Monday, October 14, 2013

Aloha Hawaii!

Onomea Lookout near Hilo, Hawaii
After five days at sea, we were ready to step onto terre firma in our first port of Hilo, Hawaii.  We had planned to visit Volcano National Park, but of course, the park was closed due to the government shutdown.  Our ship is comprised primarily of Aussies and Canadians, and many people were very disappointed that they were unable to see this park (and also the Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, our next port).  To be honest, we felt embarrassed at the ineptitude of our government.  This situation has led to myriad political discussions comparing healthcare plans and governing styles.  We noticed from our discussions with the Aussies and Canadians that the rest of the world is watching us very closely, and everyone is quite worried about the impact of our actions (or inactions) on the world economy.  They are worried primarily that if we go down, so will they.
Back to the happier subject of our day in Hilo.  We had arranged to rent a car, so we hopped on the Enterprise Car Rental shuttle at the pier, and we were soon behind the wheel of a new silver Nissan Altima.  It was great fun to be tooling around the Big Island again, as we had done once before in 1994.  We visited several waterfalls (Rainbow, Akaka, and some unknown falls), and drove along scenic routes though rain forests and past gorgeous beaches. 
Hiking through the jungle near Akaka Falls

Rainbow Falls near Hilo, Hawaii

The delicious "Loco Moco!"
We ended our adventure at a diner called Ken’s House of Pancakes where we chowed down on a local favorite called the “Loco Moco,” a rib-sticking dish consisting of rice, gravy, meat (hamburger, or corned beef etc.) with two eggs on the top.  A simple fun meal served by fun-lovin’, local people.
Hula Girl meets her American cousin
The very next day, we pulled into Honolulu for an unusually long port visit (long for a cruise visit!) from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.  We really enjoyed the freedom of wandering the city, and had a ball on the streets of Chinatown which made us feel like we were back in Asia. 

Oodles of noodles at the noodle factory in Honolulu
A highlight was an invitation from a young noodle factory worker to take a glimpse inside the Yat Tung Chow Noodle Factory.  The place looked like a garage/warehouse combo, but it housed an active factory, with shelves bulging with sacks of materials, such as flour, spices, processed noodles, and many noodle-making machines.  There was a over-sized mixing machine turning out a wide and long strand of fresh noodle, a cutting machine to make smaller noodles from the large strand, and a set of sinks that acted as a washing station to rinse the processed noodles.  All those noodles were making us hungry, so we each had a rather large bowl of Udon Noodle soup at nearby Hong’s Café, a Vietnamese restaurant.  Besides noodles and broth, it also incorporated some delicious fragrant basil, sprouts, and bits of pork.

View from the Pali (cliffs)
In the afternoon, we took a tour of the eastern side of the island.  This brought back many memories of our visit to Honolulu with sons Ben and Keith back in 1994.  We enjoyed fabulous views of the steep vegetation-covered pali (cliffs) above Honolulu with deep-cut vertical erosion ridges, where waterfalls stream down the mountains when it rains.
Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii
We stopped to watch the swimmers and snorkelers at famous Hanauma Bay, and of course Diamond Head and Waikiki.
We ended our day drinking a few beers and eating garlic fries near the Aloha Tower and admiring the sunset over Honolulu’s harbor.  Back on board, we went out on the ship’s bow, and it felt as if our ship had plowed right in the middle of the city.  We were surrounded by the high rises of Honolulu, all sparkling in the night sky.  Fantastic!

More pictures:

Making leis in Honolulu's Chinatown

Floral array on the Big Island

In front of Akaka Falls near Hilo, Hawaii
Seaside Blowhole on Oahu

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