Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Death and Adventure in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

By the end of this story a number of people will be dead.

The compact dirty white van left the tourist choked streets of Hanoi, Vietnam’s French Quarter early in the morning. We were a group of 10 strangers bound together by our desire to see the turquoise beauty of Ha Long Bay, and its breathtaking limestone islands thrusting out of the waters. We were also cheap, backpackers looking to save money but desperate to spend 3 days living on a boat, cruising the pearl culturing backwaters of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage site, and exploring the natural caves dotting the area. Sixty eight dollars was a lot to us for two nights on the boat, three meals a day, and an English guide. Sixty eight dollars almost cost all of us our lives.

What you get for 68 Dollars

Seagulls screeched as the van jerked to a stop at the crowded fishing port near Halong City. The harbor was oddly full, tourists milling around watching the sea, the sky and the ever increasing number of groups ruining each others once in a lifetime trip. “Wait right here and I’ll see what’s happening.” Our guide jumped out of the van leaving us to sweat with the air conditioning turned off.

Twenty minutes later and he was back. He pulled open the sliding door with a forced smile. “I’m not sure if we’ll be able to leave today,” he confessed. Before he could get another word out the van erupted from the back as two French girls started yelling.

“What do you mean?” They never gave him a chance to answer. “We paid good money for this trip and I’m not getting screwed by you.” The other members of the group looked away embarrassed.

The guide blushed. Or was it the heat? “There is a hurricane moving up the coast and we are not sure if it will turn off into the ocean or make landfall here in Ha Long. Until we know we can’t risk getting out on the water.” That made perfect sense to me and the rest of the group. We got out to stretch our legs without complaint. The salt air scrubbed away some of the bitterness we felt at flying halfway around the world to be stopped at the water’s edge.

“We paid for this trip!” The blond French girl, dressed in dirty fisherman pants continued to yelled. “You will take us on our trip,” the other French girl demanded. The guide shrugged his shoulders helplessly. It wasn’t his call, his company was only hiring the boat and the captain said no.

The longer we waited the more frustrated the crowd became. The French girls led charge after charge whipping up the fervor of the other tourist groups, demanding to get on the ocean while the sun was still low. Our first destination was supposed to a massive cave used as a military hospital during the Vietnam war to protect the injured from constant air attacks by the US forces. The guides and the boat captains looked like they needed the shelter from the verbal bombs being thrown at them. Threats of being fired, losing their tips, curses and accusations of being cheated launched with laser accuracy.

The Journey Begins

Our guide returned from the front lines as the rest of us relaxed on the wooden dock. Movement in the other groups meant something was happening. Decisions had been made.

“The hurricane is moving out to sea so we can go.” The French girls grumbled that the delay was pointless. “But the captain doesn’t want to risk going to the main cave. We’ve decided to take a different route and see another, smaller cave. The area has better protection in case the storm reverses direction.”

“WHAT. Are you fuckn’ kiddn’ us. We paid for the Cave and we are going to the Cave.” The rest of us were fed up with the tantrums and agreed to vote on it. The French girls pouted and yelled when they lost. I’m from an island on the ocean and you don’t question the captain, even if he is a small Vietnamese fisherman. The French girls started to yell at him too when we reached our two story wooden cruising boat. He yelled back happily before slamming the the cabin’s door shut.

“He says the water from here to the hospital cave is too open.” It was clear he had also said something less polite about the French girls.

I wish I had not been so relaxed and shy back then. I might have questioned the sensibility of going to sea with a hurricane off shore. I was sure our guide was just mistranslating as no one would get near a boat if an actual hurricane was close enough to shore. Right? Plus, I had paid 68 dollars.

Ten boats set out from the harbor. Seven towards the main cave and two others joined us for the ride to the smaller, less spectacular cave. The sky was overcast but nothing to hint a hurricane was a just off shore. The waters were a bit choppy but I’d been in worse.

Stunning limestone cliffs burst out of deep green as we sailed through narrow channels. Standing on the top deck I never felt so alive, so enchanted by the stunning force of nature that at once eroded the surrounding bluffs and fed the greedy green ocean more limestone to maintain its jade coloring. The wind whipped through my hair as I posed for a photo, a majestic grouping of islands and cliffs behind me. The sudden shock on my friend’s face told me something was wrong seconds before a warning bell sounded throughout the ship. I spun around and and saw in horror as a massive wall of mist, rain, wind and power come pounding through a narrow gap between island and straight for us. The hurricane had shifted and it was upon us without any notice.

Battle to Save the Boat and our Lives

The shrieking of the French girls were drowned by the high winds as the boat erupted in organized chaos. The crew couldn’t speak English and yet we all knew what to do. The main cabin was made of glass windows and doors. We had less than a minute to lock everything down before the storm hit and we all pitched in, fastening locks, shutting doors. We battened down the hatches. After closing the front main glass door my friend Rob and I stared wide eyed as a side door began banging around as the waves picked up height and uncertainty. We ran together, the storm chasing us.

We reach the door together….BAM, the storm hit, knocking the boat steeply to the side. The world slowed down and we watched in horror, slow motion horror as the the door swung violently closed shattering the glass directly onto us as we desperately turned our heads and shielded our eyes. We were both only wearing bathing suits and a thousand glass daggers tore through our skin and spread like a minefield around our feet. Grabbing each other and the now glassless door for support we tried in vain to stay still as the storm pounded the boat rocking it from side to side. Torrents of rain streamed through the gap preventing us from getting a firm hold as our bare feet slipped across thousands of tiny shards of glass.

Blood steamed down our bodies. We gritted our teeth and bore it, riding the waves, pitches, and glass for the next twenty minutes. The storm ended as quickly as it started as an eerie calm fell across the jade waters. Rob and I were alive. The whole crew was alive. The captain kept us from hitting the surrounding cliffs, the hull wasn’t pierced. We were alive. We turned to see how everyone else was doing and stared into 8 faces of shock and pain. Rob and I didn’t understand until we started walking towards them and pain exploded across our bodies all at once.

A Dinner Celebration and a Time for Mourning

Rob had taken the worst of the glass spray and had a 6 inch piece of glass embedded in his left foot. We both had hundreds of cuts all over our bodies and our feet were so sliced that we couldn’t walk without falling in pain. The others, no longer tourists, but friends, survivors rushed to help us. It took over an hour for our friends to pick the glass out of our skin, and then disinfect our wounds. But we had survived. The specter of death didn’t do anything to mellow the French girls’ moods and we suffered through a tirade longer than the the storm and more painful.

“Haven’t you ever cleaned a wound?” one girl chastised the guide. “We are NOT giving you a tip” the other girl assured.

Rob and I groaned and that sent them into another tirade of insults, threats and irrelevant chatter. “Shut up and be glad your alive,” Rob said softly. Maybe it was the glass dagger being taken out of his foot or the shard being removed a hair’s breath from my eye that convinced them to remain quiet.

Bandaged, dressed in clean clothes a few hours later we relived the story under the shining stars, thanking the beautiful breeze that caressed our skin. Sixty eight dollars didn’t buy a fancy dinner but the rice and vegetables tasted like heaven, along with the beer that had survived the day too. Suddenly, a second boat pulled up to ours and a large bellied man jumped on board carrying a large bucket. He paid us no attention and walked straight to the steering room. He was the owner of the boat. He used to be the owner of a boating company. The bucket was full of crabs for the crew that had saved his last boat. He didn’t even look at us.

Our guide rushed to the celebration. He came back slowly, deep in thought. “The boats what went to the Cave didn’t make it. The storm caught them in open waters and capsized all of the all of the boats. Everyone is dead. The owner is here to thank the captain for saving his last boat.” The owner never looked at us as he left.


Almost 70 people died* that day and we only survived because we were on the right boat, 3 of 10 that decided to go the other direction. We drank our beer in silence and paid our respects. A few days later when we returned to the mainland we all rushed to the internet to tell our parents and loved ones we had survived. They all asked why we wouldn’t be! The outside world never learned of the deaths, or the news wires never picked up the stories.

Two months later Rob was playing softball and a ligament in his foot snapped. It turns out the glass dagger cut the ligament so that only a thread remained. I still have a few scars as well, but we made it out alive. This was the first time I almost died and I have respected the winds of fate and happenstance ever since. Live your life to its fullest, don’t complain about hard working folks doing their best to survive, treat each other with kindness, be happy. You never know when you will be among the seven other boats.

*Post script. While researching the details for this story I found an obscure BBC news report that quotes government sources saying 3 tourists (1 Thai and 2 Indians) died along with 2 crew members during the storm. My death estimates come from witnesses and other tourists from nearby boats who gave estimates from 20-100 dead. It is still unclear how many people actually died.

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96 Responses to “The First Time I Almost Died-Ha Long Bay, Vietnam”

  1. EmilyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, what a harrowing story! I can’t imagine how much grief I would feel to find out that all of the tourists died and that I was almost one of them. I’m so glad you guys chose to avoid the main caves. It does seem awfully irresponsible of that company to sail out on a day when a hurricane was nearby–they should have just refunded everyone! Anyway, very glad to hear that you made it. A good reminder that life throws all kinds of curve balls!

  2. RebeccaNo Gravatar says:

    Oh I’m so sorry you went through this, what a terrible thing to happen. And like the others here, I’ve never heard a word about this – 70 people dead!

    I can’t believe those girls. I want to punch them right now for their rudeness and disrespect.

  3. AndreaNo Gravatar says:

    What a sad story. I agree that this is why you’ve got to live life to the fullest. You never know what’s going to happen. Glad you made it out to tell the story.
    Andrea´s recent [type] ..5 Great Day Trips from Paris

  4. EricaNo Gravatar says:

    Holy crap Todd! You definitely got my heart racing while I was reading this. You must have been terrified. I’m with Ayngelina – I cannot believe they continued to complain and threaten to not pay even after everyone survived on the boat.
    Erica´s recent [type] ..Travel Photography January 14

  5. Wow Todd it’s lucky that you made it back to shore.I think those girls would have tried anybodies patience. What a despicable way to act! Glad you made it back OK fella :)
    Andrew Murray´s recent [type] ..A Proposed Bimble from KLIA to CNX

  6. I’m always amused at people that feel like they are going to get ripped off on tours etc. For them to still be going at it after such an ordeal straight up shows the type of person they are.

    Can’t even imagine what that would have been like mate but god I hope I never find out as well.
    Chris – The Aussie Nomad´s recent [type] ..How Much Did It Cost – Paris Budget

  7. GillianNo Gravatar says:

    We take a lot of risks when traveling that maybe we wouldn’t take at home. My worst traveling story also involves the sea and it is the only time I ever thought my life was in danger. Many times, during our RTW, we were on sketchy buses or interesting situations and I often thought “well, if I die now at least I will die living out my dream”. Small comfort but it’s important not to let these stories stop us from traveling. You were lucky, no doubt, and pushed for a reasonable solution, thank goodness. Cheers!

  8. Dave and DebNo Gravatar says:

    That is a crazy story. So sad for the boats that went to the other cave. I am glad you took a vote and didn’t go. I wonder if the two girls realized just how close they came to death or if they were too busy complaining about the situation. I can’t believe they even brought up not tipping after what you went through. At least you were all okay, but I am still so sad for the other boats. It is insane about how little news we get at home. The big news channels just keep playing the same loop over and over of worthless debates and content when they could be reporting on events that happen every day like this.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks guys. I think I might need to amend this story to make it clear this was back in 2000! I think this story has cause a number of people to search for this news now :) But I agree that we hardly hear of all the horrible things that happen around the world thanks to cable news.

      I think Bloggers have a bit role to play in spreading and re-humanizing other cultures and countries.

  9. Kyle MorganNo Gravatar says:

    Glad you survived! What a experience, you’re lucky to be alive!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  10. andreNo Gravatar says:

    Crazy experience….what time franme was this….seven boats capsized and all dead….i cant find anything in the news that relates to this…..

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Andre, this all happened in 2000. We searched the news and internet when we arrived back to Hanoi and like I mentioned found nothing. We looked back often and never found anything that mentioned the deaths. Very sad indeed we have no idea how the families found out.

  11. greg urbanoNo Gravatar says:

    somber post reminding us that the smallest decision can have a large impact, and mostly random chance can decide our fate
    greg urbano´s recent [type] ..Day Two – Off and Running

  12. StephNo Gravatar says:

    A near-death experience. I feel grateful that you were saved from that calamity. This is your second life now, and I know there’s a purpose to this so live your life to the fullest. I hate those french girls, they’re so ugh. if I can just strangle them, I will haha

  13. wow todd! so glad you are okay, and that you’ve turned this experience into a lesson in gratitude. i understand. i had a horrible motorcycle accident in thailand, and aside from some scars- which are wonderful reminders of my good fortune- i’m completely fine today. what you illustrate so beautifully here, is that it’s such a minor difference in actions sometimes that results in living or dying. true- we can’t take anything for granted. i wonder if the french girls ever learned that. let’s hope they did in hindsight. thanks for sharing this so others may skip the tragedy and still get the lesson :)
    Lorna – the roamantics´s recent [type] ..Squatting in Sihanoukville- Cambodia

  14. The EnvoyNo Gravatar says:

    Never knew Ha Long Bay could be that dangerous…LOL?
    The Envoy´s recent [type] ..Relationships

  15. Bloody hell! This read like something directly out of a movie. Fortunately, you are one of the good guys who always survives in the end. I feel sorry for those who were not so lucky, though.
    Michael Schuermann´s recent [type] ..An Après-Hike With Bill Bryson

  16. Wow. Incredible story Todd.

    What’s the timeline on this? When it comes to “I almost died” stories, I think I’m putting an expiry date on them (1, 2, 5 years?), then I’ll tell my Mom when sufficient time has passed.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      yeah, you have to be careful with Moms! I think I told her this one after about 3 years. After that the dangerous stories came out more frequently, but usually at least a year later :)

  17. CailinNo Gravatar says:

    HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That has to be one of the craziest stories I have ever read. Glad to hear you survived and you were ok after that. But now I have to ask the question is there a 2nd and 3rd etc. time that you have almost died?
    I can’t decide if you either have great luck or you are not someone I want to travel with anytime soon… haha
    Great writing Todd! :)
    Cailin´s recent [type] ..Fellow Travel Video Blogger – Jeff Jung of Career Break Secrets

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Cailin, I have decided that I am very very lucky as I have walked away from all of my crazy situations. So yes, there are 2nd and 3rd almost dieing stories. All to be shared in do time :) I had a bit of a wild twenties :)

  18. LeslieTravelNo Gravatar says:

    What a scary experience! I’m glad your group decided to stand up to those girls and voted not to go in the cave. Crazy how close you came… I’m sure this experience changed your perspective on travel and on life!
    LeslieTravel´s recent [type] ..A perfect ski day at The Canyons Resort in Park City

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Yup, life certainly seems greener after an experience like that. Of course it also set me down the path of working in dangerous places so that things could stay green ;)

  19. Wow–this is a very powerful and vivid story, Todd. You are so fortunate to be alive! I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been. (As a side-note, I’m reading a novel right now and the protagonists just went to Halong Bay, so your photo put a great visual reference in my head!)
    Michael Figueiredo (StruxTravel)´s recent [type] ..Greetings From… Varenna- Italy

  20. Wow! What a sad story. I bet it’s crazy to think about how lucky you were to be on that boat. Beautifully written.
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler´s recent [type] ..Photo Essay- Puerto Plata – Dominican Republic 7

  21. JimNo Gravatar says:

    Lived through every moment of this with you Todd, but I would have thrown those yappy French girls overboard.
    We did this cruise in 2001, and even then the place was crowded with tourists. Must be 10 times as bad now.
    Jim´s recent [type] ..Terror at the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum- Ethiopia

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Jim, I just don’t have the heart to be that confrontational with sucky people. I’ll bring you next time. And this happened in 2000, I bet it is even more touristy now.

  22. The NVR GuysNo Gravatar says:

    What a story. I decided to save it for over lunch and was so enrapt that I forgot to eat.

    Thanks for making my stir fry cold! (oh, shit. I sound like a whiny french girl!).
    The NVR Guys´s recent [type] ..NVR Toolkit – Be Grateful

  23. Matt HopeNo Gravatar says:

    Really powerful story Todd, thanks for sharing it with all of us.
    Matt Hope´s recent [type] ..Photo- Humor is Universal – Lavame

  24. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    Crazy story and great post…
    I kinda like hurricanes (I know, I’m not totally sane), but I was inland for every single of them (four total).
    Also, don’t think I didn’t notice your attempt at bashing French people. ;)
    Well, to tell the truth, some French people (a majority I’m afraid) just don’t get the concept of “extreme weather”, something to do with the climate in France I guess, and when they’re confronted to some, they think they can simply go on about their day as if nothing special was happening.
    David´s recent [type] ..Liminal Air – core -

    • I have to defend French people in general here! I think Todd is talking about three girls who behaved badly, and they just happened to come from France. The French would have the most sophisticated warning system for weather “events” in the world – maybe I could blog on that one day.
      John in France´s recent [type] ..Confusing the Holiday Seasons

      • DavidNo Gravatar says:

        John, don’t get me wrong… First of all, to lift any potential misunderstanding, I am French. Concerning “bashing French people”, I was just teasing Todd.
        Concerning the most sophisticated warning system, I’d love to hear about it, but I don’t know about and neither do most of the French considering the unpreparedness every time there is extreme weather (snow in the North of France last months come to mind… the few big storms, a couple of years ago too). Actually, among all of the places I’ve lived and spent time as an adult, I think France has the worst mainstream weather forecast (meteorologists are good, what you hear and read in the news is not). In any case, here, I was talking about French people’s general behavior facing extreme weather and while those girls must have been particularly bad, the whole “we won’t let a hurricane change our vacation plans, especially if we’ve paid money for it” sounds very French to me (the bad side of French, but French nonetheless). After all, we are considered some of the worst tourists in the world. :)
        David´s recent [type] ..Liminal Air – core -

        • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

          :) Please don’t take offense. I just happened to be around some horrible horrible French girls (only TWO thankfully). I have been around horrible horrible Americans, Brits, Colombians (well that’s not true), and [insert your country of choice]. But they were from France and I had NO interest in actually learning their names after the way they acted. Everything is brain to computer here so don’t read any further into it.

          Oh, and in case you were wondering I take all comments with a grain of salt, a healthy dose of sarcasm and am happy for people to tease me :)

  25. Nice write on Halong Bay Todd. You know, I visited this place in April last year and till today, have not blogged about it. Probably some caves and pictures. I really admire how you word everything in one post here. I had a friend who owned a hotel in Hanoi and he was offering Halong overnight cruises at US$68 too but I got it for $50 as a buddy discount. One day I think I should start writing about my Halong experience as it sounds similar to yours lol.

    David @ Malaysia Asia´s recent [type] ..Travel Contest January 2011 – RM16-500 in Prizes to be won!

  26. NorbertNo Gravatar says:

    Wow! what an experience. Yes, You’re lucky to have been on one of those 3 boats (sadly with those imbecile french girls), but you survived. This is one of those experiences that truly makes you think about life and how to live it the fullest, and happy.

    Although it is nowhere as life threatening as this experience, I once had the experience of being caught in a hurricane in the Caribbean sea while on a cruise ship. The experience was terrifying, let alone how hard that ship rocked in the high open water waves.

  27. jmNo Gravatar says:

    Yikes…. we are planning a trip this summer- will skip the boat trip, would love recommendations of what not to miss!

  28. HerbNo Gravatar says:

    You are reinforcing my tour-phobia. I just do very poorly in groups, its always a gamble. I’m sure we miss out, but just like to bump along on our own. The more people involved the higher the odds are against you.
    Hurricanes, cyclones of any kind and water don’t mix as your story illustrates. Run for the hills next time!

    Great story, thanks!
    Herb´s recent [type] ..Little America

  29. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    What an amazing story… And what an amazing end to it!!
    Arti´s recent [type] ..Temples of Nashik – Kalaram- Goraram and Panchvati

  30. robinNo Gravatar says:

    What a tale. Hoping I don’t bump into the French girls anytime soon.
    robin´s recent [type] ..Ruido

  31. inkaNo Gravatar says:

    I can’t believe the behavior of these French girls. Glad you survived to tell a story which is a lesson to us all.
    inka´s recent [type] ..How a glamour granny keeps fit to travel

  32. What an amazing story.
    The sad thing is that in Vietnam money is often given priority over lives. So perhaps the other boat captains weren’t allowed to take the safer routes. Or didn’t have the equipment to know there was a typhoon. It’s a very sad story.
    It’s also very likely that the government did cover up the news that many tourists died. They have eased up on censorship a lot in the past few years but are still incredibly paranoid.
    I paid about $70 for a Ha Long Bay trip in late 2007 and I hated it. I thought the bay was overrated. The caves were amazing but the whole system was set up so I felt like I was just one member of a herd of cows being herded quickly through the itenerary so the cattle-drivers could get us to the hotel and go off and have a drink with his mates.

    I loved your closing paragraph too. Always good to be reminded to live life to the fullest.
    eat-laugh-love-anon´s recent [type] ..Help! I Need Somebody

  33. Your final message is what we really need to remember and live by. We are never sure of what could happen, or the outcome of things, so we must live life with meaning and treat others with kindness. Incredible story and glad you made it out ok!
    Migrationology´s recent [type] ..Mama Chapati in Morogoro- Tanzania

  34. JadeNo Gravatar says:

    holy crap! Thankfully you survived— I’m not sure I would have done anything different from you (as far as whether or not to get on board after paying money). I guess I want you on my boat if ever in this situation.
    Jade´s recent [type] ..An Afternoon with a President

  35. CandiceNo Gravatar says:

    Wowwww, glad you made it out of that one. Great story.
    Candice´s recent [type] ..The Art of Non-Conformity Comes to St John’s

  36. That is one HELL of a story… And a great lesson as to why you should trust the locals on matters like these…

    An experience like this must seriously change your whole perspective on life…
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures´s recent [type] ..“We’re Getting Married Tomorrow…At a Buddhist Temple” in Thailand

  37. ErinNo Gravatar says:

    Crazy story! It’s interesting in that Vietnam doesn’t get hit by typhoons that often so you definitely are very lucky. Sadly, my guess is the other boats went out thinking the storm would pass by like it does normally. In general, news of typhoons and storm coverage here in this part of the world doesn’t make it back to the “western world”. When we had the worst typhoon in 50 years to strike Taiwan in 2009, there wasn’t even a mention of it in the storm updates on the Weather Channel! It was like we didn’t exist.

    Rereading your post just gives me chills! I’ve been in several typhoons here in Taiwan now, a couple cyclones in South Pacific, and we were at the heart of Hurricane Richard on a small island in Belize last year (we seem to have bad luck w/storms) and the seas can change in an instant. You are incredibly lucky!!! I def feel for those that lost their lives that day.
    Erin´s recent [type] ..Borneo Coffee – Yit Fho Rich Land Coffee from Tenom- Sabah in Malaysia

  38. JasmineNo Gravatar says:

    Wow! It’s amazing how abusive people can be. Glad you were one of the lucky ones that made it!
    Jasmine´s recent [type] ..Where Men Lie Burning

  39. Jesus! That must have been so scary. I’m glad you are ok.
    When did this happen? I eamn, how long time ago?
    Magda @DestinationWorld´s recent [type] ..5 top reasons to go on a career break trip

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Magda, it was WAY back in 2000 so almost 11 years ago. Amazing that I remember every detail still so clearly. I have so many of these types of stories from before I started blogging so I’m on a mission to write them out. They have been entertaining drunk people in bars for years :)

  40. Jeremy BNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, what a story!! That’s an amazing tale and what good fortune that you didn’t get on the other boats. That story was like reading a great novel about adventures at sea! I was hooked!

    On a more serious note, I watched a 2 hour special on earthquakes and the earthquake in San Francisco in 1989. The Cypress Freeway collapsing is stunning just to see that thing. I could go on and on about it but reading your story and thinking about those that survived while others died, do you have any survivor guilt for being on the right boat?
    Jeremy B´s recent [type] ..Travel Tuesday question of the week – what’s your favorite source of travel information

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Jeremy. It happened a while back so no more survivors guilt. But at the time we all got a good does of guilt and sadness for those who died. But my current job has put me in many more “interesting” situations.

  41. What an amazing story, and so well written! Many years ago?
    John in France´s recent [type] ..Confusing the Holiday Seasons

  42. Great yarn! I’m assuming there were a few other times when you almost died???

  43. KieronNo Gravatar says:

    Damn! So glad you made it out alive to tell this story.

    Can’t believe the attitude of those French girls, there always seems to be the obnoxious type on every tour. Kudos for being much more patient than I ever would have been.
    Kieron´s recent [type] ..rtwsoon Interview- Kim – So Many Places

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Yeah, I think I remember the French girls more than the glass in my skin. Amazing how horrible people can act. Luckily most people are good at heart.

  44. AnnieNo Gravatar says:

    I can’t even imagine what you must have gone through, how thankful that you are alive. It’s really sad to hear that so many didn’t make it and that it never was a story on the news. Some things really put live in perspective.
    Annie´s recent [type] ..Hostels- Love-Hate Relationship

  45. JayneNo Gravatar says:

    *pushes jaw closed with hand*

    What an astonishing story, marvellously told. Loved your message at the end.

  46. GlenNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, incredible story, and incredibly well-written. Very moving.
    Glen´s recent [type] ..Cool Day- Hot Chili–2011 Crimeline Chili Cook-Off

  47. GrayNo Gravatar says:

    That’s an amazing story, Todd. Wow. So, once they heard about the deaths, did the French girls finally shut up? I’m not surprised the news never made it to people back home. The media is so selective about what it covers.
    Gray´s recent [type] ..A Solo Traveler’s Hierarchy of Needs

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Gray, no, the French girls never did any credit to the captain, crew or our guide for saving our asses. They just kept complaining about how they lost their money. At the time (2000) we decided the lack of information to the outside world was to do with the government covering it up. Now that I’m older I realize that it just wasn’t news worthy for the suburban masses back in the US.

  48. AmandaNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, what a truly amazing story! It sounds like you really lucked out in being assigned a captain that knew how to weigh the risks of the storm.

    But reading about how awful those French girls acted really gets my blood boiling. How inconsiderate! I would have had some choice words for them after all of that, I think.
    Amanda´s recent [type] ..5 Places I Want to Visit that Mom and Dad Don’t Know About

  49. What an incredible story. I’m not sure what I’m more shocked about, the appalling behavior of the tourists or the crazy night. Actually most appalled that they could continue to be so obnoxious through it all.
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  50. JuliaNo Gravatar says:

    This is crazy. So lucky that you made it out ok. I loved Halong Bay, but it was gorgeous sunny weather when I was there. Interesting to hear about the deaths never making the news – before I went to ‘Nam I had really wanted to jump off the junk boat in Halong Bay and go swimming. Once we got there we were told you can no longer do that because someone had died jumping off one of the boats. Funny that that story never made it onto Google either :-s
    Julia´s recent [type] ..No Hue Yes Hue!

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