Symbol of Vietnam Tourism at Risk of Collapse

'Kissing rocks' of Ha Long Bay are eroding, due in part to nearby boats
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2023 10:50 AM CDT
Symbol of Vietnam Tourism at Risk of Collapse
The famous "kissing rocks" of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay.   (Getty Images / AvigatorPhotographer)

A key feature of Vietnam's famed Ha Long Bay could collapse if officials don't act to keep boats away. A recent report warns two favorite islets among the thousands of rainforest-topped limestone formations that dot the emerald bay are eroding, with tourists partly to blame, per the BBC. Hon Trong Mai, two islets resembling a rooster and hen facing each other, are better known as the fighting cocks (Ga Choi) or kissing rocks, as their "heads" appear to touch from certain angles. Though imposing at 45 feet 14 meters tall, the islets are marked by deep fissures, says Ho Tien Chung, head of the Tectonic and Geomorphology Department of the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources (VIGMR).

Low tide reveals they are "precarious," with a supporting foot that is "gradually being eroded, causing a risk of collapse if no measures are taken to protect and reinforce them soon," according to Chung. Unregulated tourism is taking a toll in Ha Long Bay, visited by 4.3 million international tourists in 2019. Though tourists aren't allowed to approach the rocks, "the movements of boats continue to buffet them," according to Asia News Network. During research for the report, one tourist boat was observed stopping within about 60 feet of the rocks, per the BBC.

This behavior combined with rising sea levels is speeding up erosion and leaving officials fearful that the landmark will suffer the same fate as Thien Nga, the swan-shaped islet whose "head" detached in 2016, per the BBC. The report recommends that Ha Long Bay's management board better regulate boat activity by limiting speeds and encouraging vessels to stay well clear of the twin rocks, considered a a symbol of Vietnam tourism, about 3 miles from Bai Chay Port. It also recommends VIGMR explore reinforcement measures. (Read more Vietnam stories.)

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