Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha long bay is a beautiful natural wonder in the northern Viet Nam, a part of Tonkin Gulf, covering a total area of 1,553km², including 1,969 limestone islands of various shapes and sizes, nearly 1000 of which have been given names. The average geological age of the islands is between 250 and 280 million years old. The unique beauty of Ha Long is like something right out of a movie. While discovering the bay, visitors will feel lost in a legendary world of stone islands which shapes change depending on the angle and the light. There are many names given to islands according to their shapes and forms such as Hon Dau Nguoi (Human Head Islet), Hon Rong (Dragon Islet), Hon Canh Buom (Sail Islet), Hon Trong Mai (Cock and Hen Islet)… But the beauty of Ha long Bay does not consist only in the forms of its mountains, islands and the colour of its waters, but also in its infinitely rich system of grottoes and caves such as: Sung Sot (Surprise Grotto), Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace Grotto), Dau Go (Driftwood Grotto), Tam Cung (Three Palace Grotto), Trinh Nu (Virgin Grotto)… Each is a grandiose and refined natural architectural creation.
The visitors exploring Ha Long Bay are treated to one of the true wonders of the world, enjoy interesting experience with kayaking, and take an overnight cruise on a tradition junk around the bay. This amazing destination must be listed in your itinerary if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam.
Sung Sot Grotto
Covering area of 10,000m² in Bo Hon Island, Sung Sot grotto with thousands of stalactites is one of the finest and widest caves in Ha Long Bay which were discovered by the French in 1901.
The grotto is partitioned into two chambers; the first one being similar to a wide theatre hall. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling, with numerous possible forms and shapes. From the wharf, you climb 50 steep stone stairs to the mouth of the grotto, which lies 25m above the sea level. Inside the grotto there have thousands of stalactites and stalagmites along the 500-meter paved passage.
A narrow passage leads to the second rooms, where a flow of light meets visitors. Light posts line the passage and serve as signposts and ornaments. The lighting system with elegant styles adds more charm to the beauty of the grotto. The chamber is so immense it could contain thousands of people at one time.
At the deepest point of the grotto, a “royal garden” appears with a clear pond and a seemingly fascinating landscape of mountains. Many birds and plants live here. On nice days groups of monkeys might arrive in search of fruit.
Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) Grotto
Thien Cung grotto is one of Halong attractions having the impressive natural beauty. Along with Sung Sot, Thien Cung grotto is one of the largest and most beautiful grotto in Halong Bay.
The grotto has numerous stalactites and stalagmites with special and strange shapes. Due to having the narrow door and the strongly development of the flora surrounding, the entrance of Thien Cung grotto was hidden. Therefore, the cave was discovered recently,1993.
Because stalactites inside had the shapes of dragon, phoenix, and Four Pillars which made those people think about an imperial palace. The grotto was named as Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace). Indeed, visiting Thien Cung, tourists may have the feeling of entering into a heavenly palace with the magic and magnificent system of stalactites
In the east cliff of grotto, there is a huge and monumental picture of ancient characters in fairy tales with smooth and exquisite lines created by nature. In the center of the grotto, there are four large pillars. From the bottom to the top of these pillars, many strange shapes such as birds, fishes, scenes of human activities, flowers, leaves, etc. On the north cliff of the cave, there is an image of celestial maidens dancing. Under the arch of Thien Cung Grotto, a cluster of stalactites hang down creating a natural stone curtain. Somewhere in the grotto has the sound of drum like in a festival of an old village. Actually, it is a sound of wind blowing through holes among stones. Looking up at the arch of the Grotto, visitors can see the green color of stalactites as they are in Penglai scene.
When leaving the Thien Cung grotto, visitors may feel like they have seen a unique and meticulous art museum, which was created under hands of the Creator beyond the imagination of human. Having the marvelous beauty, Thien Cung is one of attractions in Halong should not be missed.
Dau Go Grotto
Another interesting place worth discovering in Halong bay is Dau Go grotto. The grotto is situated on Dau Go Island, next to Thien Cung grotto.
From afar, the grotto entrance is a jellyfish look-alike 90 steps stair. Inside the grotto, a massive system of stalagmites and stalactites resembling stony waterfalls would make anyone feel like being one with the nature.
The grotto has three main compartments. The first area has a curved shape which is filled up by natural light. The celling of this area is a giant oil painting describing primitive landscapes with rows of stalagmites and stalactites changing their color upon the intensity and angle of the light. Many visitors love letting their imagination go wild with all the light reflecting on those stalagmites and stalactites.
Passing the first area by going through a narrow entrance, visitors will get to the second part. It is a little bit lack of light, but it has a more intriguing ambiance of fuzzy picture formed by the harmonious combination of light and stalactites that stimulate your curiosity but also be a little bit creepy.
The adventure continues with a sudden discovery of the last massive. Here, there is a sacred fairy well that is said to be used by beautiful fairies descending from the heavenly kingdom.
There are some stories to explain the name of cave; but the most popular and well-recognized by locals is history story related to victory battle against Mongolian enemy under Tran dynasty in 13th century. It was told that the General Tran Hung Dao concealed ironwood stakes in this cave in preparation for battle in Bach Dang River. These ironwood stakes created a trap on the riverbed to destroy the invaders’ boats. In this way, the grotto was given name “Dau Go” (meaning: Wooden Stakes).
Dau Go Cave is proudly listed in the world famous tourism book Merveille de Monde published in France in 1938, which presents the most beautiful and worth visiting tourist attractions in the world, including Dau Go grotto under the name “Grotte des marveilles” (grotto of Wonders).