Goth Panda

February 13, 2015

Hawaii: The North Shore

I was a little disappointed in Waikiki. I had been there before in 2002 so I knew in general what to expect, but it seemed like it had gotten even bigger and more touristy since then. The last time I went we spent all of our time there, and one thing I wanted to do this time was explore more of the island. I especially wanted to go up to the North Shore. So we rented a car and drove the coastal road up to the top of the island. We stopped at Kailua for breakfast at Cinnamon’s, which I highly recommend — despite the fact we had to wait a long time for a table because it is so good.

We stopped at the Turtle Bay Resort to swim and lay on the beach. Although I’d wanted to stay at Waikiki this time, I would definitely consider staying at Turtle Bay if we go back to Oahu. It was more low-key and less crowded than Waikiki, and we enjoyed it so much we went back for another day. Mike also liked the trails and other outdoor activities they offered.

We drove up to Turtle Bay for the day, and we like it so much we might come back again tomorrow.

After getting our fill of sun and sand, we continued on to Hale’iwa, the famous North Shore surf town. We browsed in several surf shops, but neither of us knows how to surf and I at least am pretty sure I would not be successful at it. I did find an awesome surfboard for the alternate universe in which I might need it, though.

Found my surfboard! Now if I only knew how to surf....

After that we got the obligatory shave ice at Matsumoto’s. Mike got the Matsumoto’s combination and I got just plain cherry. We drove back to Waikiki and saw approximately 358,456,752 rainbows on the way.

February 11, 2015

Plans for 2015

I’ve booked the big trip for June 2015: Australia. I modified the itinerary I was considering here a little bit. Instead of driving from Sydney to Melbourne, we are going to take the train, and then do two day tours from Melbourne. This is so we don’t have to worry about driving, which I am always nervous about in another country. I also changed the flight back to just leave from Cairns on Saturday morning, and I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to me in the first place. Although it might have been nicer to split up the flight times with a break, it is much more convenient to just get it all done in a row. There is no way the flights back and forth are going to be anything like pleasant, anyway.

I’m not sure what else we will do in 2015. I can’t schedule anything before Australia because of work, but I might be able to take another week off in the summer and extra time around the holidays, as usual. If we get the chance in the summer, I’d like to do an upper midwest/Canada road trip that I’ve been thinking about for a while. For the holidays, I have a few ideas but I’m not sure at this point which is my top choice: Italy, Spain, or possibly a river cruise in Europe if the dates work out; a road trip to New Mexico; California for Palm Springs/Death Valley/Yosemite/Lake Tahoe. I’d really like to make this year a warmer-weather holiday, and some of these are better than others in light of that. But I haven’t settled on anything yet.

February 9, 2015

Hanauma Bay and Waikiki Beach

The second half of our trip, we stayed in Waikiki, but we ended up going to the North Shore for two of the days. The other days, we watched the Lantern Floating Ceremony, snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, and on our last day, we had afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

On Wednesday (the snorkeling day), we decided to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant overlooking the beach.

Breakfast view.

I had been to Hanauma Bay before, the first time I went to Hawai’i. I was all excited to snorkel, but then when I actually did it, I was very unexcited to see all the fish floating in the water close by to me. It turns out I like to see fish, but not when I am actually in their habitat, so to speak.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.

Mike had problems getting his mask to adhere due to his beard. I didn’t even try, but I did go out into the water. We both had a hard time at one point not hitting the coral, since the waves were pushing us into it. You are not supposed to touch the coral since that damages it. And it can damage you, too, since it is sharp. We finally managed to float over it to a sandy part and make it back to shore.

That night we went out to take Hawaii sunset photos.

Waikiki sunset.

Waikiki sunset.

Waikiki sunset.

We flew back on Friday night, and before we left, we went over to the Moana Surfrider hotel to have afternoon tea. A wedding party sat down at the large empty table not long after I took this photo. Most of the group had changed into casual wear, but the bride still wore her white silk wedding gown, despite the heat.

Last day in Hawaii! Afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider.

Afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider.

After that we sat by the pool back at our hotel until it was time to leave.

January 15, 2015

Hawaii: Lantern Floating Ceremony 2014

We spent our first day in Waikiki on the beach at our hotel, of course. I joked with Mike that the first half of the trip, on the Big Island, was going to be hiking and adventures, while the second half in Oahu would be mostly about relaxing.

Believe it or not, although I had the Lantern Floating Ceremony in Honolulu on my radar for visiting, it wasn’t until a few weeks before we left that I realized we would be there for it. It is held on Memorial Day, which was the day after we flew into Honolulu. So Mike and I went down to Ala Moana Beach Park that evening to watch the ceremony.

Lantern floating ceremony 2014 at Ala Moana Park, Honolulu.

I didn’t want to float a lantern, so we walked around the side of the park to get a nice viewing spot of the lanterns. At first you could hardly see them, but then as the sun began to set, they started to glow in the dusk.

Lantern Floating Ceremony 2014

Lantern Floating Ceremony 2014

Lantern Floating Ceremony 2014

I am not big fan of public events generally. I don’t usually attend parades or fireworks displays or festivals. But I really enjoyed the Lantern Floating Ceremony. Not only was it visually beautiful to see the lanterns launch and float, but it also had a beautiful atmosphere of remembrance, healing, and peace. I am glad we got to be there for it.

January 9, 2015

Hawaii: Volcanoes, Helicopters, and Stargazing

The first thing I did this morning was to check the view of the volcano from Volcano House. It was clear and sunny, so the view was terrific.

Clear and sunny at the volcano this morning.

After breakfast, we went back to the Jagger Museum Lookout to get closer photos in the daylight, and to actually go into the museum. I was most interested in the display of volcanic glass, which Hawai’ians call Pele’s hair, and the webcam from inside the caldera. Also apparently Hawai’i is made up of five volcanoes – and a sixth is projected to eventually meet up with them, which will provide some new island real estate.

Volcano

Volcano from the Jagger Museum Lookout

When we got back, we hiked to the bottom of our caldera, the one that Volcano House overlooks. We couldn’t go all the way, because part of the trail was closed due to toxic gases. We did make it to the bottom, though.

We hiked down to the bottom of our caldera, Halema'uma'u. This is the one Volcano House overlooks.

While hiking back up past steam vents, Mike changed his mind about taking a helicopter ride over the volcano. I’d suggested it earlier since there was no flowing lava we could see. Neither of us had ever been in a helicopter, and Mike is prone to motion sickness and wasn’t sure if he wanted to try it. When he changed his mind and said yes, I booked the tickets for that afternoon out of Hilo airport.

It turns out the helicopter ride didn’t make either of us sick, but it did make for some good photos of the volcano.

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

I’m not sure I will want to do another helicopter flight anytime soon, however.

After the helicopter flight, we drove around the Hilo area, stopping at a few scenic waterfalls, and then we had dinner in Hilo. After dinner, we headed up Mauna Kea for the Visitor Information Station, which has stargazing programs every night. Due to the elevation (9,300 ft.) and the mountain range that surrounds it and keeps back the clouds, Mauna Kea has clear skies almost every night. There are telescopes set up for public viewing, and the staff gives a “star tour” with a laser pointer. Once we got there, I had to change into long pants and a fleece sweatshirt since it was so much colder at that elevation. It was hard to get photos without a tripod, so we balanced our cameras on a rock wall outside the station.

Sunset at Mauna Kea Observatories

Sunset at Mauna Kea Observatories

The next day, we drove back to Kona for our flight to Honolulu for the second half of the trip: Waikiki. We waited for the flight at the open air Kona airport for longer than the flight actually took.

Aloha from Kona airport, where you check in, wait for your flight, and claim your bags in the open air.