Day 1: Aloha from Oahu!

August 9, 2015

There aren’t many languages in which “hello” is the same word as “good-bye” and even more rare when one word means “hello,” “goodbye,” and “love.”

It’s probably one of the million unique things about Hawaii.  You leave the island knowing at least Aloha! and Mahalo! because you’re just constantly surrounded by gratitude and love.  I mean, for such a tiny little state, hidden on the southwestern hemisphere, everything–the islands, the people— are so diverse, far different from anything inland.  Even as a renowned as a tourist hub, no doubt for its famous white-sand beaches and clear, turquoise ocean, Hawaii, at least in my belief, is totally underrated. So I made it my mission to explore the beauty of Hawaii, beyond the picture-perfect beaches and sexy coconut bikinis.

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The view from Ala Manoa Park where I had my first taste of Stand Up Paddle Boarding!  See? White beach and clear ocean.

My family and I arrived at 8:34 pm August 8th, 10:00 pm if you count the hustle n’ bustle it took to finally reach to the Waikiki Sunset.  But it took a while for all of us to realize what was happening.  It seemed too surreal to believe we were on such a beautiful island.  The surrounding landscape had this picturesque vibrancy that you would’ve thought only existed in 50 First Dates or National Geographic magazines.  It took a while to escape from our San Jose city life, but the 88 degree humidity and leis thrown on us surely helped set the Hawaiian tone.

Reaching our hotel, we scrambled to make dinner reservations.  But like I said, it was 10 pm, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from Guide to Asian Family Traveling, we don’t do things on a whim, and certainly not when it comes to dinner. So what was the next best thing?  No really, guess.  I think you could figure it out if you thought a little harder…  Cup Noodles.

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It was cute though!  Forget about the carcinogens and styrofoam, and it was just another typical family dinner.  All five of us sat around, eating my favorite guilty pleasure.  (I was on vacation and enjoying myself, so don’t patronize me).

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Midnight came around, between the wake of city lights and karaoke bars.

The next morning, August 9th, the five of us woke up at approximately 6 am Asian Standard Time (that is, 7 am) to prepare for a long but wonderful way to start off our trip: hiking Diamond Crate, sailing the Catamaran, and exploring the southern Oahu.

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I wouldn’t mind waking up to Hawaii’s sunrise every morning.

We wandered along the Waikiki Beach strip, searching to fuel ourselves before getting picked up by the tour company’s van, and I took this opportunity to snapshot a few images. Simple, yet I hope you might agree, beautiful.

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There was an apartment on Paoakalani Avenue–filthy, unkempt, something that Insidious could have been filmed in.  I loved it.

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Honestly, it was the idea that this rustic building persisted through a proliferation of a tourism community and mass construction.  It lie amidst sky scraping resorts and chain restaurants, and despite its out-of-place appearance, it was a true representation of native Hawaii.

After a hearty, greasy carb-filled breakfast–a Hawaiian staple nonetheless–we headed to the Diamond Head Crater with our guide.  Excited to set foot inside a volcano, I rushed out of the van, two water bottles and camera in head, prepared to squeeze some major glutes.

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The hiking trail started off smoothly, “pretty easy” as our tour guide had described. It was interesting to see the contrasts between the fruitful green mountains we had passed by earlier to the dirt-filled, abandoned volcano I stood then.

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After an hour’s worth of hiking, we finally reached 703’ in elevation. My ears hadn’t popped as I’d hoped (I clearly thought it would be higher than it was), but my breathing was much harder, though the volcano-inspired stair-master could have played into this as well. Squeezing past the dozens of other tourists, I caught a glimpse of the ocean–turquoise blue as expected. The sight was momentous.

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While I had opted to stay put on the cliff edge to admire the ocean, my dad urged Max and I to follow the crowd–a poor decision, I initially thought. The thought of being crushed by the weight of old mens’ bodies, body odor teeming from their pits made me cringe. But not even a “Hell no” could get me out of the situation. My dad was determined to get us both to the very top of the volcano.

So minutes later, there I was, standing at the very top of the volcano as he had wanted. 761’ elevation. Between floating selfie-sticks and stray family members searching for one another, it was hardly peaceful. But I was proud to say I had reached the volcano’s peak.

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Yes, my eyes have vanished. But check it, 761′ high, brah.

The hike was a success, and as we all headed back down the trail, we smiled at the sight of other hikers panting in the rising heat. Ironically though, by the time we had reached the parking lot, it had begun to rain. The sprinkles were innocent, but it soon began to poor, still 80 degrees warm. That’s Hawaii weather for ya–couldn’t complain.

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Always making time for family selfies.

After a 15 minute wait at the bus stop, our van pulled up, the same white one with cliche paintings of pink leis on the sides and the same driver with an enthusiasm that brought us to consciousness. Along with two other families, we lugged ourselves onto the van. I was quick to call shotgun.

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Mad props to this fella for sticking it through the entire hike with a smile.

The drive back to Waikiki Beach felt quicker than before, not to mention much quieter, devoid of any Diamond Head questions. I began to compile a list in my head of restaurants I wanted to try as we passed by them. To much disappointment, I never got to sample any dishes at Rainbow Drive In. But hey, just one more reason to go back!

Our stop was only minutes from our hotel, and while the drive back felt much quicker than before, those few minutes of walking back to the hotel seemed like forever. Not because any of us were tired from our morning hike, but because we missed the views of dirt and the ocean and even Rainbow Drive-In that made the surrounding hotels seem prison-like.

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Coastal view from Diamond Head.

Those few minutes did come to an end, only for us to realize that we had exchanged 2 minutes for 2 hours–two hours until our next afternoon adventure.

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