Happy New Year!
A PRIME YEAR
The number 2017 is prime, which means it is divisible only by itself and the the number 1; factors for this year are 2017 and 1. It is an inauguration year which means we will have a new president on January 20; inauguration years follow general election years every four years. It is also the year my first child graduates from high school. Since she was born in 1999, she is the same age as the final two digits of the calendar year. For example, she was one year old on Jan 1, 2001; she was 13 years old on Jan 1, 2013 and she was 17 on this Jan 1, 2017. That’s easy to remember for aging minds.
WHY KAUAI? (pronounced Kuh-why-ee)
I’ve been traveling over the holidays and wanted to tell you about it.
Where can you fly 11 hours and still be in the United States, but not in the Americas? After visiting the Caribbean many times, I finally understand why Americans enjoy Hawaii. That’s the answer to the question, by the way, Hawaii. It’s the northernmost archipelago in Polynesia and NOT part of the Americas. It is a LONG flight, but I read a book on the way there and slept on the flight back since it’s an overnight because of the 5 hour time change. You gain 5 hours traveling to Hawaii from the east coast. If you can manage the travel effort, the experience is superior for many reasons: no customs, no forms, first world service, quality roads and, it’s hard to believe, but way out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you’re home. Hawaii is the United States. We had to keep reminding ourselves. You will have to fill out an agricultural form and scan your bags on the way home.
We visited the northwest island of Kauai and took the helicopter ride into the Waimea Canyon, or the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Much of the island is inaccessible by car and is wild, stunning nature. The famous Jurassic Park Falls (actually Manawaiopuna Falls) boasts one of the wettest spots on earth with 460 inches of rain a year. The rain and wind and elements carved these beautiful mountains, cliffs, sky high waterfalls, and rugged shorelines over millions of years; the NaPali coast is 17 miles long and one of the most photographed in the world for good reason. If you’re on a budget, save your money and splurge on the helicopter ride. It’s the only way you’ll see the uninhabited center of this Garden Isle. You’ll see the canyon, the cliffs, the coastline, and there’s one outfitter which will let you land at the falls, just like in the movie. Because the land is private, they are the only approved company. (Island Helicopters)
Hiking Sleeping Giant Mountain
We stayed on the south side in Poipu and visited Spouting Horn which is especially gorgeous at sunset. We hiked Sleeping Giant Mountain in Kapaa from the west side through the Norfolk Pine grove, a sort of spiritual hike and a fantastic reward for minimal effort. The hike was about 1.5 miles to the top and the vistas to the ocean or Coconut Coast (east coast) are incredible. Go past the Trail’s End sign to summit. Wear good shoes; sneakers are fine but they will get muddy. We were lucky and had a dry morning. Even so, our shoes were caked in mud when we finished. There are a couple rock scrambles where you need to use your hands. This hike is mostly covered.
We rewarded ourselves with a visit to Monico’s Taqueria with delicious seafood prepared while you wait by Monico. Lots of fun boutique shops in town, shave ice, fresh coconuts.
We visited the Salt Ponds or local beach with sand bar. It was quiet with lots of tidal pools brimming with interesting life. Check out the Swinging Bridge which does move slightly as you cross and the Talk Story Book Store, the country’s Western Most Bookstore. The owners know the selection of new and used books and are knowledgable about local interests. We had a fascinating discussion about Harper Lee and Truman Capote. If you’re lucky you might see the store cat. (Talk Story Bookstore)
Fun for Foodies
Hawaiians know how to eat! Best eating was the local sushi counter inside the grocery store, Makai Sushi; get any Poke Bowl which includes seasoned ahi tuna served over sticky rice. I’m not a sushi fan and it was incredible. It’s a dive, with first come, first serve; or just get it to go. The shave ice food truck outside is the best we had during the visit, two fruits, local honey, a cup of heaven. I really wanted to try a Puka Dog, a local hot dog creation with a bun toasted on a heated rod. Friends of ours did and the boys came away convinced they needed to sell them at home.
Kauai Eateries – most near Poipu
Makai’s Sushi – counter in local grocery
Roy’s Eating House – Moi, fish of kings, delicious; kids loved local burger, they say the beef is second only to Kobe
Keoki’s Paradise – sit down, open air, great seafood prepared traditional style
Kalaheo Cafe – just up the road for tasty breakfast and coffee
Koloa Fish Market – a locals take out; loved the Lau Lau and Poke; good for on the go day
Kapaa – Monico’s Taqueria — try seafood nachos for delectable starter. I had the enchiladas and the verde sauce was the best I’ve ever tasted. The family had fish tacos which they raved about. Fast and tasty, you can see Monico cooking!
OAHU & the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Hawaii’s most populous island with 876,000 inhabitants, Oahu is a strategic military location for our nation. The archipelago with its eight major islands did not become part of the United States until 1959, after WWII. We didn’t have much time on Oahu and our primary purpose was to visit Pearl Harbor, the location of the United States Pacific Fleet. The state is also home to the 25th Infantry Division and over 40,000 active duty military personnel. If you aren’t aware of it, Hawaii is tenth in the nation for the most military personnel in residence, and rightly so. After WWII and given recent Chinese activity in the Pacific, our presence is vital to stability in the Pacific region, about 100 million square miles or 52% of the earth’s surface!
Our local guide Kahana provided an excellent private tour of Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 75 years ago this December. The attack “awoke the sleeping giant” because until then the U.S. had not entered the war. Kahana explained Japan’s motivation for the attack was two-fold: time and oil. The U.S. stopped supplying oil to Japan and it would cripple the Japanese war machine unless it had time to get the resources elsewhere. By eliminating the U.S., they hoped to do just that. Needless to say the rest is history.
President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made their historic visit just days after us. So our trip was timely and we wanted to take our children, bring history to life. We saw the sunken Arizona just feet below us as we stood on the memorial, we saw the names on the wall, the various numbers of brothers trapped in a watery grave, the names of the survivors who chose to have their remains interred in the 4th gun turret.
The rainbows which are everywhere all the time in Hawaii seemed markedly beautiful from the memorial. It’s a sobering emotional experience. And, it’s a reminder of valor and the need for vigilance in a turbulent world.
More to Do on Oahu
We visited Waikiki and tried body surfing. The Dole Plantation maze was fun and claims it’s the largest in the world, but if you’re a fan of corn mazes, it doesn’t compare. You could see through the hedges and follow well worn cut-throughs. Corn mazes are dense so you cannot cut through easily or see other paths. It’s all sort of touristy but fun. From there we visited the north shore to see the big waves and surfers.
Oahu Eateries near Kahala
Hoku’s at the Kahala Resort – very pricey and need reservations but delicious seafood and a chef’s speciality of fried Ahi Poke ball. Tempura was tasty.
Kahala Resort & Landing – We stayed here, setting for Magnum PI beach bar and has its own dolphin lagoon; photo walls of celebrities and politicians; several restaurants.
Pho 777 – very low key but authentic Vietnamese; had tasty Spicy Beef Soup or Bun Bo Hue, Pho Dac Biet and the papaya salad; there are so many choices but we wanted to walk along Kalakaua Avenue to Waikiki beach.
We’ve been thinking about this 50th state and just what to make of our trip. The service was great, the food incredible, and the people welcoming. The state is a melting pot of the Pacific and Asians are in the plurality, as much as 40% plus the 10% Native Hawaiin or Pacific Islander. And most are next generation and English speaking. A cab driver was Vietnamese, another Samoan and our guide was half Chinese and native islander. A cashier in Kauai said she was 5th generation Japanese but that the island had a large Filipino population. Our server in Kahala said he was 4th generation Chinese. We all loved to talk about food. My Vietnamese family loves food; to be fair, they are food fanatics whether it’s finding sticky LauLau, a bowl of pho, or the best Korean barbecue.
On this trip, I felt like I was among “my people” or my tribe. As a Vietnamese Irish mongrel I connected with the culture, but when I look at my fair children with light eyes, they are ‘white’ by comparison, or as they say in Hawaii, HAOLE (pronounced how-lee). I told my family that I fit in well as a mixed race, or half Asian half white, Hapa Haole, or just Hapa.
** Check out artist Kip Fulbeck’s Hapa Project here, a visual representation of Asian ethnic diversity