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Post your trip reports, travel experiences, and updates abroad. Or your expat story if you already live overseas. Note: To post photos and images, insert the image URL between the tags [img]and[/img] after uploading them to a third party site.
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Disclaimer: this report is based on a quick 1-week trip to Hawaii (Oahu, Big Island, and Maui). I don't live in Hawaii and have never lived there, other than visits about once every 10 years. Most of the information are from casual observation and conversation with my tour guide. I also took about 700 photos, and after some sorting, I uploaded ~500 here:
Some of you may recall that I went to Europe earlier this year, and posted about 4,000 photos from France and Netherlands. I had decided to quit my job as 100% traveling consultant, because initially I joined the company thinking that I'd be assigned to China for weeks or months at a time, but ended up traveling between US and Canada every week. So I planned to go visit Hawaii and relax for few weeks before returning to California. A few unexpected events occurred, first the GF complained that I didn't take her to Europe, but I should at least take her to Hawaii, which I agreed. Then her parents and aunt and uncle decided to join (LoL). Since her parents would pick up most of the tab anyway, I just kept my mouth shut and let them book the budget Chinese tour packages (~$700/head all inclusive per week). Another unexpected event was that a job offer suddenly came through from a multinational Fortune 500 company, which forced me to cut my vacation short. I'm not the type to look at a gift horse in the mouth, and this job may offer opportunity to travel to the UK and Ireland in the future.
As I was walking around the airport in Hawaii, I noticed a small park and statue dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Hawaii was an important historical point to the founding of ROC, and the ROC/TW affairs office property dwarfs the S. Korean embassy next door. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was educated in Hawaii and the school is still there. Those familiar with 20th century Chinese history might be interested to know Marshal Chang HsÃ¼eh-liang (Zhang Xueliang) of the Xi'an incident moved to Hawaii after his parole in 1993, he died at age of 100 and is buried in Hawaii. While Chiang Kai-Shek never forgave Yang Hucheng and had him shot, Marshal Chang received a much more lenient treatment of house arrest in a luxury villa, and attended church every weekend with Chiang Kai-Shek's family. Marshall Chang's father, Chang Tso-lin, was the Warlord of Manchuria in 1920's, and saw himself as the modernizer. There's an old joke about when he allocated funds to build schools and introduced foreign sports, but had no idea what the actual rules were. So when he attended a basketball game, he was furious that after allocating so much funds, the school only allowed the students to play with 1 basketball. He demanded that each team player be given a basketball for the game.
As a I mentioned earlier, since my GF's parents booked the tour package, I had no idea what the program was. When we exited the airport and got on the shuttle bus, I found that they had booked a Cantonese tour. My Cantonese vocabulary is limited to um, dim sum, shao mai, har gao, and so on. I was surprised to find a white couple in the group. He had asked their Cantonese friends to book a "cheap package" for them, and did not care what language the tour guide spoke. We made our merry way down to our beach front resort, which turned out to be across the street from Waikiki beach, the Aston. My initial impression was not very high, because the rooms looked worse than some of the Holiday Inn Express hotels I've stayed at. They also nickle and dime you, internet access was $0.25/min, and the "free breakfast buffet" charged $5 extra for an omelet. They even wanted to charge us for storing our luggage with the bell boy. WTF?
Our Chinese tour guide turned out to be quite talented, he spoke Cantonese, Mandarin, English, some Hawaiian, Taiwanese, and basic conversation in several other languages. We had a group of Chinese Malays and he even sang a simple song in Melayu. He's in his 40's and commented that the recent increase in tourists from China has crashed the market. His hourly pay today is less than before and, when the Chinese groups first came they paid the tour operator 17,000 RMB for 1 week all inclusive, but today they only pay 8,000 RMB. He then pointed to a sign on the van's door that said mandatory tipping for driver/tour guide is $5/head for day tours and $2/head for trips to the airport. I have this funny feeling that he's been in the tourism industry for 20 years and have been around the block. He also commented that some areas are unsafe for "white people" and that the native Hawaiians have their own schools that only accept Hawaiians, and some homes are allocated to native Hawaiian's for only $1, but the wait list is 50+ years.
Later in the week, we got a young Hapa who was 1/2 Taiwanese as our tour guide. He grew up in Shanghai and decided to come to Hawaii for college, and has lived in Hawaii for 5 years, but will leave soon to start his master's at Tsinghua in Beijing. This kid was about 6' tall, tanned, in good shape and fairly good looking. He pimped himself up with hair dyed brown with a little curls, said the Japanese girls loved it. We had a chat over his impressions of China, Taiwan, and Hawaii. He agreed that all the dire forecasts of pending crash and doom is over-rated. On the subject of women, he thinks Shanghai's girls have higher expectations and the girls in Hawaii are easier to get in comparison. He also thinks Americans are kind of "slow" and lack the sense of urgency, I commented that it's probably because he's in Hawaii and not NYC. I gave him my contact info and asked him to get in touch with me after he graduates, I might be able to hook him up with friends in pharmaceutical sales in China, if he's greasy enough to take that kind of job. If you think Us drug companies are raking it in, see this:
Speaking of slow, I noticed that people in Waikiki are walking in faster pace than 10 years ago. But I only visit the place once a decade, so don't take my word for it. The impression I get is that people in Maui still walk at slower pace, but not at Waikiki. Most of the young white women walking around Waikiki are with their BF or husband, versus the Japanese girls (they're adults but resemble Jr. high school kids) are usually single-ish and walk in clusters of 2-3. It's kinda funny to see a cluster of 3 Japanese girls move in unison even on the beach in their swimwear. Reminds me of that Gundam with the remote controlled guns moving in a cluster. There are so many Japanese girls on Waikiki at times, you can probably throw a rock at random and hit one on the head. If you have some Japanese language skills, this is a great place to use them. Also, if you got one of those JCB cards at Marukai, this is the place where you use it to get free rides on the Japanese shuttle buses.
On subject of food, I'm not impressed with most of the offerings along Waikiki beach. Our cheap tour package also forced us to eat at crappy places. Better quality food can he had at expensive hotel restaurants, or away from the beach area. I liked this udon place:
The tour package included daily tours and visits to 3 islands (Oahu, Maui, Big Island). I liked Maui better than Big Island, unless if you're into Volcano worship. Lot of poisonous gases and road closures:
Since we booked a budget package, we had to do the mandatory outlet visits to orchid store, pearl store, coral store, etc. Don't buy anything, it's over-priced. One of the Malay girls with us was very pretty and I overheard her comment that she though Coach brand items were so-so and, instead of buying 3-4 items at $300-$400 each, it's better to just buy 1 LV item that she'd like better. Her Malay BF commented that it'd be expensive, and she replied that her father's money is her money anyway. I hope the boy has good sense not to marry a flower vase, hopefully he gets it and find someone less high maintenance in the future.
The highlight of the trip for me was the snorkeling, but I used an underwater camera w/film, so I don't have anything to post. There's a lot of nice fishes down there but I think it's less colorful than the ones I saw at Boracay in PH. On the up side, the water here is really shallow, so if your friends and family can't swim, they can still stand in the water and stick their head down to look at fish. Most of the people you'd see on the beach are reasonably fit, the fat beached whales usually stay in the hotel pools.
When I visited the Polynesian Village, I was surprised to find Taiwanese and Chinese girls working there. It turned out that they were all students at the Mormon university next door (BYU Hawaii?). Upon iniquity I was told that 80% of their staff are from the university. The Mormon church send missionaries to Polynesian islands, and the convert's kids end up attending school in Hawaii and working at the Polynesian cultural village. I wonder if the owner is Mormon? There were many young Mormon college girls working there from around the world. So if you're Mormon, this might be a good place for you to meet girls from abroad. The evening show ("HA") at this place was um... haha, a Polynesian version of the "Lion King" trying to pass itself off as Cirque du Soleil's "KÃ€". But considering all the cast are college kids and not pro's, I'll give them props for good business sense.
Anyways, it's late and I'll write more later.