SOME GULFS AND BAYS 5

There are two seasons in the year: hot and humid summer with temperatures around 27 – 29oC; and cold and dry winter with temperatures 16-18oC. The average annual temperature ranges between 15 and 25°C. The rainfall of Ha Long Bay ranges from 2,000 millimeters to 2,200 millimeters. The usual high tide in Ha Long Bay is about 3.5 – 4 meters per day. The levels of seawater in the bay are quite shallow. In some places the sea depth is just from six to ten meters. The islands cannot retain water on the surface.
At the present people live on about 40 of the nearly 2,000 islands of Ha Long Bay. These islands have areas from tens to thousands of hectares and they are mainly located in the east and southeast of Ha Long Bay. In recent decades, many floating fishing villages have started to settle on the virgin islands and turned them into fertile islands, for example Sa To Island (Ha Long City) and Thang Loi Island (Van Don Island district).
The heritage area (core area) of Ha Long Bay, which was officially recognized by the world community, has an area of 434 km2. It is similar to a triangle with the three vertices of Dau Go Island in the west, Ba Ham Lake in the south, and Cong Tay Island in the east. The heritage area includes 775 islands with a great number of caves and beaches. The adjacent area (buffer area) is a national heritage recognised by the Ministry of Culture and Information of Viet Nam.
The terrain of Ha Long is composed of mountains with abrupt cliffs and islands alternating between ocean basins. The soil is saline and has mangrove forests. Rocks, water and the sky are the lively elements making up the beauty of Ha Long. Islands in Ha Long Bay have their own shapes absolutely different from that of other coastal areas of Viet Nam. But they are also not similar to each other. There are places where islands are so much clustered that they seem to be piled up if looked at from a far distance. But there are also places where many islands stand in horizontal or vertical rows like ramparts. These island rows are as long as tens of kilometers and cross each other. It seems that all islands make a mythical realm of rocks. One island is like a human face turning towards the mainland (Man Head Island), while another resembles a dragon flying above water (Dragon Island). La Vong Island looks like an old fisherman and at a distance from him is Sails Island with two parts like two sails. Mam Xoi Island is a small island similar to a tray of steamed glutinous rice. Rooster and Hen Island reminds one of a cock and a hen lovingly playing on the waves. Lu Huong Island (Incense Burner Island) stands on a vast sea like a giant incense burner. Ong Su Island (Monk Island) is like a monk standing in the middle of the immense bay, who clasps hands to worship the Buddha. Chopstick Island is a round island of 40 meters in height and looks like a great chopstick. But viewed from another direction, it is like a royal mandarin with a blue costume and a “dragonfly” hat, so fishermen called this island Royal Mandarin Island, and so forth.
Ha Long Bay is a place of focused biodiversity because its climate, geology and geomorphology are special. The prominent components of biodiversity in Ha Long Bay are the ecosystem of evergreen rainy humid tropical forests and the ecosystem of sea and coastline. Among thousands of animal and plant species densely living in Ha Long Bay there are 14 endemic plant species and 60 endemic animal species.
Ha Long Bay was formed long ago as the result of tectonic movements. However, since ancient times the Vietnamese people have associated Ha Long Bay with the national origin of the Dragon and the Nymph. One Vietnamese legend states that hardly had the Vietnamese people formed their country when the enemy invaded it. Heaven sent down the Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons to help the Vietnamese in battle. When enemy boats were rushing to the seashore, the flock of dragons landed on earth. They at once spat out pearls which turned themselves into thousands of islands in the sea, making a solid stone rampart blocking the advance of enemy boats. The enemy’s rushing boats suddenly crashed into the islands and shattered.
The Mother Dragon and Child Dragons saw that life in Ha Long Bay was peaceful and the vegetation was lush. The people were hard working, generous and united, so they did not return to Heaven but stayed right on the land of the recent battle. The place where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long Bay. The place where Child Dragons descended was Bai Tu Long Bay. The place where dragon tails are now is Bach Long Vi Island (Tra Co peninsula today, with a sandy beach over 15 kilometers long).

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