Wednesday, September 4, 2013

hawaii: part I (the solo portion)

i spent this past week in Hawaii....wait...Honolulu...or....Oahu? wait....i still can't get the hang of what is what exactly but what is of most importance is that it was a damn good time. the first portion (four-ish days) of my week long stay was spent solo. i'd never been to Hawaii at all so i made sure to pack in all of the things i wanted to do (lots food included. you knew it would be!) at the front of the trip because i figured that once everybody came for Aug's and Zye's wedding i'd spend the rest of the time sort of just hanging out. this is how my time was spent.

day 1

excited to explore new territory, i checked into my room and literally physically dropped my luggage onto the floor and then headed out to find food. when i'm in a new place i like to walk around and really soak it all in, so i walked down Ala Wai to an area where i recognized a lot of spots i'd bookmarked on yelp. my first day basically consisted of walking and eating. not a bad way to spend a day. 

first stop, Leonard's for malasadas. i got one filled with haupia (coconut), one with pineapple (flavor of the month) and one coated in lihing powder. these were far better than i imagined them to be. i initially thought i was going to be disappointed with something like an average doughnut but i was mistaken. these are soft, chewy, and everything i wanted it to be. though for a first timer, i absolutely recommend the original unfilled version. oh, and i didn't eat all of them mmmkay? i love food but i have at least some self control. 

second stop, Waiola Shave Ice. i got the lilikoi with condensed milk. 'twas refreshing, though i'm not a huge fan of paying for ice with liquid sugar.

third stop, Ono Seafood, where all they really have are varieties of poke. it's a small little spot with one table outside and a little lady awaiting your order inside. i got the shoyu and the spicy ahi. i would have preferred to have a group of people with me so that i may indulge in tasting all of the styles but i was happy with these. super fresh and tasty! 

i walked back towards the main area of Waikiki and roamed for quite a bit before walking to Ala Moana Mall. i'm not big on shopping while on vacation but i felt the need to say i've been there since everybody i know tends to spend some time there (though i think that's more for drinking purposes than shopping). i find that it's your typical mall.

fourth stop, Ramen Nakamura for oxtail ramen. oxtail is probably one of my favorite meats, so when someone told me about this i knew i had to have it. good thing it wasn't too far from my hotel. if you're going during peak hours be ready to wait in line. 

day 2

i woke up early to hike up to Diamond Head. my intention was to go before sunrise but as it turns out, the trail isn't open until after sunrise. it didn't really matter though because from day 2's experience, buses in Hawaii don't really run on schedule. i waited 45 minutes each time to and from Diamond Head. at the start of Diamond Head i picked up a walking buddy with whom i had this profound encounter. the hike itself isn't very strenuous or long, but the view is spectacular!

nobody i know. just thought it'd be a good pic. 

being a geek

after Diamond Head i went to Hula Grill for a late breakfast because it's right off the beach and the view was nice. i got the obligatory spam and eggs with rice and a short stack of pineapple coconut pancakes. this is far too much food for breakfast but when in Rome Honolulu, right?

you guys, i had the most spectacular 50 minute massage AND 50 minute facial thanks to a Travelzoo deal i'd found months before. it was far cheaper than what it would've cost otherwise and the facilities were really nice at the Na Ho'ola Spa at the Hyatt.

late lunch at Marukame Udon. the noodles are made fresh and constantly. you walk in, choose your size, broth, and any tempura you'd like to add. i got the curry udon with a shrimp, squid and squash tempura. good stuff, i tell ya! the noodles are perfectly chewy and it's a LOT of food for one person. 

after having run in the hotel gym, i ran outside just in time to catch the sunset. beeeauutiful! this is the first of many sun inspired photos you are going to see. 

behind me was an awesome image of fluffy clouds with a pink backround. this photo does the real thing no justice. 

during my stay i had to have at least one fancy pants meal. there aren't a ton of renowned chefs that come from Hawaii but Alan Wong is one of few. i treated Meiche to the "tasting of the classics" at Alan Wong's Honolulu. with such great conversation and catching up, it was hard to pay attention to the food (which is a ridiculous statement for me to make. i almost never don't pay attention to the food. but that's how much i like/miss Meiche).

seafood cake and "soup and sandwich"
tomato soup accompanied by a kalua pig, foie gras, mozerrella sandwich. so rich!

with foie gras no longer easily available in California, i had to get the foie gras off the regular menu. when i ordered it the server said "so you're from California, yeah?" you know it, buddy!

butter poached cold lobster with abalone
just barely cooked sweet lobster. 

ginger crusted snapper with corn and mushrooms
not a fan of ginger but it was subtle enough and the other stuff helped mask it.

kalbi style twice cooked short rib with ginger shrimp
succulent and perfect!

mini coconut
coconut sorbet in a chocolate shell. a refreshing good ending to the evening! 

day 3

i rented a car and headed out to the east side in search of pancakes and beaches. driving through Oahu it's hard not to want to stop and take pictures of all of the greenery but i tried to refrain. i made my way to the infamous Boots & Kimo's for their pancakes with macadamia nut sauce, then immediately following went to Cinnamon's to try their guava chiffon pancakes in a battle for best pancakes in Hawaii. neither won, really.

the pancakes itself were better at Boot's for sure. the consistency was just more appealing. but the mac nut sauce is overrated. it was good, but not enough for me to say it's something you have to get when visiting the island. 

the guava sauce on these pancakes were super sweet and super guava. take away a bit of the sweetness and i may have chosen these as the winner. 

after the mammoth breakfast only a slob should eat, i headed to the sand and water to lay out like a beached whale. the beaches were gorgeous, the sand soft and the water warm. after about an hour in the intense Hawaiian sun i realized that i'd forgotten to put sunscreen on the torso section of my body, which is pretty much everything from the neck down to the shorts line. good thing i'd strategically planned to have my massage/spa day before any chance of sunburn because the middle portion of me was a hot shade of red for the rest of the trip.

Kailua Beach
got my camera wet getting this shot but well worth it! 

the softest sand!

Lanikai Beach selfie

the bluest of blue water

Pali lookout
after having seen different sights around, this particular view seemed pretty lackluster

late lunch at Helena's
this was my favorite meal of the trip by far! this place is super local and crazy delicious. it's sort of hole-in-the-wall with quick, friendly service. MUST orders are the pipikaula short ribs and the fried butterfish. i scarfed down ALL of this food minus the raw onions. sooo much yum!

after having eaten all of that deliciousness, i decided i needed to hike. not a good idea, Reg. a huge meal before hiking isn't really the best thought out plan but so it goes. i wanted to be at the top of Koko Head at sunset and had some time beforehand. i looked up other hikes nearby and came up with Mariner's Ridge

Koko Head from the beginning portion of Mariner's Ridge
the Mariner's Ridge hike starts right at the end of a residential street. there's a sign that says it's private property and nobody should enter but who are they kidding? it's about a 45 minute climb up and 30 minutes decline. i was in a rush to get to Koko Head for sunset, so i got up in 35 minutes and ran down in 23 minutes. looking back, it would have been reeeeaalllly stupid of me if i twisted an ankle and was left there to crawl back at night. 

the top! pretty!!

please excuse my sweatiness. i had no choice but to take close up selfies. nobody else was there.

on the way down from Mariner's Ridge

aaahhh Koko Head. approximately 1000 steps, which is really just an old railway line. it doesn't look that daunting but after having eaten a giant meal and rapidly hiking just prior to this did not make this easy by any means. not gonna lie, i had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath and physically say "whew." but i got up just in time for sunset, which was the ultimate goal. yay!


these pictures don't even slightly do the view justice. it felt almost surreal being up their looking out into the distance with the sun causing it to look like a blazing fire was beyond those hills. 

day 4

the north shore. sharks, turtles and shrimp were on the agenda. i had a 7am date with some sharks through the safety of a cage. yep! shark cage diving! maybe one of the coolest things i've ever done! then i was off to find giant sea turtles. it was my goal to see one on the sand but i failed. i saw a bunch in the water though! shrimp trucks are a must when you're on the north shore so i made sure to get my fill of the bugs of the sea. 

the sunrise from Haleiwa was soooo pretty with all of the clouds and the reflection from the docks. i took a ton of pictures here. 

silver lining

shark time!!!


oh, y'know...just hanging with sharks

the cage held about ten of us at a time and was pushed about ten feet from the back of the boat. we were equipped with snorkels and fear. except i wasn't fearful at all. brave, no? haha! the holes of the cage weren't large enough for any of the sharks to get in, so there was no real reason to be scared. there were about 15-20 sharks around us along with a lone barracuda. 

helllllllla sharks!

oh, hi friend!

apparently August is the best time of year to do this. i'm not sure if it's because the sharks are more abundant or if it's because the water is more calm. i went at 7am to ensure that the waters were of least choppiness. can you imagine trying to check out sharks while being thrashed around a cage? no thanks. with waters calm and sharks plentiful, it was awesome attaching myself to the bottom of the cage to get close to the action. the sharks actually came really close to the cage. enough so that if i stuck my arm all the way out i could probably touch them, but i didn't want to chance coming back with one less limb. 

talking with one of the guides on the boat, i asked if the sharks have slowly become domesticated because of all of the food they feed them on their daily tours. he said that they weren't legally allowed to feed the sharks. so why in the world do the sharks hover around the boat, you ask? well i asked too. he said that they mainly feed on lobster and crab at the bottom of the ocean but when they hear the propellers of the boat they think it's a crabbing boat and come up for the scraps. once they're up near the surface, they can feel the heartbeats of the people in the cage and it keeps them there. interesting, huh?

i found turtles!! after the disappointment of combing the sands of a beach near the docks for turtles, i asked someone who looked like she lived on the beach. like seriously. i think she lived in a tent on the beach. kinda sketch, but she seemed okay. she told me that i would definitely see turtles at Chun Reef Beach at that time of day and so i went! 

i saw a ton of turtles being pulled in and out with the waves just hanging out wherever the water took them. it was pretty cool spotting them from where i was but i wanted to see them up close in a non-captive habitat. lucky for me there were a couple hanging out in the tide pools nearby! 

=) 8am turtle stalking

it was only 9am and hot as all hell. guava with ice cream and azuki beans. i'm not a fan of shave ice but this was super refreshing and i ate it all up in two minutes flat. 

my first shrimp truck was recommended to me by my favorite Hawaiian native, Ruby. it's her favorite so i had to try it. The Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck is sort of hard to find. i went up and down the highway looking for it among lots of other shrimp trucks. i was about to give up when i decided to call them to find out exactly where they were. i could barely understand the woman on the phone, who was clearly born and raised in Hawaii, but managed to hear "sugar mill," then googled that. to my astonishment, it was actually there! i finally found it!  i got the hot and spicy which was so so very money! 

the famous Giovanni's Shrimp Truck was literally half a block away so i stopped by and got a half plate. i could only manage to eat a few of the shrimp due to excess shrimp already hanging out in my belly, but it was also quite delicious. 

i stopped by at Ted's Bakery because everybody said i had to try the chocolate haupia pie. i took one bite and it reminded me of jell-o so i skipped on the rest of the slice. 

on the way back i obligatorily stopped off at the Dole Plantation which is a bore unless you are a child....and even then i can't imagine they'd be entertained for too long. the pineapple soft serve was oh so very good though. too bad the only other place i know where to find it is at Disneyland.

with time to kill i stopped off at the Liliha Bakery and picked up a green tea puff, a custard filled chocolate covered puff, and a lilikoi malasada. i didn't eat these until a few days later and they were still delicious!

this night i met up with a bunch of the people who were finally in Hawaii for the wedding! i drank way too much and took zero photos. oh....except this one below! we obnoxiously went to the bride's room as if she didn't have a big day to get ready for. 

hi Zye!

this acai bowl was a nice refreshing change from all of abundance of starch and meat dishes Hawaii has to offer. 

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