A Day in Waikiki, Hawaii

April 10, 2013

Well, I was right, 3:30 am rolled around and so did I. I was certainly a bit restless for the next two hours. I finally got up at 5:30 and went down to the coffee shop just before 6. It wasn’t open…hmmm. Then I remembered I needed to geocache! I’ve cached in every state but Hawaii and Alaska. According to my app, there was one hidden less than a quarter of a mile away from my hotel and across from the park.

The hint for the cache suggested to walk down the stairs and to look for the water pond. I thought that was the nice way of describing the homeless person’s pee pond I found at first. As I was snooping around in the dark, the street cleaner dude was looking at me like I was a nut. I had to explain the game. Then I realized there was a fountain 20 yards away and there really was a “water pond”. It was a good hide, though I would have liked it better had I been saved from finding the pee puddle! Maybe the GPS needs to be re-calibrated on my phone :-).

The coffee shop was open by the time I finished. I grabbed something to tide me over and waited for my tour to Pearl Harbor. I waited for thirty minutes before I finally called! Well, the tour was at 6:30, but the pick up time was 5:50. It would have been nice if that were printed on my confirmation! They said they called me…nope…so they refunded my ticket.

I didn’t lose too much sleep over it. I was a little worried about making it back to the hotel and then the airport for a 2 o’clock international flight with the tour ending at 11:30, not including drop off times. I’d rather be in Palau than commercialized Oahu! United wasn’t letting me check in online despite my passport information being entered in my reservation, I wasn’t familiar with the airport, and in my experience island time is different from all other time in the world….much slower…so perhaps subconsciously I missed the tour on purpose, so I could relax on the beach!

Relax on the beach I did! I followed part of the Waikiki Historic Trail which passes along the deck of the Ilikai to a boardwalk, around a lagoon, and to a tourist beach. Then I turned to the right and found a little area where the locals cook out and surf. Before I selected my spot here, I checked out all the sailboats at the piers. The harbor was what used to be the mouth of the Pi’inaio River where men and women in early times used to fish. It was so muddy and there were so many tributaries here, that the locals could catch many types of sea life in Kalia Bay. Appropriately, the word Ilikai means Surface of the Sea.

After a few hours of sunbathing, while watching some surfers on three-foot waves, long boarders paddling in shallow aqua waters, and even a bride and groom “to be” posing for wedding photos in the sand, I opted for a cab back to the airport. It was a peaceful time on the beach and worth the $20 extra to skip any unknown shuttle stops and wait times to take a cab. Not to mention, the cabbie filled me in on a tip to see Pearl Harbor should I return…hop the city bus directly from the airport. These are the options are not available on the official Pearl Harbor website….just being able to buy a simple ticket. Each option includes some sort of tour, and I had to dig for the cheapest option $40. So yes, including the experiences from yesterday, I have determined that Hawaii likes to take advantage of its visitors. I met some really nice people, but it’s a shame how many people prey on those who support their livelihood. It seems, in some cases, tourism has ruined the natural beauty and culture of Hawaii. Oh well, there are other islands to visit…like Palau!

Speaking of Palau, I haven’t been thoroughly impressed with United’s effort to get me there. If they weren’t the only US airline that offers service to Koror, Palau, I would have picked another carrier. I think Ellen and Gary would have picked another airline too! I met them on the plane in Hawaii. At first, I couldn’t find them. They were in Business class while I was riding in the back of the bus, so I texted “where r u?” as I thought they would be on the plane before me. And they replied every plane they had been on so far had a mechanical difficulty. I wonder why? I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a credit card phone on a plane. While I do like their consistent water/juice service, I think what got me the most was the lady guarding the line at the check in counter in Honolulu. I passed by the agricultural line meant for any passenger bound for the US mainland to have their bag checked for fruits and vegetables. She watched me do this and was ready to send me back when she asked, “Where are you traveling?” I answered, “Palau”. Then she asked, “Are you checking a bag?” I responded, “No”. She stepped aside to let me through and then she says, “You’re Welcome.” Really? I didn’t ask any questions or need any help. Was I supposed to thank her for being a nuisance while blocking me from the ticket counter? Once I got to the front of the line, they told me to use a kiosk. I felt like I was back in Argentina, not allowed to speak to a human. I used the kiosk per their direction, and after scanning my passport and confirming its accuracy, a giant exclamation mark appears on the screen and below a statement read “Requires assistance from a United employee”. Duh…I knew this from my attempt to check in online, but instead I was like a walking pawn in an automated phone system. Live people at my finger tips, but unavailable to speak with. It’s no wonder airline complaints jumped 20% last year!

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The first security check point I went to was closed, despite five TSA agents standing there. Is this part of the sequester. Do they get paid half-time sitting there doing nothing? OK, enough of my cynicism…it’s just a long way to get this party started. I’m ready to kayak, snorkel and hike, even if the forecast does call for rain! We finally arrived at the resort in Palau around 9:30 pm after connecting in Guam. We were all surprised by the Guam airport. We didn’t have time to browse, but it was lovely. Palau is 15 hours ahead, Hawaii was four hours behind. Needless to say, the time change has been confusing and we all went to bed! ETB

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A Night in Waikiki, Hawaii

April 9, 2013

It was a blizzard in Denver today. My plane got out before 500 flights were cancelled…Whew! We were delayed for de-icing but made up all the time in the air! I sat next to a father son pair that had gotten stranded in Denver overnight while trying to make it home from the east coast to the west coast. The older gentleman, who required a wheel chair and hearing aids, saw my Denver library book, Gone Girl, which I recommend, and asked if I skied…HA! I’m all about warm weather, and I’m glad I’m leaving it up to Sean to shovel my sidewalk, while I head to the Pacific (Hawaii, Palau, Japan, and Thailand).

We landed safely in San Francisco. I couldn’t believe my eyes the sky was so clear…not a cloud in it…no fog…no smog. Just sun! San Francisco borrowed Denver’s sunny skies for a day…at least weather couldn’t delay our departure to Honolulu! Evidently adding more cargo to the plane could though. That’s OK, we made it up in the air again. United appears to be excellent at padding its schedule. I sat next to a nice young man who was in the army and stationed in Hawaii. He told me his favorite place to eat in Waikiki. It was a Japanese food restaurant on Beachwalk St. between the Hard Rock and the Trump Hotel. “The name started with a T, and it was the third restaurant on the right”, he said. I guess that depended on my traveling direction, but he narrowed it down to a small area on the block, and it looked like it was a 15 minute walk from my hotel, so I thought I’d give it a try once we landed in Oahu.

I was pleasantly surprised by my hotel. Being in Hawaii a day, I didn’t need anything special, but also didn’t want a dump. Water fountains surrounded the open air lobby…kind of a mini Vegas. It seems the hotel is home to residents and offers long-term stays. There is a market and shops along with two pools. The deck and bar overlook the boat piers that once used to be a delta to a prolific fishing river.

The rooms are nothing to write home about….large, a separate shower and tub, microwave, refrigerator…thus livable. I understand it’s very close to lovely beaches, but I’m only here long enough to go to Pearl Harbor in the morning, so I will have to check out the beach if I ever come back.

As for my meal, well I took my walk through Fort DeRussy Park, named in honor of Brigadier General Rene DeRussy, who served with distinction in the American-British War of 1812. The Fort was built in 1908 for defense though it now serves as a place of recreation. Nice paths weaved through the grassy area that was dimly lit. It seemed quaint despite several other tourists traveling on foot and busy streets wrapping around its edges.

I reached Beachwalk relatively quickly, probably because I was ready to gnaw off my arm. Street lights lit up the street and for a minute I wondered what had I done. I was excited about trying a somewhat local place and felt like I just arrived on 42nd street compared to three blocks ago.

I slowly meandered down the street looking for any Japanese restaurant starting with the letter T. I found it…third one on the right…established in 1927. I would have never picked it based on all the menus outside…written in Japanese with English subtitles and pictures. It looked sort of cheesy. Inside was a different story…all four chefs, the host, hostess, and all patrons spoke Japanese. I was in for authenticity…what a treat. Luckily, army boy (I failed to get his name) suggested the jumbo tiger prawns. He also mentioned the fried chicken and pork belly but there were multiple options with those, so it was prawns for me!

Given my hunger level, two prawns did not seem like it was going to be enough, but they are served on a bed of all you can eat cabbage and with a bowl of all you can eat rice. I also got hot tea with my glass of water and miso soup that I got to drink out of the bowl since silverware is not part of the table setting. That was fun…I always liked drinking the last of the milk in my cereal bowl when my parents weren’t looking…and this time I was expected to drink out of the bowl!

So with the prawns (which were fried in a coconut batter), two other fried items were included. I suppose I thought they were pieces of cut prawns until I bit into them. The first was chicken…the other piece turned out to be pork. After I was looking at it inquisitively, the chef asked if everything was OK. I replied, “Yes, I just didn’t know what I was eating”. That’s when I found out it was pork belly. I didn’t recall these things being in the picture with the prawns, but it satisfied my curiosity about the other items on the menu. Speaking of the menu, I thought it was funny that the local Hawaiian beer cost more than a Sapporo.

The prawns were divine! I was hesitant to order them because the bigger the piece of sea food, generally the more rubbery…ICK. These melted in my mouth with every bite. It was clear I stuck out like a sore thumb…the only tourist in the place full of locals. The host told me to use the sauce at the sushi bar made of vegetables and fruit. It was like a plum sauce. With my next bite, he said add it to the tartar sauce that has been provided. That was the perfect combo. The hostess asked me which of three dressings I would like for the cabbage…French, Japanese, or one other. I started to ask about them, and she said the Japanese is the best and brought it over! I wonder how many eyes were watching me eat?

When I got the check it turned out the waiter ordered me something else, the Ebi Fry Set, instead of the tiger prawns. It was $5 more, and I never saw it on the menu. I didn’t argue with him because I enjoyed every ounce, but I began to wonder if the locals try to take advantage of tourists. The shuttle service from the airport, Roberts.com that was recommended on Trip Advisor, told three Hispanic guys coming to work in Hawaii that they had to pay $5 for their large bags. Really?!? Regardless, the host, hostess, chefs, and food were AWESOME! I’d highly recommend the place, Tonkatsu Ginzu Bairin, and I’d order what the waiter ordered me!

I took a different route back to the hotel which took me past lots of shops. I briefly wandered around the grounds of the hotel, but it was already 10 o’clock, I have a 6:30 tour of Pearl Harbor in the morning. I’m certain I won’t have any trouble waking up…or at least fifteen years ago in Maui I didn’t. I imagine I will be awake by 4am! I wonder what time it gets light. I’m anxious to see the hotel and view in the daylight. The sun was setting as we flew in, but by the time we got to the hotel, it was dark…little did I know Hawaii does not recognize daylight savings. I learned something new today. I knew Indiana and parts of Arizona didn’t, but I was unaware of Hawaii. Until tomorrow…ETB!