Shaka, Aloha and Mahalo!
Hahaha, those were among the words we heard a lot in Hawaii. We just got back from our vacation in Oahu. Unfortunately, we left our digital camera at Al's bro's house and realized it just as we boarded the plane. They found it and will be sending it to us, so hopefully I can get the pics posted soon. We have some videos to enjoy anyway. I just took freeze frames of video clips to post for now. But below is a detailed account of our happening in the rainbow state.
Day One - Polynesian Cultural Center's Luau and Show
We woke up early in the morning to reach our 8am flight at SFO. The night before, we got a call from the airlines saying they overbooked and gave us an offer we couldn't refuse. If we agreed to change our original flight from 10am to 8am instead, they would give us free transferable round trip tickets anywhere in the United States, provided that the original direct flight would now have a stop over to Maui. Of course we agreed! It was also better since the original flight was packed that Al and I had separate seats, while the new flight not only gave us seats next to First Class but also window seats. We drove to the airport and parked at their long term parking lot. Rode the shuttle to the airport and off we went! We stopped at Maui since we had some time, and from the air it was all green. But we just walked around the airport and took pictures, although we can see the outside. Already, I could feel the hot weather. As soon as we landed Oahu (it only took 30 minutes), we were greeted by our very nice airport transfer guy and helped us check-in our hotel. We then called Enterprise, while they picked us up to process our reserved car (yes, knowing our short vacation, we didn't waste any time). It was just two blocks away from our hotel anyway and close to Ala Wai Canal. They helped us with the directions to Polynesian Cultural Center which was quite a distance (just to make sure in case my printed Yahoo directions is inaccurate).
As we drove towards PCC and North Shore, we were already awed at the number of rainbow sightings, the majestic natural beaches, green mountain views, Sea Life Park, a macadamia nut farm, and Kualoa Ranch. We entered PCC and took our reserved tickets, proceeded to the Ali'i Luau. We thought we were late but we made it in time (we were actually early). We were greeted a pretty Hawaiian girl and a hunky Hawaiian guy who put leis on us. Then we were directed to our seats, chatted with the people around us (on my right, the people were from England, on Al's left, the people were from the mainland). While a show was going on, we were directed to the buffet of Hawaiian food (we were so hungry already at the time). But I guess I'm not much for Hawaiian food, although I did like their chicken long rice and their teriyaki moa. We took some pics and watched the rest of the show with hula dancers. Then we proceeded to their wonderful polynesian show, Horizons: Where the Sea Meets the Sky. I definitely learned a lot about Polynesian culture just by watching the show. We took more pictures, went window shopping at PCC's Treasures of Polynesia stores, and drove back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.
One of the drummers at the Horizons show at PCC.
Day Two - City Tour, Mini Circle Island Tour, Sunset Dinner Cruise
Al and I woke up early for our tour at 7am after eating our hotel continental breakfast. The tour guide picked us up as we rode a van with four families including us. It was a fun experience since we got to meet and talk to them and discovered that they all lived in the Bay Area. One had a business in Milpitas and lived in San Jose. They were surprised when we said that we were from SJ too. The other was a resident of Fremont. Anyhoo, we first went to Pearl Harbor (the day before was Veteran's Day), fell in line to get our paid tix and waited for the short movie and ferry tour to the USS Arizona memorial. Again, I learned a lot from the movie alone since I didn't know a lot of the facts in the movie (I should have paid attention to my history professor). It gave the whole group a somber and contemplative mood, while we were escorted to the ferry boat after the movie. The boat docked on the USS Arizona Memorial while we looked at the ruins of the great ship under the water after the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. After the tour to Pearl Harbor, we then drove around the city and took pics of the State Capitol, the Washington Place, the National Cemetery of the Pacific, Chinatown, Iolani Palace and King Kamehameha I's statue (with a papaya tree in downtown - something that you won't see in any downtown city). We also made a quick stop to buy some huli huli chicken from this Filipino group who were selling it to raise funds for a middle school. Our tour guide was cool for stopping! We just begged him to pass by after seeing the smoke coming out from the grills at every corner, and smelling all those roasted chickens. After the tour, we were dropped off at our hotel for lunch while I logged on to my class at an internet room just to catch up with school discussions. We prepared for our second tour in the afternoon.
As the same tour guide picked us up in the lobby, we went to extinct Diamond Head, Koko Head, Hanauma Bay (super beautiful place by the way where you can go snorkling), Halona "Blow Hole" (a cool sight when waves crash the rocks and you can also have whale sightings here, although we weren't so lucky), Sandy Beach (Al took a lava rock and I'm jittery about it since Hawaii has a lot of sacred grounds), Kahala (nice upscale neighborhood by the beach with rich residents, some of whom are celebrities), National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and Historic Nuuanu Pali Lookout (awesome valley view with a lot of history). On our way to Nuuanu Pali, we saw a cool waterfall in the vast jungle and rain forests. Also at Nuuanu Pali State Park, Al bought some pineapple with a red sweet powder similar to that found on champoy. I think it was li hing mui on the pineapple slices. It was really good! On the way back, we passed by consulate buildings of different countries, and even saw the Philippine Consulate in Hawaii. Afterwards, our driver dropped us off close to Aloha Tower Marketplace at the Ali'i Kai Catamaran Sunset Dinner Cruise that we reserved in place of our original dinner plan at the Shorebird restaurant. We got to see a very beautiful sunset on higher decks, experienced drinking and dancing, buffet dining, entertainment, and a breathtaking view of the setting sun and Honolulu lights at night.
Upon boarding, Al and I negotiated a table by the side of the ship which is by the window so we can view the ocean. Originally they were going to place us in the middle with the rest of our tour group. Luckily, they consented and we had a great location, facing the band as well. As we were being entertained, we each ordered Blue Hawaii drinks while feasting at their buffet table (menu was similar to the luau, minus the noodles I wanted). We were also entertained with Polynesian dances while watching the beautiful sunset. Awesome, awesome view! Al also went up to the band and asked if he can hold the ukelele while I take his pic. Haha, the guts! They gladly handed the ukelele to him while the band was still singing! Anyway, later on, people were dancing on the dance floor, and we walked up the higher decks to get some air and a better view of Hawaii lights at night from a distance. The cruise was a good two hours, and I felt so relaxed in a romantic and fun environment. I'm just glad Al was by my side to enjoy all of this.
As soon as we docked, we rode the tour bus home (they assigned us numbers with corresponding buses that dropped off customers). We then asked valet to get our rented car, and drove off to Blaisdell Arena to watch Apo Hiking Society. It was such a coincidence that we passed by in the morning while on our city tour and Al saw the venue with a big sign indicating the upcoming concert by the Apo band. We immediately thought that we should check it out after the cruise and see if we can see my sis-in-law's dad, who is also the band's drummer and musical director. Maybe he can get us in for free. But unfortunately, the cruise ended later and we were late so there was no chance to even find Tito Boyet. Al talked to some lady saying we were on vacation from SF and would love to see the band even if we pay half the ticket (since we missed the opening act, Fe delos Reyes). She let us in for free! Al is so lucky like that! Anyway, after a great day, this really MADE our day and we were really happy. I'm glad the day ended with a nice concert to watch (also my first time to see Apo), chatted with Tito Boyet after the gig (who was surprised to see us in Hawaii), got the band's autographs and pictures (and chatted a little), drove around the touristy areas around Waikiki to walk by high-end stores (such as Coach and Burberry), strolled around International Place Market, bought some souvenirs at an ABC store next to it (btw, ABC stores in Hawaii are like 7-elevens in the mainland, where you can literally find them on every corner), and headed home to finally call it a day. And what a day it was...
Me at Pearl Harbor making funny faces at Al.
Day Three - Waikiki Beach, Kaneohe Bay, Waimanalo Bay, Family
We set this day for Al's family who lives in Hawaii. You can also call this beach day. But since Koyang (his older brother) is picking us up around 10am, we decided to go to Waikiki Beach which is walking distance from our hotel. I decided to hang out on the beach instead since I can't swim, relax, and enjoy the views (by the way, Waikiki Beach is not a natural beach anymore, but is still beautiful). Al tried to swim at first, but wanted to go further, so he rented a boogie board so he can enjoy the waves. I was cracking up the whole time coz he seemed like a very happy little kid, hahaha. After the swim, we walked towards the sidewalk and a group of guys were oddly trying to pick me up, saying that his quiet friend (who was just looking at me) thinks I'm beautiful. Hahaha, yep, you know that's odd! I just thanked the guy and walked away. They didn't know I was with Al at the time since he was still walking towards me after returning his board.
We then prepared for Al's family, checked out of the hotel and returned the rented car. This was my first time to meet his brother and sis-in-law, and I was soooo shocked at the resemblance! He does look kinda like Al's twin (older version of Al though). So you know I HAD to take a picture. We then went to their beautiful house on a cul de sac while they prepared for lunch. We also met Pachi, their uber cute pug, and we also met the rest of the family, Al's nephew's who were taller than him! He was so very surprised that they grew and are teenagers. Last time he saw them was when the family had a reunion in 2000. His niece was in University of Washington though so he just missed her. Lunch was served like a feast (they said they eat like that everyday) and yet they don't have a hint of fat in their bodies. His Koyang grilled some pork barbeques on sticks, while Ate Cecille, prepared some lumpia shanghai, salad, and sinigang na salmon which was soooo good! Their food was definitely better than the luaus we had! After a short rest, Koyang drove us around the beaches near his place such as the beautiful Kaneohe Bay (passing by Valley of the Temples) and awesome Waimanalo Bay which had white sand beaches! We also went shopping at the Marine Corps Exchange (since his bro was a retired military guy, he had access to all, even the Bellows Air Force Station and Bellows Beach Park). We bought some honey-roasted macadamia nuts and chocolates at the Exchange, and I think it was tax free as well. After hanging out at the beaches, we went back to their place to pick up the kids and ate at a Japanese seafood buffet restaurant which was really good (better than Todai) but was kinda greasy. Of course, we had our lobster too. Then we went back to their place, took a shower, and prepared for our returning flight home.
Al with his boogie board at Waikiki Beach.
Al with his nephew Coco at their Hawaii home.