"Everyone behave on the bus. I discipline people with machine guns." -- our tour guide in Oʻahu
Summer ended with a bang as we just got back from Hawaii. The trip was especially fun as the Shiehs were also there. Though they had a different itinerary and only stayed five days, our families got to spend time together.
The first leg of the trip was a morning flight to Honolulu. Because Hawaii doesn't allow the import of fresh fruits, travelers had to go through an agricultural inspection. Speaking of which, my mother had a pear in her bag that she had forgotten about. Imagine her surprise when it showed up on the X-ray machine!
Mom thought she would get in trouble, but the agents merely told us to get rid of the pear. Dad didn't want it to go to waste and ate it instead. It was a funny sight to see him munching on a pear next to the inspection station. At least we didn't get fined. :P
The five-hour flight to Honolulu wasn't too bad. For one, the lunch was delicious as far as airline food goes. I also saw Spider-Man and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron on the plane. Both were good movies, although I personally liked Spider-Man better.
It was only 2 p.m. when we arrived in Honolulu due to the time difference. Dad got hungry after checking into our hotel in Waikīkī and decided to go to Taco Bell for a quick bite. As far as I can remember, this was our first time eating at Taco Bell. The quesadillas were quite good.
There was plenty of time to see what Waikīkī had to offer. The waterfront was full of people as this is a popular tourist destination. I can see why Oʻahu is called the Gathering Place. There were also hot chicks everywhere, although I was too shy to talk to them. Oh well.
We later went on the Aliʻi Kai dinner cruise as part of a package deal. The host welcomed us aboard the catamaran and talked about Hawaiian culture. This was followed by a buffet dinner. People gathered on the deck to watch the sunset as evening approached. The entertainment consisted of various shows and dances, after which the DJ played party music and invited us to hit the dance floor. The cruise was easily the best part of the trip.
The morning began with a stop at the Polynesian Cultural Center, also included in the package. It was amazing to watch the natives climb coconut trees unaided. The live Hawaiian music and the hula dances were also enjoyable. Even more impressive were the fire dances - those guys were like martial arts experts. I didn't know Hawaii had such a fascinating culture. Our day at the Polynesian Cultural Center concluded with a buffet lunch. Yum!
The Shiehs arrived in Hawaii in the afternoon. We met up with them at their hotel before it was their turn to go on the Aliʻi Kai cruise. I had so much fun on the cruise that I wished we could have gone on it again with them. However, one cruise is certainly more than enough.
At any rate, my family spent the evening checking out Honolulu's nightlife. Mom later noticed a large crowd gathering on the beach. It turned out they were showing Ocean's Eleven on a projector screen. The three of us watched it for a few minutes before continuing on. That was a neat experience.
The highlight of the day was the Pearl Harbor tour. The focus of the tour was the USS Arizona Memorial. For those who fell asleep during history class, Arizona was the ship that suffered the most losses when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. There was a wall with the names of the Americans who perished. It was a touching tribute.
We visited a few nearby beaches in the afternoon. The blue waters of the Pacific Ocean were beautiful and made for great pictures. After dinner, my family spent the evening checking out the nightlife as we did the day before. Party on!
The second half of the trip began with a short flight to Kauaʻi. Unlike Oʻahu, this island had few people and was much quieter. On the other hand, the scenery was incredible. From what I've heard, many movies were filmed here for this reason.
We met up with the Shieh family again before exploring Kauaʻi together. Our first stop was the Kauai Kookie factory in Kalāheo. The company makes cookies with unique flavors and even had samples. I regret not buying some.
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 was ruined by the red clay during a storm. Instead of writing off its losses, the company decided to sell the shirts as is - and they became really popular. I wish I had bought one.
The morning was nice as we went to Waimea Canyon State Park with the Shiehs. Our group hiked to the Waimea Canyon Lookout to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The view of the valley was amazing - pictures don't do it justice at all. This was definitely one of my favorite stops.
Because the trails were wet and slippery due to the moist climate, I was afraid one of us would slip on the mud and fall to our doom. It didn't help that there were no guardrails anywhere. To my relief, everyone survived. Perhaps I worry too much.
This was the Shieh family's last day in Hawaii as Cathy had to go back to school. Though this wasn't a big deal for them as they had been to Hawaii before, I could tell Cathy wasn't too happy about going home. It was a bittersweet morning as we helped the Shiehs pack up and accompanied 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, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty because the suite was very expensive - about $400 a night to be precise. Yikes.
Because Kauaʻi is pretty small, there wasn't much to do other than drive around the island again. One place we hadn't been to was Spouting Horn. This was one of the coolest sights in Kauaʻi. The area around the blowhole was fenced off for safety reasons, but some teenagers ignored the warning signs and entered the closed area. Stupid is as stupid does.
One unusual thing about Kauaʻi is that there are wild chickens everywhere. I couldn't help but wonder if people hunted them for food. It wouldn't surprise me if they did.
I was also a little sad to leave Hawaii as this was the last day of our trip. The three of us had to go to the airport right after breakfast to catch our 10 a.m. flight to Honolulu.
It was then time to fly back to San Francisco after a short layover. The time difference meant we would lose the two hours we had gained. The flight was uneventful as there weren't any good movies. On the other hand, there was an amazing sunset just before we landed. This incredible sight was the perfect ending to a perfect vacation.
There was never a dull moment in Hawaii. Everything we did was fun, especially the dinner cruise. I liked Oʻahu more, but Kauaʻi was pretty enjoyable too. Its beautiful views were unforgettable - no wonder Kauaʻi is called the Garden Isle. I wish the trip didn't end so soon.
Hawaii is a fascinating place due to its unique culture. Considering that we only visited two of the eight main islands, this trip had barely touched the surface. One thing for sure is that we'll have to go to Hawaii again. Speaking of which, I've heard great things about the Big Island and Maui...
Now that we're home, I should probably get back to studying as school starts in three days. Post-vacation blues aside, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again. :-)
Currently watching: A Ring of Endless Light
Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.