Sunday, November 15, 2015

Last Day in Hawaii

Of course, on our last day in Honolulu, we started our day off with, you guessed it, Musubi Cafe! I'm sure spam sushi is not good for you but it's too yummy to resist. I regretfully booked a 10:30pm flight thinking that we would have an extra day in Honolulu to explore. However, I didn't realize that almost anything we do in Honolulu results in lots of sweat and since we wouldn't have access to a shower, we had to avoid getting too dirty. The only thing we could think of was to leave our luggage at front desk and find a cafe to chill at and to blog. We couldn't find a cafe with air conditioning and available seating so we settled with two comfy seats at the Royal Hawaiian Center. After an hour of blogging, we made our way to Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin for lunch. Again, the restaurant had two $$ in Yelp but the meal ended up costing so much money for so little food :( (I let Norm eat most of the food.) Luckily, as we were walking to a nearby Starbucks, we stumbled upon a famous mom and pop ice cream shop. The day was pretty uneventful, followed by our last visit to Marukame Udon. I stuck to my fave udon dish while Norm tried almost every item on the menu. 

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

Making our own sauce


Kurobuta Pork Loin Katsu Set

Tasted exactly like the fruit

Hawaii and Vancouver have been amazing to us. My sister got married, I have more siblings, made new friends, and saw old friends. We tried amazing food and checked a couple things off our bucket list (i.e. surfing and scuba diving). Norm and I are ready to go back to Toronto and sleep on our luxurious king size bed!! :)

Scuba Scuba

On our second last day in Honolulu we decided to be super active and hike Diamond Head in the morning and go scuba diving in the afternoon. Our bodies will pay for it tomorrow but we got to live in the now =P We had breakfast at Musubi Cafe and tried to get to Diamond Head early to beat the heat but there was no way to avoid the Hawaiian sun. The hike was quite easy but the heat made it a tad more challenging. The view at the top was very beautiful but we didn't stick around for too long since it was super crowded and hot hot hot.

We're going to miss our breakfast spot

Photo before the sweat

Diamond Head
Starting line

The view

Mid-point photo

Waikiki area

Pondering life

When we were trying to leave Diamond Head, we realized we didn't have any cash and taxis only take cash. We even tried to negotiate with a nice taxi driver for a cheap fare but he wouldn't take our Canadian bills. Thankfully he said he would take us to an ATM along the way back to our hotel and we were able to get back. We booked a scuba diving lesson with Oahu Diving and consciously planned a light lunch to minimize the risk of vomiting =\ We journeyed to the nearby Rainbow Drive-In to try a classic Hawaiian dish, the loco moco which consists white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy.

Walking everywhere

Loco Moco

Iconic Hawaiian restaurant

The scuba diving meet up was way back towards our cruise port so the taxi ride ended up being pretty pricey but at least we finally got one! (We were running late and taxis were no where to be found outside of our hotel.) Our "lesson" included our instructor teaching us the essentials during our boat ride out to our dive spot. The class was small, around 8 people of which 6 were first time divers. We learned how to equalize our ears, clear water from our goggles, reset our mouth piece if it gets knocked out of our mouth, etc. It all made sense when we were doing it above the water but of course it was a million times harder in the water. The oxygen tank was also heavier than expected and they add more weights around our waist to make sure we sink. (They gave Norm and I too much weight during our first dive so it was hard to swim upwards.) When we finally got into the water, I was one of the first ones to descend. Everything was new and very scary. I kept thinking my goggles were going to fly off and it was difficult to equalize my ears (those masks are not made for Asian noses!). I kept going up above the water and the instructor kept calming me down to keep trying. It got to a point where I was going to give up but the instructor talked me into doing it. Another motivating factor was that a fobby girl was in the water so if she could do it, so can I! (She ended up going back on the boat and vomiting the whole time.) I am SOOO glad I went back into the water because once I got over the fear, scuba diving was amazing!! The second dive was much more enjoyable since we knew exactly what to expect. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Hawaii :) I'm not sure if I would do it again since it took a few weeks for my ears to get back to normal but I definitely recommend everyone to try!

The hardest part! (Equalizing ears)

Exploring underwater, 30-40 feet

The amazing sea turtles

Admiring my turtle friend

Norm makes it look so easy

Baby shark

Pillow starfish

For dinner we went to Marukame Udon again. Can't beat a delicious meal for ~$20 USD.

Surf's Up

Today we try surfing for the first time! Woooo! We got a recommendation for a surfing lesson and managed to buy a groupon with Kai Sallas' Pro Surf School Hawaii. We're glad we went with them because our instructor was very patient and learning the basics was definitely a must. It took me a while to get the hang of standing up on the surf board and I kept forgetting to breathe out when I slammed into the water :( (Salt water going up the nose and mouth is unpleasant.) Norm picked up surfing way faster than I did. Even our instructor asked if he does other board sports on the regular which he doesn't but maybe he should! Anyway, there weren't too many waves that day so we spent a lot of time just waiting for our turn and then waiting for a wave. Nonetheless it was really fun and a great full body workout. The most tiring part was paddling back to shore, lol. Another good thing about the company we went with is that we went to a secluded part of Waikiki beach so there was no pressure and we didn't have to feel embarrassed since we weren't very good. (We later saw young kids killing it and put us to shame.)


Really nice day for surfing!

Waiting for our turn 

Chilling out

After a quick shower, we made our way to a nearby ramen restaurant. There was a short wait which is usually a good sign that the place is yummy. Norm had the Tokyo ramen (classic shoyu flavour) and I had the special tomato with cheese ramen. The tomato ramen was different and very tasty but the strong flavour got very lao. After lunch we walked around the Waikiki board walk, got some delicious mochi, and chilled at the beach for a few minutes (in the shade). We were planning to hike Diamond Head that afternoon but there was an issue with our Airbnb which took 4 hours to sort out and we ended up relocating to a nearby hotel. We weren't going to make that affect our vacation though! For dinner we went to the trusty Marukame Udon to cheer ourselves up. 

Tomato + cheese ramen

Enjoying the soup base


Chilling at the beach (in the shade)

Famous Waikiki beach

Saturday, November 14, 2015

North Shore

We rented our car for 2 nights so today we’re going to the North Shore where the beaches are nicer, they have good food (including shaved ice), and a different side of Oahu. For breakfast, Norm bought spam musubi from Musubi CafĂ© Iyasume and it was delicious!! The best was the egg and cucumber spam :) After a quick breakfast we headed to the North Shore! 

Our breakfast everyday

Get in my mouthhhhh
We initially thought the North Shore would be less touristy but of course, by the time we got there, we were surrounded by Japanese tourists =P Our first stop was to find some wifi to find a beach and a washroom. Luckily, the first place we stopped had both and Matsumoto's shave ice! The shave ice is reasonably priced (~$3.50) plus we added condensed milk on top which sounds very sweet but it actually adds such an interesting texture and flavour to the shave ice. Before we left the plaza, Norm bought a spam t-shirt for himself and his brother. In a nearby surf shop, Surf N Sea, we bought a set of good quality snorkeling gear which makes a world of difference when snorkeling. Norm was stuck with the crappy snorkeling gear we bought for $12.99 at an ABC store since he's a way better swimmer than me =P

Long lines


Making our shave ice

Condensed milk topping...mmmMMMM

With our new snorkeling gear, we made our way to Turtle Bay and the name did not disappoint! There were so many huge turtles by the shore and in the water. For a while, we were snorkeling in the water and didn't see any turtles but then from the corner of my eye I saw something moving and it turned out to be a giant turtle! It was very startling and I almost panicked but good thing Norm was there. 

Chilling out by the shore

Say cheese!

Panicking... Getting too close....!

After swimming with the turtles, we drove around the North Shore to see if there was anything else to see. It was all very beautiful and scenic but it was mostly beach after beach after beach. We had our share of the beach so we made our way back to where we came from. On the way back we stopped at Waimea Valley, which we didn't pay to enter but it is a historical nature park. 

Run Mandy Run

What we saw without paying
Before we left the North Shore, I debated getting another shave ice but instead we got some grub from Giovanni's Shrimp Truck which is located in a parking lot with a couple of other food trucks. The truck is eclectically decorated and the shrimp scampi was deeeelicious! Definitely worth the garlic breath after =P

Giovanni's eclectic food truck

Shrimp scampi (hot hot sauce for Norm)

By the time we got back to Honolulu, we dropped off our car and went to dinner at the Doraku Sushi located in the Royal Hawaiian Center. We realized that restaurants with two $$ on Yelp are actually $$$$$ :( The food was mediocre and pricey. At least before dinner we caught the end of a luau dance and after dinner I got a souped up shave ice :D

Our taste of a luau

Royal Hawaiian Center

One of a few photos we took together in Honolulu

Chirashi Don (looks better than it tastes)

Shave ice with frozen yogurt, red beans, and mochi... :D