Category Archives: Travel

Books are piling up…

So books, so little time.  I also just bought a bunch of vietnamese books while I was in Viet Nam.  It’ll take me a good long time to deciper (I bought a vietnamese-english dictionary while I was at it), so i’m holding off on starting on those.  My goal is to finish the books I’ve started in the next 2 months so I can finally move on to better books:
 
  • Stumbling on Happiness
  • The Tapestries
  • Wild nights
  • That Amy Tan book that I couldn’t get past the first 30 pgs of (which coincidentally my brother brought on our Asia trip w/ him)

Oh and for work I should finish reading the Bella Sara books.  They’re a short read, so I’ll squeeze those in for a context switch when I need.  =)

Stories from Viet Nam

One of the big tourist spots in Sai Gon is Ben Thanh Market — it’s a large flea market that is a shopper’s nightmare and paradise all in one.  If you like to negotiate and bargain, it’s the place for you.  But if you bruise easily — mentally and physically, mabye it’s not your cup of tea.  Especially before new years, it’s crowded and you can expect you’re gonna get bumped into, pushed, stepped on, etc. 
 
There are stalls and stalls of merchants many of which sell the EXACT same things at outrageously different prices.  For example, the same souvenir starts at 25.000VND at one place will start at 10.000VND.  (Note: 17.500VND = 1USD)  Ok, maybe that’s not so outrageous… but when you’re thinking in THOUSANDS of Dong, it seems like a lot more than it actually is.  Keep in mind, a lunch from a street vendor costs from 15k – 30k.  So, I did the same thing I did in China… pick a place at random, bargain it down to where I walk away and they aren’t calling me back and now I’ve got my low point.  Now that I know the low point, it’s a point of reference for future bargaining.  At markets like these — especially high tourist attractions — the mark-ups are extraordinary.  Here’s where mental stamina is necessary — 
 
  • you have to be patient and willing to hit several places if you really want to get a good price
  • you have to know how much you’re willing to pay and stick to your price.
  • you’re gonna face some pretty hard sales, people swarming you, people clinging, people following you, and sometimes people insulted by your low offer.  You have to be able to withstand it
  • you might think you got a great deal one day (e.g. my mom thought she did an excellent job bargaining down to 100k) but the next day hit another vendor selling it for cheaper (in her case 50k — half as much!).  Over and over again we’d go from one vendor to another and see lower and lower prices… it was SO aggravating — particularly when we bought bulk at a higher price.

My brother had a whole new tactic.  Every where we went and everyone we spoke to always commented that he looked like a foreigner.  We all look like foreigners to Vietnamese in Viet Nam — we’re what’s called Viet Kieu — Vietnamese who immigrated away.  However, my brother wasn’t even thought to be Vietnamese at all.  This, my brother quickly learned, worked in his favor.  His gig was to bargain in English as a half Thai / half Chinese living in America.  This was pure genius!  As the vendors consulted each other in Vietnamese, my brother understood everything!  He knew when they’d be willing to make the sale, how much profit they’d be making, etc.  It was hilarious!  One night, he was mid-bargaining (in English) and pretty close at getting his asking price (and enjoying the inside Vietnamese conversation amongst the sales people).  Then my mom, finished with her night’s shopping, walks up to my brother and hands him the money leftover from her purchases.  My mom… who is CLEARLY Vietnamese… handing money to my bro who is supposedly half Thai / half Chinese… the gig was up!  =)

Besides the shopping and the eating in Ben Thanh Market, one day we saw a huge crowd starting to form.  Apparently, what happened was a thief pickpocketed from the city and ran into the market hoping to get lost in the crowd.  The guy was smart though.  He changed he took off his shirt while in the market.  As he was running, he was calling out "THIEF!" making it seem like he was chasing after the thief himself.  About 5 minutes later, the crowd barely dissipated when it formed back up again… they caught him!  A handful of cops, had cuffs on him and were leading him back through the Ben Thanh Market hands behind his back.   I’m sure in part this was meant to be a lesson for all to see as well as reassurance to tourists — thieves beware and tourists be at ease, for the VN cops are on top of it! 

Besides that incident, VN seems to be a much much safer place than 6 years ago when I was myself almost the victim of purse-snatching.  It was even worse 8-10 years ago when my mom saw a guy getting pick-pocketted right in front of her while her friend whispered in her ear quietly, "Don’t scream or he might hurt you."  These days VN enjoys and values tourists and what it does for their economy so these petty thefts have diministed quite a bit.  I noticed a large number of tourists in Sai Gon, many of whom walked obliviously with backbags on their back, digital SLRs dangling around their necks and faces in a street map and they were perfectly ok.  I’m glad Sai Gon is more inviting to tourists these days.  It’s a beautiful city and more of the world should see it.

 

Story from Hong Kong to Thailand — the hunt for Starbucks…

My bro collects Sbux mugs and all throughout Asia, wherever we spotted a Starbucks we dropped in to check out the mugs… and a cup of joe.  Cheap as the food may be, a Starbucks latte always cost the same.  It’s quite insane actually.  For $7, we got a delicious chicken & rice lunch with a free soda and a latte still costs $4.

In Singapore, the really nice sbux city mug was the one with the merlion on it.  Our hotel was right on the main strip of Singapore.  It was probably the best hotel we stayed in and was right next to all the malls, shopping, etc.  From the day trips, we knew sbux was right around the corner from us, so off we went.  We hit one starbucks and didn’t see the mug we wanted.  So I asked where the next closest mug was.  Thankfully, it was right next door in the mall.  Swell!  So off we go!  We get there and again we’re dismayed by the lack of MerLion mug.  So I ask the two guys there if they have any more mugs and they don’t.  They offered to call around to the other starbucks to see which one had it.  So while my brother & I sat, they offered us the new promotional chai vanilla latte.  Then the other sbux guy meanwhile tracked down the MerLion mug for us!  Even though the other store was close, the sbux guys even drew us a map!  Hands down, this was the best sbux service we’ve ever had!  So we walked the 3-4 blocks to the starbucks and voila!  MerLion mug!

In Thailand, Sbux was a rare thing.   I think I saw all of 3 or 4 the whole time we were there.  There were 4 starbucks within as many blocks from our hotel in Singapore!  On our way back from our day trip on the tour, my bro & I started paying closer attention to sbux we saw on the road and counting blocks back to our hotel hoping we wouldn’t have to trek too far.  I didn’t have to say it, but I think he knew that if it ws more than a few blocks away, it was a journey he’d be taking on his own.  =)  Low and behold though, there was a sbux only 2 blocks away!  And another mug secured.  Success!!

If the trip were shorter and if I didn’t have to lug so much baggage around, I would have gotten a few mugs myself, but as it was, I left the collecting to my brother and instead just enjoyed the sweet nectar that is caffeine and milk.

 

Story from Malaysia

One of the things our tour guide in Malaysia was really excited about us experiencing was this fancy buffet dinner with cultural show.  She did everything she could in preparation of that evening to cram as many facts and stories she could so we could fully enjoy the show and even understand some of what we were seeing.  It was a great dinner and a lovely show.  At the end of the show, the guests were invited on stage to have their picture taken with all the beautiful performers.  Dinner guests cycled on and off the stage.  Finally my mom & I got on stage and smiled nicely for my brother and dad who stood in the crowd in front of the stage taking our pictures. 
 
Then all of a sudden I hear my brother calling out my name and pointing up.  I look up and there’s a FIRE!  One of the spot lights was directed straight up at the ceiling and caught fire.  It was a small fire and I stood kind of amazed more than scared but then snapped out of it and grabbed my mom and started heading off stage.
 
As I’m heading off stage, I hear the evening’s emcee say in a very calm, almost serene voice: "Everyone, please stay calm.  Everything is ok.  If someone could please find a fire extinguisher."  A guy gets a fire extinguisher and starts spraying the small fire.  The emcee, "Yes, good.  Everyone, stay calm.  The fire is almost out."  And then the fire erupts again.  Heheh.  By this point, I’m almost outside the restaurant (as is most everyone else) but I steal a few glances back when I hear the emcee say, "Sir, please, a little more fire extinguisher."  You have to imagine this emcee saying all this as if she were saying, "Yes, a little more cream in my coffee please."  She was unbelievably casual about the whole thing.  It was hilarious.
 
I make fun, I’m sure her calmness prevented people from just stampeeding out of there and hurting themselves or others.  It probably wasn’t memorable in the way our tourguide wanted it to be for us, but it’ll be memorable nonetheless.
 

Asia – Day 13 – Viet Nam

We’re now in Viet Nam — well, we have been for the past couple days but I’ve been too busy to blog, so let’s get everyone caught up:
 
Bangkok – Days 8-11
Tour Guides: Phong, Anna, Thong
  • Grand Palace – this was the old "forbidden kingdom" of the King of Thailand.  Some of the structures here are painted in real gold!  The place is huge and the gold rooftops are beautiful when the catch the light.  All the sculptures and buildings are beautifully crafted.  It’s not as large as the Forbidden Kingom but it’s more landscaped and better kept up.  Forbidden Kingdom doesn’t have a lot of plant life there but the Grand Palace has lots of plush greenery that’s been well-kept
  • Snake Farm – I don’t know the name of the place, but we went to a snake farm where they harvest the snake’s natural properties to create oils, pills, etc. that they then coax you into buying to cure whatever ailment  you’re feeling.  It’s such a hoax (I think) but the power of suggestion is powerful, so if you believe it’ll work, it just might.  My brother and I talked my parents out of spending any money here.  The cool part though was before they made their sales pitch.  They had a dude playing and wrestling with different snakes.  He’d smack the snakes head down and dodge when the snake attacked him.  There was even a snake that they had trained to play dead!  No joke, the snake seriously turned onto its back exposing its belly.  And it just laid there until the snake trainer told it to flip back over.  He brought the snakes over for everyone to pet.  At one point, he was biting one of he snakes while holding it out for everyone to see.  After he let go of the snake, it pooped all over teh stage… heheheh… I think he might have even got some of it in his mouth because he rinsed out his mouth right away.
  • Pattaya — Sin City of Thailand apparently.  We were getting coached by our Tour Guide to enjoy ourselves, see all that Pattaya has to offer and don’t think about anyone judging us.  He promised to take everyone to temple to confess whatever we did in Thailand.  =)  And at the end of our time in Pattaya, he said we should leave everything we did here in Thailand and not carry it back with us else it might give us nightmares.  Hehehh… he’s a funny guy.  Stuff we saw in Pattaya:
    • Nong Nooch Garden — We saw trained elephants do everything from dancing, riding a tricycle, and playing soccer.  They were pretty comical and amazingly well trained.  Afterwards, you could pay a couple bucks to pose with the elephants.  I chose the elephant that coils its trunk around you at the waist and picks you up.  Pretty freakin’ cool!  At the same place, my brother was able to pose with a Tiger and actually sit there and hug it.  Crazy!
    • 2-hour Thai Massage — they give pretty strong massages in Thailand.  I seriously think the small Thai woman massaging me could kill me with her bare hands if she wanted. 
    • Tiffany Show — This was a pretty awesome show.  It’s the most popular caberet show in Thailand.  All (most) of the performers are men who’ve had a sex change and they’re all GORGEOUS!  I was amazed.  Some of them may have changed over a bit too late and still look pretty masculine but most of them were beautiful.  If I didn’t know they were trannies beforehand, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  That’s how beautiful they were. The only thing is they don’t take good care of their teeth.  If they had nice pearly whites, they’d really be hot but the yellow crooked teeth ruin it all for me. 
  • Temple – As promised, we were taken to a Buddhist temple as our last tourist stop… I guess as a way to cleanse or do any whatever repenting you need from whatever naughty things you did in Pattaya.  =)  I think the worse people did was drink and watch nuddie shows.  The majority of the tour group were old married couples.
  • Another Thai massage – only an hour this time, but this place, they climb all over you… sit on you, step on you, etc.  My brother got walked on.  My masseuse weighed more than me I think, so I was grateful she didn’t try to walk on me.

Our final half day in Bangkok was spent at the mall before we headed to Viet Nam.

We’ve been in Sai Gon now for the past 5 days.  I’ve been eating all sorts of good stuff — fresh fruit, sugar cane juice, coconut juice, etc.  YUMMY!  It wasn’t until last night that I got sick from something and started throwing up.  The last time I threw up was in Ha Noi six years ago.  Something about VN doesn’t agree with my stomach. Thankfully this time it’s only coming out of one end and has seemed to subsided.  It sucks being sick when you’re traveling… not a good feeling. 

Tomorrow we head down to Ca Mau which is where my family is from.

 

Asia – Day 8 – Bangkok

Since I last posted, we’ve traveled from Hong Kong to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (and Putrajaya) and now to Bangkok (and Pattaya).  It’s all a bit of a blur for me, but here’s a quick recap:
 
Singapore – Days 4 & 5
Tour Guide: Francis
 
  • Jurong Bird Park – We caught a bird show where a parrot sang to us in three languages including Happy Birthday in English.  Very impressive.  Then we caught another bird show with all the big birds — hawks, vultures, eagles, etc.   One of the tricks was to have the huge vultures fly through the crowd right above people’s heads.  One of the birds along its path clipped my camera hand with its wings…. scared the bejeebers out of me!  I was videotaping and you can see the shake… I’m surprised I didn’t screem.  =)
  • Merlion Park – The merlion is the symbol of Singapore.  It’s a lion’s head on a fish’s tail.  The story has it that Singapore used to be a fishing town until a king saw a lion and made a sacrifice to it in order for the town to survive and thrive and so it did.  The lion represents the "new" singapore and the fish the old singapore
  • Sentosa – this is a resort town/island.  The best part here was the Songs of the Sea show which was a light show projected onto mist that was sprayed into the air.  It was pretty darn awesome.  Very hard to describe just how cool it was.

Kualu Lumpur – Days 6 & 7
Tour Guide: Diane

  • Thean Hou Temple – As temples go, this was just… "eh".  It wasn’t all that magnificent but I always like going to temples, so I enjoyed it all the same.
  • Twin Towers at KLCC – the twin towers were awesome. Diane was a fun tour guide and bribed us with out of print 2 Ringit notes for answering quiz questions correctly.  Thanks to her there are facts I actually still remember from Malaysia that I probably wouldn’t have.  For example, the twin towers have 88 floors.  The skybridge connecting the two are between floors 41 and 42.  One tower was built by a Japanese construction company and the other by a Korean one.  The two were built simultaneously.  The Japanese finished earlier by 1 day… however the Koreans had to build the bridge.  The building was completed in 1996; however, the grand opening ceremony wasn’t held until August 8, 1999 — the reason was due to Feng Shui and Chinese "lucky numbers".  The number 8 is very good luck so you’ll see lots of 8’s everywhere.  The number 9 sounds like the same word in chinese as the word for longevity, so it’s considered a lucky number meaning "forever" or "longevity".  Therefore, 8/8/99 is a super auspicious date.
  • Palace – We visited the King’s palace and had our pictures taken with the guards who sat on horses at the gate.  The guards have to stand/sit there for 4 hour shifts but the horses get swapped out every hour.  Right after I had my picture taken, the horse beside me pooed… I guess I just brought it out in him.  =O
  • Monument – We visited a monument that I’ll have to check the name of later.  It was a lot like a monument in DC — the one of the soldiers holding a flag up.  In fact, I think it was built after someone had seen the one in DC and decided it was a neat way to honour the country’s soldiers.
  • Putrajaya (the new city) – a new city was established an the new government center is being relocated there.  We had their famous chicken rice dish — pretty darn yummy and at 7 Ringits (2USD) it’s freakin’ cheap!

Phew!  That was a lot.  I’ll have to write more on Bangkok later.

 

Asia – Day 2 – Hong Kong

We had a very full day in Hong Kong… they whipped us all over the place…
 
  1. Dim sum.  The dim sum was delicious but as with all other meals on this trip since I guess it was prepaid for they just brought specific dishes.  The whole fun of dim sum is being able to point and pull things off a cart.  Well, that’s the fun for me anyhow. 
  2. After Dim Sum we headed to the Waterfront Promenade and Avenue of the Stars.  The Avenue of the Stars is sort of the equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Grauman’s Theatre with the footprints — except it has chinese stars like Andy Lau, Jacky Chan and Bruce Lee to name a few.  It has both a star and the actor’s hand print.  I of course sought out Andy Lau’s square; he’s got respectably manly hands.  Jet Li has pretty stubby small hands that are about the size of mine.
  3. We were supposed to visit a temple but when we got there it was too crowded, so we changed plans and instead went to Victoria Peak.  We traversed pretty windy switchbacks up a mountain (all paved roads so nothing too dangerous or scary except we’re in a big tour bus with other big tour buses careening towards us).  At the top, there was a nice 360 view of Hong Kong and a huge mall.  =)
  4. Next was lunch on a floating boat at Jumbo Restaurant.  The food was eh and supposedly the view and experience was what made this a cool spot but honestly this wouldn’t have been something I would have sought out to do myself if I was visiting on my own.
  5. For the ladies in the group, the next stop was a gem/jewelry factory.  I learned of a new hot gem called – Chalcedony.  I’ll have to do some googling to see what’s so great about it (or if you beat me to it, send me email and let me know if it’s as special as they make it out to be).
  6. After that was a stroll around Repulse Bay Beach.  This was timed perfectly at sunset so there were lots of beautiful pictures of the beach but the main attraction was the numerous statues of Buddha of all varieties — Thai, Indian, Chinese, etc.  It was awesome.  If I were on my own, I would have easily spent 2-4 hours here.
  7. Then it was off to dinner for an all-you-can eat Korean/Japanese BBQ.  This was pretty yummy.  We were in a bit of a rush to get to our next spot, which wasn’t so much a problem for me but I think my brother could have spent 2-4 hours here.  =)
  8. After dinner, we rushed to catch the Hong Kong Harbour Light Show.  In fact, they had to hold the ferry for us because we couldn’t get there in time (really, you can’t rush an all-you-can-eat bbq dinner — did they really think they could get us out of there within an hour??).  The light show was pretty cool but it could have been designed a bit better.  I didn’t have the emotional reaction to it I expected and I for sure thought the end would be marked by something truly spectacular.  But instead it just ended.  Just lke that.  No fanfare.
  9. Last stop of the evening was the Ladies Market, which really is just an outdoor flea market like place where there’s blocks and blocks of small stalls and alleyways with vendors selling all sorts of goods.  Here is a place I could have easily spent 4-5 hours.  With the 1 hour we had, my mom and I barely made it through 2 alleyways.  You really need time at these places so you can haggle and bargain your way around.  The beauty of these places is that you’ll find the same thing 2 stalls down so if one vendor won’t give you the price you’re looking for, the next one might.

And that was our day!  Phew!  They certainly do pack in a lot.  I knew before even going on this trip that the whole guided tour thing wasn’t my cup of tea and now going on one for the first time just confirms my issues with these tours.  You spend 30 minutes here, 1 hour there and everything just goes by in a blur.  I like to sit, soak things in, close my eyes and let the place I’m at just envelope me.  I remember just sitting on the Great Wall just gazing over the mountains and standing in the Forbidden City with my eyes closed and imagining what it would have been like when Chinese royalty walked those halls.  Here, we’re herded like cattle and I barely have time to take in one place before we’re herded to the next spot.

I can say one thing though, we’re covering a LOT of ground.  Because we had to shift things around a little, we’ve actually accomplished the iterinary for both days in HK.  I think they’re cooking up other stuff to do tomorrow that wasn’t on the original itinerary.

More photos to come (probably when I get back to the US).

Asia – Day 1 (Hong Kong)

After many many hours on a plane and a few more hours in San Fran waiting to get on a plane, I’m not in HK at a newly built hotel that has free Internet!!  Gotta enjoy this while it lasts.  We landed around 9:30pm and had a late dinner.  It was a 7 course dinner that was D-LISH!  Top dishes were the peking duck, steamed fish, and the salt & pepper short ribs. I’m disappointed there wasn’t a dessert though… not even cut oranges. 
 
Got to the hotel around 12am and we’ll be starting bright an early tomorrow at 8am!  It’s a full day of touristy stuff on our itinerary, so I’m off to bed!

Back from Maui!

This was an AWESOME trip — the coolest way to spend Thanksgiving! 
 
Summary:
  • Number of books read: 1
  • Number of times we played volleyball: 1 (and maybe a handful of bumping the ball around on the beach)
  • Number of Eggs McCracken: 3
  • Number of turkey meals: 5
  • Number of mosquito bites: 7
  • Number of pictures taken: 1,126 (3.98 Gb!)
  • Number of pina coladas: not enough!
  • Number of times "Bananas!" was said: too many to count!
  • Things I learned:
    • You can cook eggs in the microwave
    • One bad tan (from an overcast July day) is really hard to correct even after hours on the beach
    • 7 people and 1.5 bathrooms didn’t turn out to be so crazy afterall
    • Shreaded turkey in BBQ tastes nothing like turkey
    • I love my friends and trust them with my life (quite literally)
Here’s a synopsis of the week:
 
Day 0
  • Dinner at Lu Lu’s — a bbq place.  It was a nice place but the puffer fish hanging from the ceiling were sad.  Apparently the puffers are intentionally frightened so they puff up and when they die they do so in that puffed state.  and then they were turned into celing decorations
  • Poker til the wee hours
Day 1 (Wednesday)
  • Big Beach
    I intentionally avioded Little Beach — basically a nude beach.  I heard enough storieis to know I wasn’t missing anything worth seeing.
  • Night volleyball at Kama’ole III Beach
    This is what seattle needs!  I think this is the only lit sand vball court in Maui and it was only a 10 min drive from us!  We didn’t take advantage as much as we should have.  Kind of a bummer.  We did meet up w/ B, who was on his own vacatin through Hawaii for a few games and dinner in the park.  It was like a summer weekend in Seattle… all of us on the sand playing volleyball…except it was 9 PM!
  • Steaks on the grill… mm mm good!
    We made an awesome dinner at the park.  Steak, ceasar salad, hummus and pita, and sweat rolls.  Mmm.. steak… so juicy and yummy.  it’s been a while since I’d had steak.
Day 2 (Thursday)
  • Kama’ole I Beach
    Snorkling!  For a non-swimmer, hanging out in the big big ocean is a little scary… even if you’re attached to a foam board.  Thanks to the superb coaching and patience of N, I got to go snorkling for the first time!  It was pretty freakin’ awesome!!  Before we could go, N gave me a primer on floating on my belly w/ the board as well as some survival techniques… like doggie paddling, kicking, etc.  It’s tiring work when you’re kicking probably the most inefficient way possible… as a non-swimmer like myself would do.  After a while of that, we were off on our journey!  It was a hella lotta work (especially for N who dragged me along Open-mouthed), but it was totally worth it.  It made me miss the 33 gallon tank @ and I used to have back in college.  It also made me really want to learn how to swim!  I do have to admit, it took a while to get used to floating and trusting the board and having my head in the water and breathing through my mouth.  And there was more than 1 occassion I had to remind myself to just breathe to calm the nerves (in particular when we were over coral and I knew I couldn’t just stand up if I panicked).  But afterwards, seeing a school of silver fish and some yellow stripey ones, it made me realize I was missing out on something really cool.  Big, huge thanks to N for literally dragging my a$$ around out there.  =) 
  • Thanksgiving Dinner!
    We made the most wonderful Thanksgiving meal!  The menu included: 22 lb turkey that turned out super juicy, moist and yummy!  Stuffing… actually stuffed in the bird! Yams in lime butter — this was just "eh"… not something I would make again.  Green beans with garlic and oyster sauce.  And the best part… cranberry chutney with an extra little kick of cayenne.  YUM-MY!!!  M made Senator Biden’s favorite oatmeal raisin cookies… so SO SO good!  I can’t describe how soft and chewy these cookies were.  S and I made the mistake of glimpsing over while he was putting in the butter… it’s a LOT of butter… a LOT.  This is why I don’t cook.  If I knew what all went into all the things I love to eat so much, I probably couldn’t eat them anymore… or having learned how to make them, I’d make it all the time and get fat… either way, ignorance is bliss.  Desserts 2 and 3 were pumpkin pie as well as apple pie a la mode!  M and I even made passion fruit cocktails for everyone.  The best part of cooking is not having to clean! =)
Day 3 (Friday)
  • Haleakala at Sunrise
    So… after stuffing our faces silly with turkey… we struggled to stay up until 3am to head to Haleakala — an active volcano — to catch the sunrise.  We didn’t make it… that is, we didn’t pull the all-nighter, but I took out some insurance and at 2:30am, my cell phone alarm chirped loudly and an hour later we were on the road.  An hour and a half after that, we were freezing our tushies off 10,000 feet above ground.  One thing I LOVE about Maui, is without the city lights and smog, you always see the stars out at night.  I spotted Orion’s belt all on my own!  Oh and I saw a number of shooting stars! 

    Finally around 6, the sun started peaking out.  It was a glorious sight.  It’s amazing to see the transformation from stars in the black sky to a golden sun emerging from a sea of puffy clouds.  M and I further froze our a$$ off by capture all this on our cameras outside while the other 5 huddled for warmth in the observatory… oh how I wished I was huddling with them.  At one point, I think I stopped feeling my hands.

    I was grateful for the oatmeal raisin cookies N packed for the car ride…mmm.

  • Po’olenalena Beach
    After catching the sunrise (possibly my first), we head home… to nap.  After a quick nap, we rummaged for food… what do you know… there was turkey!  I made some turkey soup (turkey meal #2) from the leftover vegies and the giblet broth M made the night before.  It didn’t need any seasoning at all and it turned out decently edible.  I have low standards though… always been an easy eater.  Some folks had a quick turkey dinner plate (turkey meal #3) which was basically a replay of dinner the night before.

    Then it was off to no where else but the beach!  This time Kama’ole I for good snorkling.  After having a small taste of snorking, my interest was piqued and I was easily talked into trying it again.  This time, it was from the safety net of D’s wetsuit which keeps you afloat… no board needed.  Of course, I still can’t control where I go when I’m on the water, so N had to drag me around still (what a sweetie).  After getting some water in my snorkle, which I couldn’t manage to clear from my tube underwater, I got a little nervous.  M dragged back to shore — good thing he’s a good swimmer.  Tongue out  The waters were a bit too murky to really see anything, so that was the end of that…. if we’d gone earlier with D & M, we would have seen turtles!

    Since I already had the wetsuit on (and it’s an ordeal to get that sucker on!), we went boogie boarding.  I didn’t really need the wet suit since we boogie board in from waste deep water, but it’s nice to play in the ocean when you know you can’t drown and for a non-swimmer, that means wearing a life vest or as it turns out wetsuit.  N and I caught a few awesoem waves that pretty much pooped me out for the day.

    The rest of the gang got in a few more waves and I learned my camera can shoot continuous photos!  So, I got a ton of freeze frames and videos of everyone body surfing into shore.  All the screaming, laughing and side commentary in the videos are hilarious!

    We stayed until sunset, which was amazing.  It was probably a first for all 7 of us to catch both the sunrise and sunset of the very same day!

Day 4 (Saturday)
  • Road to Hana
    When in Maui, you must do the Road to Hana.  Well, that’s what we were told anyhow.  As a last minute replacement for the guidebook we were going to use to know where to stop along the road, we got a self-guided CD to listen to along the way.  It actually wasn’t so bad but I don’t think w went during the right time of year… the waterfalls were kind of weak.  What made the experience memorable was the fun we made for ourselves along the way… spotting fruit trees… trying to knock down coconuts… fruit tree picking… watching old men relieve themselves in the bushes in front of us while we tried to enjoy our turkey and cranberry sandwiches (turkey meal #4).  I would do Road to Hana again, but probably a different time of year and with a good guidebook.  As it was, it wasn’t a complete loss since it turned out to be rainy even on the beach, so not the best beach day anyhow.
  • Lahaina
    This is a quaint, sweet town with lots of little shops and a TON of art galleries.  If you’re into art, you can’t go a block without seeing an art store.  We also saw the larget banyan tree, which is pretty amazing.  I’ve never seen such a tree before.  It looks like it’s multiple trees because there are multiple limbs that look like trunks.  All the limbs connect back to the main trunk but they grow out and then back down into the grown.  The tree was huge and noisy with birds.  I wouldn’t have sat under there like some people… very high potential for getting pooped on. 

    After a leisurely stroll, we had a nice reprieve from turkey at the Lahaina Fish Co. for some seafood.  Yum!

    Then back home for some poker!  I was SO hot to start!  I slow-played a set of A’s on the flop (on the first hand) and ended up with a house of A’s over 5’s.  I kept getting awesome hands all night and was probably at one point up to 5 or 6 bucks from a $3 buy-in.  But as is my MO, I started strong and then my lucky streak came to an end.  Easy come easy go.

Day 5 (Sunday)
  • Maui Prince Beach
    It was sad when N and J left in the morning of my last day.  Especially since it turned out to be such a beatiful day.  So… what did we do?  We headed to the beach for more sun and more fun in the water.  It was hot hot hot!  The cool water was a relief.  It was also still enough for S to continue my lesson on floating on my back.  S is a REALLY good teacher!  I’m guessing maybe she walked me through how she learned to swim when she took her freebie A class in college (like my bro).  We started with me holding onto the board behind my head so I could still hold onto something I knew would keep me afloat.  Then she had me float and let go of the board to get used to just floating w/o holding onto anything.  And the final lesson… getting into and out of the floating position on my own.  And I actually did it!  Step by step and w/o any traumatic moments!  =)  Now I can float… well or at least I know I can under close supervision.  heheh.

    Got home in time for a shower, a pina colada and a shreaded bbq turkey sandwich on toasted chabatta… OMG this was the best use of turkey!  I wish we’d made this earlier (and by "we" I mean M who is a cooking genious) so I could have had more.  It was delicious and tasted nothing like turkey!  It was like a pulled pork sandwich.  I almost want to roast another turkey so I can just make that sandwich!

There are a couple of things I haven’t mentioned that were pervasive to the entire trip:

  • Bananagrams.  A new game we learned how to play and boy did it catch on.  D went from reading the rules and determining it sounded boring to playing it until 5am!  This was morning to night our filler activity.  There was almost always someone playing banagrams… we were so used to hearing calls of "bananas" (I modified the rules for laziness and simplicity) that when we didn’t hear it, it felt like an awkward silence.
  • Coffee… yummy Chocolate Macaamia Kona coffee fresh brewed every morning.  Nothing better to start the day with.
  • Pina coladas… D’s specialty.  It was mm mm good. 
  • Pineapple… in the pina colada… on the beach… after dinner… after lunch… can’t get enough

Then it all came to an end and I was dropped off at the airport.  <sigh>  The end to an absolutely amazing, fun-filled vacation!  I had a TON of fun.  Since I live on the opposite coast as my family, Thanksgiving has become a holiday with friends and this is definitely one to go down in the record books!