According to archaeologists and researchers of culture, humans lived in Ha Long Bay right from early prehistoric times. They established sequential ancient local cultures, for example the Soi Nhu Culture (around 18000-7000 BC), Cai Beo Culture (7000-5000 BC) and Ha Long Culture (3500- 5000 years ago).
Some sites of Ha Long such as Bai Tho Mountain (Poetry Mountain), Dau Go Cave (Cave of Gathered Wood Stakes), Bai Chay ground (burning ground), etc are closely associated with national construction and the defense of the Vietnamese people. These special sites of Ha Long also prove the rich culture and the significant role of Ha Long as a sea outpost. Ha Long Bay now is a dynamic, developed region thanks to its favorable natural conditions and advantages.
Ha Long Bay has great potential for tourism and scientific research. Fishing, farming and waterways can be developed in Ha Long Bay. This great potential of Ha Long Bay is important for the northeast region of North Viet Nam in particular and the whole North Viet Nam in general.
In 1962 the Ministry of Culture of Viet Nam ranked Ha Long Bay as a vestige at the national level and planned an area to be protected within it. In 1994 UNESCO recognized the core area of Ha Long Bay as a world natural heritage with the aesthetic values of Criterion vii. In 2000 UNESCO recognized Ha Long Bay for the second time (by Criterion viii) as a global natural heritage, extraordinarily valuable in geological and geomorphological aspects. In July 2003 the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World officially recognized and ranked Ha Long Bay as one of the 29 most beautiful bays in the world (along with Nha Trang Bay). Ha Long Bay now is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Two types of island are present in Ha Long Bay: limestone islands and schist islands. Islands are mainly concentrated in the southwest part of Ha Long Bay and in the southeast part of Bai Tu Long Bay. According to the Ha Long Bay Management Board, among nearly 2,000 islands in Ha Long Bay there are 1,921 rock islands at the height of about 200 meters. These islands are most typical of the ancient terrain that was formed 250-280 million years ago when the mainland was lowered into a sea basin. Thousands of rock islands were formed when the karst terrain was fully eroded and weathered.
In the central area of the Ha Long Bay Natural Heritage are focused many rock islands with spectacular scenery and nice caves. This central area includes the major part of Ha Long Bay (the core area), parts of Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay of the Cat Ba archipelago (the buffer area).
Islands are crowded in Ha Long Bay, the typical of which are Hon Con Coc Island (Toad Island), Tuan Chau Island (Island of the Governors Soldiers), Ngoc Vung Island (Sesame Gem Island), Ti Top Island (Island of the Russian Astronaut Titov), Kien Vang Island (Golden Ant Island), and Dao Khi Island (Monkey Island).
Hon Con Coc Island (Toad Island) is located about 12 kilometers southeast of Bai Chay tourist wharf in Ha Long Bay. It looks like a squatting toad, nine meters in height. Trong Mai Island (Rooster and Hen Island) is located near Dinh Huong Island (Incense Burner Island) in the southwest part of Ha Long Bay, about five kilometers from Bai Chay tourist wharf. It is composed of two islets of ten meters in height.
Ngoc Vung Island (Sesame Gem Island) is nearly 34 kilometers from the tourist wharf. It belongs to Van Don district, Quang Ninh province and is one of the few earthen islands of Ha Long Bay. It is surrounded by many beautiful beaches. Van Xuan Mountain on it is 182 meters in height. Archaeological sites of Ha Long culture, 45,000 m2 in total, are also located on Ngoc Vung Island. The area of Ngoc Vung is 12 km2 and it has long been inhabited. The Cong Yen ancient wharf of Ngoc Viing was one of the wharves of Van Don port in the 11th century. There are ruins of fortresses of the Mac and Nguyen dynasties. To the east of the island is a white sandy beach of several kilometers in length. Legends have it that on this beach there were formerly many pearls at night projecting a large halo into the air. In Ha Long Bay there are several islands named after the word “ngoc (pearl)”—for instance, Minh Chau Island (Shining Pearl Island).
In French colonial times, Ti Top Island in Ha Long Bay was called Cat Nang Island. It is situated about 14 kilometers east of Bai Chay. It was named after the Russian Astronaut Titov when he and President Ho Chi Minh visited Ha Long Bay in 1962. Ti Top Island has steep banks and a semicircular flat ground of white sand.
By the early 20lh century French geological explorers confirmed that most of the caves of Ha Long Bay were formed in the Pleistocene era–2,000,000 to 11,000 years ago.
Sung Sot Cave is located on Bo Hon Island in the center of Ha Long Bay. The French named it “Grotte des Surprises” (Cave of Wonders). This is a large cave and one of the most beautiful caves of Ha Long Bay. It is part of a complex of caves and beaches (including Ti Top Beach, Bo Nau Cave, Maze Cave, Luon Cave and Sung Sot Cave). Sung Sot Cave is a tubular cave situated at 25 meters above sea level. The area is about 10,000 m2, the length is over 200 meters and the maximum width is 80 meters. The greatest distance from the cave ground to the ceiling is approximately 20 meters.

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