30 December 2011

Aloha - aka notes from a small tropical island

We spent Christmas on Oahu again this year, I guess that's as close as I get to a tradition.
The days went much too fast, probably because there was one day I spent on the sofa - not by choice but because I was still struggling a bit with whatever I had brought over with me from home.
I did take some pictures, that'll be another post. For now, I'll link to the photo album on FB - because it's so darn easy to upload from the iPhone:
They are eclectic to say the least: posters, a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, Occupy Honolulu, flowers in the gardens of Queen Emma's Summer Palace, sunrise, sunset, photos from the North Shore where the surf was not very impressive and one of the lines outside the Ugg store (yes, there were so many tourists from Japan shopping there, that there were lines waiting to get into the store).
The notes, in no particular order:
There's an Occupy Honolulu, only 6 tents and a large tent that seems to serve as a business office. The message here seemed to be "Free Hawaii" (I've seen that before along with a picture of a machine gun), I guess not everybody wants to be part of the US there.
Japanese tourists - everywhere, especially at Ala Moana mall and the main strip in Waikiki. The exchange rate makes it attractive.
There are more solar panels on houses than anywhere else I've ever seen. Makes sense, the sun shines a lot, but I bet there's some big subsidizing going on. Those things are not cheap.
There also is at least one huge wind farm, along the road of the North Shore.
Shrimp trucks - something to be found along the North Shore. We only tried Macky's and found it to be so good, we made a special (40 min.) trip back.
Obama arrived a few days after us and there was a warning on the news about possible traffic jams (what? You mean worse than usual?). He stays on the windward side of the island in a nice, upscale area where there's golf and a lovely bay that was closed to other tourists so he and his family and friends could enjoy. Large fines to anybody daring to approach.
Friday evening, the road around the corner from our hotel was closed, there was heavy police presence, the Coast Guard was patrolling the marina and tourists stopping were strongly encouraged to move along and those whose hotel happened to be on the closed-off street were only reluctantly allowed to enter. Turns out that Obama and friends were eating at Morimoto's.
There's a huge homeless camp along the road to Ka'ena Point - approaching from the southern part of the island (we also went to the end of the road from the North). We knew the road dead-ended somewhere just short of the point and we'd never been, so we decided to take a bit of a drive. The area leading out that way isn't touristy at all, but nothing like that camp, which looked like it had been there for quite a while. We got to watch a woman washing her kids by hanging a waterhose over a bridge into the stream below. A little disturbing, to say the least. I find there's quite a bit of poverty on Oahu, once you get away from the main tourist drags, things can get quite seedy.
Rain - it rains just about every day and it did more so this time around then on any of our previous trips.
Of course, that also leads to spectacular rainbows. No pictures of those, we always were in the car at those times.
Newscasters wear Hawaiian shirts - not the anchorman, but the weatherman and the traffic man.
It's windy there, very much so. Thankfully, my hair is long enough to be pulled back. Hats are iffy, mine almost got blown off when we went to the overlook along the Pali Highway.
Waikiki is a shopper's paradise. The same kind of labels found on Rodeo Drive in LA, just lots more of them. Mostly aimed at the above-mentioned Japanese tourists.
The water there is gorgeous, lovely shades of blue and turquoise. No decent waves while we were there, not much good for big-wave surfing anyway. Fun to look at, though.
Traffic's hell, especially in Waikiki. I found the following quote on Frommer's: "Oahu residents own 600,000 registered vehicles, but they have only 1,500 miles of mostly two-lane roads. That's 400 cars for every mile, a fact that becomes abundantly clear during morning and evening rush hours. You can avoid the gridlock by driving between 9am and 3pm or after 6pm." And I can attest to that.
Still, it was lovely to get away and I think there'll be plenty more visits in the future.

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