SOME GULFS AND BAYS 7

Sung Sot Cave was discovered quite early (in the late 19th century). Not until 1946 was its name announced in the mass media after people made a number of expeditions to it. In 1999, the Ha Long Bay Management Board invested in upgrading Sifng Sot Cave. Roads were built and electric lamps were installed so that visitors could see and feel the beauty of stalagmites inside the cave.
A steep road with transplanted stone steps is snaking under the forest canopy to Sifng Sot Cave, divided into two main compartments. One of them is like “a vast great theater”, the ceiling of which is like a realm of fantastic stalactites and natural stone statues of elephants, seals, raspberries and flowers. The compartments are linked by a narrow passage. In the other compartment is a different scene. It is so large that it could house thousands of people.
Thien Cung Cave is about eight kilometers from Ha Long city. It is situated at the medium altitude of Canh Doc Island at a height of 25 meters above sea level. It is over 130 meters in length, has a quadrangular shape with stalagmites resembling a beautiful temple. On high vertical abrupt cliffs are mosaic stones. In the center of the cave stand four huge natural stone pillars with charming decorations in the shapes of birds, fish, flowers and scenes from human life. There are stalactites in the shapes of the gods Nam Tao and Bac Dau and singing and dancing nymphs. On the ceiling is the scene of a party of humans, birds, animals and flowers. The entrance of the cave is hidden inside a hill, but it becomes larger and larger going inwards.
Dau Go Cave (Cave of Wooden Stakes) is a cave with splendid stalactites. Its name came into being when General Tran Hung Dao of the Tran dynasty commanded the army to gather and hide in it wooden stakes which later were driven into the bed of the Bach Dang River to form a ground of stakes. Impaled hard on the wooden stakes, the Yuan- Mongol ships were easily burned and destroyed in spring 1288. Archaeologists also found lots of residual pieces of logs in the cave.
The entrance of Dau Go Cave is a hole in the middle of a cliff. The inside of the cave is divided into three main compartments. The outer compartment is domed and full of light. Its ceiling is like a giant picture with lively scenes of wild elephants, staring deer and lions sitting in dynamic postures. Below the ceiling is a whole forest of multi¬colored and multi-shaped stalagmites. A huge stone pillar of a perimeter of over ten meters stands in the middle of the cave. From the pedestal to the capital of the column are images of clouds, phoenixes, dragons, dancers, flowers and vines. The first compartment is connected with the second compartment through a narrow gate. Rock paintings in the second compartment are more sparkling. In the cave’s dim light clusters of rock flowers seem to appear or vanish in a flash. At the end of the cave lies a well of fresh water and rock images seemingly depicting a fierce battle.
Bo Nau Cave is one of dozens of fascinating caves in Ha Long Bay. In it soft stalactites hang down like a willow’s long thin branches. Hanh Cave is a beautiful cave and is the longest cave in Ha Long Bay with a length of 1,300 meters. It runs to the sea through the Quang Hanh mountain range. Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Girl Cave) is shaped like a rock girl with loose long hair. She looks toward the sea to a fellow who stands facing her on the opposite side (Fellow Cave). The Tien Long Grotto (Dragon Fairy Grotto), Ba Hang Grotto (Three Tunnels Grotto), Luon Grotto (Crawling Through Grotto), Tien Ong Cave (Male Fairy Cave), Tam Cung Cave (Three Palaces Cave), Castle Cave, Ba Ham Cave (Three Holes Cave), etc are all endowed with fine natural scenes.
Closed tropical rain forests on the islands of Ha Long Bay make up an ecosystem that is evergreen and humid. It features a richness of plant species (over 1000 species in total). Ihe plant populations are various. They include mangrove species; plant species on sandy island coastlines; plant species on mountain slopes and cliffs; plant species growing on mountain tops, at cave entrances and slots. Researchers of the World Nature Conservation Society have discovered seven endemic plant species of Ha Long Bay. These seven endemic species live only on limestone islands here but not elsewhere in the world. They are Ha Long cycas revoluta, “kho cu dai tim”, Ha Long palm, “kho cu dai nhung” plant, “Mong Tai Ha Long” plant, Ha Long cortex acanthopanacis radicis and the “hai ve nu hoa vang” plant.
But other documents say that Ha Long has as many as 14 endemic plant types, of which are those discovered and named by the French in honor of the Ha Long locality, for example Ha Long jasmine, Ha Long fig tree, “phat du nui”, Ha Long “song be” tree, Ha Long orchids etc. In fact, no comprehensive research on the plants on all the islands and adjacent areas of Ha Long Bay has been carried out. Therefore, the list of endemic plant species in Ha Long Bay may be expanded. Scientists recently discovered on some islands of Ha Long Bay the species “Phyllostachys bamboo growing inversely”. While other Phyllostachys bamboo types point their tops toward the sky, “Phyllostachys bamboo growing inversely” points the top down to the ground.

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