I flew out of IAH on December 21 – I had a connecting flight out of DEN. Prior to packing my bags, I decided that I would not bring my DSLR for this trip, so all my pictures were captured on my iPhone 7 Plus. I flew aboard a Boeing 787 for my first time, and chose to sit in the window seat so that I could experience the shade-less windows firsthand.
They’re really neat!
From the air, I gazed down upon a familiar scene. I wondered to myself: do we think that this is beautiful?
Of course it is economics that dictates much of how we develop the land.
Closer to Denver, I took another photo, this time with snow-covered fields.
Exiting the gate at Denver, I saw some ladies and dogs beside a moving walkway. I hung around a bit, and was approached by a young woman who offered me a couple packets of gum, a card explaining the #UnitedPawsDonation campaign, and the opportunity to have my photo taken with some furry friends. I had some time to kill, so I took her up on the offer.
Afterwards, I moved over to the Aviator’s Club (apparently, this establishment used to allow smoking, but this is no longer the case), where I enjoyed an adult root beer float.
Ready to take to the skies once more, I headed over to the gate to catch my flight out to Honolulu.
Upon arrival, I was met by uncle Tom, who drove me over to the condo. Alice, Justin, and Hope had taken off for the beach by the time that I made it up to the condo. My father, uncle Tom, and I had some comfort food before I drove my father over to 奶奶’s home, where he stayed for the duration of our trip. We drove the 17-1/2 miles to Mililani in the last of rush hour traffic. I said hello to 奶奶 and 姑姑, and chatted a while with Kelu before driving back to town. I neglected to take any photos, thinking that I would have another opportunity to visit.
December 22, Justin, Hope, and I went to Sam’s Club to procure provisions. Alice visited 24-Hour Fitness. I decided that Hawaii was a wonderful place while perusing the wares at Sam’s Club, which spoke volumes about its differences from the mainland. Justin, Hope, and I brought our haul back to the condo.
We met up with uncle Tom, Kevin, Evan, 爸, 姑姑, and 姑父 for lunch at Won Kee Seafood Restaurant. I recalled going there on my first trip to Hawaii. I dropped Alice, Justin, and Hope off at the restaurant, and 姑父 accompanied me to park the car. He loaded some snacks and refreshments into the trunk of the car.
Lunch was excellent.
I hung around the complex with Alice, Justin, and Hope for a while following lunch. We poked our heads into the museum at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, where I snapped a photo of a vase that featured 丝瓜, which I sent to my mother.
We went to the beach following our return to the condo.
Alice, Justin, Hope, and I had dinner at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Mall. Prior to that, I chatted with a local, who told me about the ongoing influx of Micronesians into Hawaii, as well as offered some suggestions on places to eat.
December 23, we visited Diamond Head.
A man at the top was stamping certificates and selling them for $5 apiece. I listened to him handling tourists for a while and struck up conversation, learning that he’d come to Hawaii when he was 18 years old with his family, and opted to stay behind! He’d worked with another man, and they sold bottled water to visitors before the visitor’s center was built.
Afterwards, we returned to the beach. While there, I spotted some men grilling and hanging out at one of the beach park’s many picnic tables. Uncle Tom had called for a pizza picnic where we could catch a view of the weekly fireworks. Spotting one of them having a smoke, I approached the men and struck up conversation. I joined them at their picnic table, and learned that they were from the atoll of Kapingamarangi. Most of them worked on commercial shipping vessels, catching big fish, and spending weeks out at sea on each excursion. They were having a party, and offered me a box of grilled meats. One of their elders came by in his pickup truck.
My father and uncle Tom found me and Alice hanging out with them. We walked back to the condo with Justin and Hope. There was some rain as we entered the condo, so it was decided that we would eat indoors instead. We caught the fireworks display from the condo, with the exception of Kevin, who was picking up the pizza for our party.
December 24, Justin, Hope, and I braved Koko Head, after dropping Alice at Kakaako Fitness. Justin and I ascended to the top. I set my own pace ahead of him, but I was passed multiple times by locals, some of which made a regular thing of taking the trail multiple times in a single outing. A collection of Christmas ornaments, including two Christmas trees, had been placed there by seasoned adventurers.
I shot some video on the way down, which I haven’t gotten around to editing yet…
We picked up Alice from Kakaako Fitness. I went around the corner to find the lifters there. Alice made a deal of me being able to whip out muscle-ups, so I busted a couple out. She seemed to have enjoyed her time there, and hugs were exchanged as we left. She’d obtained a post-workout meal recommendation (poke crunch bowl, white rice, extra teri, extra crunch at Paina Café). I took us over to Paina Café at Koko Marina.
I stopped at McDonald’s, where we picked up a couple of coconut pies and an iced coffee. From there, we headed to Sandy Beach. I really dug the vibe of Sandy Beach – many trucks in the parking lot backed up to the ocean, people drinking and having a good time.
I spotted a parrot perched atop the open tailgate of an SUV, and complimented the party on their choice of companion animal before driving us back to town.
We had dinner that night with uncle Tom and his family, out on the recreation deck.
December 25, I visited the Big Island with Ba, Alice, uncle Tom, and 姑父. We caught an early-morning flight on Hawaiian Airlines, and took a guided tour. Before deplaning, I caught a glimpse of what could only have been Air Force One.
I neglected to bring my jacket, and it was a rainy day. Fortunately, uncle Tom had the foresight to bring along some ponchos.
We had a small snack of musubi from a Chevron gas station, which our guide assured us was quite good.
We visited Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park after making a couple of stops along the way, including a farmer’s market and Punaluʻu Beach. Huge, worth the visit. The weather was still dreary when we arrived, limiting visibility, but I could still make out lava flowing within Halema’uma’u Crater from the lookout deck at Jaggar Museum.
We were able to catch an earlier flight back to Honolulu, such that we were able to time our arrival with Stephen’s.
While waiting for the flight, I decided to get a closer view of the VC-25.
Our tour-guide had mentioned there being three identical aircraft, but I only found reference to two.
Back in Honolulu, we went out for dinner at Ichiriki, a Japanese hotpot place that I imagine would be quite nice for dates.
Alice and I went out on the town that night with Stephen, whom I haven’t had a proper opportunity to catch up with since 2007 🙂
December 26, I drove us to Manoa Chinese Cemetery to visit 爷爷’s burial site. 爷爷 was the first member of my family to be laid to rest in the United States.
Afterwards, we had a meal to celebrate 奶奶’s 80th birthday.
We were relatively close to the North Shore. Following lunch, I took Alice, Justin, Hope, and Stephen to the Dole Plantation for a brief stop. Parking was terrible, so I dropped them off, and joined them after finding a spot at the nearby Helemano Plantation.
While at the Dole Plantation, I read that Hawaii was the only state with commercial coffee bean production. Lo and behold, Kona coffee was being grown right up the street. I drove us to Island Vintage Coffee to see about a fresh cup.
Afterwards, I drove us to Haleiwa Alii Beach Park.
December 27, Justin and Hope left for the beach. I stayed around to let Ba into the building. Ba and uncle Tom worked together to make a large meal for us. We took some photos afterwards, when uncle Tom stated that this is the first time everyone in my generation on this side of the family has gotten together in one place. Where more appropriate than Oahu, the gathering place? Shame it takes such massive effort! I can’t thank everyone enough for their part in making this get-together possible.
Aside from the fun times, this trip offered a multitude of opportunities for further reflection. I won’t go into those in detail now – I took some notes as we went along, and only hope that I can revisit the moments that stand out in my mind before they are lost.