Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 4: Pearl Harbor, and Visiting Old Friends

Kai was up early again and wanted to see the sunrise. After rain washed out the sunrise the day before, we checked out the skies before heading out. It was cloudy and a bit foreboding, but we went to the beach anyway.

From shortly before sunrise, the clouds above turned orange and looked beautiful, especially with the birds flying in the foreground.

But we still weren't sure if the clouds in the horizon would block our view of the sunrise.

But at the right moment, they lifted just enough to give us this wonderful sight.

Kai mostly enjoyed just splashing around in the water.

Our big activity on this day would be to visit Pearl Harbor, famous, of course, as the site of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 that propelled the U.S. into World War II.

The day before, I had gone online at 7:00 am to secure next day tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the primary reason to visit the harbor. Tickets are very limited so you have to go online precisely at 7:00. Our time slot for the Arizona was at 2 pm, but we went to the harbor in the morning to see other sites.

We started with a tour of the battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered to bring World War II to an end.

The turrets you see in the above photo are able to shoot missiles on enemy targets 23 miles away.

We learned all about the occasion when the Missouri was parked in Tokyo Harbor and welcomed the Japanese officials on board for the official surrender. The Japanese expected to be executed, and were surprised when General McArthur gave a short, poignant speech that looked forward, and was not vengeful.

It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.

It was very interesting to see the "inside" portions of the ship. We walked end to end and saw the mess hall, officer' quarters, post office, galley, and where most of the shipmen slept.

It was another hot, humid day so we enjoyed the shave ice as a break from the heat. (Though this shave ice was not nearly as tasty as the ones we had in Kailua).

After seeing the Missouri, we toured the Bowfin submarine. The Bowfin was nicknamed "Pearl Harbor Avenger" as it sunk 44 enemy ships, the most of any sub.

As with the Missouri, it was interesting to see the inside of the sub.

Unlike the massive battleship, space was at a premium in the sub.

Kai seemed to enjoy it.

Finally, in the afternoon, we went to the USS Arizona Memorial. The Arizona was the first battleship sunk on December 7, going down only minutes after the attack began. 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen on board at the time were killed.

The Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.

The shrine at the far end is a marble wall that bears the names of all those killed on the Arizona.

Oil leaking from the sunken battleship can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the water's surface. This oil is referred to as "the tears of the Arizona."

So, at Pearl Harbor, we saw the bookends of World War II: where the war started for the U.S., and the Missouri where it came to an end.

After leaving Pearl Harbor, we drove to the leeward (west) side of the island to visit old friends of my parents. They took us to the beach at Ko'olina. The beach there is protected by manmade rocks that form lagoons and make the water calm and easy to swim. The water is crystal clear and near the rocks, we were able to see fish. We didn't stay at the beach too long, but it was a perfect way to cool off after the hot day at Pearl Harbor.

Then our friends treated us to dinner at Roy's, a very nice restaurant that specializes in Hawaiian and Japanese fusion cuisine.

The food was great, but I really wanted to talk with Ernie and Evelyn about the old days. Ernie was a friend of my dad back when my dad was growing up on Oahu, and they were also together in Chicago when Ernie came there to go to school. Ernie told me the story of how he was responsible for my mom and dad getting together. He said my dad was very shy, so he had to prod him to ask my mom out for their first date. He even gave my dad money to take out her out. If he didn't do that, I would not be here today! I had not heard that story from my dad so it was great to learn a critical part of my family's history.

In the photo above, the aloha shirt I am wearing is my dad's old one. Evelyn described it as me bring it home for him.

Afterward we made the long drive back to the windward side of the island. But when I say long, it is very relative. At that hour, it took us only 45 minutes to go from one side of the island to the other, less time than it takes us back home to get to downtown Chicago from our suburb.

Up next, another family visit and exploring a different part of the island.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 3: Lanikai Hike, Punchbowl Cemetery, and More

Kai was up early on our second full day in Hawaii. He came over to our bed and said he wanted to see the sunrise. Alas, it was raining so we did not head out to the beach.

Instead, we went to a local restaurant and had some local specialties for breakfast. My wife had lilikoi pancakes (lilikoi is a local Hawaiian fruit), Kai had the chili moco which is supposed to be chili, eggs, and rice, but he had it without the eggs.

I had the Hawaiian dish called moco loco which is rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried eggs, and gravy. It was yummy!

As we walked out of the restaurant, we saw more chickens just hanging around. One rooster was crowing loudly.

After that hearty breakfast, we went on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. Websites I researched called this one of the best hikes on Oahu for the beautiful views from the top. One site called it an easy hike while another rated it as intermediate.

Here you see us about halfway up. At this point, Kai still managed a smile.

The trail had some steep portions that were not too difficult.

However other portions, especially near the top, got more difficult.

It was definitely strenuous, especially considering that it was a very muggy day.

I have to commend Kai as he did not give up and kept hiking. I recall past hikes where he said he was too tired to continue after coming to the first minor incline.

So we were thrilled that he made it all the way to the top. Once there, he laid down for about 10-15 minutes.

He moved only to drink water.

Once he rested, we enjoyed the view which was as spectacular as we hoped.

The following photo shows us on the descent with the pillbox (concrete outpost) where we had climbed to in the background.

The walk down was much easier than the climb up.

I had told Kai before the hike that afterward we would go to the beach. Perhaps that was his motivator to keep climbing. Regardless, we all could not wait to jump in the ocean.

After a good amount of time swimming and using the boogie boards, we went for a late lunch at a local quick service restaurant. I loved my char siu (Chinese barbecue pork) and teriyaki chicken. It is my favorite meal so far on this vacation.

I also had to try the spam musubi. For some reason, Hawaiians really love spam; they have the highest consumption of spam in the U.S. I enjoyed this musubi.

After lunch, we went back to the shave ice spot which was next door. I was too full from lunch to have any, but my wife and Kai loved theirs.

After lunch we drove into Honolulu and visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, more commonly known as Punchbowl. This cemetery serves as a memorial to honor those men and women who served in the Armed Services.

We noticed that many of the graves were of Japanese Americans who served in World War II.

The all Japanese-American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered many casualties in fighting for America while many of their family members were in internment camps back home. The 442nd was the most decorated unit in US military history.

We also saw gravesites of famous Americans including Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka and World War II journalist Ernie Pyle.

From the top of Punchbowl, we had a spectacular view of all of Honolulu and Waikiki.

After that, we drove into the city and went to Iolani Palace, the former home of the Hawaiian monarchs back when Hawaii was a kingdom. We had arrived just after most of the palace closed, but we saw some exhibits in the basement.

With our lunch being so late, we decided not to have dinner in the city. We drove back to our cottage and picked up a light dinner and went to bed early. We had a busy day ahead and wanted to rest up and try to get our bodies used to Hawaii time.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 2: Sunrise, Hanauma Bay, Waikiki

We began our first full day in Hawaii getting up early and going to the beach to see the sunrise. This was not a planned activity.

One of the consequences of traveling to Hawaii is that it takes a few days for your body to adjust to the 5-hour time difference. So even though we were all very tired, we were awake from around 3 or 4 am. Kai kept wanting to get out of bed but I didn't want him to get into the habit of waking up at 3 am to use the iPad, so I kept telling him to go back to bed. But just past 5 am, I thought that as long as we all were awake, we might as well take advantage by watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean.

So my wife made her cup of coffee (which was she said was very good - I don't drink coffee - and she is usually very particular about her coffee so this local Hawaii coffee must have been quite good), and we all made the short trek to the beach.

It was so peaceful and beautiful. The beach was not crowded, but there were a few folks out walking their dogs or out for a walk. My wife found a nice log to sit on and relax while we waited. Kai enjoyed splashing around.

Shortly after 6:00, the sun emerged from the horizon.

We were very glad that we got to experience this and my wife instantly declared that we will be moving to Hawaii one day.

We returned to our rental cottage and had breakfast in the huge screened in lanai.

After breakfast we drove to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Hanauma Bay was formed from a volcanic cone and is now home to 400 species of fish and other marine life.

It is the most popular spot for snorkeling in Oahu, and as such, you must get there before 9:00 if you are driving as the parking lot fills up. So, another benefit of our early start to the day was that we had plenty of time to get there.

There was a big line of people waiting to get in, and everyone must watch a 9-minute video that explains you are not to touch the reef or turtles.

Once in the water, it did not seem overly crowded. We were anxious to get started with snorkeling.

Though we did not see turtles or octopus or seahorses, we saw many different types of fish.

Some were quite colorful.

After a couple of hours, my wife and I were cold and tired. Kai wanted to keep swimming and snorkeling so I stayed in the water with him for another hour or so before we finally got him to come out.

We picked up some grilled chicken and had lunch back at our cottage, then took a short break.

After our break, we walked over to a popular spot for shaved ice. Shaved ice is a very popular in Hawaii and it should not be confused with snow cones that most of us grew up with on the mainland. In Hawaii, the ice is shaved very fine so that it is soft, not hard and crunchy. You can also get the most exotic, delicious flavors. My wife chose match tea, coffee, and pina colada. Kai choose coconut and wedding cake. And I picked very Hawaiian flavors of lilikoi (a tangy Hawaiian fruit), POG (blend of passionfruit, orange and guava), and pina colada.

We all tasted each other's and agreed that the lilikoi was the best. My wife and I had vanilla ice cream on the bottom while Kai wanted his plain. We will be having shaved ice often on the trip and next time we will try it with azuki beans.

Next we headed out to Waikiki, and stopped at Nuuanu Pali Lookout. When I was last in Hawaii when I was the age Kai is now, I remembered that this place was extremely windy. All these years and it still is. Besides the wind, the defining quality is the panoramic view of the windward coastline.

In the parking lot we saw many chickens walking around. We also saw chickens in a few other places earlier just hanging around. Apparently in Hawaii, chickens are kind of like pigeons. They're just there. Who knew?

When we got to Waikiki, we drove around in horrible traffic before parking the car and seeing the famed beach on foot.

It was beautiful, but crowded and the area was filled with a combination of souvenir shops and very high-end Rodeo Drive-like shops. I was happy to see it, but don't think we'll be coming back here too often on this trip. I was happy when we got a table at a beach-side restaurant to sit down for dinner.

We enjoyed the seafood. Kai had a seafood chowder, I had some type of grilled Hawaii fish, and my wife had spicy Ahi which was definitely the best.

So, it was a long Day 2, but a very good one.

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