Speaking of Hạ Long, one must above all talk of the beauty of its water and sky. In a relatively small area (1,553 sq. km), there are 1,969 islands rising from the sea.
Seen from above, Hạ Long Bay resembles a light blue handkerchief dotted with emerald gems; sometimes clustered together, sometimes isolated. The clever artistic hand of creation has made thousands of stone islands simulating familiar personages or animals. Like the constellations of the night sky, it’s possible to find a familiar form in every island of Hạ Long Bay: one brings to mind a pair of chickens bobbing on the spacious water (Trống Mái Islet); another is like a giant tortoise with half-closed and sleepy eyes (Rùa Islet); another is like an old monk joining his hands in prayer to Buddha, with his face turned to the sea (Ông Sư Islet); yet another is like a giant incense-burner standing in the middle of the sea which used to pray heaven and earth (Ðinh Hương Islet). It is a safe bet that many other islands bearing familiar forms remain undiscovered in the mysterious bay.
The sea of Hạ Long is deep blue water throughout all four seasons. In spring, sailing amidst the waves, the stone islands look to be bobbing on the water. As summer approaches and the sun is setting on the far horizon, they appear to awake in unison and rise from the blue depths. The whole bay is bright red, and then turns to blue as the crests of the waves run together towards the shore. Orchids and fig trees, growing from fissures in the stone, bloom with snowy flowers.
As a boat makes its way through this forest of islands by ways of meandering channels, sometimes stone seems to be spread in front of you; forming a wall heeding further progress. Once nearer, the wall appears to crack open as if letting your boat pass. The scenery disappears behind you as yet another panorama opens to your view.
The winding route seems to be endless, but the beauty of Hạ Long Bay does not consist only in the forms of it’s mountains, islands and the colour of its waters, but also in its infinitely rich system of grottoes and caves; concentrated mostly in the middle of the UNESCO-protected area. Thiên Cung (Heavenly Palace Grotto) bears a modern and refined trait, while Đầu Gỗ (Driftwood Grotto) is ample and grandiose and Sửng Sốt (Surprise Grotto) appears deeply secretive. There are many beautiful examples, closely linked with legends and popular tales, such as: Trinh Nữ and Trống Grottoes (Virgin and Male Grottoes) and the Fairy Grotto Lake (Ðộng Tiên Lake). Each is a grandiose and refined natural architectural creation.
At sunset, when the mountains’ shadows stretch out long across the bay, the water turns grey-blue, before suddenly transforming to a crimson red as the last of the sun’s rays reach the far away islands. For one short instant, the whole scene mingles into one colour, and then all light is extinguished. After the moon climbs into the sky, the sea seems to be coated with silver, with the lights of Hạ Long City reflected on the surface of the water.
It seemed that every islands, caves and beaches in Hạ Long closely linked with the legend and popular tale of love, of the heroic song for safeguarding country… Visiting Hạ Long Bay is a good chance to witness the romantic and attractive love story, which happened only in the legend.
The 18th meeting of the Committee of the World Heritages of UNESCO (in Thailand on December 17th, 1994), officially recognized Hạ Long Bay as a natural heritage of worldwide importance. And Hạ Long Bay is honorly recognized as a world natural heritage once again for its geological value.