Perhaps the most spectacular cave at Halong Bay is on the island closest to Bai Chay, the vast Grotto of the Wooden Stakes ( Hang Dau Go ).Perhaps the most spectacular cave at Halong Bay is on the island closest to Bai Chay, the vast Grotto of the Wooden Stakes ( Hang Dau Go ). There are three chambers filled with a motley assortment of stalactities and stalagmites resembling beasts, birds and human forms. It was here that General Tran Hung Dao stored hundreds of wooden stakes that would be used to destroy the ships of Kublai Khan’s invading Mongol hordes in 1288. It was christened the Grotte des Merveilles by the first French tourists to visit in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, modern day tourists have left their mark in the form of graffiti and piles of litter.
Also worth seeing on the same island is the Grotto of the Heavenly Palace ( Hang Thien Cung ) was named after a young girl whose parents were poor and could not afford a boat. They had to rent one from a rich man, but when they could not pay what they owed him, the rich man demanded their beautiful daugter in lieu of their debt, and so forced her to marry him. The poor girl refused all his advances. He had her beaten but still she would not submit to him, he finally exiled her to a grotto, where she starved to death and was subsequently immortalised in stone by a rock that resembled her figure, which magically emerged from her burial site.
Also worth visiting is Tunnel cave ( Hang Hanh ), which extends under ground for 2km and features some amazing stalactites. However, to get there, the trip must be timed so that you arrive at half tide. Surprise Cave ( Hang Sung Sot ) is also very popular, with three large chambers filled with strange rock formations, uncluding one that resembles a giant phallus.
Tere are several other caves that are open to the public. Boats usually visit a number of caves en route, admission to which is included in the flat entrance fee included in the price of your boat tour. The caves you will get to see on your tour will be determined by the weater, tide levels and the number of boats out at sea on that day.
Some boats also stop off at Tuan Chau island ( Dao Tuan Chau ), 5km west of Bai Chay. The island once served as an exclusive retreat for the colonial. today, its decaying villas have been replaced with resorts catering to walthy Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh used to spend his summers here and his house, of course, as been preserved as a memorial.