Halong Bay Accident NOT an isolated incident
Replies: 10 - Last Post: May 9, 2011 8:43 AM Last Post By: xxxriainxxx
Feb 18, 2011 6:10 AM
Halong Bay Accident NOT an isolated incidentHello,
I'm writing to inform everyone that the recent tragedy in Halong Bay is not an isolated incident. My girlfriend and I took a 2 night, 3 day cruise of Halong Bay on Feb. 5, 2011 with a company called Sapphire Sails. We had no problems with the big boat that we slept on, but during the day we and one other passenger were taken on a smaller boat for a day trip. While the three of us relaxed on the top deck, three Vietnamese employees (one driver, one guide, and another guy) piloted the ship on the main deck. On calm, empty water with clear visibility they somehow managed to crash the boat into a rock island the size of a house. The force of the impact broke off a chunk of rock about the size of a truck which fell into the water next to our boat. Luckily no one was hurt and while the boat was badly damaged, it didn't take on water or sink.
The day before this happened we and dozens of other people were kayaking as part of the tour. Again in calm water and clear visibility, one of the big sleeper boats managed to run over a bright orange kayak and capsize it; luckily the people in the kayak survived unharmed.
The many boats plying the waters of Halong Bay show just how much demand fort his sort of tour is booming. At the same time, regulations and safety standards are nonexistent. This is a dangerous combination. If you must go on a tour of Halong Bay, be very, very careful when choosing your operator and keep a watchful eye at all times.
Edited by: abarek
Feb 18, 2011 9:42 AM
1From all that I've read the tragedy on Halong Bay was first of its kind. I just returned back from a trip to Hanoi, Halong Bay, and SAPA region. I agree with Adrian that a traveler should take precautions but I would recommend a Halong bay tour.
Vietnam is a 3rd world country so don't expect any sort of standard saftey precautions one would find in Westernized countries.
Life jacket drill- Nope, Life jacket where can I find one- Nope, Safety drill- Nope, Any drill/talk- Nope. I too agree with A. that one should book as top of the $$ as one can afford. I believe for these junks the higher the cost, the better quality and safety you will have. As well, spring for an outside cabin so if you need to exit, you have much easier accessibility to do so.
Another warning on this trip: If you have any issues or disabilities with walking, I would skip the trip. 2 of the 3 primary things you are likely to do (aside from cruising the Bay) require walking heights and utilizing narrow stone steps, often with no rails.
My wife and I are in our early 40's and we had no clue what we were in store for. It was all good as we are healthy and agile, but I kept thinking thank god my folks were not with us as they would have had some real difficulties.
Take the trip, Vietnam is great, Halong bay is worth the time.
The most dangerous will be the trip to and from Hanoi, buckle up and pray!!
Feb 18, 2011 12:58 PM
2indeed it is not an isolated incident ... there have been a number of fatalaties over the years .... as there are on the slow boat and the fast boat on the Mekong ... and on the roads in every country ...but they certainly don't happen daily .
Ken is right in saying that there are not the safety standars and practices that we have become used to ( or burdened with ) in the West .... but accidents happen here too.
to miss Halong Bay would be a shame ...
Feb 18, 2011 1:14 PM
3We just came back from Vietnam. The trip was 16 days, including an over night on Ha Long Bay, Yes, there was no safety drill or mention of life vests. The boats did not look in the best of condition. The Bay was full of large and small boats and the rules of navigation were determined by the Captain's daring.
I am an ex large boat owner and I was appalled by everything I saw expect the beauty of the area. In third world countries, proper repairs and preventive work is not typically high on the list.
Feb 18, 2011 4:52 PM
4I can share with you a quite similar story that happened to us last year in Halong Bay.
We took a 2 day tour on a junk with few other guys. The first day went great, but after we went to bed we smelt smoke. I run of our cabin and saw the back of the boat was set on fire. I was looking for some fire extinguisher and tried to rake out the fire. While the crew dropped off the gas bottles from the boat the rest of the guests were shouthing for help. Fortunately another boat nearby noticed the fire and sent a life saving boat as ours did not have any nor life saving vests. We got onboard the other junk but our boat could not be saved - very quickly burned down totally. Later we heard the entire crew was sleeping and our travelmates spotted out the fire. Everyone survived (incuding the crew) but it gave us some hard times. The cherry on the top was the next day when we chased the whole day the harbour authorities for a single stamp for our accident reports. After some bribery we managed to get it.
This was a mid-range offer from a tour agency in Hanoi which was recommended in the top5 of Tripadvisor. All-in-all I would say Vietnam is a beautiful country which must be seen but be very careful when you chose your boat for the Halong bay trip.
Feb 19, 2011 12:21 AM
5what does one expect in these countries, safety???? hahaha, life is cheap there, and competition high, i was in halong bay on a boat a few years ago and the boat crahed into another, well nothing obviously happened.... but for sure this is not good for a wooden boat either,
at night me and my daughter put up the matress on deck , because we would have never slept down in this cramped hot and sticky condition, my first thought was, what if something happens... you are trapped.
the same applies for many ferry - boat trips in these countries, we always stay on deck, no matter what , and we try to avoid these closed hydrofoils, where sometimes the captains think its funny to race through high winds and waves and waves to scare the passengers without a thought about possible consequences...
Feb 19, 2011 4:25 AM
6@3 I am an ex large boat owner and I was appalled by everything I saw expect the beauty of the area. In third world countries, proper repairs and preventive work is not typically high on the list.
that is scary! I assume that there is a fairly good chance of this tragedy reoccurring?
Phi Phi for me!
Feb 19, 2011 10:31 PM
7I'm not surprised by this accident. I took an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay January 20th on a small junk. There were eight of us. ( It was also exceedingly cold.) As others have noted, there was no drill regarding what to do in the case of a possible accident, e.g. the boat sinking or someone falling overboard. Although I was told that there was a life jacket in the room and I spotted it and a few life preservers on deck, I have little idea of what should have been done in case of an emergency.
On the tour we stopped at a floating village that captured and sold fish, crabs and shrimp to the passing boats and also explored a set of caves on one of the rock outcrops. As one of the other writers noted, there were few safety features such as railings and level stairs. Landing on the floating village and walking among the holding tanks meant negotiating on narrow and uneven planks. The steep stairs up to the caves had handrails in a few places but not in the caves and the floors were uneven. By the way, I'm 72 years of age and my traveling companions ranged from 65 to 72.
In spite of the cold, there were a fair number of tour boats in the bay as well as a dozen or so kayaks. I shudder to think of how easy it is for these folks to get lost among the rocks or pitch into the cold water. I was told by our guide that there have been cases of individuals in kayaks being lost for days. Ironically, no mention was made of boats sinking.
The crews apparently also work very long stretches. Our boat captain said that he and the men had two days off a month. He complained that it made it hard for him to find a wife. Travel safe!!
Feb 27, 2011 5:41 PM
8All these posts are completely right. I can't swim and it was so risky on every type of boat trip I went on in Vietnam as you really are taking your own life in your hands every time. I hand on heart would recommend the Halong Bay Backpackers boat trip for younger people, as it's a big boat, quite new, with Western staff and I felt very safe on it. It is about double the price of most of the other boat tours but you get to stay on your own island with your fellow passengers and it's fun. I don't work for them by the way, but someone recommended them to me and I'm so glad I did as I had an amazing time.
Mar 4, 2011 2:59 AM
9The crews apparently also work very long stretches. Our boat captain said that he and the men had two days off a month. He complained that it made it hard for him to find a wife. Travel safe!!
campbellcat that is incredible! In other words excessive tiredness= accidents
scary stuff on Halong Bay!
May 9, 2011 8:43 AM
10Another accident on Ha Long Bay today.
French tourists escape as boat sinks in Vietnam
There were no injuries in the latest incident, which involved 28 French tourists on Sunday afternoon at the popular visitor attraction, said Josette Farret, a 65-year-old who was among those on board.
"We felt that there were some technical problems before the departure of the boat, which was in poor condition," she said.
According to Dang Huy Hau, government vice-president in Quang Ninh province, the boat went down after a collision with another craft delivering water, but Farret insisted there was "absolutely no collision".
I was thinking of going in September, I will just go to El Nido in the Philippines instead. Safer, cleaner, more pristine, more beautiful and it's not overran by tourists.
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