Thursday, January 4, 2018

Saigon Stopover

Due to being unable to find a well-timed connecting flight to our next destination, we had an 18 hour stopover in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (aka Saigon) before continuing on to the island of Phu Quoc. It left us with just enough time to do one tourist thing during the day, the Cu Chi Tunnels - also a good idea since the tunnels are, like the airport, northwest of downtown. To get to the tunnels, we had to hire a driver because tourists cannot rent cars in Vietnam. Our driver met us at the airport in an SUV and we hit the road for the tunnel complex at Ben Duoc, which apparently is a popular elementary school field trip for Vietnamese.

What's left of a US Huey helicopter - cue 'Ride of the Valkyries'?
There was a ton of traffic on the road, and about 90 minutes in we were all feeling hungry, but there were no places to eat in sight. We stopped at a place on the roadside but soon realized they served drinks only, so back we piled into the car and continued down the road until the next place, which based on our rudimentary Vietnamese comprehension, we thought was serving some kind of crab soup. While nothing in the soup looked like crab, we gave it a shot anyway just to get something to eat. We still have no idea what was in there :)

B52 bomb crater - about 30 feet wide
We made it to the tunnels in time to join a tour group that had already started. Definitely an interesting tour and experience, everybody who wanted got the chance to go in and out of a few different tunnel segments. The most interesting part though was the film they showed as part of the tour, praising the heroic local women who "killed many US Americans." To see firsthand a film made by the Vietnamese during the era of the war was enlightening, even Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary which interviewed many North Vietnamese did not include this kind of source material. Its hard to know what to believe in terms of what was said and shown in the video, though the same can be said for the testimony and footage created by Americans. Reality is likely somewhere in between, and I was glad to have the opportunity to see this North Vietnamese artifact.



After another loooong traffic-jammed drive back to the area of the city around the airport, we were dropped at our hotel, which was definitely the worst one we stayed in the whole trip. I was a bit wary because I was pressured to book private taxi and other excursions through the hotel, at prices that seemed simply too high to me (in the end, we ended up taking an Uber to the airport for something like $3, compared to the $35 the hotel wanted to charge!). But there were not many hotel options I found in the area right around the airport, and how bad could it be for one night? We got put on the 5th floor in a dingy room with no windows and very weak AC...nobody was happy about this whatsoever, but it was too late and not worth it to move anywhere.

So we headed out to try and find dinner. This particular part of town by the airport didn't seem to have too much going on, but eventually we stumbled across a place called "Restaurant Bromance" - Siera and I were sold on the name alone, and it had a nice outdoor dining space with some ad-hoc karaoke going on. It did not have a menu that we could understand, but the staff did their best to help us and we ended up sharing a tasty 'make your own roll' platter of rice paper, pork, mint and other veggies.

Bromance was in the air...

So at least we had one highlight! The next morning was an early wake up call to get that uber to the airport for our flight to Phu Quoc. We'd be back to tackle Ho Chi Minh City properly in a few days. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Angkors Away!

Departing from Cat Ba, we had three legs of travel by boat, by car and by air to get us to Siem Reap Cambodia; oh yeah and from the airport we had a short ride by tuk tuk to our hotel. Being New Years Eve, we wasted little time throwing our stuff down and getting out to explore the center of town, known as 'Pub Street' (can you guess why?). Various levels of hunger and restaurant preferences led to a bit of a squabble between Juli and I about where to eat dinner. Siera just tried to stay out of it until we had finally made a decision. After dinner we started our new year's pub crawl on pub street. Things got off to a poor start when Juli left her purse unzipped while hanging on a chair...say good bye to a couple hundred dollars, credit cards, and perhaps worst of all her driver's license (who wants to ever go to the DMV?). From here on out on the trip, my ATM card would be our only source of funds, since the only credit cards we each brought were the two that we shared an account on (there is a lesson for the future!), and Siera apparently had not fallen for any of those enticing college t-shirt for a credit card offers.

Crisis behind us (mostly), we started at a Scottish rooftop bar where we could take in some of the street performers below, relax in some funky swinging chairs, and sing along to famous Scottish songs. Only two of those three things are true by the way.

Pub Street, Siem Reap - New Years Eve 2018
As the minutes crept towards midnight, the street crowds began to swell, so we made our move to stop #2, a place called "X Bar" at which we were fortunate enough to claim a small table with a view. We watched the craziness of Pub Street pass us slowly by, then took in some new year's fireworks before joining the mass exodus of tourists back to their hotels.

Entrance to Angkor Wat temple complex
On new year's day we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit, heading out for our Angkor tour by tuk tuk at 10:30am. Angkor is pretty swarmed by tourists at this time of year, but the place is huge and sprawling, rarely did we feel crowded out of places; we harbored no illusions of getting photos without other tourists in them anyway. Our first stop was Bayon, famous for its hundreds of large faces as well as very intricate reliefs along the outside walls depicting local life, warfare, and royalty in the 12th century. We spent a almost 3 hours exploring Bayon and the nearby Bauphon & Elephant Terrace areas; taking in the views and the reliefs while looking for some 'keeper' photo shots.

Famous faces of Bayon

Naval battle relief at Bayon
After lunch at Ta Keo, we spent most of the rest of the afternoon at Ta Phrom, famous for the trees that have melded together with temple structures, and as a location shoot for the Tomb Raider movie from a few years back.

Ta Phrom

The stark difference of unrestored vs restored buildings at Ta Phrom
At sunset we headed to Angkor Wat to watch the sun set on the most famous of the temples. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a huge moat, and all around the moat that day (a holiday) were picnicking families. The number of tourists and locals made for a busy but interesting scene to take in. We were lucky to have a nice sunset, painting the template with soft golden rays of sunshine. Based on the perfect light of what I was seeing, I wondered why sunrise was such a big deal at Angkor Wat, but that would have to wait for a couple days. Wandering around the tuk tuk parking lot, we finally found ours and called it a day.

Sunset at Angkor Wat

Sunset posing at Angkor Wat

Being my birthday (and possibly just to avoid a repeat of the night prior) I got to choose the restaurant for dinner; of course the place I picked was full, so we booked for the following night and now its Juli's turn to pick. She decided on a very local-looking place so we walked on in and grabbed a table. Our table was approached by two women dressed in San Miguel Light (a beer brand from the Philippines) who we assumed were restaurant servers, but seemed only interested in selling us beer. After some fun attempts to mutually understand one another, they gave up and walked away. This, apparently, was the cue for two ladies dressed in Cambodia Lager garb to repeat the scenario. We managed to order a bucket of beer, but we could tell that the San Miguel peddlers were definitely disappointed in us. For the rest of the meal, we were a Cambodia Lager table. Only then did an actual restaurant server come by for us to point & pray, since we didn't really recognize any words on the menu, but of course it turned out just fine - how can you go wrong with barbecued meats in Southeast Asia?

For day two of temple touring, we opted for a car; we were headed further out of town to Banteay Srei which was Juli's favorite. Much smaller than the others and built in a unique pinkish stone, it also had a really good 'interpretive center' detailing the story of the temple as it was found and restored.

Banteay Srei temple
Banteay Srei in detail

On the way back from Srei we visited the Cambodia Landmine Museum. Landmines and unexploded ordnance are still a big problem all over Southeast Asia, and the people behind this museum are going the extra distance to help address that problem and many people affected by it. The stories of the youth who were fortunate enough to be taken in by the adjoining school/orphanage were very touching. Though it made for a somber stop, it was well worth the visit to understand a bit more about what this particular country has been through in the past, and to provide some hope that these challenges can be overcome by the force and will of dedicated people. We then wrapped up our temple exploration at Preah Kahn, an underrated stop with a nice entrance and in many places, similar to Ta Phrom with trees having grown within and around temple structures.

Preah Kahn - the mini Ta Phrom

Preah Kahn entrance guards (in matching uniforms, no less)

Heading back to the hotel in the early afternoon, we had some pretty good pizza at Hawaiian Pizza House and then cooled off a bit in the hotel pool. Juli and Siera headed out for some afternoon shopping and massages, where Siera learned to bargain but apparently forgot to count - she thought she made a deal for 7 shirts but upon returning home there were only 6 in her bag! Meanwhile, I visited the War Museum Cambodia, a large yard with various pieces of 20-50 year old military vehicles and equipment organized about. Having read really good things about the guides on TripAdvisor, mine did not meet those expectations, that's just luck of the draw sometimes.

Soviet tank at the War Museum Cambodia

That evening we were able to dine at Marum an NGO-run restaurant that works with street children and other marginalized young people in Siem Reap. While the food was tasty, the service suffered a bit, but it all goes to a good cause anyway!

Our final (half) day in Siem Reap we departed our hotel at 4:30am in order to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise. Because the sunrise often provides such a colorful backdrop for the temple, the ritual of being there for the sunrise has become one of the 'must do' activities for visitors to Siem Reap. With a departing flight around noon, we really had no excuse not to give it a go. As apparently is typical, a large crowd milled at the gates in the dark when we arrived, and at 5am was let loose across the floating bridge. We hustle-walked along with everybody else jockeying for a good position; for comparison's sake with our sunset visit we decided to go for the right side pond; most people and advice says that the left side pond provides a better vantage point (and I agree). Fortunately we were early enough to each get a front-row seat (on the ground) at the right side pond, where we settled in with my camera and Juli & Siera's phones. The audience continued to grow, we could feel and hear it behind us, as we watch the temple grounds transition from darkness to early morning light. We could see some clouds in the sky, which was a good sign as opposed to totally clear or worst case overcast skies. On the scale of sunrise photos I've seen, I'd guess ours was more in the middle/average - we did our best to capture the scene with both our minds eye and our digital lenses.

Our Angkor Wat sunrise - January 3 2018
After a couple hours of sitting in place, we headed back the hotel for breakfast and then to the airport, where a brief 18 hour stopover in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon awaited.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cat Ba Cruisin'

After a four-hour journey involving two bus rides, one boat ride, and one more bus ride, we arrived in Cat Ba Town still seeking our first view of sunshine. With an afternoon to explore, we decided to rent two scooters and head into the cavernous interior of Cat Ba Island. Siera was confident enough to take her own scooter while Juli and I doubled up as usual. Our first destination was Hospital Cave, a 15 minute ride from town. All seemed to go quite well until the turnoff for the parking lot/restaurant when Siera ran into the curb and fell over - hey, you can't ride a scooter overseas for long before getting in an accident right? The women working at the parking lot/restaurant must have seen this scene before, because they were all over Siera with the first aid kit before Juli and I could even get off our bikes.

Not the first tourist they've had to patch up after a scooter crash!

Bandaged up and slightly hobbling, we made our way to the Hospital Cave, used during the war as a hidden, 'bomb-proof' facility for the Vietnamese Army. While there was not much remaining but solid cement walls, rooms, and hallways, it was still an interesting sight to see.

The solid concrete interior of Hospital Cave

We mounted up on the scooters again ready to head out, foolishly letting Siera drive her own scooter again. As she departed the parking lot, she revved the engine a bit too hard and barely managed to turn before running into the guardrails on the other side of the highway. With that, Siera's driving privileges were revoked! Juli had to assume command of scooter #2, relegating Siera to passenger status for the rest of the day. Siera can take another chance somewhere else, but not under our watch again on this trip! We visited a second cave called Trang Trung which was more typical, and quite unremarkable, before heading back into town. Exploring the downtown area and all the signs outside of the bars, we came to understand that balloons full of nitrous oxide were a local speciality, the only place in Vietnam that we saw 'whip its' so well advertised.

Siera and Todd scaling the walls at Moody Beach

The following day, we headed out on our next overnight adventure, the 'Seafarer Excursion' from Asia Outdoors. The day started with a boat ride into Lan Ha Bay, where we spent a few hours of rock climbing at 'Moody Beach'. It was just us three, with three guides, so we had the opportunity to do as many climbs as our fingers could handle, which turned out to be about six climbs each. We each gave the most challenging 'Barefoot Vietnamese' route a shot, but none of us could 'send it' (as they say). Siera did the best, Juli was right there with her, and Todd was just happy to be there.

Sun's not out, but guns are out!

Back on the boat, we had been joined by a few more 'Seafarers' and sat down to a tasty lunch of fish, spring rolls (naturally), veggies, and papaya salad. The next activity on deck was kayaking, which we started from a floating trading post. As with the scooters, Juli and Siera paired up while Todd was left paddling solo. Normally this might be a disadvantage, but Juli and Siera were about as out of sync as two can be on a kayak, constantly lagging behind and generally just getting in every other kayaker's way with their zig-zag directionality. We paddled around some of the floating villages, which apparently are quasi-illegal settlements that the government occasionally tries to sweep away. Seemingly every floating home has at least one guard dog, and we were cautioned to stay 'two leaps' away from any floating structure if we wanted to avoid animals in our kayaks. We even saw King Kong climbing a mountain in the distance!

Smooth water of Han La Bay, interrupted only by the spastic paddling of Juli and Siera

Back on our boat, we met two couples from Europe who would be joining us on the overnight. After dinner, we enjoyed playing some games together until it was about that time to crash. Although one of the last trips of the season, we all wanted to try sleeping outdoors on the top deck of the boat - a plan which worked pretty well for most, until the wind picked up at around 2AM. One of the couples gave up at that point and retreated to the lower deck, the rest of us bundled up and toughed it out. Not the best sleep, but waking up to a sunrise in the quiet of the bay made it all worth it - not only some beautiful colors, but proof that the sun does shine in Vietnam!

First sight of sunlight in Vietnam!

Our bed outside on the top deck of the boat

After breakfast, the boat chugged back to the harbor to pick up additional Seafarers. While not very happy about yet another trip out of the bay and back to the harbor, we were very fortunate on the way to see a group of five white-headed langurs, one of the rarest primates in Asia (their population is estimated at less than 70!). At the harbor, a huge group of additional Seafarers boarded. That day there were 8 people going rock climbing and 17 people staying overnight on the boat. While sometimes on these trips it is more fun to have more people, we felt quite lucky having had a smaller size groups the previous day.

Highly endangered Cat Ba Langurs (one on wall, more in cave)

On day two we went further into Lan Ha Bay for our kayaking session, checking out some additional remote beaches, templates, and arch rock formations. Juli and Siera even earned the "most improved" award for their paddling skills on day two...such overachievers! After our morning paddle and lunch, it was time for us to say goodbye to the boating life and head back into town. We kept our eyes peeled for langurs on the way back, but none were seen.

Most Improved Paddlers - Cat Ba 2018

Back in town and cleaned up at the hotel, we went out for an afternoon hike to Cannon Fort, a lookout point (and old military fort) above Cat Ba Town. The views were amazing, the mannequins stoic, and the ammunition as big as Siera is tall! We enjoyed one last evening in Cat Ba Town with a good dinner, a dance show on the stage at the main pier, and a few drinks. The next day, New Year's Eve, we'd be on the move again to Siem Reap Cambodia... 

Hiking down from Cannon Fort

Holiday lights on Cat Ba main pier

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hustling through Hanoi

Taking the overnight train immediately after the Hang En caving trip was the only way we could fit Hanoi into our itinerary, and it was well worth it - we managed to pack lots of fun into a single rainy day! If we return to Vietnam, I'd like to spend more time here. It was raining as we pulled into the Hanoi Railway Station at 0600. I had booked a hotel for two nights, to be sure that we would have a place to take our grimy selves immediately upon arrival. Believe it or not, we had no specific plans for what to see in Hanoi, so as we took turns taking a real shower and cleaning up, we kicked around ideas and formulated a plan.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum...definitely no hot sauce allowed on the grounds
First, we decided to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. This is where the enbalmed body of Uncle Ho is on display (which Juli said looked exactly like Lenin's in Moscow). At the entrance to the entire place, security flagged Juli for carrying a dangerous substance - a bottle of hot sauce (she had purchased it to add to food that wasn't spicy enough for us) - and made her leave the hot sauce at the checked luggage counter for the duration of our visit. From there we waited in various lines, were directed to march two by two around a courtyard (felt like I was back in JROTC), and right before entry to the mausoleum we had to check in our cameras & phones. Once inside, we walked into a square room that contained the body. We had to keep walking along the wall of the room, no stopping, but we got a 270 degree view of a well-preserved body, lying on his back and encased in a glass box.

We wandered around the rest of the grounds for an hour or so, along with hundreds of other tourists. Some of the walking paths were insanely crowded with tour groups. We unintentionally ended up on a path that led out of the residential grounds fairly quickly, so we decided to visit the museum. The museum had many floors, I felt the top one had the most interesting artifacts from Ho Chi Minh's life. Unfortunately due to an afternoon cooking class that we had reserved, our time in the museum was cut short and we had to head back to our hotel.

Market trip as part of cooking class
The Apron Up was able to accommodate us with a last-minute reservation (even though when we initially called they said they were booked). The class began with a trip to the market, with each of us wearing the obligatory rice hat/conical hat. Our instructor Nhi led us around as we purchased meats, veggies, and herbs. Despite the rain it was nice to have a guided walk around the old town center of Hanoi (which is one of the most disorienting places I have ever been, as proven by my 45 minute quest to find the ATM that google maps indicated was just 'around the corner').

The class eagerly anticipated Siera's reaction to tasting fish sauce
Back at the cooking school, we began making some delicious traditional Vietnamese food. Of course, one cannot eat a meal in Vietnam without eating spring rolls, so those were on the menu. We also leaned how to make beef pho, a soup that is very popular in San Francisco. The star of the meal for me was bun cha - sweet barbecued pork with vermicelli noodles, eaten with herbs and dipped in some sauce. Most all of the recipes were very simple, so hopefully we'll be able to give some of these dishes another try at home. The tough thing about the class was that we didn't sit down to eat until 2:30pm, at which point we were ravenously hungry, and proceeded to eat until overstuffed!

Eating the yummy lunch that we worked to prepare
In the early evening we set out wandering for Hanoi Happy Hour. In certain cities across Vietnam they make 'Bia Hoi', a light draft beer without preservatives that gets delivered daily, and (perhaps most importantly) is really cheap, about 35 cents a glass. After a few twists and turns, we found a good looking bia hoi place to sit for a while and enjoyed our streetside view of people and traffic passing us by. After a few cheap ones, we continued our self-guided city tour through various Old Quarter neighborhoods and streets, often nearly all shops on a given street sell the same category of goods (flowers on one street, auto parts on another, etc.). We stopped for another drink at a second level pub, enjoying the view of competing bun cha eateries on opposing sides of the street.

Bia hoi on a corner in Hanoi (NOT the famous 'Beer Corner')
After a couple more stops including some snacks (no big dinners necessary on this day), we stumbled across the Hanoi Backpacker Hostel, which seemed to have a pretty popular bar night going on. Advertised as "ladies night", it became clear once inside that the "ladies" in question were mostly bearded young Brits & Kiwis, with dresses, wigs, and balloons stuffed into their chests...there was some kind of cross-dressing "competition" happening, complete with a runway, dance-offs, and boisterous fans of each "lady." The funniest part of the scene for me was that the bar was in the hostel registration area, so every few minutes somebody new would open the door and roll in a suitcase. While I'd think most of the folks who booked this place knew what they were getting into, there must have been a few who arrived after a long day of travel only to be surprised by a raging party, complete with many guys walking around dressed in wigs and balloons, right next to the hotel reception desk.

It's a bar with hotel reception...or is it the other way around?
After we'd reached our party limit, and a "lady of the night" had been awarded, we moved along, thinking to find one more spot to wind down our night out. However the Hanoi Old Quarter streets continued to confuse, and before we found another place for a drink we found our hotel, and decided to call it a night. Tomorrow was yet another travel day, hopefully just 3-4 hours to Cat Ba Island.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas in a Cave

By the time our three-leg journey to Vietnam touched down in Dong Hoi, our trip already included two 'firsts' for us:
  1. There were three of us! (Juli's niece Siera joined us for this trip as a birthday gift)
  2. We were missing one of our backpacks!
Turns out that Juli picked up the wrong backpack off the carousel in Hanoi, and none of us noticed as she carried it to the domestic terminal and checked it for our third flight. Although the airline alerted us by email to the problem before we took off, our attempts to convince the airline staff to leave the bag off our plane were unsuccessful, so some poor other person had to wait an extra day to get their bag back. Since we were heading for an overnight caving trek the following day, our first stop upon arrival in Phong Nha town was to buy Juli some appropriate threads (and a toothbrush). Not the most fun start to our trip, but fortunately Juli did not let her lack of comfort stop her from enjoying the first few days.

Stopping for lunch on our hike to Hang En. Juli looking very colorful in her new clothes!
After a night of good sleep, we were picked up the following morning (Christmas!) for our caving adventure to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. We met our guides and fellow trekkers, put on some borrowed trekking boots, then piled into a bus for a ride to the trailhead on the Ho Chi Minh Highway. From there we descended towards a remote village, and it was on this hike that we first met the jungle leeches. Little did we know how many of these little suckers we would meet on day two! The village appeared about two miles into the hike.

River-crossing on our hike to Hang En Cave
After another three miles we made a stop for lunch beside a river. After lunch, our hike included many river crossings, never very deep, but the borrowed boots had very thin rubber soles, so it was sometimes slow going over the submerged rocks.

Approaching Hang En (can you see the entrance?)
After about eight miles of hiking, we had made it to the entrance of Hang En cave, the 3rd largest known cave in the world. We strapped on helmets and headlamps, and continued into the cave. We came upon a ledge with a beautiful view of the campsite. It looked amazing from far, and up close it was even better - nice new tents and sleeping bags, two composting toilets, a changing tent, clotheslines for our wet socks & pants, a swimming lagoon, a communal table, and...a Christmas tree!

Initial view of our campsite upon entering Hang En
After settling into camp, we were free to hang out, swim in the lagoon, and enjoy the scenery. While Juli and Siera went swimming, I tried to take some good photos of our surroundings. Dinner was cooked up and served, and it was delicious. We enjoyed some mulled wine with dinner, and then also tried some homemade? rice wine (can't say this was 'enjoyed' nearly as much as the mulled wine...but based on the amount in the bottle the next morning, the guides and porters had no problem enjoying it on our behalf). Post-dinner entertainment included different games, the most popular of which was Heads Up!, one of our favorite pass-the-time games at home.

Christmas Dinner in a Cave! Note Xmas 'tree' (branch) in background.

Overnight, sleeping in the cave was not a problem, except for this solo guy from New Jersey, TJ. We knew he was trouble on the hike in, when a guide offered TJ his hand for help crossing a river, to which TJ replied "Don't hold my hand I'm not a girl!" TJ got up in the middle of the night to cause a ruckus - whether by banging on the metal table, or by ruffling tents (Siera's). 

A stalagmite inside Hang En
The next morning we spent a few hours exploring the interior of the cave, making our way through the cave about one mile to another entrance. We saw some beautiful views within the cave, some gigantic stalagmites and stalactites, a viper, and of course some bats! After lunch back at camp, it was time to walk back to the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Unfortunately today, it was raining off and on. We re-traced our steps from the previous day about halfway, until we reached the hill.

The other end of Hang En

The hill was a very steep hike out, on wet muddy ground, and LOTS OF LEECHES. These little guys were everywhere, almost every time you looked at your boots or gloves you would see a few trying to worm their way to a hole or opening to get at your skin. They are difficult to remove as they have a sucker on each end, so pulling it off of you just makes its other end start sucking on your hand. The guides helped us remove them quite often. I was pushing hard to get up that hill, it was about 75 minutes of intense work (including the leeches). I was talking to the guide who mentioned depending on the season, you either had to deal with the wetness + leeches OR 100+ degree heat with humidity - in both cases you have to wear long sleeves, gloves, and I'm still not sure which one would be preferable!

As everybody started making to towards the top, a case of beer was opened and between sips of warm beer, everybody was focusing on leech removal. After the bus started rumbling down the road a few minutes, I waved over to Juli who informed me there was a leech still sucking on the webbing of my pinky & ring finger...I didn't even feel it, which apparently is normal for leeches. Siera was certain she still had a leech on her somewhere, and before jumping in the showers back at the Oxalis office, Juli indeed pulled yet another leech off Siera! All in all, I was just happy the leeches were nowhere near as big as the ones in Stand By Me.

Our 'hard sleeper' for overnight train to Hanoi
While it would have been nice to relax in quiet Phong Nha town for the night, that was not on our itinerary. Instead a driver was there to whisk us away back to Dong Hoi where we were to catch an overnight train heading for Hanoi. We grabbed some spring rolls and (hopefully) chicken from a stand near the train station for dinner. We were assigned a 'hard sleeper' cabin which meant a cabin with 6 beds (a 'soft sleeper' has 4 beds). The rain outdoors was seeping a bit through the window onto both mine and Juli's beds, and not knowing if the two unoccupied beds would be occupied at our later stops, we just rolled with it and slept so our feet were down at the wet end. After all the wet feet we had had over the previous two days, the lack of leeches coming through the window was enough to make it quite comfortable!