The principal soil on the islands is yellowish feralite soil. From the altitude of over 100 meters the soil is covered by forests; humidity is high; the upper soil layer is about 50 centimeters and is rich in humus nutrients. On the Tra Ngo Nho, Sau Nam and Ba Mun Islands and on part of the mountains of the Tra Ngo Lon Island, the soil is rather fertile and is favorable for natural and artificial flora rehabilitation.
The islands of Bai Tu Long Bay are limestone and schist islands. They are the remnants left by a tectonic movement some 300 million years ago. During this tectonic movement, the continent was raised and lowered many times, thereby forming the sea areas. The process of erosion and weathering of karst created a unique land terrain similar to a fabulous picture of sea and islands. On the rock islands of the bay there are also karst caves and grottos, especially Quan Cave (Navy Cave) where in former times boats and ships took shelter from storms.
The landscape of the islands in Bai Tu Long Bay is valuable in geological and topographical aspects. The landscape has created a special attractiveness for the islands themselves. The virgin beauty of nature is still preserved on mixed limestone and earthen islands. Human fantasy is easily aroused by a variety of magical shapes of limestone islands. One island may resemble a swimming swan but another is like a huge stone horse. Evergreen luxuriant vegetation covers rocky mountains. Blue channels run between them. At the edge of the Tram forest in the Minh Chau Island district there is a natural ground of white sand that is the most beautiful tourist destination in the northeast region of North Viet Nam. Deep wrinkles on rocks in the foothills of islands visible when the tide is low are traces of marine transgressions and recessions in ancient times.
Like in Ha Long Bay, hundreds of islands (rocks) in Bai Tu Long Bay have names originating from legends, stories or imaginary animals. For example, Mau Tu Island (Mother and Child Island) tells the story about a young mother who for her innocent love was exiled by her king father down into the water realm without her child. But day after day she raised her chest above the sea so that the child could suck, lire huge Heaven Book (Thien Thu) Island is entirely composed of flat rock slabs that are slightly slanting, similar to book pages opened before a wise man. Further on is Thach Ma Island (Stone Horse Island), surrounded by islets in the shape of a bow, sword, shield, knife, stick and spear. This island was the place where a general from heaven decided to throw away all his weapons, said farewell to war and remained on earth to make a happy and peaceful life for people. Here there is Ban Co Tien (Fairy Chess Board) Island in the shape of a flat chessboard set right at the water margin. There are also many more shapes of rocks that altogether make a genuine exhibition of rocks on the sea.
The famous historical site of Van Don is associated with Bai Tu Long Bay. In the Ly dynasty, 900 years ago, Van Don was a bustling seaport. Traders regularly arrived here from China and Thailand. Numerous boats and ships brought a great variety of goods to this port. Ships also came from India, Japan and the Near East.
In 1149 King Ly Anh Tong (1136 – 1175) established Van Don as a site for trading with foreign states. Van Don gradually developed into a port and it was most prosperous in the Tran dynasty (13th century). It was also the first seaport of Viet Nam, trading with countries of East Asia and the world like China, Thailand, India, Japan and Indonesia. Van Don still preserves traces of the military exploits of the Tran dynasty in resistance against foreign invaders. The old Van Don port now has been classified as a vestige at the national level.
In the island communes of Van Don district are found lots of artifacts. The spot with the most artifacts is that located in Cai Lang of Quan Lan commune. Formerly along the Bach Dang and Cua Luc Rivers there were ancient wharfs. Spices, terracotta, pottery objects and agricultural products were transited through these wharfs. Such wharfs were also on Cong Dong and Quan Lan Islands. On Cong Dong Island (Thang Loi commune now) archeologists have discovered remnants of large Buddhist buildings of the Tran dynasty such as pagodas, towers, stone steles, railings and column pedestals, bearing witness to the prosperous development of trade in the Tran dynasty.
In ancient times Van Don commercial port was not a port with sequential piers as it is now. But it had many wharves located in a stretch of tens of kilometers from south to north. Coming from the ocean, the first wharf faced is Cai Lang wharf at the foot of Man Mountain of Quan Lan Island. On the opposite side of Cai Lang wharf is Cong Cai wharf at the foot of Van Mountain. The Con Quy wharf is located on Ngoc Vung Island. Between Cong Dong and Cong Tay Islands are wharves, too. The division of Van Don commercial port into many wharves was to reduce the concentration of too many boats and ships in only one wharf. It also aimed at fixing places of permanent anchorage for Vietnamese and foreign ships so that they would not be mixed. The commodities exchanged in Van Don port by that time were natural products such as rhinoceros horns, ivory, sulfur, pearl, gold, silver and copper. These commodities often scored a large proportion of the total exports of Dai Viet state. Next to the natural products were porcelain objects. High tech celadon porcelain products of the Ly dynasty were not inferior to the Long Tuyen green porcelain of China. Embossed decorations made the porcelain objects of the Ly dynasty elegant. In the opinion of a Japanese historian and a researcher on Van Don, the porcelain of the Ly dynasty was favored in many countries and was even sold in East India.
The technique of porcelain production developed one more stage in the Tran dynasty (13th century). Designs became more robust and the porcelain was covered with brown glaze, so they looked noble though simple. Traders of lots of countries preferred them and Yuan kings also wished that among tributes to the “Yuan Heavenly Dynasty” there must be porcelain bowls of the Tran dynasty. Silk and brocade fabrics are the third kind of commodities. The woven items of Dai Viet state were produced by subtle techniques. Woven items “were bright, multicolored and diversified so they became popular among foreign traders though they comprised only a small proportion of the total exports.

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