Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I am now in the center of Waikiki, on Lime Street to be precise (not to be amusingly confused with Lemon Street, another Waikiki neighbourhood!), and literally a 10 mins walk from the bustling Waikiki Beach Walk.

Just a 2 mins walk up my block brings me to a nice little shopping area called Mc Cully, which has some very interesting Asian restaurants, a 7 eleven, a coffee and tea place, and other little conveniences such as a nail salon and a massage clinic. My room has two very large windows that give onto the city’s skyscrapers – it is certainly more noisy at night, but I love being in the heart of things.

The 10 mins walk into town is lovely, I cross a bridge and I’m there right in the city center. One of the nearest hot spots to me is the Hard Rock Café. I absolutely love walking in and out of town, and the fact that it is so easy and safe to do so. There are no dark alleys nor weirdos to cross paths with.

dolphin pond @ Kahala Hotel

Consequently, I’ve been discovering Waikiki’s music scene with much more ease and I’ve witnessed so many interesting and worth while performances since I moved in on Saturday. Top of my list was a busking band called ‘Streetlight Cadence’, a very young group of guys playing an unusual collection of instruments: cello, accordion, violin and acoustic guitar. Their sound: Unique and quite amazing. I also saw a classic rock cover band in Moose’s bar, a great hula/traditional Hawaiian show at Mai Tai Bar, and I discovered Waikiki’s main night club Zanzabar. Take a look at my Honolulu Playlist Blog if you want to read some of my little reviews on these musical goodies I’ve come across: The Honolulu Playlist

I also visited the Kahala hotel, which has it’s own dolphin pond. It is large, and the dolphins seemed very content and energetic from what I saw. They were being fed, and were playing with their trainers, which was great to watch. I also saw some sea turtles there and a large sting ray. The beach the hotel faced was very splendid.

But my favorite beach is Waikiki’s. I love hanging out there – so many people to watch and mingle with, so many water sports to watch and try, the sunset view, the cocktail bars just a few footsteps in the sand away, and if you’re discreet enough, you can insert yourself into some of the hotel pools and hot tubs and enjoy a luxurious dip. What is there not to like?

However, of course, the cocktails, the ice cream, the good food, the shopping plazas, the ”sales”, the coffee places are all very hard to resist, and do burn holes in one’s pocket. But hey, this is Hawaii, this is once in a lifetime… And on that particular note, I came across a special offer which I have failed to resist: A limousine ride to the airport on the day I fly to Tahiti. It turns out with this coupon, the limousine service is essentially the same price as a taxi.. And I figured a taxi may be more expensive on Christmas Eve anyway.

So I will be leaving Hawaii in style, Mahalo very much. 😉

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…

 

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!