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VietNamNews

Island for adventurers

Update: May, 08/2016 - 09:00
Hidden gem: Mắt Rồng Island, with its white sandy beach, spreads across hundreds of metres. Photo: webtretho.com
Viet Nam News

There cannot be many places on Earth as unspoilt as Bái Đông Island.

It is also known as Mắt Rồng or Dragon Eye Island.

It has an amazing lake in the middle.

The water is salty, like the sea water.

The lake is believed to be joined to the sea through caves.

What a paradise for adventurers!

by Hoàng Linh

Hạ Long Bay is considered one of northern Vietnam’s most famous tourist attractions. One can leisurely cruise through the thousands of islands here, big and small, feast on the fantastic scenery or take a dip in the crystal clear cool water. Most of the islands in the bay are already well-known among local and foreign tourists.

However, those seeking adventure always manage to find new spots in the bay and have recently discovered an island called Bái Đông (also known as Mắt Rồng or Dragon Eye Island), which is located on the southern edge of Hạ Long Bay. The island, untouched by humans, is far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Although we were just a group of inexperienced backpackers, we were, however, as curious and excited on hearing about a new place. Having had a great time on the Bãi Cháy beach, without any hesitation, we picked up our bags and set off to explore Mắt Rồng Island.

Mắt Rồng is a small island, shaped like an octopus with a big head and long tentacles that twist and turn. There is a lake, round like an eyeball, in the middle of the island that resembles an octopus head. The island is named Mắt Rồng because of its location in Hạ Long Bay (which means Descending Dragon in Vietnamese).

From Cẩm Phả, we headed to the Vũng Đực harbor, asking locals who had travelled to every corner of Hạ Long Bay, such as Bái Tử Long and Lan Hạ Bay, about Mắt Rồng, but no one had heard of this island.

I then recalled the description of Mắt Rồng on the Internet and burst into laughter; although they had never heard the name, the place I was referring to was just 20km from the harbor and about an hour on a wooden boat.

After a 30 minute high-speed boat ride, we finally arrived at the crescent-shaped area. Except for a 30m sandy shore during low tide, we were surrounded by rocky mountains. This paradise island with its 300-400m natural white sand beach impressed and excited us with its pristine magnificent beauty.

Since there was no fresh water, tourist services nor even cellphone signal on the island, we decided to spend the day bathing and enjoying the island, and later return to the mainland instead of camping overnight on Mắt Rồng. We pitched a small tent on the beach to rest.

“Why don’t we hang our three hammocks?” my brother Nguyễn Tuấn Sơn suggested.

After we had settled, we set off to explore the island through the bushy mountain pass, behind which was a whole new world. In the middle of the island, as we had expected, was a round lake that looked like a giant well, about 100m in diameter and surrounded by rocky hills. Surrounding the water was the foliage hanging from the rocky cliffs. The landscape was absolutely stunning, not to mention the mystical blue shade of the water. This was salt water despite its paler shade, probably because the lake is connected to the sea through a deep cave system. Around the edge of the lake, I noticed peculiar varieties of kelp and seaweed that I hadn’t seen in the sea or in any fresh water marsh.

“If only we had some kayaks to sail, that would have been fantastic!” I thought to myself.

Millions of years ago, this island was probably a lush limestone mountain. Time, rain, wind and the waves had eroded it completely, and now, there was no soil left on the island. The limestone inside the rocks had also worn away, leaving behind the core that consisted of slates of black rocks with sharp edges stacked on top of each other.

The trees were hard as steel with their strong roots going deep through the cracks of the rocks. Along the foothills was a small sandy shore, only visible when the tide was low.

We lay on our hammocks hung between the huge tree trunks, instead of resting inside the tent. The sun was shining bright and the breeze from the water cooled us. The water was unusually still. It was an amazing experience to lie down under the lustrous forest cover and enjoy the beautiful orchestra of the birds of different species here. Crows and hawks hovered above our heads.

We enjoyed the food we had prepared on the mainland -- boiled chicken, sticky rice, cucumber, fresh herbs and 3 cans of beer. It had been a long time since I last felt so disconnected from the hustle and bustle of urban life and ate such a basic meal. This was a feeling only an adventurous backpacker would experience and understand.

“As long as the pristine beauty of the island is kept intact, I wish there were more recreational services for tourists visiting the island, such as food catering and kayak rental,” my companion Nguyễn Hoàng Thắng said.

“You’re crazy. You would get bored in a wild place like this. Now you wish there were services for the sake of your convenience,” I teased him.

After finishing our meal, we took just one more dip because the water was getting cold and the boat was waiting to take us back to the mainland.

I will definitely return soon to Mắt Rồng once there are more services here; one can then even camp overnight. I was not brave enough yet to spend a night on a wild island like this. Who knows what mystery it may hold? — VNS

 

GLOSSARY

One can leisurely cruise through the thousands of islands here, big and small, feast on the fantastic scenery or take a dip in the crystal clear cool water.

A leisurely cruise is a relaxed and unhurried journey.

To feast on something usually means to eat a large and tasty meal. In this case it is used to mean “take in lovely scenery and lots of it”.

Crystal clear is a way of saying “very clear”.

The island, untouched by humans, is far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

If the island is untouched by humans, no people have ever developed it in any way.

Hustle and bustle” means “busy and noisy activity”.

Although we were just a group of inexperienced backpackers, we were, however, as curious and excited on hearing about a new place.

To be curious means to be keen to find out about something.

Having had a great time on the Bãi Cháy beach, without any hesitation, we picked up our bags and set off to explore Mắt Rồng Island.

Hesitation means waiting.

Mắt Rồng is a small island, shaped like an octopus with a big head and long tentacles that twist and turn.

An octopus’s tentacles are its body parts that are rather like legs.

There is a lake, round like an eyeball, in the middle of the island that resembles an octopus head.

If the lake resembles an octopus’s head, it looks like an octopus’s head.

The island is named Mắt Rồng because of its location in Hạ Long Bay (which means Descending Dragon in Vietnamese).

Descending means dropping or going downwards.

After a 30 minute high-speed boat ride, we finally arrived at the crescent-shaped area.

If something is crescent-shaped it is curved but thicker in the middle than at each edge.

This paradise island with its 300-400m natural white sand beach impressed and excited us with its pristine magnificent beauty.

Pristine means unspoilt and in its original condition.

In the middle of the island, as we had expected, was a round lake that looked like a giant well, about 100m in diameter and surrounded by rocky hills.

A diameter is the distance across a circle, through the centre.

If the lake is surrounded by rocky hills, there are rocky hills around it.

Surrounding the water was the foliage hanging from the rocky cliffs.

Foliage means large amounts of leaves.

The landscape was absolutely stunning, not to mention the mystical blue shade of the water.

Mystical means fascinating.

Around the edge of the lake, I noticed peculiar varieties of kelp and seaweed that I hadn’t seen in the sea or in any fresh water marsh.

Peculiar varieties of kelp and seaweed are unusual types of kelp and seaweed.

A marsh is a swamp or a wetland.

Time, rain, wind and the waves had eroded it completely, and now, there was no soil left on the island.

If the island has been eroded by rain, wind and waves, these forces have slowly eaten away at it, making it smaller and changing its shape.

The limestone inside the rocks had also worn away, leaving behind the core that consisted of slates of black rocks with sharp edges stacked on top of each other.

The core of the rock is the tough central part of the rock.

Along the foothills was a small sandy shore, only visible when the tide was low.

The foothills are the smaller hills below a bigger hill or mountain.

Visible means “can be seen”.

It was an amazing experience to lie down under the lustrous forest cover and enjoy the beautiful orchestra of the birds of different species here.

Lustrous means shining.

An orchestra is a group of things that make a tune together.

Different species of birds are different types of birds.

 Crows and hawks hovered above our heads.

To hover means to remain in one place up in the air.

We enjoyed the food we had prepared on the mainland -- boiled chicken, sticky rice, cucumber, fresh herbs and 3 cans of beer.

The mainland is the body of land attached to a continent rather than an island.

It had been a long time since I last felt so disconnected from the hustle and bustle of urban life and ate such a basic meal.

To be disconnected from the hustle and bustle of urban life means to feel completely removed and distant from city life.

“As long as the pristine beauty of the island is kept intact, I wish there were more recreational services for tourists visiting the island, such as food catering and kayak rental,” my companion Nguyễn Hoàng Thắng said.

Intact means complete and undamaged.

“Now you wish there were services for the sake of your convenience,” I teased him.

When things happen for your convenience, they happen without causing you any difficulty and fitting in with your plans.

To tease someone means to make fun of them.

Who knows what mystery it may hold?

Mystery means “the unknown”.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. Mắt Rồng is a large island.
  2. There are plants with lots of leaves on the rocks above the lake.
  3. Bái Đông Island and Mắt Rồng Island are the same place.
  4. The name “Mắt Rồng” has absolutely nothing to do with “Hạ Long”.
  5. It is impossible to make a cell phone call from Mắt Rồng Island to Ha Noi or anywhere else.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. False; 2. True; 3. True; 4. False; 5. True.

 

 

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