Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014 – Honolulu, Hawaii – Partly Cloudy – 80F

A warm day in Honolulu…

Mini-Local Information.  Oahu is the most populated island in the chain with a population of 1.2 million (970,000 folks live in Honolulu and all the islands have a population of 1.4 million).  Honolulu is known for Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Iolani Palace, the only royal residence in the United States. About 58 percent of Hawaii’s population is Asian.  The flag of the Hawaii

same tour today - “Oahu’s North Coast” and our meeting time in the Princess Theater is 7:15 AM (negotiated from 6:45 AM).  Because it takes a good 10 minutes to walk the 1000 feet from our cabin to the Horizon Court, we let Room Service do the walking.  Special K and some sweet rolls comprised my healthy breakfast.

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Can you spot Ellen in the Princess Theater?

Our tour departed about 8:30 AM – our tour guide is a kid from Minnesota named Ross.  He is an EMT and a wildlife tour specialist – he has a good deal of science background but he is a bit wordy.  He is, however, somewhat entertaining as well. 

Our ship is parked at the pier away from Aloha Tower (the Rhapsody of the Seas is there) so the walk to downtown and Chinatown is much further (we had hoped to walk there after the tour).  The bus spent little time in Honolulu before turning onto the H1 (“Interstate Highway”) and eventually onto the H3.  We passed by Pearl Harbor and a number of military bases on our way to the North Coast of the Island.

Our first stop was at the Valley of the Temples Cemetery.

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This is a non-denominational cemetery but our destination was the Japanese section and the Byodo-in Temple

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This is a replica of a temple found in Japan and holds the largest Buddha (18 feet high) outside of Japan. 

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The Big Buddha

It is a beautiful building located in front of an enormous Koi Pond (populated by hundreds of huge fish). 

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Koi Pond

There is a gong you must ring to enter the temple but I rang it without actually going inside the building (didn’t want to take off my shoes). 

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The Gong Sequence

There are peacocks on the grounds and they hang around enough to get their picture taken.

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In addition to the peacocks, the ponds also contained several black swans.

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From the cemetery we headed for the northeast tip of the island – the most dramatic geographical feature were the steep volcanic peaks.  These were formed when parts of the island broke away leaving steep inclines behind.  Rain eroded the sides of the peaks so they have huge furrows.  They are a verdant green color due to the heavy rainfall on this, the windward side of Oahu.

At this point, the tour hugged the coastline with our first stop at the Kualoa Regional Park

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This gave us a good view of the volcanic peaks as well as the beaches on the east side.  There is also an unusual volcanic structure just offshore known as “Chinaman’s Hat” – the hat was bigger at one time but it has been eroded by rain and surf.

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Chinaman’s Hat

As we made our way along the coast, I noticed several sandbars,

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still surrounded by lush vegetation.

The next beach on our tour was Malaekahana State Beach

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Looking for a Monk Seal

This beach is home to the Monk Seal, a rare, indigenous and endangered seal – only about 1200 still exist.  We did not see any along the beach but some passengers did and had photographic evidence.  The beach itself was beautiful but the waves were still pretty docile.

The National Surfing Championships are held at Sunset Beach (one of three venues) and our next stop.   

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The Famous Sunset Beach

Ross told us that crossing anywhere but a crosswalk can be an expensive activity (we did a lot of that yesterday at Hilo).  The waves here on the North Shore are scary.  There were many surfers there today.

On the way to our next stop, we passed the Turtle Bay Golf Resort, where PGA Tournaments are held early in the year.

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The next stop on the beach tour was Hale’iwa Beach Park, where our mission was to find a Sea Turtle. 

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One of the passengers spotted one – not an easy task since they look just like a rock. 

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Sea Turtle (L) and Rock

We couldn’t get real close but we did get some nice pictures of the big turtle.

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Ellen and the Turtle

Lunch was included and since we were traveling through Shrimp Farms, we stopped at Fumi’s Shrimp Farm

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A Shrimp Farm

Our bus was joined by an identical bus from the Rhapsody OTS and five or so smaller tour busses.  In other words it was a zoo.  We sat a picnic tables and I had never been that close to peeled shrimp in my life so we had to find a table with some circulating air.  We ordered deep-fried Cod and the Veggie Option (stir fried noodles and cabbage/lettuce) along with Diet Pepsis.  We ordered on the bus and Ross delivered our food to us.  The food wasn’t bad actually.  The restaurant provided huge sinks for washing the shrimp cooties off of your hands.

Popsicles were included in our lunch but by the time we got through with lunch and waited in the long line, the only flavor left was “Red Bean”. 

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This is an Asian popsicle flavor and I gave it a try  - it was different (couldn’t place the flavor) but actually OK.

Our final stop was the Dole Plantation Gift Shop, where Ross said we could get Pineapple Ice Cream. 

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All Things Pineapple

The ice cream wasn’t free so we opted out.  Everything was pricey in this place including the coffee which ranged from $28 a pound to $56 a pound. 

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‘Spensive Coffee

Not sure how I would deal with coffee that expensive – maybe dry the grounds and re-use them (not really).  I am not a coffee nut but I could put Jewel Coffee in one of those fancy Kona containers and everyone would think they had gone to coffee heaven.

The 40 minute ride back to the pier went quickly and when we found out that Chinatown and Downtown were closed (Sunday), we went on board to get something cold to drink and relax before dinner.

We already knew that the Dining Room was not an option so we went to the Horizon Court at 5:30 PM to see what they had.  Bottom line - it was back to Alfredo’s Pizzeria again.  The International Cafe was now offering Greek Salad so I had that along with my usual custom pizza (roasted garlic, sliced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and onions).  I always ask for extra sauce but it usually comes in a bowl.

No entertainers tonight – instead, the Hawaiian Folklorico Show - “Halau Hula Olana” – a hula dance show by 5-13 year old girls – performed at 7:00 PM. 

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Some of the girls we saw back in October were in this show – the best dancer will “age” out of the kid’s group and join the older girls later in the year.  I liked the show although I think last year’s show was better (there were a few choreography glitches).

I finished a few more pages of “The Martian” out on the back deck

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Moon and Airplane on the Back Deck

before we went to the Crooners Lounge to hear Brad Stevens.  We asked him to do “Hallelujah” which he did but his version did not have that spiritual feel to it that other singers impart.

The ship departed at 10:40 PM shaking the cabin like a flight simulator.

Hoping for smooth seas and a decent night’s sleep.

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