The first day and a half on the island was largely uneventful. I landed in Honolulu around 230PM on Wednesday. I didn’t check any bags so I headed immediately outside to find the Roberts airport-Waikiki shuttle, which I prepaid. (TIP: The ride is $9 one-way and $15 round trip.)
There are ground workers in yellow jackets to assist you with the shuttles and she stopped the driver when she saw me running. The girl in the yellow jacket asked the driver if he would take me. I thought to myself, "Why does she need to ask?" Unless, of course, the shuttle was full. The driver was extraordinarily rude. He said, "Oh, for the love of God, hurry it up. I don't have all day." Then he asked what hotel I was headed to. When I told him, he started cursing. I don't know what I did to upset him but I'm sure he'll get over it. I got on the shuttle to find that there were only six other people. This isn't one of those small shuttles; this is the big bus that you see driving around Waikiki. I really have no idea why he was so put out.
Got to the hotel without any further incident. I was a bit skeptical about my selection. I am always quite cheap when it comes to accommodations. I know there are some nice hotels out there, but I just can't see paying for something that I will hardly use. I am never in the room and even though I whine about having all the amenities, I never use them. But when I say cheap, I don't mean dumpster diving. I chose the Aqua Waikiki Pearl, which had so-so reviews. I was pleasantly surprised. A review on TA is pending.
I got situated then went to look for something to eat. I wanted Thai and found Siam Village on Kuhio and Lewers. The food was pretty good but nothing to write home about. I hear the same people operate Siam Garden on Ala Moana and this is much better.
I struggled to stay awake but I did not want to go to bed at 630, so I walked around Waikiki for a little while. I came across a hula show outside the International Marketplace. Apparently they give free hula shows in the Marketplace and upstairs on the second floor of the Waikiki Town Center on certain days of the week. They were advertising for their show. Unfortunately, I could not keep my eyes open any longer.
It's funny how you make all these plans to do all these spectacular things and then suddenly your plans don't go anything like it. I planned a full itinerary for my second trip to Hawaii, but after I arrived I knew that I wasn't in for all of that. My company is notoriously stingy with its time off policy so I had to work 12 hour days in order to earn enough leave time to go on the trip in the first place. I had worked nine days straight, most of them 10-12 hour days. I was absolutely exhausted. I knew that I would probably not enjoy myself as much if I started ripping and running through Oahu at breakneck pace. I started cutting out things. I axed the trips to the museums. Quite frankly, I've had enough of museums for right now. I live in DC. If I need a museum fix, there are plenty.
So Thursday, I decided to spend time on the beach, something I never do. I don't tan. I don't swim. I don't participate in water activities so there is really no reason for me to go to the beach. I know you're probably wondering, why even go to Hawaii in the first place? Why not?
I woke up at 430AM. I wake up early back home and this is a habit I'm never going to break. I did try to wait for a little bit of sun before heading out. There was a thin glimmer of sunlight in the eastern horizon as I started a run through Waikiki. It was very peaceful. There were very few people out, some shopkeepers getting ready to open for the day and a few people at the bus stops, but other than that it was just me and the sunrise. There's really no better way to watch a sunrise then with a good morning jog. Or at least this is my way of thinking.
After the run, I cleaned up and had breakfast at Eggs'n'Things. For some reason it wasn't as good as I remember. They're opening up a new location on Kalakaua this summer, so you can enjoy a beach view. I didn't know any other place to eat so I kept with it, and their orange juice is really, really good. (TIP: They offer military discount). After breakfast I walked over to Wal-Mart. It's not that far but I know most people will not want to walk there. Just take any bus to Ala Moana Center and it's right up the street. (TIP: If you're on a bus that drops you off on Ala Moana Blvd walk through the mall to the other side to Keeamoku Street.)
(TIP: One trip to Wal-Mart will save you thousands of little trips and extra dollars at the ABC stores.) My budget-minded self won't let me pay $4.45 for a gallon of water when I can get it for a buck at Wal-Mart, but the crazy thing was that a gallon of water is NOT 79 cents like it is back home. Even at Wal-Mart it was $2.50. This better be some darn good water. I also like going to Wal-Mart because I can get cash back.
After all of that, I was ready for the beach. I went to Fort DeRussy beach because I think the beaches down Kalakaua are way too crowded. All the Waikiki beaches are crowded but those on that end are ridiculous. The week proceeding of 60-70 hours of work and the time change caught up with me again, so I laid out under a nice palm and took a three hour nap. You have no idea how I needed that. Naps are so much better when you’re lying under a palm tree.
That evening I booked the hula show at the Hale Koa. (TIP: Someone in the party must be military or DOD, and they base the price on pay grade.) Since I am a low ranking, it was only $37.00 for me. Not bad. I keep trying to stay at the Hale Koa but it's always booked out months in advance. Next year I'll try again. I like the resort atmosphere which my budget hotel lacks.
With the Hale Koa luau, you get a voucher for a free drink. I don't drink hard alcohol but I decided to give it a shot. They offer mai-tai, blue Hawaiian and a third drink which I forgot the name. I got that drink. It's like a piña colada, but not and it wasn't very good, or maybe it's because I don't like the taste of vodka.
Before the show, during what they call the cocktail hour are all the activities and crafts. They show you how to wrap those dresses native Hawaiian women wear; they teach you some hula moves and there's even a guy who climbs a palm tree with just some fabric tied around his feet. There's some other stuff as well like fake tribal tattoos and basket weaving with palm leaves. They make quite a show of bringing up the pig out of the underground oven thing.
Finally, you're allowed to be seated for dinner. The Hale Koa luau is not buffet style, but pre-portioned meals. They serve pork, teriyaki beef, some kind of chicken, fried rice, poi, lomi lomi salmon, seawood salad, cucumber melon salad, and desserts. You will not be hungry afterward. You are assigned seating and you may be seated with people you do not know, especially if your party is not particularly large.
After the dinner is the show. I found the show to be quite interesting. The Hale Koa luau takes you on a tour of the Polynesian islands, showing you the different methods of dances and greetings. They show Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Zealand and Samoa. It was very entertaining and now I’d like to quit my job to become a hula dancer. I especially loved the fire dancers. There was a boy as young as 11 doing the traditional fire dances. We were told that he is a junior champion. He was mesmerising. It is amazing what different cultures find acceptable. I can assure you that when I was 11, I was not allowed to twirl burning sticks around the house.
Everything about the show was great except for the filler part. This is obviously for the Baby Boomer crowd, no offense. But they have this middle aged guy who was a one-hit wonder back in 1989, singing showtunes in between the Polynesian dances. He's wearing a cheesy white suit and tells these ghastly jokes. The people at my table were older and they just loved him. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen, but I just got this impression of 1970s entertainment on the Love Boat. And because this is a military installation be prepared for the obligatory patriotic songs and military appreciation.
When the luau is over they invite you to an after-luau party where you can meet the dancers and ask questions. I skipped this part because at 9PM, I was a zombie.
But wait…there’s more!
Tomorrow: O’ahu Nature Tour, the hunt for an Asian bakery and sunset on the beach