Category Archives: Travel
Day 2 was a magical day filled with childlike wonder because… we were at Disneysea! I’ve always been a huge fan of Disney having grown up watching all the movies and knowing most of the songs by heart. I think Disney is a special place and no matter your age, you always feel like a child there.
I particularly love Tokyo’s Disneyland and Disneysea because even though the rides aren’t as thrilling as the USA ones, I think the people there really make the effort to dress up (everyone is carrying a Duffy bear and wearing silly Disney head gear, walking around like it is the most normal thing in the world) and they go all out to immerse themselves in the Disney dream. I’ve never heard more enthusiastic screams to ‘Minnie-chan!’ or to see vigorous hand clapping and participation in shows from the audience. The atmosphere is electric! The Disney staff are also incredibly enthusiastic and you really feel their deep love and belief and they really go above and beyond what’s necessary to do their job well. I think all this contributes to a very unique and special experience.
Taking a train to Disneysea is kind of cumbersome. It takes about an hour from Shinjuku and you have to change trains at Tokyo, Maihama and then from Maihama, take the Disney Resort Line. But all this is worth it because the train is so cute! Mickey Mouse handles and windows, and of course once you step into the place, you feel that magical spirit fill the air!
Some things that you should definitely do in Disneysea? Eat Mickey-shaped churros, sit the Tower of Terror ride (not as frightening as the California version), eat the multi-flavored popcorn (I tried Strawberry, Black Pepper, Curry and Soy Sauce but there are others like Milk Tea, Apple Cinnamon etc!) and buy a silly hat! I love this Cheshire cat one cos it is a hat, scarf and mittens all in one! Clever!
And if you have money to spare (S$40), then go for a good 3-course meal and dine with your favourite Disney characters! The food is really quite good especially the desserts!
And be sure to catch some of the shows! We watched three of them: The Table is Waiting, The Legend of Mythica (which in my opinion is a definite must-watch because it is so good!) and the Christmas show and fireworks at the very end of the night. You have to plan the schedule of the showtimes and coordinate it with your fast passes well. With good planning, you can actually watch all the shows and go for all the rides!
Of course the show that is not to be missed is the fireworks display. It is really gorgeous but in order to get a good view and good pictures, be sure to go 20minutes early. Usually, everyone stays to watch the fireworks go off at 8.30pm then they start making their way out. So if there are very popular rides that you haven’t gone for yet like Journey to the Centre of the Earth, then you could leave it till after the fireworks. Besides, the park usually closes late. When we were there, it closed at 10.30pm so it makes alot of sense to hang around till just about closing time.
And that’s what we did with the Toy Story ride. We couldn’t take it in the day time because it was too crowded but we managed to get on it after the fireworks display. And if there is only one ride to take, then I suggest that you take this one. It was so much fun!
I love Mr Pricklepants!!! So this rounds up day 2. It was very tiring to last an entire 12 hours in Disneysea, fighting the crowds and the cold but it was really, so much fun. And of course, I did not leave empty handed. Along the way I picked up multiple tins of biscuits to give away as souvenirs and got myself my very own Duffy Bear.
I suggest that gift shopping be done midday instead of the end of the day because it is literally a zombie apocalypse in the gift stores with Duffy merchandise flying off the shelves every couple of seconds. I exaggerate not. So do your shopping early. There are lockers to store your purchases so you can shop, drop it in the lockers and go for your rides/shows and come back to pick it all up later as you head back to the train station. It is very convenient and efficient. I love how the Japanese think of everything.
As we lugged our luggage onto the Eurostar, I reflected on how grateful I was that the bf had forcibly compelled me to throw out much of the endless piles of unnecessary “extra” clothing. Of course to a girl a few additional piles of clothing is never enough, but had it not been for him, I would have no idea how I could’ve handled the luggage on my own.
Given how conveniently the Eurostar connects various European countries, it’s quite a favoured mode of transport amongst the Europeans, many of whom have hand-carry sized luggage with them (like mine). Lucky for me, I easily squeezed my hand carry at the compartment above, but the bf had to abandon his luggage at the holding area near the end of the carriage – which didn’t leave him feeling all that secure since our seats were quite a distance from the holding area.
The seats were really comfy, with a flip out table but no entertainment system. There was however, a food / restaurant carriage for those who are hungry on board. Toilet-wise, it was pretty gross.
The curious thing about London was the unexpected obsession with Indian food. Our hotel had an Indian restaurant, whilst other eateries had curries and the like on their menu. Upon arriving, our first meal Chicken Tikka Masala – we had been craving for something piping hot given the cold weather, and since English food seemed to be rather cold (envision cold sandwiches), we opted for the familiar asian option.
Having heard about the “must-try” high teas in London, the bf and I had taken the initiative to book ahead of time via this great website known as http://afternoontea.co.uk/. Booking is free via the website and they provide both email and sms confirmations. Plus, they have quite a few good deals for many tea places on the site. The tea platter (for 2) was more than we could handle, but I have to highlight that the carrot cake was particularly good. Really moist and delicious. The cream cheese was not as sweet as we have it in Singapore, but it went down very well with the Orange Pekoe Tea I picked.
The thing to note about the sandwiches though… I can’t recall the name of the fillings, but one was REALLY CHEESY and one was horseradish mush. That said, we enjoyed the rest of the items and spent a few hours chatting away. It’s always the great company that matters, right?
It’s somewhat of a blogging hazard of mine, but I do like to people watch wherever I go (check out my posts on Fashion in Amsterdam and Fashion in Tokyo), and London was no different. The combination however, was something meant for a taller lady to pull off – I tried the look above in one of the departmental stores, to quite an epic failure. Knee Length skirts for me nearly reach my ankles, so that look is a no-go.
What I did like was that women were more adventurous with colours. Greens and reds and blues… it wasn’t the darker palette of their Amsterdam counterparts and a lot more cheerful!
Sensible, short boots are only logical given the pebbled pavements of London. Walking around on my 2+inch boots, I felt as if I had signed up for a very intense foot reflexology session. Not good. Given the many tourist spots in London, do be prepared to walk for a good part of the day if you want to cover all of them as quickly as possible.
In no time at all, we were bidding farewell to the beautiful canal-city of Amsterdam, with its unique architecture, complicated traffic system and yummylicious food. I really enjoyed our time there. I think it was mostly because it wasn’t infested with tourists – with the exception of the Diamond Museum and luxury stores, where a good proportion of the sales staff was Chinese!
Most of all, I appreciated how their urban landscape still retained much of its old glory and character. Coming from a country where most buildings seem to have been cloned from one another, I was pretty awed at how different each building was from its neighbour.Without a doubt, one of my favourites was their waffles, a delicious sweet snack that’s worlds apart from the fluffy pandan flavoured waffles we’re used to in the tropics. Waffles in Amsterdam are dense, slightly crispy and very sweet, with a touch of cinnamon added to the batter. Lightly dusted with icing sugar, I never failed to order this for my daily breakfast from our hotel (Novotel).
It was interesting to see how icing sugar seemed to be their solution for everything. The bf and I tried this steaming hot round banana gooey bread thing with icing sugar dusted on top. It was ridiculously delicious in the cold weather.
yep. from the photo you can tell how crazy the wind was that day. What you can’t tell however, was that there were dozens of seagulls overhead, swooping and whizzing past me, attempting to steal my food! In fact, a few of them got too close for comfort and the bf and I were pretty shocked at their blatant boldness. We eventually huddled protectively around this delicious round thing and gobbled it up before the birds could bother us further. Quite a fun experience!
There were many other flavours at this food stall, mostly fruit flavours – such as apples and strawberry. However, they aren’t easy to come by and this was one of the few stalls we saw selling this mysterious gooey balls of awesomeness. Otherwise, I would’ve definitely dragged the bf to sample their other flavours! We paid 2 euros.
Having tried quite a huge variety of street food around Amsterdam, (see what else I sampled here), I think it’s pretty safe to vouch that the quality of street food is good. really good. With the exception of raw herrings, which according to the bf’s colleague – is an acquired taste. Try it if you dare!
Amsterdam is definitely a place where i’d love to return – the people are wonderfully friendly, the street food is yummy, plus there’s lots more to the city that I know I haven’t discovered yet. On hindsight, I think we would’ve appreciated Amsterdam more had we known about the horrors that were to follow… Hopefully the next time I swing by, it’ll be spring! Then i’ll get to see the beautiful tulips that everyone is talking about (:
In anticipation, I’ve already created a little list of what I’d like to see when I’m in Amsterdam next. I hope that comes soon!
- Antiemarkt De Looier – an antiques and curiosa market, specialising in furniture, jewellery, silverware and collectables. Located: Elandsgracht 109, 1016 TT
- Art Plein Spui – a market where artists sell original prints and small oil paintings. Located: Spui Plein, 1012 WZ
- Rijksmuseum – paintings by Rembrandt and antique objects of Dutch culture.
- Dick Bruna Huis – the house with everything Miffy! Dick Bruna is the artist who created the cross-mouthed rabbit of my childhood. Truthfully, I was really disappointed that there was no Miffy mania in Amsterdam at all, with only a tiny corner in the airport selling some tourist-ified Miffy plushies, the most adorable of which had a pen stain so I left empty handed. *sigh*
Any suggestions? I’d love to hear what’s more in Amsterdam that I can discover. Next up, London!
Like many other European cities, Amsterdam has a wonderful collection of art – in particular, that of Van Gogh. Unfortunately for us, the Van Gogh Museum happened to be undergoing renovations during our visit, so many of the art pieces were housed at The Hermitage instead. We bought a combination ticket, to see Van Gogh’s artworks as well as the history of Impressionism.
It was interesting to learn about Van Gogh, his philosophy and how hardworking he was as an artist. The entire exhibit took us about 2 hours to walk through.
One thing you might not know about Amsterdam is that it’s world-famous for specialising in intricate diamond work.
With our tickets purchased, we entered the Diamant Museum, which was actually housed on a small villa on Paulus Potterstraat, accessible by Trams 2 and 5 and in walking distance from the Rijksmuseum.
Whilst the Museum had very enlightening information on the various types, cuts, shapes and history of diamonds, we were rather disappointed that almost all the diamonds on display were simply high quality replicas. It was however, interesting to note how misleading great quality fakes were. We couldn’t pick out with one was the real diamond!
The Rijksmuseum was quite closeby, but given how neither of us were all that into art (and had been overwhelmed by the van gogh exibit), we decided to give it a miss.
Amsterdam also has a Madame Tussauds, but research online revealed that many find the main one in London was far more worth it to visit, so we skipped visiting the one in Amsterdam.
Set in the very same place where Ann Frank, her family and friends hid from the Nazis, it was definitely an eye-opener. I particularly enjoyed how they included short video interviews and excerpts from the book at various parts of the house, making it a really immersive experience. Without an online booking, the queue is long but definitely worth the experience.
The Ann Frank House is located at: Prinsengracht 263-267, a 20 min walk from Centraal station.
One point to note! The stairs are really narrow, so refrain from wearing heels and be careful about kicking the person behind you in the face. hahaha.
the Albert Cuypmarkt
There are a few things that I always like to tick off my checklist when travelling.
- Visit a local supermarket
- Visit a flea market / festival of some sorts
- Try lots of different food!
I think that visiting the local supermarket and an open market are really the best ways to soak into a foreign land’s atmosphere. You get to see what locals buy, what locals consume and try out their local specialities!
The Albert Cuypmarkt is, in my opinion, a must-see! It’s the largest, busiest market in Amsterdam and stores there sell everything you can think of! From apparels to their famous Gouda Cheese and local favourites like raw herring (which the bf and I refused to eat because the fishy smell alone repulsed us…); but of course when it came to more delectable, appetizing items like roasted chicken drumlets (OMG DROOOLZZ), Stroopwaffles (the large round thing with a soft gooey caramel center) and poffertjes (tiny pancakes generously dusted with icing sugar). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that afternoon and it was truly an eye opening experience! Plus we were entertained by some buskers too, who played pretty nice music :)
Seasonal fruits in particular, are really cheap. However, they often come in little baskets that have no means of closure. It was rather heart breaking when I saw all these adorable small little strawberries but couldn’t think of a way to lug them around because we didn’t have anything to put them in. Note to self, bring a plastic bag to the market next time. hahaha.
The Albert Cuypmarkt is
Located: Albert Cuypstraat/Ferdinand Bolstraat, 1072 LL
Tram: Albert Cuypstraat: tram 16, 20, 24 & 25
Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
The people in Amsterdam don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates. Much of their food is mostly white meat (i.e. fish or various birds), but frites (fries) are a huge part of their eating culture. Everywhere, you see stalls that have made MOUNTAINS of frites, all ready for serving. The bf and I were pretty stunned. However, given the ubiquitousness of these frites stalls, we eventually decided to give it a try. Imagine our shock when we ordered the smallest size and got such a huge serving.
I noted that the potato was more powdery and soft, compared to fries in Singapore. Perhaps it’s a different type of potato? One can pick from a variety of sauces – the most popular one is a yellow sauce known as frites sauce. It’s pretty good. Pictured above is chilli sauce because we missed it.
Hot chocolate is THE BEST DRINK for winter. ’nuff said.
Besides the Albert Cuypmarket, we also visited the Floating Flower Market (bottom left). Unfortunately, as it was winter, there were no tulips in bloom. We did however, see loads and loads of tulip bulbs for sale. but oh well, we live in a tropical country and the climate would kill the bulb before it took root. So not much for us to see there. One of the main reasons why the flower market is famous is because the whole thing floats on water. I had in mind the idea that I would be hopping from boat to boat to view their wares but the market was actually very well anchored to the street next to it and each store was on top of a barge. In fact, it was so steady that I didn’t feel any difference from being on land at all. I would love to visit it in Spring though, just to see the flowers!
Bloemenmarkt – Flower Market
The only floating flower market in the world
Speciality: Flowers, seeds, bulbs and rare flowers such as black tulips Located: Singel, 1071 AZ
Tram: Muntplein: tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24 & 25
Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
We also visited a supermarket and my jaw dropped when I saw this humungous pizza. Look at the size in contrast to my hand! The bf and I were standing there wondering how people carted such a huge thing home when we realised that oh, they would cut it up and sell it in standard rectangular-sized pieces. There are quite a few supermarkets in Amsterdam, but the one we visited the most was Albert Heijn, for its reasonable prices and wide variety of goods. Water (1.5 or 2 L) was about 34cents!
Next up… the museums we visited in Amsterdam.
Having a pilot for a boyfriend is great! Having a job that has immense flexibility for leave is fantastic. Add the two together & tada! I jetsetted off to Europe for the first time to accompany the bf, who would be training in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Excitement aside, as we knew we were going to take lots of public transport around to save costs, it meant travelling light. & doing that isn’t ever easy for a girl now, is it? However, I persevered and with the bf’s help, managed to whittle down my luggage to a small handcarry. & I didn’t feel that I needed more on the trip! amazing.
All in all, my luggage was a featherlight 8kg, which meant it was really easy for me to lift it up the never-ending flights of stairs at the train stations of Italy (but that, I’ll talk about another time…). I might have been slightly pouty and hesitant to leave all extra stuff behind, but I certainly appreciated it throughout the trip!
Besides its fame for the red light district and the legitimisation of marijuana, Amsterdam isn’t really a popular tourist destination, so I wasn’t expecting much. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how vibrant the colours of the city were. One could tell that they really took pride in their architecture. Even in a row of seemingly homogenous houses, each building owner took the pains to differentiate his/her building differently, be it with a splash of paint or a smattering of tulips.
On a side note – friends I’ve met up with so far never fail to ask, how was the red light district, did you go?? My answer is… It’s really not what you’d expect. I have to applaud those women though, because even in winter, they’re still in bikinis, at the windows plying their trade (windows are closed of course), but they aren’t of movie-star standard… even though they come in many varieties for men to choose from. lol.
When I saw the majestic looking Amsterdam Centraal Station (bottom right), I was wonderstruck. It looked so beautiful! Orange and red seems to be a favourite colour for buildings around in Amsterdam – and the colour was still very striking. We saw various buildings undergoing cleaning and renovation to maintain the colour. The Amsterdam Centraal Station was a bustling hive of activity, with the train, tram, bus and boat public services all converging in one place.
One thing I was very amused by was their tiny little cars, which seem to be the only ones allowed on the smaller streets in the city, alongside motorcycles. They were mostly 1 seater, and when the average person sat inside, your head would touch the roof. so cute.
Similar to Venice, Amsterdam is a canal-city, with a regular, grid-like network of canals. So it’s really easy to navigate around. One simply can count the number of canals you’ve walked past, or follow the canals to get to your desired destination – which helps, if you don’t speak Dutch and can’t remember the road names.
I loved peeking at the barge like boats and got rather excited when one bridge I was standing on had to be evacuated so it could be lifted up to let a large barge go through. They do have a rather complicated traffic system of tram + boat + cycling + car network and we got rather confused at intersections because we didn’t know whether we were walking against traffic or not.
Without a doubt, the most exciting part of our time in Amsterdam was when the Dutch instructor (Andrew), invited me over for a visit to the bf’s simulators! It was getting somewhat lonely because the bf had to be away for 4-5 hours each day for his training, so I was delighted and privileged to have the honour of learning more about his work and experiencing a heart-stopping simulated flight (Andrew cut my right engine and I nearly crashed the “fake” plane).
Given that he had to be at the simulators on a daily basis, we stayed at Novotel, which was really close to the airport. The hotel was pretty great, I absolutely loved their breakfast buffet. Free flow of smoked salmon whoo!!
The dutch seem to enjoy putting unique toppings on their bread – something I’d never seen or heard of before! I brought back a pack each for my family to try.
The top right shows a picture of a fried mashed potato croquette, or “krokette”. Very different from the japanese version in that the potato inside is really mashed, fluidy potato with meat.. and you buy it from a vending machine!! A person stands behind a whole wall of vending machines frying the goods. All you have to do is pop in 2 euros so that you can open a little transparent pigeonhole that has the food on a paperplate inside. It’s apparently quite popular in Amsterdam and can be found quite easily, by the company called FEBO.
I did have a rather nice chat with a taxi driver who hadn’t heard of our tiny little Singapore before. As he drove me past the countryside, he talked about his home (similar to the cottages above) and was shocked that our houses cost so much. & that I live in a country with no winter. hahaha! With its great expanse of land, houses in amsterdam are really cheap. That said, I’d rather live in Singapore than anywhere else. Close proximity to family and friends is my ultimate joy in life (:
More about Amsterdam coming up the next post!
Final Day in Hawaii started with a hike up Diamond Head at… 4.30am all in a bid to catch the sunrise. And because we couldn’t get a bus charter so early in the morning, we had to walk 7km from our hotel all the way to the top of Diamond Head and we had to do it fast because we were racing with the sun.
Well, the huffing and puffing was all worth it because the sight was simply glorious.
After all that walking, we all got hungry and tired so we went to Denny’s a local diner for an all-American breakfast. Think bacon, eggs, the works! And then it is off to Waikele Premium Outlets for more shopping. Now I’ve experienced Premium Outlet shopping in California and it was seriously awesome. Admittedly Waikele didn’t even come close in terms of size nor variety of offerings but the deals were still quite amazing.
I managed to get USD14 Levis black skinny jeans and Ralph Lauren Polo Tees for around USD35 each. I know some girls went crazy in Coach because there was an additional discount of 40% that day so a coach wristlet can go as low as USD38 which is rather incredible and unbelievable if you ask me. Other shops that are offering great discounts are Vans (shoes can be found at USD20), Charlotte Russe (tops start from USD10) and Godiva (chocolates available from USD9.90). You can check out the store directory and find the centre map.
After shopping, we had dinner at Morton’s back at Ala Moana and it was so good. And much cheaper than Singapore too. I had a special set meal that comprised of a cut of steak and lobster and it came to about USD70 though I’m pretty sure the same would cost around 90 or more here in Singapore. I guess it’s because of the air flown beef? A cost that doesn’t need to be incurred in the States? But whatever it is, best meal I’ve had the whole trip.
And because I am a sweet tooth, I couldn’t say no to The Cheesecake Factory’s delectable offerings. Middle photo is their original cheesecake and to the right is the Red Velvet cheesecake. I would suggest that you share because the portion is huge. There’s just no way one can finish one whole slice right after dinner. But they were both so good and so rich. I also had a bite of the Godiva chocolate cake and I think I will never have a chocolate craving again. It was potent to say the least.
After dinner, we strolled along Waikiki beach one last time. Somehow it just feels right to see the sunrise and the sunset of the same day. It’s like completing the cycle and finding some closure before going to bed. And the next day, we flew 18 hours all the way back to Singapore.
It’s been a wonderful trip, one that I won’t soon forget. I really do believe Hawaii is a magical place. It’s so spiritual and so special. I think the word, Ohana is best to describe it. Hawaii is like family. Everyone is friendly, warm and inviting and the best part of it is that it all feels genuine and sincere. Just thinking about my experience makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
As cousin Dwight, our bus driver said so meaningfully to us when he first met us, “we are Ohana and that means no one on this bus gets forgotten or left behind.”
And so the suspense is lifted today as turtles weren’t the only thing that we saw at North Shore but coincidentally and through the work of Fate, we were there on the second day of the Vans Surfing World Cup. So not only did we see huge waves, but we also saw surfers who rode them spectacularly!
North Shore is the mecca for surfers all over the world because in winter, Oahu’s North Shore serves up one of the largest and most imposing ocean waves in the world! The reason for this? Giant, storm-generated swells make their long trek across the northern Pacific to batter reef breaks and the area’s shoreline generating 40-foot waves.
This could explain why surfers like Eddie Aikau and Andy Irons who were born and bred in Hawaii became surf legends because clearly, surfing in North Shore is a definite challenge. And even today, the most prestigious surf competitions are held here. For example, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing which includes the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Ali’i Beach Park in Hale’iwa; the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach; and the Billabong Pipeline Masters at Ehukai Beach are like the Grand Slams in Tennis terms. Only the best of the best compete here which explains my bubbling excitement.
I think all my dreams came true today. I even bought the Vans event T-shirt to commemorate the day. That and a Billabong for Andy Irons t-shirt for Mark. I have to say though that the turnout was fantastic. There was even a traffic jam leading up to the competition venue which really shows you how passionate the Hawaiians are about surfing. A chat with the bus driver also shed light on how valued a sport it is; school children can actually take surfing as part of their curriculum for Physical Education. That was just mindblowing news to me. Way to keep the spirit and the essence of Hawaii alive.
And speaking of essence, we next proceeded to the Polynesian Cultural Centre to get to know some of the ethnic cultures native to the island.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre feels to me like a themepark where different areas are segmented for different ethnic groups namely, Samoa, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Marquesas and Hawaii. In each area you can learn about the different practices of each tribe eg. learn basic hula dance moves in Hawaii, toss a tolo spear in Tonga and try some coconut bread in Tahiti.
There are also shows and demonstrations to watch. We only had time to see the Samoan one which was really enjoyable. The demonstrator had a wonderful sense of humour and we were laughing the whole way even as he made a fire, made coconut milk and climbed a tree with his bare hands and feet. The most wonderful thing I’ve learnt about the Samoan culture? Well, women are treasured and so all the chores and household duties are all done by the men. Hear hear!
And at night, there’s a show that combines all the various ethnicities together in a spectacular show. The plot is pretty much like Lion King just with more dancing and stunts that involve fire. Admittedly tourist-y and some might find it contrived and inauthentic, but it is good fun nonetheless. What I also like about the concept is that it is a non-profit initiative. All ticket proceeds go towards funding an education for 250 Brigham Young University students who work at the Polynesian Cultural Centre even as they study. You can read more about this here.
So they are essentially promoting and keeping the culture alive while also helping disadvantaged students at the same time. A win-win situation without profit motivation. An intriguing concept but one that seems to work well for them which gets me thinking about how we could similarly implement this in Singapore…
Well, I’m almost done with my Hawaii Adventures recap! I’m only left with Ko’olina Lagoon and Diamond Head!
Our last night in Hilo was spent rather slowly and languorously mostly because it is a small little town and there aren’t our usual amenities available. Just a few little coffee joints, some little shops selling handicrafts and knick knacks and farmer’s markets that showcase a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
We made a stop at the Pacific Tsunami Museum as well, looking around at the exhibits and reading the stories of brave rescues. I particularly loved the story of how David Cook rescued Yoshikazu Murakami who was then just a small boy. And both rescued and rescuer were reunited 57 years later at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. You can read the full story here. It was just absolutely incredible.
After that, we made our way to Mauna Kea to see the stars. Mauna Kea is regarded as the best site in the world to view the stars because of its high altitude, dry environment and seemingly stable airflow. And because it is also the highest peak in the state of Hawaii, you can just imagine how cold it is. Hence you see me here all bundled up in a parka. I guess that’s what makes Hawaii so special. Despite the stereotypical sunny and beach-y image that Hawaii has, in actuality, Hawaii is home to 11 out of 13 climatic zones in the world! That’s why the flora and fauna are so rich here and that’s also why the weather is so changeable all the time depending on which part of the island you are at.
Stargazing calls for extreme patience. I mean, I don’t know how these astronomy enthusiasts do it. You sit and watch and wait, hoping to see some stars align in the sky but it is never actually guaranteed whether or not you will actually see anything at all. And that’s really the case for us. The skies were too cloudy that night and we couldn’t see any stars at all. All we saw was the moon…
It was very pretty still, it’s like a scene right out of a Vampire movie. But I was no doubt disappointed. Well, I guess this gives me a reason to return and REALLY tick this off the bucket list. Till next time Mauna Kea!
Well, as they say, when a door closes, a window opens. And the next day when we flew back to Honolulu and travelled along North Shore, we spotted…
Yes, we missed them when we were at Hanauma Bay but here they are at Waimea Bay! I’ve never actually been this close to a turtle before so this was really cool. (The weather was absolutely fabulous. It was so sunny and breezy and all the photos have no filter! There was absolutely no need to tweak them at all!)
But turtles weren’t the only thing that we spotted along North Shore… to find out more, stay tuned!
Day 3 marks our first day out in Hilo and if you think things can’t get any more chill, then you are so wrong. Hilo is even more laid back than Honolulu and I found myself doing the shaka sign more than usual. The shaka sign means ‘hang loose’ and people in Hawaii use it as a form of greeting as you cross the street or bump into people. There are apparently many variations to the shaka and you can read more about it on the urban dictionary here.
Our first stop in Hilo is actually the Volcano National Park. There we were introduced to Mt. Kilauea. Kilauea is an active shield volcano that’s at least 300,000 years old and it continues to spew lava today. As of January 2011, it has produced 3.5 cubic kilometres of lava and created 123.2 square miles of land! Volcanoes in Hawaiian mythology are extremely sacred and they associate it with the goddess Pele. It is only when Thomas Jagger installed the Volcano Observatory in 1912 that volcanoes were studied in a scientific fashion. Today, the Volcanoes National Park is recognized as a World Heritage Site and approximately 2.6 million people visit it yearly.
So being abit of a geography geek, I was pretty stoked about coming so close to a volcano and being able to trek across the crater that it created but nothing, and I do mean NOTHING comes close to my next experience of being able to roast (well, steam is more like it) a marshmallow over the hot steaming vent-like geysers formed from the cracked earth! At first I was apprehensive about even walking across volcanic ash because I was so afraid of it caving in under me but apparently this section that I’m at has been solidified and hardened for over 75 years already. What’s more, the layers have been piling up over the years so it’s actually a THICK layer that is a few feet deep so it is absolutely safe to walk over it. The fumes however… I’m not too sure how toxic the sulphur dioxide was that day but according to the measurements taken, it was of safe amounts.
So yes, a steamed marshmallow was super tasty and the steam was HOT. My glasses and camera lens fogged up pretty bad. But the true beauty of the volcano is best seen at night when the warm glow of the lava is set against the dark night sky. It was entirely surreal watching this happen before my very eyes.
Our lodging that night was at this quaint little bed and breakfast place called the Volcano Guest House and Bonnie, our host was so sweet and so hospitable. It was a beautiful home away from home with a personal touch. I found it very hard to go back to staying in a cold, clinical hotel afterwards.
The amazing thing about this lodge is that it is eco-friendly. Solar panels are used to power the heaters, there’s a water filtration and purification system that utilises UV rays and organic waste is channelled back to fertilise the crops. It is incredibly ingenious and I truly admire the attempt made to make as little an impact on the environment. I guess that’s something that I became mindful of and something I want to do back in Singapore too.
We spent the morning of the next day shadowing Bonnie as she goes about her daily chores and tells us her stories. It’s amazing how a city planner can quit her job, leave the city and start a farm and a B&B because she’s always wanted to. Really shows you how it is so important to follow your dreams and to believe that it will one day be realised.
For more Hawaiian Adventures, stay tuned! I will be spamming photos this week!