Month: August 2018

Panda in Paradise:  Big Island’s Biggest and Best, Part 1

First, the best:

Best Beach – Waipi’o Black Sand Beach: You can’t really visit Hawaii and not go to a beach.  Unfortunately, most of the postcard-perfect ones are on the Kona side, and there are not too many around Hilo.  I ended up at Waipi’o Black Sand Beach, which turned out to be an amazing surprise.  The hike down was steep (25% grade), and about 1.5 miles long – which means you have to hike it back up.  But the water was unusually calm, warm, and the sand was blistering hot.  The beach is mostly locals, which meant it had the raw Hawaiian vibe.  No touristy stuff here.  And it was perfect.IMG_20170902_131215080

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Best Animal Encounter – Giant Sea Turtles: While there were lots of animals roaming around, from chickens, to wild goats, to mongooses (mongeese?), the best animal encounter was by far the giant sea turtles.  I was hiking on a beach on the Kona side, and much of the path was at most six feet feet wide.  Then, as I rounded a bend, there was a giant honu basking in the sun.  At first, I couldn’t tell if it was dead, but then it slowly bent its neck towards me and eyed me up and down.

While there were signs to stay 20’ away, there was no way for me to continue on my hike without coming about 2.5 feet away.   I figured I could snap a photo while quickly powerwalking over the sand (which is no easy feat, when you sink in about 8 inches with every step), and the turtle seemed unconcerned with my proximity.

Another 0.25 miles down the beach, the path narrowed, and I encountered two of them in the way.  Again, I figured a powerwalk was the best way, and I came very, very close to them this time.  They’re old, wise, and I think the animators of Finding Nemo definitely got it right.

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Best Park – Volcano National Park: I have no words, so I will let the pictures (more to come in a later post) speak for themselves. I also feel quite lucky, since the recent eruptions have destabilized the region, and the park has been closed for quite some time.  A visiting Hawaiian mentioned she was fearful it would never open again, and that we were privy to new earth, the goddess Pele, and something few people will ever get to see.

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Panda in Paradise – Hawaiian Vacation

Grad school started in 2.5 weeks, and I had roughly 15 hours of schoolwork to do prior to the first day of class.  This did not bode well for the next two years.

I needed to go on vacation – one last hurrah before I committed myself to 50+-hour workweeks and 20+-hour schoolweeks, on top of training for my third half-marathon and the typical end-of-year things like Christmas shopping, getting home for the holidays, and a New Year’s purge.

After much deliberation, I found myself booking flights and an AirBNB in Hawaii.  No, it would not be to the crazy capital city and insane waves of the north shore of Oahu, and it wouldn’t be to the cliché honeymooner island of Maui, and it wouldn’t even be to the lush gardens of Kauai.  It would be to the poor, rough side of the Big Island, about 12 miles north of Hilo, in a small town called Honomu.

With fewer than three weeks’ notice, I put in for the week of PTO, and started researching places to go.  It seemed that everything was in Kona, the resort area on the west side of the island – roughly 1.5 hours from Hilo. Looks like I’d have to make do with what I could do on my side, and while hindsight says I should have sucked it up and been more of a tourist, I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the week.

Was it Hawaii, or was it that this is the first time in my whole life I’ve turned my work email off?  Maybe a bit of both, but Hawaii is a truly special place of colored sand beaches, innovation and history, the magnificence of creation, and fried food.

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Crazy Cuisine: Hong Kong Edition

When in Hong Kong, you will have only Chinese food, right?  WRONG.

Culinarily, Hong Kong is a mirror of the many cultures that live and work there, influenced by the Chinese and a thriving expat community longing for a taste of home.  Yes, I had dim sum, but I also I ate Korean, burgers and fries thrice fried in duck fat, baked Alaska, honey mustard chicken, and Indian.

The top three things I tried in Hong Kong were:

Snake Soup – an expensive dish found only in the most traditional restaurants. It had mushrooms, abalone, and thinly sliced smoked snake.  I wasn’t thrilled with the flavor – I liken it to something between salty fish and a pink taco, but at $35 per bowl, I ate it.

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Street Food – No, you might not always know what you’re eating, but I promise it’s worth it.  Hong Kong is famous for its street food life.

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Fruitips – These are some of the most addicting little gummy candies I’ve ever had.  I bought over US $30 worth, and ordered some from Britain when I ran out.

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I ate like a king.  My waistline concurs.