Disappointed in Halong Bay

Hanoi, Vietnam

It was unfortunate that the weather in Halong Bay when we were there plainly sucked. The fog was so thick we could barely see the limestone karsts that make Halong Bay so famous.

I mean, if we squinted really hard… we could sorta, almost, see them.

Many times I felt like reaching up and draw the low-hanging curtain of milky whiteness away.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Thankfully, my brother was just excited to be going on a cruise (it was his first time), and I was in one of those moods that allowed me to shrug the whole unfortunate weather situation off.

Our fellow passengers consisted of a Vietnamese couple who didn’t talk to anybody, a nice German couple, two Chinese friends who got into a fight and ended up not talking to each other before the 2 day trip was over, and a mom and son team from Malaysia.

Because of the shitty weather, we were all forced to stay inside the boat all the time. We got to know each other pretty well because of that.

Halong Bay

Not a long time ago, I’d have beaten myself up over the fact that we just spent $90 on an overnight stay on a junk boat in Halong Bay sans the Halong Bay. But if there’s one thing I had learned on our trip, it’s that things like weather don’t give a s**t about my carefully laid out plans and there’s not much I can do about it – so I could either whine about it, or I could whine about it for just a little bit then make the best of it.

And that’s what I did.

Besides, even with the less than perfect weather, I still got a glimpse of why, for many, Halong Bay is the highlight of their trip in Vietnam.

Is weather your best laid plan’s worst enemy?


Info box
Our Halong Bay “junk” was Alova Gold ($89) – it was a good boat with good food (always more than we can eat) and service. Can’t complaint.

25 Replies to “Disappointed in Halong Bay”

  1. Bummer about the weather, though your photos are very beautiful.

    We've had that happen with the weather a few times and all you can do is suck it up and make the best of it.

  2. Aww, bummer! What I found strange about my Halong Bay tour in June was that almost every boat was white! A couple years ago, they weren't painted white. I think the natural wood looks way better.

    Also, the tour was much more regimented than what I had heard. All the boats went to the same places at the same time, so everything was very crowded. I also went on a weekend, which might have been why it was so crowded.

    Did you make it to Ninh Binh? The scenery outside the city is beautiful.

  3. I feel your pain, although your photos do have a beautiful, mysterious quality to them. Visited the Pacific Coast this summer (had to bypass San Francisco this time) and got up close and personal with the June gloom that keeps the coast covered in fog for the better part of most days. It was still insanely beautiful, though…

  4. Finally we got our Halong Bay article up! We went there on May. I wish you could've been with us that day, the sky can't get any clearer. Our boat was a junk though. I don't mean the junk-boat, I mean a junkie boat. Well, that's what we get, I guess, by joining $17 trip 🙂
    Here are some photos from the day:
    http://www.vagabondquest.com/asia/vietnam/halong-

  5. Having been rained out at Machu Picchu (and then the sun returned, oh rain again, wait sun? rain a third time) we feel your pain.

    But, since we chose to go to Peru in the off- and rainy season, we knew what we were getting into.

  6. Yea, we don't plan much, that's how we ended up spending 2 weeks in Phonsavanh (Laos) and the locals start thinking we were working (for clearing mines) there. It was a place that people visit for 2 nights only.

    Haven't reached Halong Bay yet. After a month in Laos, Hanoi feels like the most comfortable place in the world! So we've just been enjoying our time here.

    Hopefully Halong Bay will be nice when we get there, since very likely we take the tour too, so we can't jsut be there longer and longer until the wather is nice. Like what we did in El Nido Philippines 🙂

  7. Yes, weather IS your worst enemy when it comes to plans – you can do everything right, but if the weather decides to change, then it can all come crashing down. Rain during a Fireworks Festival, or a monsoon-like downpour on my 18th birthday. In August. In England. Weather can bring everything down, but it depends on how you handle it (the fireworks turned out to be kind of fun, but 18-year old me was NOT happy haha!)

  8. Hi Jill – we had exactly the same experience in a Chinese Junk in Thailand's Phang Nga Bay… we'd planned this adventure for so long, and damned if it didn't spring a typhoon of epic proportions (or so it seemed to me, the boat captain & crew seemed unphased). Still, our hope to see James Bond Island and kayak around the area were down the drain. Still, it's one of my favorite stories to tell people as I remember what we did experience. My series James Bond Crush has a chapter on it (if you're willing to publish the link here!) http://www.newjetsetters.com/james-bond-crush-cha… so I totally understand your frustration! Still, as you say, our ability to deal with it and make lemonade out of the lemons Mother Nature hands us is what sets us apart from mere "vacationers". We still get out there and try to experience all that the area has to offer! Thanks for your great blogs and pictures, we really enjoy them!

    1. Great to hear you enjoy them. On the Halong Bay we had a family who just came to Vietnam to go to Halong Bay and they were flying out the very next day. They were so disappointed. I can imagine I'd feel that same way if I were in their place.

  9. awe, bummer Jill. Hopefully you will get there another time and see the spectacularness of it all. Did you at least get to go kayaking? At least you have some funny stories?? well, kind of. I've noticed too that when you are on a tour, a small one at that, it sure makes a difference how everyone gets along. BTW, how is it being home? took us over a year to get comfortable again. Hope it doesn't take you that long.

  10. I totally can relate to this because on my trip to Hong Kong last January the fog was insanely thick and covered almost everything! I went to see the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island but all I managed to see was a silhouette of it, and the silhouette itself was visible only when I started climbing the stairs to the Giant Buddha. However it did the entire place a somewhat eerie yet interesting ambiance.

  11. So frustrating. And people who had fights and didn't speak to one another….ugghh!

    Still, I think those eerie photos are pretty amazing! Totally different to everyone elses photos from there!

  12. The weather can be so frustrating sometimes!! I got rained out of whale watching in New Zealand a few years ago, and am still a bit bummed out about it. But sadly there's not much you can do about it!

    If it makes you feel any better, I think that first photo is gorgeous!

  13. That sucks. Weather often gets in our way too. First day of Venice was rainy and our summer trip to the alps was cold. Though we've had excellent luck too. Sun for two days in Milford and almost my entire stay in Ireland was sans rain.

    Just makes a good excuse to go back to Halong.

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