Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 2017 / by William Bryan

This is the third post in a five-part series from a trip to Southeast Asia in May, 2017 with Sach and Goose. Check out the first two from Hong Kong and Hanoi if you haven't already and hang tight, the next two stories are on their way!


So much rain.

Rain forming huge pools in the street. Rain streaming down the sides of our bus. Rain everywhere. As we drove to Hạ Long Bay we didn’t think anything of it, we were just happy to be inside the bus where it was dry. At least not until our guide turned around in the passenger seat and yelled “70%” over the sound of the rain pounding on the bus’ roof.

“What?” we yelled back.

“70% chance we don’t go!”

We all looked at each other like he must be joking. We paid for a two-day-one-night boat cruise amongst Vietnam’s famous towering islands and we’d be damned if a little monsoon kept us from that. But our guide wasn’t being even the slightest bit funny. He explained that if the rain didn’t clear up quickly after we got to the harbor they planned on taking us to Hạ Long City for some tourist attractions and driving us back to Hanoi that same night which, needless to say, wasn’t something that we were looking forward to. As we pulled into the harbor the rain wasn’t showing any signs of abating. We started to realize that the cruise wasn’t going to happen as we sat under an awning and waited for the monsoon to pass.

Our bus must’ve been a good luck charm for all of the hundreds of sorry souls waiting out the rain with us; after about 20 minutes of sitting in humid, cigarette-smoke-filled air the downpour began to slow. No more than five minutes later the rain had stopped and we were on the boat making friends with the other guests as we motored out of the harbor.

None of us could have guessed how sorry we would’ve been if the rain had actually stopped our cruise among the islands. Massive green monoliths rose out of the sea in every direction. Other cruise ships (there are hundreds on the water every night) disappeared through channels between the rocks only to reappear a few minutes later. At least that’s what seemed to be happening, the damn ships all looked the same.

With the boat as home-base we explored in and around the islands by foot and kayak over the next day and a half. We checked out the Surprising Cave (we thought it was a joke at first too, it’s not), got sweatier than we’ve ever been summiting an island, and fished for squid off the back of the boat before motoring back to Hạ Long Harbor for our bus-ride home.

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