How To (Almost) Ruin Your Halong Bay Experience

When we were planning our trip to Vietnam, we knew we had to make a pit stop in Halong Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site. Like our bus driver said, “If you come to Vietnam and don’t visit Halong Bay, then you didn’t visit Vietnam at all.” After reading so many great things, my travel partner, Ashley, and I were super excited to visit. But what was supposed to be a relaxing day trip turned into one of the most stressful events of our lives… 

It all started with our 4 hours long bus ride, which was by far one of the bumpiest rides of my life. Let’s just say that Vietnam needs to invest a bit more money into road repair. After our arduous journey, we were tired, grumpy, and just wanted to get to our hotel. Of course, our taxi driver scammed us, and we ended up paying triple what it should’ve cost. Even though it was nothing when converted to US dollars, it added to our growing list of nuisances. 

However, when we got to our hotel, I could feel my spirits rising. We had booked this amazing 5-star resort on its own private island for the same price of a really low-end hotel in the US ($80 USD / night).

Vinpearl Ha Long Bay Resort

Vinpearl Ha Long Bay Resort

I was really looking forward to soaking up the luxury for a day, but because it was already midday, we had to settle in quickly and head out again. We were hoping to kayak and see some of the famous cliffs, but as we were asking the hotel staff on where we could rent kayaks or see the cliffs, and they gave us blank stares, we knew we fucked up a bit…

Basically, in order to do what we wanted to do, we should’ve booked a boat tour. Otherwise, there’s not much else around, especially since our resort wasn’t in a convenient location. We should’ve have realized this because when we were researching things to do in Halong Bay, all that came up were boat tours. Yea, that should’ve been our first clue…

So finally, after asking around some more, the front desk calls us a taxi, who takes us to some random boat tour company. We were a bit skeptical, but it was too late to book anything else, so we ended up renting an entire junk boat for $100. So there we were, two American girls going on this boat with a crew that didn’t speak any English…

I'd like an entire junk boat for two, please.

I'd like an entire junk boat for two, please.

Once we were on the boat, we were expecting smooth sailing. Little did we know, our adventure was just beginning… Ashley and I were standing on the back deck, admiring the scenery and breathing in the sea air. We were just starting to forget about our hunger pains and ready to relax a bit. Then, Ashley noticed another boat drifting rather close to ours. But we dismissed it, assuming that it was going to swerve at the last second. Well it didn’t… As we realized it was going to crash, I held onto a pole, bracing for impact while Ashley flung herself into the cabin as tables were toppling over. 

I couldn’t believe what had just happened… The back of our boat actually collided into the side of another boat, taking out their windows and side paneling! Needless to say, we were pretty freaked. Were our boats going to sink? Was anyone hurt? Does boat insurance even exist here??

Thankfully, the boat was still floating and no one was hurt. There was no exchanging of insurance information, but there was a lot of yelling in Vietnamese. I’m not sure if anything was resolved, but after the yelling, our boat crew simply cleaned up the mess and we were on our way again like nothing ever happened.

Our boat made it out fairly unscathed, just a broken staircase.

Our boat made it out fairly unscathed, just a broken staircase.

As we were recovering from the incident, I couldn’t help but laugh deliriously about the situation (probably due to how hungry I was), while Ashley was still shaking. It was just one of those situations where everything that could go wrong did, and I just had to laugh it off.

After that whole fiasco, we actually managed to have a pretty great time sailing around the bay. It truly was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

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Dau Go Cave, Halong Bay

Dau Go Cave, Halong Bay

One of the more iconic landmarks, named the Kissing Rocks (or Fighting Chicken Rock, whichever you prefer)

One of the more iconic landmarks, named the Kissing Rocks (or Fighting Chicken Rock, whichever you prefer)

One of the best sunsets I've ever seen.

One of the best sunsets I've ever seen.

Minus the boat crash, I actually think everything worked out pretty well. We had our own private boat tour, which was just long enough to being enjoyable but not boring. There are tours where you can stay overnight on the boat, but I was very much ready to return to the hotel after our long day.

If you do ever make your way to Halong Bay, I highly recommend the Vinpearl Resort. The service, food, and quality of the room all exceeded my expectations. My only regret was that we were only here for one night!

Took a nice, long bath and splurged on room service...we deserved it.

Took a nice, long bath and splurged on room service...we deserved it.

Looking back on everything, we find it hilarious. There are hundreds of boats sailing through the bay each day, and of course, the one boat we’re on gets wrecked. But even with all the mishaps, I wouldn’t change anything. It’s travel memories like these that we’ll look back fondly on 50 years from now!

50 years from now: "Hey remember that one time we got into a boat crash in Halong Bay..."

50 years from now: "Hey remember that one time we got into a boat crash in Halong Bay..."

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