Shopping, sunsets and snoozes

It is all go in Waikiki. There are all sorts going on every day, every night, not to mention the hoards of street performers: magicians, mimers, steel drummers, henna tattooists, ukulele players, percussionists, basket ball tricks, guitarists, bracelet makers, lei weavers, the works. Every 10 or 15 steps you take down Waikiki’s main street, you are bound to find at least 2 or 3 performances which stop you on your way.

Waikiki is very much catered for tourism – all the high end boutiques are here, Chanel, Gucci, Armani, Prada, Guess, you name it, it’s here. There are all the hipper shops too, which are giant, UGG, Crocs, Billabong, Quicksilver, Dakine, etc. And of course, there is the infamous International Market Place, heaving with gifts and souvenirs of all shapes and sizes.

The beach front is stunning. I mean, really stunning. The sand is welcoming, the waves are tranquil, the water is shallow so you can dip in there all you want without being swept away by the current. Granted, it is always busy, but if you are a keen people-watcher, this is really a great spot to sit back and watch all the characters.

I have been mulling around lately, trying to find my bearings – after my nightmare bus trip (cf. last post), I have been avoiding the bus, and thus walking around. A lot. My calve muscles have certainly strengthened as I am currently living up a very large slanted hill top. It is sometimes even too far away from some parts of main Waikiki to consider walking back, and so I take a taxi from time to time, which has been burning holes in my pockets like there is no tomorrow.

I am therefore probably going to move somewhere more central soon, to make sure I can easily get to concerts and events without worrying about needing an expensive taxi or a complicated bus trip back to my bed. But before any of that happens, tomorrow I will be off to Punaluu, where my father has recently bought a little place on the beach. I am helping out with some of the administrative process of buying a place which consists in doing a walk-through. I will make sure everything looks in order, and then stay a couple of nights, enjoy the seafront and the tranquility of the North Shore area.

On Sunday, I spent a lot of time mooching back and forth in central Waikiki, sitting on the beach, then exploring a little more of the streets and venues. As I was walking, one youngish guy sitting in, what is called a ‘Mini-Coop’, stopped me and asked whether I would like to go for a little ride for free as he was on his lunch break. Great, I thought, and hopped in. This little green three wheeled vehicle was noisy, but lots of fun, and we zoomed around various Waikiki streets.

I heard there was going to be some live music happening in Duke’s bar at 4PM(a beautiful sea front bar), so around 3PM I treated myself to a sun bed in front of the bar (8$ an hour, I got one for 8$ for two hours as a special) and thought I would snooze until I heard the music. It was a lovely way to relax, and I got talking to two Australian chaps in their early thirties who are here on a short holiday. Once the music began to play, it transpired it was a talented band playing all sorts of interesting covers with a funky rock style. Percussions, excellent guitar riffing, good vocals, it appeared this band knew what it was doing. It transpired this was Henry Kapono’s band, which plays at Duke’s bar every Sunday.

We decided to enter the bar and have a few drinks, and once we actually approached the stage and place, there was a large crowd of dancers and boogying peoples! What a great atmosphere, barefooted people coming from the beach after having spent a long day lazing around suddenly livening up and dancing until sun set. And that’s precisely what happened – the sun set literally behind the band, in front of the crowd and drinkers, the scenery was really magical and very much vibrant with positive energies. Most people actually cheered and clapped after the sun went down, which I thought was excellent.

So, tomorrow, en route for an exploration into a slightly calmer part of Oahu…

 

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Overwhelmed in Oahu

When the plane revved up its engine to depart from Maui, I noticed from my window seat that another beautiful rainbow had formed. I couldn’t believe it, but when we took off, we headed straight for it, and the rainbow became a big colorful circle which we flew into. I thought to myself that I couldn’t have left the Maui island in a more symbolic way!

The flight was ridiculously short (I was actually looking forward to a bit of airplane time – magazine reading, a little drink, a snooze), but before I could say ‘glass of white wine, please’, we had landed in Honolulu. A taxi came to pick me up, and was parked next to two white limos. I asked him why he wasn’t packing my luggage into one of the limos jokingly, I think he thought I was some weird European nut.

view on to Honolulu

It was strange being on a highway and stuck in traffic. It was slightly overwhelming seeing all the cars, the giant buildings, the many roads. It was slightly exciting but also a bit frightening, because I began to realize driving through the masses that I had gotten used to a certain tranquility and quiet lifestyle. And it actually began to stress me out to think that I was soon going to be confronted with very large crowds! I didn’t think anything of it before arriving slap bang in the middle of town.

Despite my stress, my curious eyes darted from scene to scene, and I began to get a feel for Honolulu – a very large city used to attracting and accommodating a lot of visitors from all over the world. The taxi began to exit the freeway, and we drove uphill into residential areas. Still, everything seemed so large, and reminded me a lot of California in terms of the grid style streets, houses with back and front yards.

view from the living room

When we arrived at the house I was destined to stay in, I was staggered by the view it had onto the city. I didn’t realize Honolulu was so full of skyscrapers. There are five girls who live here: Mac, Brit, Thawn, Sunny and Shani. The youngest is 18, the oldest 29. And it is very much a female house – there are about 50 pairs of shoes in the entrée and a fridge heaving with snacks. I haven’t got to know them very well yet, but it appears both Brit and Mac enjoy sacking out in front of the TV a lot, watching all sorts.

They had plans to prepare Thanksgiving dinner together, and were interested to know whether I celebrated it and if I would like to join in on the feast if so. I told them that I don’t celebrate it, but would be glad to be part of the festivities. I contributed with a gratin dauphinois and a bottle of champagne.

Thanksgiving dinner

It sort of felt like Christmas, Santa appeared on almost all the adverts on the TV, and there were Christmas themed movies on back to back. The girls made turkey, sweet potatoes, corn bread, broccoli, pumpkin pie, and other American style festive dishes. The food was nice, but I did not overindulge as one tends to at Christmas. The girls did though, and slept most of the afternoon after eating.

I ventured off into town, I had a walk that morning, but wasn’t satisfied with just that. Unfortunately, my adventure into Waikiki turned into a bit of a nightmare bus ride. I waited for the bus for about 1h. When it arrived, I just decided I would get off when I saw something worth getting off for: a large bustling area or a beach front, but none ever seemed to appear, and as time went by, it started to get very dark outside. It appeared I was really on the wrong bus, and should have got off maybe earlier along the way. The bus went through all the gritty, poor, run down parts of Honolulu.

I spent about 1h30 in the bus, and waited it for it to go back around. I eventually got off where most people on the bus got off. I walked around, took another bus, and got off as soon as I saw the Hilton hotel, thinking this would definitely lead me to some sort of tranquil, touristy (granted, but safe) area. I followed a group of Swedish tourists, and ended up, after such a long ordeal, in Waikiki where everything was beautiful and bustling.

Waikiki

Fire torches, christmas lights, shops, smiles, happy couples, calm waters of the beach, beautifully lit up buildings, palm trees a plenty, high end stores, clean taxi cabs, flowers and dressed up tourists. I walked around, in a slower pace, admired the scene, and listened for live music. I found one bar: ‘Five-O bar and lounge’, where a duo was playing called TTYM. I thought ‘Right, my first reporting material’, took a few photos, ordered a cocktail, got a feel for their music, and enjoyed the sounds and scenes.

After they finished their set, I have to admit to something that goes against what most hardy travelers believe in. I could not see myself fretting around trying to figure our my complicated bus route scenario, so I stopped at the Sheraton hotel, and asked for a taxi there to bring me to this address. Ahhh, much easier. But much more expensive, of course. But I think worth the price for not having to stress out.

a well-deserved Mai Tai

I am a little overwhelmed at the moment. But there is definitely a lot to discover. I just need to adapt to this busier lifestyle, and get moving!

Spanish guitar, dub step and Mishka’s reggae

Minds Wide Open première @ Café Mambo - http://www.mindswideopenmovie.com

On Friday evening, we went out to watch a windsurfing film première at Café Mambo, in Paia. ‘Minds Wide Open’ was the name of the film, and was impressive to say the least. The café was packed, we stood outside and watched the film through the open bay windows. The quality and precision of film was excellent, not to mention the snippets of windsurfing skills and giant waves.

When the film ended, we went to grab a few drinks in Charley’s bar, and ended up drinking and dancing there until the doors shut. A French DJ played the last set, and entertained the crowd with some electro dance, followed by some good old dub step, which I admittedly have a shameful soft-spot for. I think that if love was a video game, dub step is what it would sound like.

Argentinian guitarist @ Café des Amis

Saturday was a grey day, so I stayed in and had a chic-flic moment. I watched ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’, which had its moments but all in all did a good job at making me cringe. I did however enjoy the journalism side of the story which inspired me to write more. I then made it down for margaritas at Café des Amis for 5PM, l’heure de l’apéro. I was also looking forward to what I had read in the Maui Time – an Argentinian guitarist was going to host the evening with some spanish guitar playing. True to his South American roots, he arrived about 1h30 late – so his performance was highly anticipated.

And it so rightly was because this music was truly worth it – it made me travel back to Europe, in Las Ramblas of Barcelona, cobbled streets of Sardinia or some similar setting. Spanish guitar is incredibly romantic, and one of the boys at the table I was sat at put it nicely: ”All the couples sitting at this café must be saying such wonderful things to one another with this playing in the background”, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Mishka @ Charley's

A more pressing matter was on the party’s mind Saturday evening though: Mishka, a budding solo reggae artist from the Caribbean was going to play at Charley’s bar. So, after being swayed and serenaded enough by the charming Argentinian, we made our way down the streets of Paia, to the bar, paid our way in and waited for Mishka’s concert. Mishka has a very interesting background – he grew up on a sail boat, traveling from one Caribbean island to the next with his family. As he aired in the bar, speaking with various enthused fans who looked enamored, he blended in very well – he wore a Rastafarian beanie hat, some unassuming clothes, and smiled a lot. Kyle, a Canadian friend of mine, asked me whether I was ready to whip out my camera and take a photo of him with Mishka, as he was going to brave it up and ask him to be photographed with him. Upon asking him ”Are you Mishka?”, to be certain it was him, the musician replied ”I think so, yes,” in his charming Caribbean accent.

His performance was excellent – his vocals, guitar and aura took the stage and pleasantly impressed us all. I would pay close attention to the popularity of this artist, because I predict he is going to become a big hit. His songs are catchy, his style is unique, his guitar playing is captivating, and his overall vibe is enamoring. When I looked at the crowd’s reaction, I could tell they were feeling what I was too – a feeling of luckiness to witness the creations of this musician so close up.

Sunday night, we went out to the infamous Fish Market of Paia, as I was told it would be a mistake not to go and eat here before I leave. Admittedly, my ‘Hawaii for Dummies’ book recommended I go to from the outset – I remember reading about the restaurant before even landing in Maui. A very laid back diner type atmosphere, hanging fish ornaments, a generously priced menu and many very hungry men occupied the place. I had a Mahi fish burger, which was delicious.

Tomorrow I will need to start packing away my belongings, and get ready to begin writing chapter II of the travel adventure…

6 days left

Tuesday night I had been invited to get up on stage for an open mic night hosted at Moana, a bar up Baldwin avenue in Paia. I was very unprepared – arrived there 10 mins before being asked to perform, with no guitar, no water, no idea which songs to play! The girl who signed me up, Madeline, a Californian friend of Oliver’s who speaks very good French, lent me her guitar and I played an Amy Winehouse cover a Rihanna cover, which went down well!

I had only a 10 mins slot, so it was over before I could really get into it. I could go back up next Tuesday (the day before my departure to Oahu), and bring my electro-acoustic. There were all sorts of talents there – Madeline got up after me and boasted some good ukulele skills and an interesting yodeling type voice. She covered a few songs in her own unique way, which I really enjoyed. One bearded man sounded just like Neil Young. A lively duo came up – one guy on guitar and vocals, the other on box-percussion, made an impressive performance, and switched instruments during the set. They did a cover of ‘California Girls’ by the Beach Boys, and tweaked the chorus to ”I wish they all called be Maui island girls”, which worked really well.

I was pleasantly surprised to see all these really talented people come up and play – they were of all ages shapes and sizes, and all had something that was certainly worth demonstrating on stage. The atmosphere in the bar was very laid-back.

In the past days, I have been preparing a new blog which will serve as a platform for all my music-related articles when I get to Oahu. I will report there on all the concerts I go to, any musicians I meet and/or interview, musical events I attend, or anything related to musically oriented experiences. For the rest of the travel writing, I will stick to this address.

Yesterday I had gone to Queen Ka’ahumanu mall for a browse around. As I sat down to wait for the bus around 4PM, and old couple sitting next to me appeared to be having difficulty opening a bag of chocolates. They kept passing it around and trying different methods only to fail at getting into the packet. So I butted in and asked if I could try! I managed by doing it the way I always do (they didn’t try my usual method), and so offered me some of the chocolates as a thank you reward!

When I rode the bus and went via the airport, I spotted my landlord, Liam, picking up some guests. I love the fact that my landlord is a 40 year old blond dread locked kite surfing instructor, who drives an old tattered VW van. And comes to the house from time to time to hang out – ”’Sup guys?”

I’ve bought a new carry-on luggage bag, which couples as a very stylish item too. It is typically Hawaiian, brightly colored, large, slightly sparkly and will serve as a great memory from Maui.

my shadow @ kitesurfing spot

Bahama Mama

Yesterday morning I awoke to a symphony of men and women all chanting ‘OMMMMM’ in harmony and in several sequences during a yoga/meditation class next door. It wasn’t a bad way to wake up!

Moose's

The previous night I had gone out to Lahaina, about an hour drive from here, with a francophone group of buddies to a bar called Moose’s. The attraction were the 1$ drinks served from 10PM onwards. I have never been one to want to drink excessively, but I made the most of the deal in my own way by ordering some elaborate cocktails, namely some ‘Bahama Mamas’, which were 3$ instead of 8$. The bar  was situated on the second floor of the building, so our table gave on to a balcony view of Front Street, Lahaina’s main road – an entertaining people watching spot.

It was quite an international setting – I was sitting with three French boys, a German guy, a Spanish girl and a Canadian dude. The bar, which I would best describe as a USA sporty type of a place, had its charms but was a bit tacky. Lots of TV screens, framed photos of people drinking beer, road signs, burgers and nachos… It eventually turned into a night club, and out of nowhere it seemed, a lot of very under dressed women, loud men and wet sticky floors seemed to take over the night’s festivities! The music was your average club music – 50 cent, Katy Perry, House of Pain, etc.. I watched the dance floor for a while, thinking I may bust my moves for a bit, but the whole floor was jammed full of not-so-sober bumpers and grinders!

Maoli

Friday night’s festivities were a bit more up my street (and literally too!) – a reggae dub group called Maoli played live at Charley’s. They were amazing, and I’m glad I took some film of them. They had a fresh young style and made the atmosphere in Charley’s the best I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. I very happily danced to them!

Today I went to the kitesurfing spot of Kahului, and watched the impressive amounts of surfers out there. It is pretty cool to watch as you can see all the different kites and their colors dancing in the sky just above the waters. Closer kitesurfers are entertaining to watch because they will occasionally do a trick or two, leaping into the air, twist and turn into all sorts of shapes and land back down onto the water, only to be whisked away again by the kite into another direction. I went up and down the beach, which had lovely sand. Today was super sunny, and I may even have got a bit of a sun burnt nose.

Yesterday I had gone to Paia Bay Café to wait for the bus, I tried their chocolate chip banana bread which was yummy. I had it in mind to go to Kihei, one of the funnest spots I have come across. Whilst I sat there waiting for the bus, another regular of the café, a man in his 50s perhaps, introduced himself to me. A theater teacher, who also practices spiritual healing, and said that he could align my Chakras if I so wished some time. I have no idea what it means, but it was certainly very nice of him to offer! He said that next time he sees me at the caf, we should have tea and discuss this particular topic – so it looks like I’m in for an interesting discussion next time I go for coffee in town.

Wailea

I hopped on to the bus, and having arrived at Kihei, I decided I would stick it out a bit more on the bus and wait until I got to Wailea. Wailea is, I have come to learn, the richest most chic area of Maui – the grass every where is very well trimmed, it has a Beverly Hills air to it, sports cars can be spotted a lot, and everything looks perfect. When I finally got off the bus, I mooched around a bit, and came across an outdoor shopping center. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Guess, art galleries, real estate agents, a very expensive steak restaurant, and some very pricey coffee/ice cream joints. I walked around the high-end shops and boutiques, and found the place really charming – it had impressive water pieces, palm trees and fancy escalators too. I caved in and bought myself a scoop of ice cream at one of these little cafés – coconut, caramel and macadamia nut, and ate it in the sun by a water fountain.

I lent a hand to Ryan this morning by helping him move a big mattress out of his old house up in Haiku. The drive up is nice, and seeing as it was such a sunny day, the views were amazing from up there. Only a week left though until I leave to another island – and I am feeling like I need to make the most of Maui before I leave by really soaking up all the views, the atmosphere, the good feeling as much as possible!

Henna and Margaritas

I got a henna tattoo Wednesday down in Paia, drawn by a very friendly Israeli guy called Tidi. He did a great job, and I now feel honorably marked by the island of Maui. I wanted to get some hibiscus and plumeria flowers tattooed which I thought would serve as a pretty Hawaiian memory. I can get it ‘re-touched’ before I leave to Honolulu in a couple a of weeks, so that the marking will stay imprinted for a few more weeks.

hawaiian henna tattoo

Since Ras has been injured, I have been a bit less busy than I was in my first weeks here. So, I have been spending my days taking it easy (well, I have been the whole time, but even more so recently!) and have gotten into cooking a lot lately. A list of things I have recently made: jalapeno asiago garlic bread baguette, purple yam cottage pie, avocado-toasted almond-mozzarella-spinach-watercress-cherry tomato salad, Nutella crêpes, blueberry muffins, and I’ve also gotten into making fresh coffee in the morning which I love.

This past week I have felt at home. And it is in less than 2 weeks now that I will be flying off to Honolulu, to live with 5 girls in the Waikiki area, not far from Honolulu zoo! It’s exciting, but I must admit that I will find it hard to leave Maui and its beauty. However, I am looking forward to my new place, and to the new activities: I will be going to a lot of concerts and musical events and writing articles about them hereafter.

lilikoi margaritas @ café des amis

On Wednesday evening, we went to Café des Amis for some happy hour cocktails, and ended up having 2 or 3 each with some yummy Mediterranean platters. A musician began setting up not long after we’d arrived, and played, what he called, ”the stick”. It looked like a very heavy, what I can best describe as a twelve string bass, and he had it plugged into an amp and an effects pedal. He had a drum machine too. He played Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, and did an impressive job for a single musician. The sound this ‘stick’ was emitting was like a combination between an electric bass and an electric guitar. I had never seen anything like it.

The weather is being a bit hap-hazard these days, one minute it will be pouring the next clear skies. So this means it is not easy to plan one’s day. Yesterday I had gone to the mall the top up my phone credit (it has been exactly a month since I bought it – time does fly!), and it began pouring down with rain after I had been to Radio Shack. So I took refuge in a Starbucks, and read a local Maui paper, which gave me quite a few tips and ideas on what to do this weekend. Wine tasting events, concerts, new films out in cinemas, luaus, etc.

I think there has been talk of going to Lahaina this weekend, so that should be fun. Lahaina is the biggest most-happening place on the island. I ventured out to Paia Beach today to watch the surfers, the waters were full of them because the waves were impressively big. As I headed back home later on, I crossed the street and a young guy shouted out to me ”You dropped something!”. I immediately looked back and down to see what I had lost, only to see nothing on the floor. So I looked back at him in confusion. He said ”My jaw!”, smiled, giggled along with his friends and walked off. What a line!