Oahu: Simply Gorgeous
Trip Start Apr 01, 2007
17Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Even though I went on numerous vacations in both July and August, I was more than ready for my first trip to the 50th state at the end of September. The occasion was one of the more celebrated Korean holidays: Chuseok. Considered Korean Thanksgiving to the American mind, it's a celebration of the harvest (primarily rice) and a time for Koreans to return to their hometowns to be with family. For me, it was a free week off requiring none of my 10 vacation times...woo-hoo! It was also the first time I had seen my parents in six months, the longest parental absence in my life.
Leaving for Paradise
As I just discovered online, Hawaii is farther away from a major landmass than any other place outside of Easter Island
When I arrived at the gate, I was sitting next to the only other waygookin (foreigner). As luck would have it, she was an English teacher on her way to Honolulu with the same round trip schedule. Although we would never see each other in Hawaii or Korea for that matter, we became good airport and airplane friends. This was a much appreciated commodity considering the 10-hour plus travel time involved each way.
Thanks to a 22 hour time difference, I arrived in Honolulu (island of Oahu) 5 hours earlier than I left Korea...yeah for time zones! I hugged my parents for the first time in six months and we headed to the west end of the island, out of the crazy southern end that is Honolulu.
My first impression of Honolulu was the traffic! It is the only place in the archipelago classified as a city. Containing 80% of the million-plus Hawaiian population, it deserves that right
We arrived at our first destination, a beautiful ocean-front Marriot on the western end of the island. It seemed like everyone here was getting married. Some ceremonies were huge with all kinds of lucky guests smiling about being in Hawaii, and others were tiny. Exploring a secluded beach, I discovered a four person occasion: bride, groom, photographer and pastor. While the sun set, the couple said there vows barefoot on a gorgeous beach...romantic indeed!
Although I was doing little but eating, relaxing and catching up with my wonderful parents, it didn't take me long to fall in love with this wondrous place. I love the melting pot of cultures: Hawaiian, American, Japanese, Korean, etc. Most tourist brochures are now printed in English, Japanese and Korean to accommodate this fact. Wherever you go people say "Aloha" and "Maholo" (hello and thank you). Although Hawaiian is now only used as a ceremonial language, the culture seems to be surviving and celebrated.
This was especially evident at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Each country would perform dances and different rituals along with sharing information about their cultures. It was both entertaining and fun, great family fun. My personal favorite was Tonga. The drummer who led the drumming demonstration was absolutely hilarious, and demanded audience participation, another plus. After guiding a group chant, he brought up three volunteers from the audience, one from China, Japan and Brazil. Only one could speak English. On top of the language barrier the Chinese and Japanese could not keep a beat. Trying to explain how to play the drums and yelling in Tonganese to someone in a non-shared language is virtually impossible, but quite funny for observers.
To cap the Polynesian Center experience, we watched an IMAX movie about coral reefs
After the west coast, we embarked for the north shore, famous for massive waves and surfer bums. We would not be participating in this, though. Instead, we would be relaxing at a golf resort called Turtle Bay.
And, relaxing we would do. My first full day was mostly spent in front of the TV. I know this may not sound too exciting to some of you, but it was a welcome change of pace for me. Living in Korea, TV frankly sucks. With one English channel run by the US military, watching TV includes a bombardment of enlightened military messages. One of my personal favorites is: "If you are taken hostage, be a good soldier, don't give away any information."
Anyway, it was a joyous return to American TV, especially because it was football season and the Packers are good again...yeah
I did manage to get off my butt to go swimming and play in the ocean, but then it was right back to the boob-tube for the Simpsons and Family Guy. Don't worry; I won't talk about TV anymore.
An Activity a Day Keeps the Boredom Away
So, I should be honest. I can do nothing with the best of them, but I tend to enjoy my nothingness when paired with some fun, exhausting activity. Considering that my Mother is the world's best planner, we booked the rest of our days to include one communal, fun activity per day. The decisions were mostly made in a democratic fashion (sometimes a veto is necessary).
The first activity was sea kayaking in Kaulua on the east coast. Since we were staying in the northern end, we had to drive along the scenic coastline for about an hour and a half...poor us, seriously
After 20 minutes or so of paddling, I arrived on a small island used only as a bird sanctuary. At the time of my arrival another woman swam in. She made the 15 minute swim (which would have taken me way longer) from shore and saw three turtles on her way. She shrugged and casually added, "Usually I see more."
Needless to say, I was quite jealous. I didn't see any turtles in Hawaii. This was mainly due to a lack of snorkelling and diving, which is pretty incredible. Who goes to Hawaii and doesn't snorkel or dive? Unfortunately, me!
Beaches, Jellyfish, Oh My!
Activity number two was beaching. After seeing much of the coastline from the kayaking trip, Dad had our destination mapped out. From our beach we could see a curious looking island called Chinaman's hat. Yes, it looked like a Chinaman's hat. Check out the picture.
I was having a great time until I went in the water. Usually, going in the water is when the fun starts. However, seconds after I started paddling with my boogie board I was stung by a jellyfish. The thing didn't give up after one either. After two stings I decided that I better turn around, and then the little devil decided to give me one last goodbye blow...thanks!
As soon I was out of the water, I had multiple straight rows of circular red bumps. If it wasn't so painful, I might have found them quite orderly. After a brief freak-out (we are from Minnesota, and no nothing about jellyfish stings), the pain subsided and we found a new beach where we could do nothing. That night we ventured to a quaint little town called Haliwea (notice Hawaii's obsessions with vowels) for shopping and some Mexican food.
Activity three was golf. As many of you know, Hawaiian golf is notoriously expensive and beautiful. Images of coastline, emerald green fairways and lava rock are often associated with Hawaiian golf. Our golf outing was nothing like this.
We avoided outrageous green fees and headed to a local nine hole course called Kahuku. This course could probably win an award: ugliest course in the most beautiful location. Located on the ocean, almost every hole was treated to a panoramic ocean view. However, the problem is the course is plain and simple a dump. The fairways are brown, the clubhouse is a trailer and grass is often missing in opportune places (fairways and greens)
Despite the poor maintenance, my parents and I had a great time playing oceanside golf in Hawaii. Well, almost all of us did. One member of the three-some walked off the course furious.
To provide some context, my Dad and I have always been competitive people, and seem to be at our most highly competitive states when challenging each other. We both have our sure bets. I usually win at basketball (though he might argue this point); he always wins at golf (except for one remarkable performance I posted in a golf trip in Oregon). He usually wins because he is a good golfer who plays often and I'm a poor golfer, who rarely plays, go figure.
Anyway, on this occasion, I was keeping up with my Dad scoring wise, because he was playing not-so-well and I was playing well for my low standards. After a frustrating drive, Dad was behind a bush in the rough of the seventh hole. He pulled out a long iron and hit the hell out of it. The only problem, it went right into the bush. I happened to see the whole thing, and burst out laughing. I tried my hardest to contain my hysteria, but couldn't. It goes without saying that my Dad was less than thrilled at my reaction
Pearl Harbor and Waikiki
We left our northern island home for southern beach fun: Waikiki. In the middle of Honolulu, Waikiki is the ritzy area of the island complete with high-end shopping and glamorous people soaking up glamorous rays on a glamorous beach (it's glamorous!).
On the way to glamour land, we decided to see Pearl Harbor. It was a worthwhile excursion. I learned a great deal more about a very important point in America's history.
After brushing up on our American history, we checked into a gorgeous hotel on the beach. I was feeling antsy for some exercise, so I decided to hike to diamond head, a huge mesa on the eastern tip of the beach. After about five miles of walking, I was lost in a fenced in women's college
Once thoroughly rested at the hotel, we headed to the beach for our final meal together. It was a delightful restaurant with delicious food and wonderful candlelit views of the ocean. My parents and I discussed our wonderful trip and the next occasion when we would be together. We still can't really answer that second question.
The next day I took a hotel shuttle by myself to the airport. The driver was from Pittsburgh, contemplating a move to Asia to teach English. I told him about my experience, and he seemed mildly interested.
In the airport I met my friend again. She told me about her trip and I told her about mine. We kept each other great company until we had to part again in Incheon, where we would never see each other again. That seems to be the nature of travel. Meet people and leave them behind. Relish the short time together and the enjoyment that they brought in the places you shared together
I hope you enjoyed the latest version of my blog. It took me over two weeks to write, so you better have enjoyed it...haha.
Please write and tell me how you are doing. I always like receiving e-mail from faraway friends and family.
You will be hearing from me again sometime soon. I still have to write about Thailand and this weekend I will be going to Hainan, China. Many call it the Hawaii of China so it should be good times.
Enjoy life and all that you are doing.