Joined November 2016 Message
  • Day11

    Day 11: The Big Island of Hawaii - Kona

    June 7 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Sadly we have to say goodbye to one of the best Airbnb we’ve ever stayed in. This cliff side beach house is amazing! This tiny gecko seemed visit us every morning; we named him Alfred. Bye Alfred!

    We decided to drive the shorter route to Kona through the inland highway. As we were admiring the Mauna Kea mountain in the horizon, I realized we would’ve arrived in Kona too early for the check in time, so I said since it’s such a beautiful sunny day, why not go to the mountains!

    So we set our new destination to the mountain peak, and made the right turn. The higher the car climbed, the better the view. Pretty soon the clouds were under us. By the time we made to the visitor center, we could see the entire half of the island. We decided not to drive to the summit since our rental car was struggling to reach here already.

    A short walk into the garden area, we passed a group of ladies who were looking for Silver Sword Plant, telling us it’s endangered species. Sure enough we found 3 of them in various stage of growth. Turns out this type of plant only grow on Mauna Kea Mountain in Hawaii, and only 40 of them left in the world right now.

    Hiking on the mountain wasn’t easy due to its high altitude, but we made it to the top of the hill. The view at every direction was breathtaking!

    We will be back here tomorrow night for star gazing.

    We usually have a rule when we are traveling: eat local food as much as possible. So we almost never eat at chain restaurants or fast food places. However, we had to make an exception for dinner today. We needed to make our Manta Ray Viewing at Night tour by 6:45, as we headed out for dinner, many places were already closed. The couple places were open all claimed they were short staffed, so the wait would be long. Therefore, for the first time in years, we went to McDonalds. We made it just in time before they were closed. For a touristy area, they sure close early here.

    Now, I have to describe what’s like to see those Manta Rays since I don’t have any photos to show you. First of all, the background story. 50 years ago, a hotel nearby lighted up the ocean water, which attracted the planktons. The planktons then attracted the Manta Rays. So the tourist companies started a unique way to allow us to see the rays up close. They use the custom built boards with lights underneath, so the planktons would be grouped around it. The boards have railings around them so we could hold on to them. With our faces underwater with snorkeling masks on, we could see the rays coming up feeding on the planktons.

    What a magical experience!! The Manta Rays came up close to us, really close to us! So close that they bumped into us. I don’t think I’ve ever be this close to so many wild animals before! They were so elegant and graceful! With their mouths open, they we’re gliding and swallowing planktons right underneath us. A Ray named Amanda was especially friendly(or just hungry), she came up to us over and over, bumped into Evan’s shoulder, brushed my fingers. It was great!!

    Really have to thank my friend Christine for recommending this tour to me. Otherwise I would’ve missed this once in lifetime experience!!
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  • Day10

    Day 10: The Big Island of Hawaii - Hilo

    June 6 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Evan turned 17 today! Happy birthday to our amazing son! He has brought nothing but joy in the past 17 years, being an intelligent and considerate boy. We are lucky to have him as our son; and he often says we are the best parents in the world! ☺️

    When asked what he wanted for his birthday breakfast, he said baked potatoes. Realizing he wasn’t joking, we bought potatoes from the store and baked them this morning. He was very happy eating his potatoes and cupcakes as his first meal as a 17 year old.

    Today’s main event was a 4 hour visit in the longest and deepest lava tube in the world. The Kazumura Lava Tube is 40 miles long and 3,461 feet deep and is also one of the longest caves in the world. The only way to see it is to purchase a tour from Harry.

    Harry bought a property near the cave in 1990s. During the land survey, they told him of an entrance of this cave is on his property, therefore allowed some ownership to him according to some Hawaii law. For the next 20 years, he made this cave his life’s mission. He explored and studied the cave, learning everything he could about lava and volcano, working with other scientists in the world, coming up with scientific explanations for the formations of many structures in the cave, and then started giving tours to people. He is extremely serious about keeping the cave exactly as it was, only giving tours to very small groups and making sure no one touches the walls or otherwise affect the cave’s natural environment in any way.

    We hiked into the cave for about 1.5 miles, going up and down ladders, and climbing over many piles of breakdown. The cave was completely dark with our flashlights as the only light source. Besides a tiny, almost translucent cave cricket we saw, the cave seemed lifeless and completely silent. Harry stopped often to show us all the interesting things in the cave. He asked us if he was giving us too much information. I assured him that we loved learning new things. I told him I called Steve “a know it all” guy, and Evan “a know it more” guy. Neither one of them knew much about lava tube so they were happily soaking in all the new knowledge about it for 4 hours!

    I also told Harry how much I appreciated his efforts to keep this cave as natural as possible. He successfully foiled a neighbor’s attempt to expand the tourism of the cave, thereby preventing bus loads of people from coming in. He told us that many years ago, a guy who didn’t speak any English wiped some crystallized minerals from the wall, erased 500 years of growth! He still sounded pained when he talked about it.

    We walked deeper and deeper into the cave, and saw many interesting lava formations. At one point, Harry told us to walk forward one by one, and we would see something unusual. Sure enough, we saw a large hole in the ground. I could imagine how scary it must’ve been for Harry when he saw it for the first time 20 years ago. Fortunately the hole wasn’t deep. He called this room the Pit Room. To continue exploration would require rock climbing skills to scale a tall lava fall. Since we don’t have such a skill, here was our turnaround point. Harry asked if we want to experience total darkness, and we said yes. So all lights were off, and we stood in total darkness and silence. The last time we experienced something like this was in Australia Outback. But here, being so deep underground and miles away from civilization, the void was more complete…like death?

    The hiking back to the entrance took about an hour. To my surprise, exited into the sunlight wasn’t too shocking to our sense, thanks to the lush vegetations by the entrance.

    We skipped lunch today since we were deep underground at the time. It was already 3 pm by the time we got back to our Airbnb. After a bit break, we headed out to dinner at a local restaurant famous for its Laulau, a dish involving wrapping some proteins in taro leafs. It was delicious!

    Tonight’s moon was only half full; few clouds in the sky allowed us to see more stars.

    We are heading to Kona tomorrow.
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  • Day9

    Day 9: Big Island of Hawaii - Hilo

    June 5 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    22 years ago, Steve and I almost died on this island. OK, maybe I am being a bit dramatic, but it’s absolutely true.

    From May to November of 2000, the lava from the Hawaii volcano flowed into the ocean. When we were here in September, we were told we could hike to the lava flow site which was 3 miles from where we were. Not knowing what did it mean to hike 3 miles one way in 90 degrees weather under the sun and walking on uneven lava field, with one bottle of water, we set off.

    The hike was treacherous because the lava field was very hard to walk on. But we made it to the flow of lava, it was indeed very cool to see up close. I didn’t think I ever got close to something hotter than this over 2,000 degrees lava before. It was thick and bright red, like a river of red molasses, flowing slowly towards the sea. I felt so hot standing near it that my inside was heating up.

    Then a park ranger walked towards us, told us:”you have 15 minutes to get out.” Confused and alarmed, we asked what’s that mean. She said there was another flow of lava coming down towards the ocean behind us, we had 15 minutes to race it so we wouldn’t be cut off from exit and be trapped. She then turned around and started to hike back herself.

    I remembered there was a Japanese couple ahead of us when we hiked. Realizing the park ranger didn’t know about them, I frantically started looking for them. Then I saw them and started screaming “hello” at them. They finally turned around and looked at me. I waved “coming back this way” at them over and over. They hesitated and then stated to walk back towards us. To this day, I bet they had no idea I save their lives.

    We walked as fast as we could and reached a safer area. I wanted to see the spectacular scene of lava hitting the ocean water. So I stepped on a rock and leaned over towards the ocean. Sure enough, when fire met water, it was so cool! I turned around and told Steve to come see as well. Then I noticed how pale his face was. I had never seen him looking so scared before. I asked what’s wrong. He was clearly trying to remain calm and he whispered:”get back here.” I was confused but complied. He held my hand and walked away from where I stood as fast as he could.

    “So what’s that about?” I demanded to know.

    “Well, I didn’t want to tell you then so you don’t panic. Where you stood on was a splinter of dried lava that’s already leaning towards the ocean. It could break off any second!”

    So yeah, I was at the brink of death at that moment.

    Last night, Steve found this recording of the event we experienced. https://volcano.si.edu/ShowReport.cfm?doi=10.54…

    It’s unnerving to read about the 2 bodies they found weeks later around this area. It could be us!

    Alright, story time is over and on to my travel journal for today.

    We reached the Hawaii Volcano Park in the rain. Most times it was just misty, but sometimes there were big rain drops. I was actually kind of glad that it wasn’t another hot day like last time.

    Kilauea lki trail is a 3 mile hike through a large crater that was erupted in 1959. It’s surreal to hike on a crater with a landscape seems so alien and out worldly. We had a great time hiking all the way to the other side of the crater. We also checked out a lava tube along the way. A bit shorter than we expected. We have arranged a tour to visit a much longer one tomorrow.

    Lunch was at a restaurant called The Rim. We ate here 22 years ago and the food was fancier and better back then.

    After lunch, Steve and I were excited to see the lava flow again! So we drove and hiked to the viewing location. Instead of uneven lava field we walked on paved road; Instead seeing the lava close we were viewing the eruption site from 2 miles away. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed. We had no idea how lucky we were to be allowed to see the lava up close!

    We then drove down Chains of Craters road towards the ocean, finally saw some sunshine when we reached the Sea Arch site.

    Dinner was at a restaurant called the Pesto. I really enjoyed the local specialty called Loco Moco. After hiking about 7 miles today, we definitely need some quality calories.
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  • Day8

    Day 8: Kauai to Big Island of Hawaii

    June 4 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Travel day today! Nothing was remarkable of the trip except my lunch at Honolulu airport: the $15 turkey sandwich was the worst sandwich I’ve ever had!

    Of all the Airbnb I booked, I looked forward to this one the most. A gay couple bought this property and made the guest house on the cliff an Airbnb, while they live on the main house with their 2 dogs.

    The guest house was right by the water, and it’s amazing!! Everything inside was perfectly decorated and had the quietest AC in all AirB&Bs we stayed. All the amenities were in 5 star hotel standards. The comfy chairs on the massive deck will be utilized to their full potentials in the coming days!

    After the terrible airport lunch, we went to a fantastic Japanese restaurant for dinner. To our delight, Evan started to enjoying raw fish, so we ordered rolls and sushi. I was so happy to see how much he enjoyed the food!

    We are heading to the Volcano National Park tomorrow!
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  • Day7

    Day 7: Kauai - Koloa

    June 3 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    22 years ago, when Steve and I were in our honeymoon, we went on this kayaking/hiking/swimming tour to the Secret Falls of Kauai. This trip has left an almost mythical impression on my mind that the river we kayaked on has been my “happy place” for over 20 years! Many years ago I experienced a severe case of insomnia that I had to see a psychiatrist for it. He told me to close my eyes, go to the most peaceful and happy place in my mind. So I came here, on this river in Kauai. Early morning mist hovering the water, red flowers falling on the surface, so quiet that the only sound I heard was our paddles. With the psychiatrist’s guidance, I fell into slumber for the first time for a long time.

    When we were deciding which islands to visit, I insisted coming to Kauai, because I wanted to visit this river again.

    So this morning, that’s what we did. We went on the exact same tour as before. Kayaking/hiking/swimming to the Secret Falls. Except the falls are no longer a secret. By the time we got into our kayak, there were many people already on the river. It was hard to re-live my memory, so I was a bit disappointed. Knowing my desire, Steve paddled hard so we were ahead of our group. At one turn, we didn’t see anyone ahead, and we were far enough from others. For a brief moment, we were alone on a stretch of quiet river, with only red flowers on the water around us.

    Something has changed from before. A board walk has been added to the hiking section of the trip; there were way more people all around. Something has not changed, the turkey sandwich the tour company provided was exactly same as I remembered; the trip was still amazing and the falls was still magnificent.

    Having Evan with us this time also made the tour special. This is still my “happy place”!

    Dinner today was at a restaurant called Merriman. They had specialized Hawaii regional cuisine for many decades. Happy to say everything we had here was fantastic!

    After dinner, we played some games at the courtyard. Steve and Evan engaged fierce battles of Connect Four with them each winning one game. Steve however lost the game of Jenga. A stroll by the ocean one more time allowed us to say goodbye to Kauai.

    We are heading to the Big Island of Hawaii tomorrow.
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  • Day6

    Day 6: Kauai - Koloa

    June 2 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    Woke up to a beautiful sunny day! The waves seemed calmer as well.

    Today’s main event is our helicopter tour of the island. 22 years ago, Steve and I took a helicopter tour. Our first time being on a helicopter and the experience wasn’t exactly pleasant for me. Since I got motion sickness easily, and they assigned me a middle seat. Our pilot was a Vietnam veteran, and he flew the helicopter like a stunt job. Even though we did get very close to some waterfalls, his twists and turns made my inside upside down. I tried very hard not to throwing up.

    So this time, I did hesitate to book this tour. The price has increased substantially as well. Considering this will be Evan’s first helicopter ride, I went ahead and booked it.

    The difference was night and day! Our pilot was Kate, and she made the ride as smoothly as possible! I hardly felt any rocking! Unlike the last time, we were actually given some safety training. The entire operation was very streamlined and professional. All the staff was very pleasant as well.

    I asked and granted a window seat. Evan got the chance to sit right next to the pilot, so he was very happy. Steve, always the most considerate one, got the middle seat of the flight. While the older couple we flew with both got window seats.

    With the absence of dizziness, I enjoyed this flight so much more! The stunning beauty of Kauai couldn’t be described properly with words. The towering mountains, born in volcano shaped by water, are magnificent and elegant. Waterfalls were thin and long, like white ribbons flowing down the mountain goddess’ green dress; and the white sand beaches, dotted along the coast, are the raffles at the bottom of the dress. Yes! I think Kauai is the most beautiful goddess on earth!

    After lunch, we went on a short hike on Maha’ulepu trail. The trail follows the coast line and passes a golf course. I did read a one star review of the trail when the woman’s husband got hit by a golf ball. Not sure the trail deserves the one star review though… I think this trail deserves a solid 5 star! Probably one the most beautiful trail I’ve ever hiked on.

    The Thai food we had for dinner however only deserves 3 stars.
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  • Day5

    Day 5: Kauai - Koloa

    June 1 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    After 2 beautiful sunny days, our luck has run out. Rain has arrived in Kauai. Although the mist on the water has its own charm.

    We were traveling to the south side of the island today. It took more than 2 hours to drive from Princeville to Waimea Canyon State park. Along the way, we passed Tree Tunnel, a lone stretch of road covered by towering trees.

    When Steve and I were here 22 years ago on our honeymoon, we really enjoyed our trip to the Waimea Canyon. I was so happy to be back here with Evan! Unfortunately our planned hike was cut short by a downpour, and the rain had shrouded the canyon in thick fog. We had to leave the canyon earlier than planned.

    Seeking lunch options, we went to a nice little historical town called Hanapepe. The plaques on buildings often told the stories of Chinese immigrants contributions to this area. It was so nice to read them and feeling proud. There were many art studios in this town with some very cool and unique art pieces.

    It’s finally the time to check into our new Airbnb. I thought the last place was close to ocean, this place is even closer! LOL! This side of the island was experiencing some high waves. Some waves were so high that I thought I could taste the water from the balcony!

    Dinner was at a fancy restaurant called Red Salt. The dishes were really well made and decorated beautifully. It was cool to see the sunset and sea turtles on our walk back to our apartment.
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  • Day4

    Day 4: Kauai - Princeville

    May 31 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Woke up this morning feeling momentarily disoriented, not sure where I was. Looking out of the window, seeing the endless blue water extending to the horizon, I finally remembered I was on Kauai island north side. I had been experiencing some insomnia issues for over a year now, had been taking a bit sleeping pill to help me sleep. Thinking back, I was so tired every night since I came to Hawaii, I didn’t need sleeping pills for the a couple nights now, and have been getting at least 8 hour sleeps. Apparently Hawaii can cure insomnia!!

    Due to Evan’s injuries, we were taking it easy today. Simply drove up along the coast and admired the scenic views. Kauai is so breathtaking that every turn we made awarded us a gorgeous viewpoint. We met a kind woman by the roadside who insisted leading us down to a path, to a beach seemed favored by the locals, which was one of the best beaches we’ve been to. Thank you, kind stranger!

    We found that the local people here were generally very kind and courteous. There were several one lane bridges on route. At first we were very surprised to see there was no traffic lights for these bridges. The order of crossing was entirely depended on the decency of the drivers. Each direction should only have 5-7 cars cross at the time. As we drove up and down this road several times, only once there were more than 7 cars crossed from one direction.

    Lunch was at a little tourist town crowded with people. Unfortunately since there were very few dinning options here, and many places closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, we didn’t have other choice. However, Chicken in a Barrel had some fantastic BBQ dishes! Especially the BBQ chicken, seasoned perfectly, and cooked in a way that maintained the juiciness of the meat. Yum!

    We decided to head back to our little piece of heaven by the ocean for a bit, before heading out again towards south. But instead going out again, we took a very long nap. By the time we woke up, it was already 4 pm! LOL! Well, I blame the delicious lunch in our stomachs and the gentle waves outside. We were simply too relaxed and comfortable.

    There were signs all over our parking lot warning nonresidents not to park here to go to Turtle Cave. So I checked for Turtle Cave on Google map, didn’t find such a location. But on our way to our car, we noticed a small path going down towards the ocean. Well, let’s see where it goes. So we started on this trail, very narrow and steep, many inclines were almost vertical. One spot even had a rope, seemed to expect people to rappel down. Fortunately for us, the weather god has granted us a couple days of beautiful sunny weather, the path was dry, so we were able to walk down without the rope. Once we finally reached the sea, sure enough, there were turtles in the water, and there was a cave on the side. I guess we have found the Turtle Cave, a place so local that even Google map doesn’t know about it. Climbing back up the trail was easier than going down.

    Felt like we didn’t do as much today than planned, but no one said we have to do too much when vacationing. An easy day is a good day too! Although out little trip to Turtle Cave certainly wasn’t easy!
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  • Day3

    Day 3: Oahu to Kauai

    May 30 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Travel day today, flying from Oahu to Kauai. We divided our trip to Kauai into 2 parts: north side and south side. North side of Kauai is known for having the heaviest rainfall in the world, lucky for us, it’s a beautiful sunny day today, and we will be here for the next 2 days.

    We arrived at our Airbnb at Princeville and stunned by the location of this lovely apartment! There are places claiming to be oceanfront as long as you can see the water. This apartment however, is truly oceanfront! Any further we would’ve dropped into the ocean! The entire apartment is decorated very tastefully, making us feel right at home.

    After a bit of rest in the afternoon, we headed out for dinner. Tahiti Nui restaurant is the local iconic place, known for its food, drinks and live music. Sure enough, everything we ate here was delicious! The singer’s traditional Hawaii songs were pleasant to our ears too.

    After dinner, Steve decided we should take a walk to the beach nearby, and watch the sunset. So we walked somewhat slowly to the beach since Evan is limping from his injuries. We made just in time for a magnificent sunset! Life can’t be more perfect to watch a beautiful sunset on a beach of one of the most beautiful places on earth!
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  • Day2

    Day 2 - Oahu North Shore

    May 29 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    One big advantage of renting an Airbnb is the fact you can make breakfast at home. A well stocked kitchen and a quick trip to the nearest grocery store get you all set for a delicious meal. Steve’s egg bacon croissant sandwich was fantastic this morning!

    Not too far from our place in Turtle Bay was a cove called Shark’s Cove, one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Since we didn’t bring our own snorkeling gear this time we had to rent some this morning. One of the guys at the surf shop went out of his way to help us. Upon learning how anxious I was about getting in the ocean water, he showed us the exact route to get to the best spot to see fish safely. I rented a life jacket and also a pool noodle since I am not a good swimmer. He also told us how sharp the volcanic rocks were, warning us not to get too close to them even though they were everywhere!

    As we waded out into the ocean water my anxiety rose to a dangerous level! I couldn’t breathe and felt lightheaded. I wasn’t like this before, and had had no problem snorkeling when we went to FL just last November but for some reason I developed a phobia against the ocean water in the past few months! Evan urged me to put my face into the water and I mentally and physically rejected the idea instinctively. Steve told Evan to stop telling me that, since I was having a panic attack!

    Then, a father of a young boy who swam near us shouted at us with excitement:”there is a huge sea turtle right here!” He pointed towards just few feet from us. Evan immediately put his face in the water and swam towards the spot. Then he raised his head and said:”yeah, right here!”

    Steve held my hand and gave me an encouraging nod. Reluctantly I put my face in the water. Sure enough, a huge sea turtle swam gracefully around us. I was delighted and started swam towards it like an anxious moth drawn to a calm light. Steve also put his face into the water, swam closely to me, still holding my hand tightly. Between Steve’s caring gesture and the gentleness of the sea turtle I was finally able to calm down. The world suddenly became quieter; the clear water rippled gentle waves around me, so many different fish with different colors burst into my sight. My breath slowed down, my head was less muddled, and my body moved with the waves. Finally, I was able to snorkel.

    I let go of Steve’s hand. He asked if I was sure. I said yes. He was relieved and started diving into the water like a fish. I chased the sea turtle a bit until I lost sight of it. Steve stayed close to me, pointing towards different schools of fish to me. I was enjoying myself!

    Evan and Steve were talking about going further away into the ocean. Knowing I was at my limit, I told them to bring me back to shore. As soon as I stood up, the world started spinning! I was so nauseous and dizzy that I almost fall into the water. Steve came over immediately and held me up. I limped against him and coughed, seeing stars behind my eyelids. What was wrong with me?! Since when had I became so fragile in ocean water?! Steve and Evan helped me back to solid ground. I told them to leave me and go back snorkeling. As I sat in the car waiting for their return, I was both disappointed and proud of myself. Despite of the bizarre phobia, I was able to see the sea turtle and so many tropical fish. Thank you, kind stranger, for showing us the sea turtle!

    I booked a private surfing lesson for Evan this afternoon. So we met the instructor on the beach of Chun’s Reef. Several years ago during our trip to Costa Rica, Evan and I took a surfing lesson together. I couldn’t deal with the ocean waves so I ended the lesson almost immediately once we got into the water. Evan, however, was able stand on the board and surfed as soon as the instructor told him to. The guy was so surprised he turned to me and ask:”is this really his first time surfing?” I said:”absolutely!” That’s Evan, he is so natural when comes body coordination challenges. His mind is so fast at understanding physical elements of movements, and calculating the precise body positions, surfing was easy for him. So today was no different. He stood on the board, and surfed the first wave all the way close to the shore. This, turned out to be a dangerous thing to do. After he surfed for a hour and rode several more waves with the instructor, Evan ended the lesson early and came back to shore. I ran to him and asked if he was ok, he said he was tired. When we looked down, his feet were bleeding! It seems that the long ride he took was too close to the shore, and the sharp volcanic rocks dotting the shore made cuts into the bottom of his left foot, and the heel of his right foot. Poor Evan was surfing with a couple injuries on him. It’s crazy he stayed and surfed for an hour!

    So we ended today earlier than expected and went back to our condo to deal with Evan’s injuries.

    Tomorrow, we are flying to Kauai. Any planned hikes will have to wait until we see how much Evan can handle. Knowing him, I am confident he will bounce back in no time.
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