Our Hawaiian Adventures – Part 8

Near the end of our trip I went on a garden tour at the Hale Koa and the view from the balcony that morning indicated it would be the perfect day for a bit of flower gazing in the shade.

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Although the plumeria was out of season and the birds of paradise that were blooming weren’t well positioned for photos, we did see Hawaii’s calling card – the hibiscus.  There were several varieties of them around the grounds.  This one was called Hula Girl.

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We also spotted bright red and yellow hibiscus in full bloom.  There were also a dwarf variety of white hibiscus, which I never would have thought was related if it weren’t for the guide pointing it out.  This one had a sign below the shrub describing it.

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I had seen several ladies around the hotel wearing these spider lilies tucked behind their ear just like many do with the hibiscus, but the gardener warned that the stem should be washed before doing so because they put off a type of sticky fluid that can be toxic.

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Another common flower around the hotel was ginger.  While not the edible type of ginger there were several colors of it including these red and pink types.

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I believe the gardener said that this was another variety of ginger.

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I really loved the look of the coatan plants used in several of the pathway boarders but know full well they would never survive Alaska’s winters.

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The guide also pointed out this banana tree that we had walked by countless times and never noticed.

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There was a massive variegated Hala tree that has been named Harry the Hala and is almost as famous as Gus the banyan in the courtyard.

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GardenHalaSignI don’t remember what these flowers were but they were a lovely shade of coral.

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These lobster claw haliconias were extremely unique and positively tropical.

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We also spotted flower varieties I was familiar with like these purple morning glories.

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The hubs and I had spotted these trees on the big island and loved their large size and interesting branches.  During the tour I learned they are called Monkeypod trees, which seems very fitting.

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The gardener also pointed out this noni tree, which bears fruit that has been used for medicinal purposes by natives for centuries.  While you don’t eat the fruit, which I thought looked a bit like a caterpillar it’s extracts are used to make tea.  Today they also use the extracts to make pill supplements, which we purchased at local retailers to ease the hub’s arthritis.

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I’m not sure which type of palm this base was from but I loved the strange formation of scales created along the stalk.  It looked almost alien to me.

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The final stop of the tour was the luau garden where we’d been earlier in the week.  It was nice to get an unobstructed view of the area and the roasting pit which was already going for the luau scheduled that evening.

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After the tour we headed out to do some shopping and stopped at a local chain restaurant called Fatboyz.  We both enjoyed our menu choices and the Aloha brand drinks available.  Another of our favorite local chains was Teddy’s Bigger Burger which had a plethora of burger options that all sounded delicious.

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While out shopping we stopped by the joint base PX or military Exchange.  It was massive – as in the size of a mid-sized mall, complete with a beautiful mural ceiling!   They also had the best priced souvenirs, which meant we bought a bit more than we expected.

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That evening we walked a few blocks from the hotel to the trendier area of Waikiki, where we found this crazy crosswalk.  All of the traffic lights would turn red and the pedestrians would all cross at the same time in every direction!  We think it was based on Japanese cities where there are large crowds.

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Once we navigated the odd crosswalk intersection we located the Mexican restaurant we’d come in search of on the rooftop of one of the shopping plazas.  It was a beautiful view of the city and had a great vibe.  We heard that the corner we were sitting in had been used earlier in the day for a photo shoot for the chef, which I could totally envision.

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On our last day in Hawaii we made plans to meet up with a friend for dinner and arrived a bit early.  Luckily the restaurant was directly across from the Island Princess warehouse, where we sampled several items and I got to pose as a Hula girl.

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After we bought several taste test approved treats for the flight home we enjoyed a final chance to catch up with our friend over sushi. Located in the industrial park near the airport, Mitch’s didn’t look like much from the outside, but we quickly learned why this was the local’s favorite sushi spot.  Everything was super fresh because Mitch’s is also a fish market!  It made perfect sense that they would expand into the sushi business since they have the best stock already.  It was the perfect way to end our trip.

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We said our final goodbyes and headed over to the airport to make it through customs and security.  By the time our flight took off evening had arrived and Oahu gave us a glowing aloha.

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I’ll share some tips for planning a trip to Hawaii in my next post so if I’ve inspired you to visit the Aloha state check back for the inside scoop before you make those reservations.

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Our Hawaiian Adventure – Part 7

We happened to be in Oahu during the Chinese New Year celebrations so we headed into China Town to check out the festivities and get some dim sum.  Unfortunately the restaurants my friend recommended were closed because everyone had set up shop out in the street fair.  So we wandered around taking it all in, including the dancing dragons in the main plaza.

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There were two dragons in this performance, but the golden one came to my side of the crowd and worked his way around the crowd as he moved to the beat of the drums.

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Many offered money to the hungry dragon.  Some he accepted gingerly, while others he played with for a bit!

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The cutest thing was seeing him duck down to little kid level to include them.

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Here’s the view those chosen to give an offering saw.  He looks a little fierce, yet friendly and cute all at the same time. 🙂

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There were huge crowds for blocks as everyone wandered the street vendors finding fun little toys and different types of Asian food to sample.  We’re not usually the type to enjoy being in a crowd, and the hubs wasn’t too keen on being in the midst of all this activity.  I knew he was hungry so we made finding dinner the priority.

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Luckily, we soon spotted this booth with a massive wok whipping up pancit.  We got two orders along with some lumpia and found a curb to sit on to enjoy it.  Although not the dim sum we had planned on, it was still yummy and satisfied our bellies so we were in a better mood to enjoy the scene.

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As the sun faded we caught another pair of dragons dancing.  This time it was a white and black dragon.  I liked the white dragon, who turned out to be female!

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We had heard that the swap meet at Aloha Stadium was a the best place to find good deals on Hawaiian attire so we headed out on a bright sunny morning to see what the merchants were offering.  We didn’t realize just how big the event was and only made it about half way around the stadium before we were ready to call it lunch time.  Along the way we found lots of Hawaiian shirts for the hubs, several maxi dresses for me, quite a few new pieces of jewelry and plenty of sauces, jams and other yummy specialties to take home.

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While browsing the booths we got a little hot and decided to try out the fresh chilled coconuts.  The guy cuts an opening right after you order and plops in a straw, so you’re good to continue browsing.  It was a bit awkward to carry, but the novelty of it was just as refreshing as it’s contents.  We ended up giving the empty coconut to a young boy who was waiting with his dad while his mom finished shopping.  It was the perfect toy for him and he giggled as he continuously picked it up and dropped it on the pavement.

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We also headed out toward the middle of the island to see the old ruins of the Royal Family’s summer retreat.  The road to the trail looked like a tunnel carved through the jungle.

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And the trail through the bamboo forest had a very similar feel.

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After a short, easy hike we came through the trees to find this.  There’s something that draws me to old things and the ruins were no different.  While the hubs took a break in the shade I checked out the crumbling walls from several angles.

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There were a variety of offerings left at the base of this sign.  I’m not sure if they were given to gods or ancestors or both, but it’s obvious there are a fair amount of visitors to the location.

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Inside the walls you could see how they had been smooth at one time.  And I spotted a studly mainlander through the doorway as I turned back around.

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We couldn’t tell if the large area of rocks in front of the structure were pieces that had fallen down over the years or if there had been some sort of wall or pathway here originally.

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Hot and sticky from our hike we decided it was the perfect choice to head back to the car and over to the Dole Plantation for another Dole Whip.  And we were right.  It was the perfect way to wrap up the afternoon and start the next round of relaxing!

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Next up I’ll share photos from the garden tour at the Hale Koa along with a few activities we did during our last days on the island so check back soon for that.

Our Hawaiian Adventure – Part 6

Today I’m sharing our visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. This was my number one must do while on Oahu and the hubs was in total agreement. We tried to buy tickets in advance online but they were sold out for the date we wanted. Luckily, after some research the hubs learned that they give out free tickets each day to the first 1,000 people in line. The catch is that although they open the gates at 7:30 am, the line starts forming around 6 am. So we made plans to get up super early and ended up being numbers 4 and 5 in line. It was one of the few days we had to get up early during the entire trip and was completely worth it because it meant we were in the first group of the day to visit the memorial. I highly recommend doing the first tour because you get to enter the memorial while it’s empty rather than fighting the departing crowd of the group before yours who are trying to board the boat you just took across.  Here’s the view of the memorial and the USS Missouri as we approached and docked at the memorial.

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Once aboard the memorial you can see the remains of the ship just beneath the surface although some portions are above the water line.  Oil spots are visible on the water all around as the vessel continues to seep these fluids, which they expect will continue for another 50 years.

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At one end of the memorial there is an opening over the ship for viewing.  This is the spot where divers add the ashes of former USS Arizona crew who choose to join their shipmates upon death.  To date, not one of the eligible veterans has refused this opportunity.  The day we visited someone offered a lei in honor of those entombed here.

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Beyond the opening is a room where the names of the entire crew are displayed on a wall.  It’s powerful to see just how many there were.  Those who perished with the ship or during the attack are listed on the main wall divided by service – Navy or Marine, while those who rejoined their crew upon death are listed on the smaller walls in front.

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As we prepared to leave the memorial I happened to look up and see the flag against a bright blue sky.  It was a striking scene as I thought about the attack, the lives lost and the countless acts of heroism that day and in the months following.

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There was also a beautiful view of the USS Missouri docked just a short distance away.  It’s a fitting addition to the memorial park given it’s rise from the attack and return to service including being the vessel where Japan’s surrender was accepted.  And it’s placement next to the USS Arizona is a quiet salute to the costly victory.  Across the channel in the other direction is today’s active joint military base, where usual activities were in progress, including a ship heading out of the harbor.

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Back across the water at the park we walked the trail of reflection, noting important landmarks along the way.  This sign showed a great aerial view of the memorial which gives a better sense of it’s positioning over the vessel.

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Along the walkway of viewpoints were signs with quotes from those present during the attacks, but the most moving was this poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during the war.  It’s one we should all consider daily, especially these days as many forget the sacrifices military service men and women give to allow their countrymen to safely enjoy their rights back home and around the globe.

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This map depicted the layout of the harbor the morning of the attack and next to it was a list of the vessels present, indicating which were destroyed or damaged.

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We toured the various displays in the museum area which showcased stories of those present in a variety of ways.  One of the most memorable for me was this one about the recovery efforts after the attacks.Sign

Experiencing the memorial and exhibits was something I’ll always remember.  While the environment is somber, it’s also a perfect showcase of America’s pride and ability to overcome.  That evening we attended a much more lively “must do” activity – a traditional Hawaiian Luau.  We decided to go to the luau at the Hale Koa where we were staying just because it was convenient, but I hear it’s one of the best around.  After seeing the show I’d agree.  The evening began with a welcome to the luau garden where musicians played traditional songs, guests enjoyed drinks and learned how to do Hawaiian activities like making lei’s, weaving palm fronds and swinging rhythmic balls.

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As the other activities died down one of the cast members came out to show how natives climb coconut trees.  This guy was a total hoot!  Full of energy and quick wit he was certainly the star of the show all night.  With a cloth tied around his feet for gripping he quickly hopped his way up one of the taller trees in the garden.

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He went almost all the way to the top!

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And he had jokes from way up there too!  Noticing that we were all taking pictures he decided to give a variety of poses.

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After the tree climbing there was a short fashion show on how long pieces of cloth were tied in different ways to create a variety of looks for both men and women.  And next was the call to dinner, via traditional conch shells.

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The men pulled the large roasted pig out of the underground oven and welcomed us into the seating area which was decorated with banana leaves and fresh pineapples – cut and ready to eat next to Hawaiian appetizers.  The seating area was a large area with both covered and open air sections.  Since the weather was nice we used the open air portion and had seats right up front next to the stage.  Our table was in the second row on the left in the photo below.  If you look closely you’ll see the hubs next to my empty chair.

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The cast performed a variety of dances using gourd moroccos and sticks to accompany the beat of the musicians.

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As we enjoyed the dancing showcasing each of the cultures around the Polynesian islands dinner was served.  There was a good helping of the roast pig, local beef, rice, a fried banana and sweet potato all topped with a pretty orchid.   We also tried Hawaiian poi which is a traditional local food.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I did try it.

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The final act of the show was a champion fire dancer, who is only 17 years old!  It was such an amazing scene I only got this one picture as he began.

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Enjoying both of these activities on the same day was good planning and gave us quite the sense of living Hawaiian.  In my next post I’ll share our visit to China Town for the Chinese New Year celebrations, shopping at the swap meet and hiking to the ruins!

Our Hawaiian Adventure – Part 5

After our adventure filled couple of days on the big island we returned to Oahu just in time to catch the fireworks on the beach at the Hale Koa.  It was definitely the thing to do on a Friday night since a large crowd gathered along the beach, but it was a fun and relaxed way to kick-off the next portion of our trip.

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Fireworks

The next morning we headed out to Waialua to attend a painting class run by the wife of a Coastie the hubs used to fly with in Kodiak.  Her shop, Simply Honeybee Art & Signs had a wonderfully relaxed vibe and plenty of Cece Caldwells paints in stock so we could customize our pre-chosen designs any way we liked.  I had never used this brand of paint before but really liked it for several reasons.  In fact, now that we’re home and back to working on projects I find myself wishing I had the stains we used on the signs we made so I might just have to order an inventory to have on hand, especially since we also picked up some other design stencils from her to create additional signs at home.  We had a great time catching up with a fellow Coastie and talking about the idea of possibly opening a similar shop in Alaska one day.  These fun new art pieces have since found a home in the Family Room gallery wall, which I’ll share in the near future.

SignsPhoto c/o Simply Honey Bee Art & Signs

After painting, we drove out to the North Shore to look for turtles at Laniakea Beach.  It was pretty windy which made the surf pretty large.  In fact they had closed the beach a few days prior because the waves were so intense they were cresting the small bluff and spraying across the nearby road.  Luckily we arrived just before the tide started to rise so there was plenty of area to enjoy the beach as the waves pounded the rocks.

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Although we didn’t see any turtles on the beach there were several cruising the waves.  We’d occasionally see them come up for air and glimpse the edge of a flipper or top of their shell as they navigated the surf.  I was a little bummed that they didn’t come up on the beach, but since this was a heavily trafficked area, it would have been a mad house if they did.  There was a turtle guardian on watch who shared lots of information about turtles and the area since he didn’t have any turtles to monitor on the sand.

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Next we drove further down the North Shore to see some sights and soon realized there was a surfing competition going on, which was apparently similar to spring break in Daytona Beach because we saw several interesting activities.  One included this rig where a pool had been created in the back of a truck using a tarp and subsequently filled with several young men.  Meanwhile a young woman decided to ‘ride’ the jet ski on the trailer behind them.  We also spotted an interesting guy wearing nothing but a bright red banana hammock and winter ski boots on the side of the road.  Although I did get a picture of that I’ll spare you the image being burned into your mind.

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We headed back toward Honolulu and decided to stop off at the Dole Plantation along the way.  We had heard that the Dole Whip was a must try so we browsed around a bit, picked up several sauces to bring home and ordered our Dole Whips.  We enjoyed them out on the back patio as we watched the train come and go.  It was a very simple treat, but definitely delicious.  In fact, just looking at this picture makes my mouth water for more!

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Finished with our snack we took a moment to snap a selfie with the giant pineapple on the grounds.  Doesn’t the hubs look super excited to be posing with a pineapple? 😉  As we made our way back to the car I noticed these beautiful multi-colored trees.  It was literally a piece of living art.  I later confirmed they were rainbow eucalyptus, which obviously wouldn’t survive in Alaska.

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The next day we decided to do a submarine tour we’d heard about from a co-worker since the dock was at the hotel next to ours.  It was a little pricey, but it was a unique experience so we were willing to give it a shot.  It was totally worth the cost to see the fish up close and experience the ocean floor without having to get wet.  A boat takes you from the dock at the shore to the subs out in the open water, which provided time to spot cute trumpet fish next to the dock and enjoy the view of Waikiki from the stern as we headed out.

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The sub surfaced as we approached their location and we docked along side it to onboard and offload passengers from the top of the sub.  Once inside we spotted the pilot’s impressive cockpit, which has a full bubble view and found a seat toward the rear along one side of the sub.  Here’s a video of the sub surfacing.

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The company who runs the submarines has partnered with local research groups to set up structures in an effort to grow new reefs for sea life because the sand imported for the tourist beaches along Waikiki has killed off most of the natural reefs.  The first we saw was this Japanese seaweed growing structure.  Normally used to grow seaweed as a commercial product, here it’s too warm for seaweed to grow so it’s not as covered, but still provides a good place for fish to gather and hide.  There were also a couple of planes that were purposely sunk to create artificial reefs.

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This guy seemed pretty interested in the sub and swam along side of our window for quite a ways, checking us out.  I’m pretty sure this is the fish that Dory in Finding Nemo was modeled after – and it did “just keep swimming…”

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Next were some ships that had been sunken as reef starters.  Like the planes it was odd to see this structure under the water, but still quite interesting to see how it had been transformed by its new environment.

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At the bow of one of the ships three sea turtles were taking a little nap, while getting their shells cleaned by fish.  Seeing them on the land and in the waves was one thing but being so near them underwater was totally cool – especially to see three of them in such a chill state.

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There was also one turtle on another sunken ship, but he was harder to spot (the lump on the right of the picture).  There had been two when we first went by but we had to wait until the sub turned around to go past again on the other side to see him and by then one had headed off to somewhere else.

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That evening we met up with my friend who lives in Hawaii to create some portraits for his family at the new Ko’Olina Disney resort.  I’ve shared those images on my photography website.

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At the end of the session we all took a moment to savor the beautiful sunset before heading to their home where we were treated to a fantastic potluck with a variety of yummy dishes!  It was a great way to end another day in paradise.  I’ll share our visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial and Luau in my next post, so stay tuned for those!