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Hawaii Part One

2010 December 20
by rob

March 26, 2009 – again

Author’s note: Writing the journal while traveling had become worse than a chore. I didn’t look forward to doing it. Once I got to Hawaii, I gave up all pretense of writing the journal. As such, I don’t have any written notes with which to base this blog entry. I’m going to have to go solely off my memories and the photos I took during my six-day stay there. Since this was about twenty months ago, I probably won’t be able to write too much.

My plane touched down at the airport in Honolulu shortly after sunrise. After a ride on the “Wiki Wiki Shuttle” bus to the airport terminal (from which the name “Wikipedia” was derived), I entered the baggage collection area and was nearly swept under by a deluge of Japanese people. It seemed like almost all the tourists here were Japanese!

My moment of stress came when I tried to find my backpack on the baggage carousels. From my previous travel blog entry you may remember the difficulties I had at the airport in Sydney getting checked in. I didn’t even get to see my bag! I was alarmed when I couldn’t find my bag on the baggage carousel at the airport in Honolulu. After talking to some of the staff, I realized that I was looking at the wrong carousel entirely. I should have known… the one I was looking at was filled with the huge bags of Japanese tourists. I didn’t even fly from Japan! After getting directed in the right direction I was able to find my bag. Man, I was tired! I had two nights of very little sleep.

I took a shuttle into the city to get to my chosen hostel, the Seaside Hawaiian Hostel. With a name like that, you may expect that the place is located next to the shore. Wrong. It was located on a side street about three blocks from the beach at Waikiki. Being a hostel in the middle of a huge city, you probably couldn’t expect much more, though. I checked into a dorm room with two bunk beds. I had three other guys as my roommates. I remember that I had a couple of English guys who drank a lot, but had rented car and drove me around once (while they were sober). There was a South African guy named Devin who was nearing the end of a long stint working in California. In the room connected to ours, there were two Danish kids who were starting an around-the-world trip: Henrik and Frederik. The room had lots of space, thankfully. We weren’t crammed in there like some hostels do.

I was famished and found a bunch of girls in the hostel who were going to a restaurant for breakfast. I joined them. I was in America again! My breakfast was correspondingly huge: pancakes with coconut syrup, scrambled eggs and bacon. Of course, since I was in America, the bacon was simply called bacon, not “American streaky bacon” as it was called in New Zealand. I was going to have to get to used to the old way of doing things again.

After breakfast I wandered around the area. I went to an extremely overpriced grocery store to buy some groceries so I wasn’t beholden to all of the overpriced restaurants in the area for all my meals (other than breakfast, which was provided by the hostel). I had found myself in an EXTREMELY touristy area — possibly one of the most touristy areas I ever had the misfortune of visiting. It was not my scene at all. After twelve months of traveling, I had a very good idea of what I liked on trips, and Waikiki was the opposite. Crowded! Noisy! Expensive! Lots of concrete! Did I mention expensive? Yuck. There were even people on the street canvasing for the NRA — letting people know that they could go fire real guns! Ugh. It still makes me feel dirty.

Ending up here was my fault of course. It was initiated by finding the cheap one-way fare from here to Toronto (only $280, how could I refuse?). I didn’t do any research at all for what to do when I got here. I didn’t have a guide book for the place. Oahu is a busy and populated island. I didn’t have enough time to visit one of the other islands (which would have suited me much more). If I was more ambitious, I would try and change my hostel booking and spend a few days on the North Shore of Oahu, but I was tired and lazy. There were entertaining people in my hostel. I would just stick it out and make the best of it.

I spent a few hours roaming around. I tramped around on the very crowded beach of Waikiki. It’s pretty, but very very crowded. Backed by rows of hotels, it was like a concrete jungle. At least the sun was hot! After some tasty ramen at a Japanese restaurant (if the place is set up to cater to Japanese tourists, I might as well take advantage), I returned to the hostel. I think I spent the rest of the day doing research in the guidebooks and binders of tourist information there to figure out what to do during the rest of my trip.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

March 27, 2009

Breakfast was provided by the hostel. It was rather simple, just toast with jam and plenty of coffee and tea. The bread was boring, but the jam was excellent. They had quava jam! MMMM!

I spent my day on a bit of a walk about. I spent some time walking to the big Ala Moana shopping mall. It was about 3 km from my hostel. Along the way, I walked through the park across the road and took pictures of the huge banyan trees there. There were a surprising number of homeless people camped out in the park. I guess the mild weather attracts people who have to live outdoors.

I wandered the mall for a while. I wasn’t there to do shopping, per se, since I didn’t have a lot of money. I was bored and needed cheap things to do! Walking was a good choice. There was a huge Japanese grocery store in the mall, though, and I got some tasty treats (melon pan and mochi). I did a little bit of shopping, though. I got a great Domo-kun picture (see the temple picture below).

That night, I joined many of the people from the hostel on an excursion to the beach to see some hula dancing and fireworks. I didn’t see much of the dancing since the crowd was ridiculous. I got some great photos of the fireworks, though!

Waikiki Fireworks

Waikiki Fireworks

March 28, 2009

Today was a much more interesting day! Surprisingly enough, Oahu has an excellent bus system. For only $2, you could take a bus to almost anywhere on the island… it might just take a while to get there.

A German girl from the hostel, Birgit, joined me on a circle bus tour of the island. We took a bus over the mountains to Byodo-in, a Japanese-style temple, located between some beautiful mountains and a vast cemetery near the eastern side of the island.

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple

The temple was beautiful, and looked remarkably like ones I visited in Japan itself. After wandering around, we went to a strip mall and got some Hawaiian fast food — some meat steamed in taro leaves! Very Polynesian! We also got some fresh coconut to drink (like I had in the Cook Islands) and some pineapple with chili (just like I enjoyed in Thailand). I was happy to re-experience episodes of my trip here at the end.

My ad hoc bus tour was really good. I got out of the big city and got into the rest of the island. Honolulu is nasty: concrete, hotels, and Interstate highways. The rest of the island is much better: less classy, less busy, more open. We continued all the way up the eastern shore up and around to the north shore and the small town of Haleiwa. It was much more my style (except for the huge queue of Japanese tourists waiting for shaved ice — I don’t even know what that is). Birgit and I enjoyed some mai tai cocktails at a bar before boarding the bus back through the middle of the island back to Honolulu.

March 29, 2009

It was Sunday. To help combat boredom, I actually went to church this morning. Bizarre, but true.

After the mass, I took a bus to the famous Hanauma Bay to try snorkeling. The bay was an old crater from a volcano which was filled with sea water after one of the walls collapsed. The snorkeling was very very disappointing. There were too many people there and most of the coral was dead. Apparently some of the people in my hostel saw turtles, but I didn’t see anything. I don’t even think I saw any fish.

That night I went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki for mai tais with Devin and the two English guys from my room in the hostel. With two kinds of rum and some kind of fruit juice, the drinks were refreshing and delicious! I always associated mai tais with the MUD that I used to play on (Valhalla). There was a random bartender that would show up at parties and make them for the players to drink. I had always wanted to try one! So far, I’ve only had them on Hawaii. No one else seems to know how to make them (outside of the MUD, of course).

As we sat at the pool bar with the beach close by, the sun slowly sank into the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a sunset photo in Hawaii!

Golden Hour on Waikiki

Golden Hour on Waikiki

I was originally going to write this entry in one go, but it seems to be getting pretty long, so I’ll make it a two parter. The next one will be the last one, I promise!

Rob Sz
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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