The Pinta, the Nina...Santa Maria must be in dry dock
The tour bus was to pick us up at our hotel between 8.30 and 9.00AM, and they were right on time. In fact, we were the first on the bus. We got settled in (very comfortable coach), and the driver made several more hotel stops until we had a full bus, all of us scheduled for the same cruise. L & I had opted for Columbus Cruise's "Pinta" for a 2 day/1 night visit to Viet Nam's stunning Ha Long Bay. It's approximately 3 hours to drive to Ha Long City, so we had a stretch of time to view the Red River (very low this time of year), rice paddies immediately off the highway (including within the unpaved area of a roundabout), morning glory fields (the greens are harvested), a coal town with streets and buildings black with soot. The whole way out, the sky was grey, and occasionally it would drizzle. We were all hoping the skies would magically clear for us. On the road, our tour guide had a little 'splainin' to do when a party of six learned that they would not all be sleeping on the same junk. The women were upset because it was a family trip, and two of them would now have to sleep on a smaller boat that would reconnoiter with the Pinta later in the afternoon. After a lot of discussion, L & I volunteered to take the room on board the Nina, which would be anchored right next to the Pinta. The gals were thankful, and L & I crossed our fingers (figuratively, not literally- it means something else entirely in VN!) that we wouldn't regret speaking up. About 2 hours into the trip, our bus stopped at a tourist center - it was "conveniently" located far from village centers, so if we wanted to purchase water or beer, we had to pay twice as much as in town . The plus side of this tourist trap was clean restrooms. In comparison to other locations (ye olde hole in the floor), it's worth a little more! We got to the dock, where we walked down a steep flight of narrow concrete steps to get on a covered runner boat which would deliver us to our junk. we dieseled our way through the moored junks until we reached the Pinta, which looked inviting with its persimmon sails!
Once aboard, we were ushered to the dining deck, which was quite comfortable with couches, armchairs, a bar and white linen covered tables. We toasted with a watermelon smoothie and got underway. Despite the grey of the day, several of us went topside to the open sundeck (at this point, I use the term loosely). The temperature was moderate, and we could already make out some of the rock formations studding the bay. More to come...