Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

View as we landed on Christmas Island

View as we landed on Christmas Island

Kiribati flag

Outside Shangri-La

The view from Doris Duke's back yard!

Nice pool ol' Doris had...

One of the Islamic pieces collected by Doris Duke and displayed at...

Interesting - skeleton fighting a dog

... and a man riding a fish

Along the beachside in Waikiki



October 4, 2011

Our flight left Fiji at just after midnight on October 5th and Elizabeth and I were both ready for sleep. Instead, we were given food. I wasn’t sure whether to eat or sleep or be annoyed as it just seemed like such a stupid thing for the airline to do, given the time now and the actual flight time. The food turned up and I had a little of it but really I just wanted to sleep. With the noise and light in the cabin this was impossible so I had a glass of wine to help me along the way. Once the food service ended I actually managed to sleep for a couple of hours and so did Elizabeth. The flight was split into two legs. The first, about 4.5hrs, was to Christmas Island in Kiribati and we landed there in the early hours of the morning on October 5th. Despite being further east of Hawai’i, it is the other side of the wiggly date line so we were able to celebrate Christmas before getting in our time machine! Taking off, we had three more hours before we hit Honolulu and again Elizabeth and I slept most of the way despite ANOTHER food interruption. Is it really necessary to have a dinner and a breakfast served in the space of a 7 hour, overnight flight? I think not. I ate even less of this meal than I did of the last and fell back asleep. We landed in Honolulu at just after 10am on October 4th, having crossed the dateline and landing back in the Western and Northern hemispheres.

After getting through immigration a lot easier than previously and collecting our bags, we hopped on the shuttle bus to take us to our hotel. We’ve recently gained a few credits on our account and this means that we have got a few “free” nights to play around with and as a result we were staying in a nicer hotel than we would’ve normally chosen. The journey into Waikiki only took half an hour or so and thankfully our room was ready and we dumped our bags and got out of our hot and sweaty walking boots and into some more comfortable footwear. The next stop was lunch as we were both starving and we found a little café called Ruffage, serving “natural foods”. You know, like that organic and vegetarian rubbish…! Elizabeth had a veggie burrito with vegan chilli and I had a tuna sandwich. We both had smoothies with our lunch and the fresh fruit flavours were lovely. I’ll definitely have to buy a smoothie maker when we get back to Zurich!

We decided to try and keep ourselves awake rather than take a nap so we walked around some of the shops. We’d had a few hours sleep last night and we knew that if we could make it through to a normal bed time we’d get over any jet lag much easier. We didn’t want to buy anything yet but we did want to get some stuff when we come back here in just over a week so this was a good little exploratory trip! We loved the souvenirs and t-shirts here before and we had trouble not buying loads of stuff this time around, too! We did stop to get some drinks and crisps and breakfast stuff but they are considered essentials!

When we got back to the hotel we unwound with some TV and some travel journal before we were ready for dinner. I had really wanted pizza so we went to the California Pizza Kitchen where we shared a spicy habanero pizza and a barbeque chicken salad. I know that we won’t be eating very healthily in the US so I’m taking the chance to have salads when I can. Of course, I washed it down with a beer though! After dinner we both felt like something sweet. The waitress at CPK had shoved a dessert menu in front of us before we’d barely started eating and this probably encouraged us to get something. We didn’t get anything at CPK though as Elizabeth wanted cheesecake so we headed over the road to the Cheesecake Factory for a lemon and raspberry cheesecake for me and a key lime cheesecake for her! Just what we needed to eat in bed before we fell asleep!

October 5, 2011

We had a tour booked for today, one that Elizabeth had really wanted to go on, so we got up in the morning and had a quick breakfast. The tour was to go and visit the house built by Doris Duke, Shangri-La, and departed from the Honolulu Academy of Arts. We caught the bus into the city and were at the Academy in plenty of time. We had to get off the bus a bit early though as the road was blocked by a police barricade. There was a funeral procession going on and it must’ve been for one of the local servicemen or women as there were many police cars, bikes, ambulances and fire engines out along the route. At various places, the procession just stopped and as our bus had stopped dead and not gone anywhere we decided to walk the final block or so.

The tour started with a short stop within the museum itself. Doris Duke had been fascinated by Islamic Art and there was a room in the museum dedicated to the foundation she had set up and displaying items she had collected. Of course, many of these items were on display in the actual house but it was good to get an insight. There was also a video in the museum which detailed Duke’s life, from her father’s death when she was 12 and her massive inheritance through to her marriage, her honeymoon, her “discovery” of Islamic Art and her love of Hawai’i and the house she eventually built here. It was really interesting to see what a private person she was despite her inherited fame and wealth. It is also quite funny, too, as it was obvious to see that she enjoyed travelling and the cultures she visited were embraced, something many people take a little for granted now. However, back in the 1930s, this was far from the norm, even for a wealthy woman.

After the brief look around the museum, we boarded the bus to take us to Shangri-La. Elizabeth and I were the youngest on the tour but at least a generation or two, many of the others easily capable of being our grandparents. Having looked at this tour before we booked it, I thought it would be of interest to more mature people but this seems to have bypassed Elizabeth and she seemed to be a little surprised by the people on the tour. Of course, with age comes moaning and some of these took great delight in complaining about everything they could from it being too cold, to it being too hot, to it being too far away (10 minutes in a bus!), to having to climb the steps into and out of the bus. It was quite unnerving to think that one day I might be like this!

Once inside the house, we were treated to some amazing displays of Islamic art. For me personally, the collection was a little over the top and many of the items displayed in each room didn’t really fit together and the colours and designs were a bit gaudy. The building itself, however, was stunning. It had been purposely built on the water’s edge and down the hill from the main road. The gardens were vibrant with colours and helped seclude the land and the water features, including the swimming pool, were very impressive and inviting. The weather was lovely and sunny and the pool looked perfect for a dip! The house was built in a traditional Islamic style (apparently) and the rooms included lots of columns and intricate ceilings; some original, some copies. The most impressive thing for me though was how open and light many of the rooms were. Duke had installed large, glass doors and windows in many of the ocean-facing rooms and although many of these were covered in Islamic decoration (both curtains and screens) the views out to the ocean and Diamond Head were lovely and the breeze when these windows were open was very refreshing. One of the guys on our tour was really interested in the tour guide and was asking some really interesting questions. He was also using a stick to walk around and was clearly struggling with some of the staircases but he was taking it all in his stride and while his wife moaned and whined about all the walking and the heat, he just plodded along and enjoyed the tour. We found out that him and his wife were on a cruise – they had left San Diego, arrived in Hawai’i and were on their way to French Polynesia before coming back to San Diego. The cruise was 30 days long and I couldn’t imagine doing something like that as there must be so many days at sea with nothing to do. Considering how much it probably cost, I think I’d rather fly and spend more time in these wonderful places than be so restricted on time in port and then spend days staring at open ocean. They didn’t even have time to look around the museum properly in Honolulu as they had to get a taxi straight back to the ship for their afternoon departure. It’s such a shame to miss so much of what the Hawaiian islands have to offer.

We had a really nice lunch at the café back at the Academy and decided to look around the exhibits whilst we were here. As it turned out, we ended up looking around for so long that we barely made it into the last gallery before they closed! The museum had loads of stuff in it and was really impressive, especially when you consider what a comparatively small place Hawai’i is. However, when you consider the crossroads at which the islands sit as well as the cultural influences on the island it is hardly surprising that the museum displays the diversity. It had lots of displays from Asia, including a lot a Chinese and Japanese artwork and artifacts as well as galleries dedicated to Indonesia and the Philippines. Other than these countries themselves, it seems weird to have so much stuff about them in a neutral country but it was very interesting. There was also a gallery about local art and we barely caught this as the museum was just closing. The stuff in there was more of the older paintings and, while it was interesting, it was nowhere near as cool as some of the more modern art we’ve seen in the shops along Waikiki, all done by local artists.

From there we walked to the bus stop to head back to Waikiki. Along the way we noticed that there was a local farmer’s market going on and we had a stroll around and noticed some cool stuff there to purchase. We thought it might be a good thing to come back and buy some stuff when we come back in a week or so. This time, however, we passed on purchasing anything and headed straight for the bus.

Back in Waikiki, we lazed around for a while before taking a stroll and going for dinner. The main beachfront road in Waikiki is busy during the day and at night it is buzzing with activity, particularly on one side where there are loads of street performers and artists with Asians queuing up to stare at them! It isn’t exactly conducive to being in a rush to get anywhere and, thankfully, we weren’t in a hurry. We were going to a restaurant called Eggs N Things which is at the far end of Waikiki and the walk was quite pleasant, despite the crowds. The good thing about Waikiki is that the temperature drops in the evenings and makes it comfortable to walk around in, unlike some places we’ve been where the heat and humidity carries on long after the sun has set. At Eggs N Things, we had a bit of a wait for a table and the place was packed with Japanese. I’d forgotten quite how many Asian tourists came to Oahu but this was certainly a reminder! We had to wait about 5 minutes although this at least came coupled with the amusement of the girl trying to understand my name. Not for the first time in my life, someone heard my name as “Pizza” rather than “Peter”. I mean, who the hell is called Pizza? I’ve worked it out though – Americans can’t pronounce the letter T properly. For example, duty is pronounced “dudy” so I guess I should say “Peder” instead!

When we eventually sat down, the menu was typical diner food and sounded really good, really filling and really unhealthy. I’m struggling to think of a time when I’ve gained so much weight in such a short space of time and in the back of my mind I know that it will be major dieting when we get back to Zurich in January! Regardless, I ordered a dish called Loco Moco, a traditional Hawaiian dish of rice, a beef patty covered in gravy and topped with fried eggs. This version was the full Hawaiian version, too, and came with mushrooms, onions and Portuguese sausage… as if the main dish wasn’t enough! Elizabeth went for an omelet (Word keeps changing this to the American spelling, which is really annoying me but I’m going to leave it and apologise, with an “s”) with turkey bacon and cheese and the portion size was massive. We left there stuffed and this seems to be a running theme of late – whatever happened to light meals?!!!

On the walk back to the hotel we stopped at Hard Rock to get a magnet as we hadn’t got one when we were here before. The good thing about being in the US is that my discount card here actually accumulates money off rather than just the 10% discount and as a result this magnet was actually free! I’m obviously learning the art of picking up bargains from Elizabeth! We skipped the Cheesecake Factory tonight though… we still had leftovers from last night!

October 6, 2011

Today was our last day in Waikiki for this time around and we decided to take a walk along the coast and visit the aquarium. It was a lovely day but despite this we weren’t in a major rush to get out and sweaty! When we finally made it out, we walked around the corner to visit one of the dive shops first and ask about diving for when we return in a week or so. The girl there was really helpful and although we weren’t sure we wanted to dive here before chatting to her, we were keener once we were done. We even looked at getting Elizabeth her own mask and when we asked if she would be able to try one out during a dive, the girl even volunteered that Elizabeth could use hers. One of the things we love about diving is how friendly everyone is. I think you need a sense of adventure to dive in the first place and most people you encounter, whether that are working for the dive company or just regular divers, are so much fun and easy to talk to. I guess having a hobby in common helps, too.

From there we walked along the beach to the aquarium. The sky was really clear today and the shade of the trees was a welcome relief, especially as both of us burn and neither of us had put suncream on! The aquarium wasn’t too busy but there were still a fair few kids running around. I’m still voting for child free days at zoos and aquariums! The displays were really well set out though with some great explanations and even an audioguide which explained a lot about the reef system here and many of the fish, too. Elizabeth managed to get into an argument with one woman though as her son was furiously punching one of the tanks to get the child’s attention. Elizabeth told him to stop and then asked his mother if she would mind stopping him. Rather than realizing her child wasn’t a bloody angel and doing something about it, the woman decided to be rather defensive and after asking Elizabeth whether she worked at the aquarium or should be looking after our own children rather than interfering, I left Elizabeth to her argument. One of the things did make me think though – if your child was causing trouble and someone asked you to control them, how would you react? I’d be embarrassed that my child was being a nuisance and that people had the impression I wasn’t able to control them in public. I know I wasn’t the best behaved child in the world but I also knew I’d be in for a beating if I acted up while we were out. And why do so many things like this always resort to “well you don’t have kids so what do you know”? Well, you know what – I know that banging on a fish tank is not appropriate, whoever is doing it. And if you don’t like being told your child is out of control, then control them. The second interesting thing was that Elizabeth told this woman that we were concerned about the fish and that they wouldn’t like being annoyed and as divers we are careful about the welfare of such creatures. The woman completely missed the point and told us that we shouldn’t come to aquariums and should just dive and she seemed a little perplexed when Elizabeth said we come to aquariums to learn more about the fish and environments we dive in. To me, this was a good point as although kids see aquariums as fun, they can also be really educational and are an excellent way to teach children how to care for the marine environment, rather than let them bash on the tank to get Nemo’s attention!

The highlight of the aquarium was the Hawaiian Monk Seal. These seals are really quite rare around the islands now and stay mainly in the northernmost, unpopulated islands and this is supposedly the best, or even only, chance you’ll get to see one of them. Of course, the seal knew he was the prize display and put on a bit of a swimming display for us before just bobbing along on the surface looking at the observers a bit weirdly!

Once we were done with the aquarium, we walked back along the beach towards the main strip of shops to find somewhere for lunch. We decided to stop at Lulu’s, a bar with a lovely open seating area over-looking the beach and the ocean. The food there was typical pub food and I had a tuna melt with spicy fries and Elizabeth had the Angry Pig (you can hazard a guess what that is for yourself!). I decided to have a Bikini Blonde with mine (that’s a beer, honest) although I’m starting to think I might have to cut back on beer. The trouble is there are so many micro-breweries in the US!

Back at the hotel we decided to give the hotel pool a go but we really might as well not have bothered. The pool was tiny, there were about 4 chairs around it and after about 20 minutes in the cold water we’d had enough and so headed back to the room to laze around and relax a bit. We were heading out of Oahu tomorrow to another island so I started to organize a few things as well as called to book our airport pickup. We also arranged some tours for our next island stop, Molokai, but more about those over the next few days!

In the evening we decided that we wanted something lighter and I asked about a good place to get salads. Elizabeth said that the US chain restaurant Chilis did good salads and so we decided to go there. After a massive portion of chips, salsa and guacamole to start, we both had really nice, fresh salads although I think the waitress was struggling to understand my accent… because people here just don’t speak proper English like what I does.

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