kilometer away, goes through a range of mountains for about 500 meters at a maximum width of 60 meters.
Although the cave is decorated with stalactites and a plentiful source of marine life, visitors can only enter when the tide is low.
Cai De was proposed to be introduced to visitors in 2007, but nothing has been done so far to make this happen.