Friday, August 23, 2002

back from Hawaii

"Everyone behave on the bus. I discipline people with machine guns." -- our tour bus driver in Oʻahu

Summer ended with a bang as my family just got back from an eight-day trip to Hawaii. We spent four days each in Oʻahu and Kauaʻi. I had never been to the Aloha State before, so this vacation was very exciting. But what made it especially fun was that my cousins Connie and Cathy's family were also there. Their itinerary was largely different from ours, but we still got to spend some time together. I've provided more details in the following trip report.

Day 1

Our trip began with a little mishap at the airport. For those unaware, it's illegal to bring fruit into Hawaii. While we were aware of this restriction, my mother had forgotten about the pear she had left in her backpack. Imagine the awkwardness when it showed up on the X-ray scanner at the security checkpoint!

Mom expected to get in big trouble for this, but the TSA agents merely told us to throw the pear out or eat it, and my father chose the latter. I'd say we were very lucky as they could have given us a hefty fine instead. From what I've heard, the TSA has a reputation for busting people over trivial crap like this.

The flight to Honolulu was almost five hours long, but I got to watch Spider-Man and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron on the plane. Both were good movies, although I personally liked Spider-Man better. Peter Parker is definitely one of those characters that would be fun to hang out with.

Due to the time zone difference, it was only around 2:00 p.m. when we arrived at HNL. The three of us were kind of hungry at this point, so we had an afternoon snack at Taco Bell after checking into our hotel in Waikīkī. This was my first time eating at Taco Bell, and I must say their quesadillas are quite good.

It was then time to find out what Waikīkī had to offer. As Oʻahu is a tourist-oriented area, many of the local businesses were gift shops. The other thing was that there were countless hot chicks on the beach and elsewhere, although awkward 16-year-old me was too shy to start a conversation with any of them. You're probably laughing at me for missing out on such an opportunity. Oh well.

Later in the evening, my parents and I went on the Aliʻi Kai sunset dinner cruise as part of a package deal. The MC began by welcoming us aboard the catamaran and giving us a talk about Hawaiian culture. This was followed by the buffet dinner. People also gathered on the deck to watch the sunset as evening approached. It was then time for the entertainment, for which we were treated to various Hawaiian dance performances. The band later played some party music, and it was our turn to hit the dance floor. The cruise was easily the best part of the trip.

Day 2

The highlight of the day was the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was also part of the package. To start off, it was amazing to watch the native Hawaiians climb the coconut trees without any equipment. We also listened to some live Hawaiian music, as well as watched some hula dancers. Even more impressive were the fire dances; those guys were just like martial arts experts. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of Hawaiian culture. Our day at the museum concluded with a nice buffet lunch. Yum!

The Shiehs arrived in Hawaii in the afternoon, and we met up with them at the hotel where they were staying. It was then their turn to go on the Aliʻi Kai cruise. I had so much fun on the cruise that I certainly wished we could have gone on it again with them. Alas, there were other things to do and places to see.

On the subject of which, my family spent the evening checking out Honolulu's nightlife. At one point, my mother noticed a large crowd gathering in one area of the beach. It turned out Ocean's Eleven was being shown on a giant projector screen. The three of us watched it for about ten minutes before continuing on. It was definitely a neat experience.

Day 3

The highlight of the day was a tour of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. For those who aren't familiar with the history of World War II, Arizona was the ship that suffered the most losses when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. In one section of the memorial, there was a wall that contained the names of all those who perished in the attack. It was surely a touching tribute.

The three of us visited a few of Oʻahu's many beaches in the afternoon. The blue waters of the Pacific Ocean were absolutely beautiful, and we got some great pictures. My parents and I again spent the evening checking out the nightlife as we had done the day before. Party on!

Day 4

The second half of our trip began with a short flight to Kauaʻi. Unlike Oʻahu, this island had few people and lacked the "party" atmosphere. On the other hand, the scenery here was incredible. From what I've heard, many movies were filmed on Kauaʻi for this reason.

We later met up with the Shieh family again, and they took us on a tour of the island. The first stop was the Kauai Kookie factory in Kalāheo. The company specializes in cookies with unique flavors, and we got to sample some of them. I didn't buy any cookies as they were rather expensive, although that is something I kind of regret now.

The other point of interest was the Red Dirt Shirt factory in ʻEleʻele. As the story goes, the factory had a large batch of shirts that were ruined by the namesake red clay during a storm. Instead of writing off its losses, the company decided to sell the shirts as is - and they turned out to be a huge hit. Come to think of it, maybe I should have bought one.

Day 5

Next on our itinerary was Waimea Canyon State Park. Our two families took a short hike to the Waimea Canyon Lookout to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The view of the valley was just amazing; it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Kauaʻi.

The trails were wet and slippery due to the moist climate, and I was kind of afraid one of us would slip on the mud and fall to our doom. To make matters worse, there were no guardrails along the trails. Much to my relief, all of us made it out of the park in one piece. Perhaps I worry too much.

Day 6

This was the Shieh family's last day in Hawaii as Cathy had to go back to school on Monday. The whole morning was a bit bittersweet. It does seem rather unfair that their trip wasn't as long as ours. But because they had been to Hawaii before, this probably wasn't that much of a big deal for them. Still, I could tell Cathy wasn't too happy about having to go home. My parents and I didn't do much either as we spent most of the day with the Shiehs before accompanying them to the airport.

Speaking of which, they let us use their suite for the remainder of our trip. The suite was luxurious and had everything we needed; this was easily one of the best hotels we've ever stayed in. Although the Shiehs are quite generous to us, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty because the nightly rate was over $400. Yikes.

Day 7

All of us were kind of tired from the traveling, so we mostly just drove around Kauaʻi again. One of the attractions we hadn't been to was the geyser-like Spouting Horn. It was a fascinating sight. The area around the blowhole was fenced off for safety reasons, but some teenagers ignored the warning signs and entered the closed area anyway. Darwin Award candidates for sure.

One unusual thing about Kauaʻi is that there are wild chickens everywhere. I couldn't help but wonder whether people hunted them for food. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Day 8

As this was the last day of our trip, I was also a little sad about having to go home. The three of us had to go to the airport right after breakfast as the return flight to Honolulu was scheduled to depart at 10:00 a.m.

We had a short rest at HNL before boarding our second flight back to SFO. The time zone difference meant we would lose the two hours we had gained upon arriving in Hawaii. There weren't any good movies on this flight, so we just relaxed on the plane. On the other hand, my parents and I got to enjoy an amazing sunset from the plane just before landing. It was an incredible sight that made our trip even more memorable.


Of the two islands we visited, I definitely liked Oʻahu better. While the dinner cruise was the best part of our trip, all of us really enjoyed Oʻahu in general. This isn't to say that Kauaʻi wasn't fun; the beautiful scenery of the Garden Isle is certainly something I'll never forget. All in all, this trip totally rocked.

Hawaii has a unique culture that makes it a very special place. Even though I just got home, I really want to go back to Hawaii soon. As we've only visited two of the eight major islands, that leaves at least six possible travel destinations for the future. After all, I've heard Maui is quite amazing...

School begins next Monday for me, so I guess I better continue preparing for my classes - after I get some well-deserved rest.

Currently watching: A Ring of Endless Light
Release date: August 23, 2002

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

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