Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hawaii Big Island - Day 1

Vacation is here!!! The last time I went on vacation was last Summer when hubby and I went to Europe and visited Switzerland and Germany, because I managed to get a conference there. It was a blast, but it has been waaaay too long of a hiatus between vacays. This summer we are headed to the Big Island in Hawaii to be in the wedding of two of our friends, Chung and Mel.

Vacation started out like any other vacation that leaves from the USA: with a soothing massage (for Jay) from a well-trained TSA officer. :) Our flight to Kona was made entertaining by the lady sitting in the row in front of us, who upon hearing that there were complimentary Mai Tais, immediately consumed 3 of them... In under ten minutes...

Right before we landed, we were greeted by a double rainbow in the sky!

Finally landed in Kona! The air was delightfully moist as it should be in the tropics, and it might have been my imagination, but a faint sweet scent of fruits also filled my nose. Ahhh... The smell of R&R. First thing we did was to make a trip to the Costco in Kona!! Not only to stock up on supplies for the week (such as bagels and sandwich items) but also we heard that they have great Poke! Poke is the Hawaiian take on the Japanese sashimi salad. Usually made with ahi tuna sashimi, slightly marinated in some kind of sauce, and seasoned with salt, green onions, and other flavorings. There were five kinds at Costco: regular (with seaweed), wasabi, shoyu (sweeter version with more soy sauce), spicy mayo, and avocado mayo. We bought some of the regular and shoyu - mmm tasty lunch!

With goodies in hand, we started our Hawaiian fun with a drive up the Kona mountains. The serpentine and windy road made for a super fun drive in the mustang convertible we rented. Wheee!!! We'll be coming round the mountain with the top down!

The joy riding continued up to the northern/central part of the big island. We took Saddle road, a road cutting through the island that passes by the Mauna Kea Observatory. The drive up to the visitors center at 9000 ft elevation was also very fun, because the road was lined with unique vegetation that varied with elevation. We could not go up further than the visitor center because a 4WD was needed to drive up the gravel road. Good thing we couldn't go all the way to the 13000 ft peak!!! Even after being at just 9000 ft for a while, I started to feel the effects of the altitude on my brain... We left soon, but not without snapping some photos above the clouds. :)

Continuing east toward Hilo, we make several more scenic photo stops, making the ride on Saddle road very pleasant. Some of the attractions near Hilo that we visited that day:

Rainbow Falls
No rainbow in the photo because we visited at the wrong time of day!
Morning is best since the sun would be shining in the right direction then. 

Really cool HUGE banyan trees right next to Rainbow Falls.
Great for climbing on and around and under and over.

Beautiful Japanese gardens on Banyan Drive, in Hilo.
Makes for the nicest afternoon stroll. 

The boiling pots and Pe'e Pe'e Falls

Dinner was at a local favourite, Cafe 100. Hawaiian food is so unhealthy, and so fatty, yet as with any fatty, unhealthy foods.... so satisfying after a long day! Interestingly, the rice here in Hawaii is not the calrose that we usually eat. Their rice is really really good! It's got more chew than calrose, but not quite a glutinous texture, and when cooked right, is just the right amount of softness without being mushy. This kind of rice I could eat on it's own! I am secretly hoping that this is an indication of the good sushi we will have on this island, since Hawaii has very fresh fish, and apparently the rice is also really good. 

A local favourite: Loco Moco. A plate lunch/dinner that typically consists of rice (usually white rice), 2 eggs, macaroni salad, and some kind of meat. All topped with gravy. Here, our choice of meat was grilled spam and portuguese sausage. This was mortifyingly tasty, and I felt my arteries explode. As Alicia would say, one plate may cause Diabetusus shock.

It has been a wonderful day 1 on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii!

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