Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oahu Hawaii: Hanauma Bay, Dole, Polynesian Cultural Center, Swap Meet, Bishop Museum (Day 14-16)

Day 14: Hanauma Bay and Chinatown
Determined to check out the wonders of this top rated attraction, after yesterday's failed attempt (hanauma bay closed), we made the trip there again. At 10a when we arrived, parking was full. Hubby dropped baby and I off at the scenic outlook stop opposite the entrance to the bay, and drove off to find parking. As I walked up to the entrance, the staff manning the gate flipped the sign that said "parking full", and suddenly parking was available. I immediately called hubby and told him to drive back. The parking guy said there were eight spots open and once eight cars had gone in he would close entry again. Well we got a spot. 
That was quite exciting, compared to what we were about to experience snorkelling in the bay. We queued for over half an hour for our tickets. While waiting for our turn to watch the compulsory video, we chatted with a volunteer. Her fav snorkelling spot on oahu is actually sharks cove, and not hanauma bay. The video was informative, but if I didn't understand English, I would have been confused by the scene where a dude was shown stepping on coral then stepping off coral... Walking down to the bay, we saw snorkellers trampling the coral. I was horrified. Snorkelling there was the worst I've seen anywhere. Dead coral, poor visibility (<10 ft), and few fish. I was lucky enough to spot a large moray eel however. This hanauma bay has been loved to death. 

We stopped at uncle clays house of pure aloha for shaved ice, then hit Chinatown for fruit. As the fruit shop lady calculated my haul of longans, rambutans, pomelos etc, I told her about the kahuku farm fruit stand's outrageous prices. $1 for one rambutan? $10 for an avocado? 
Mei Sum Dim Sum Restaurant for pre-dinner dim sum. I haven't had dim sun for over a year, and thoroughly enjoyed the selections they had: har gao, siu mai, char siew pao, and stewed chicken feet. Baby adored the chicken feet. It's a delicacy that when prepared properly, tastes indescribably wonderful. 
Below: chicken feet and other dim sum

Day 15: Dole Plantation and Polynesian Cultural Center
We planned to surf the North Shore in the morning then head to the PCC for the rest of the day, but were pleasantly derailed when we stopped at Dole for a 'quick look'. It was a total tourist trap, with everything and anything pineapple you could think of and more that you wouldn't have. It was interesting to browse through their gift shop, but we didn't buy anything. We picnicked there (nice picnic area) then had pineapple ice cream for dessert. 

We spotted the Helemano Plantation sign next door and went to have a look - it was forlorn and deserted. I was the only visitor there. I found out it is a non-profit organization for Downs Syndrome folk. A buffet lunch featuring fresh produce from their vegetable garden is served every day at their (on site) restaurant, which also looked empty. I bought a Royal Hawaiian pineapple here at half what the next door Dole gift shop was charging. And some toys for baby, from their thrift shop. I wish more people knew about this place. 

Below: baby getting acquainted with panda at Helemano plantation 

At the PCC, we handed over our entertainment book coupon for a discount off Samoan Island Packages (admission, island luau, Ha show.) Regularly $75 per person, our coupon got us $50 off the second package. It's also good for BOGO admission. The entertainment book paid for itself twice over with our visit to the PCC- paid $15 for it. 
The canoe show was lovely, and we got to watch the shows at Tonga (drums), Tahiti (wedding - we renewed vows!), Samoa (coconut and fire making, very funny), and New Zealand (music). Dinner was good for what we paid- Kalua pork, taro, taro rolls, chicken, poke, etc. Dinner entertainment was great. Baby enjoyed the music and drums. 

Below: me with one of the dancers. :D

The Ha Breath of Life Show was good too. The dancers did a fantastic job. I can't imagine how these students put in full days like this six days a week and still be so energetic and enthusiastic. The fire twirlers were amazing to watch. A loooong day though. 

Day 16 (Saturday): North Shore
We went back to Haleiwa where hubby rented a surf board ($7/hr) and hit the waves. Baby and I had lunch and chilled on the beach. After that, stopped at Matsumotos Shaved Ice to redeem our free ices (free with our surf lesson with Blue Rush Surf School). The ice was coarser than what we had at uncle clay's (which was fluffy and light), but psychedelically colorful. 
Last stop was Sharks Cove to snorkel. This time the waves were big, cresting the barrier that forms the sheltered snorkelling lagoon. We got tossed around a bit and had to be careful not to get dashed against the rocks. I saw schools of small fish but not much else. 

Below: turtles at Laniakea beach

The highlight of my day was watching three whales do whatever it is whales do which is pretty awesome to watch even if it's from a distance. Water spouts, tails in the air, breaches. 

Day17: Mountain biking Kualoa Ranch, Aloha Swap Meet, Bishop Museum 
Hubby was dropped off at kualoa ranch for his mountain bike ride ($112 after the 10% online discount, 9a-3p). Baby and I had lunch at the Waiahole Poi Factory - Kalua pork (smoky, rich, delicious), pork and fish lau lau (yummily fatty), poke (tasty), haupia (ok), and poi. I was looking forward to trying poi and was kinda disappointed. It was cold, liquidy and gloopy. I love anything taro and cook often with it, and had expected a sort of warm mash that would absorb/complement gravies or sauces. The lau lau was warm outside but cool inside, and parts of the Kalua pork were cold too. 

We spent nearly two hours and covered 3 miles at the swap meet. Bought some clothes and souvenirs. Prices were ok. $10/shirt/dress. 
Had only an hour and a half to spend at bishop museum. Could have easily spent a day there. The planetarium show was informative and fun, and the science center was meili's fav. 

Off to meet hubby at waikiki where we changed into our new clothes and took one last pic at the beach. 

Then to the airport for the long journey home. 

Aloha Hawaii...

Friday, April 04, 2014

Oahu Hawaii: Beach Hops, Byodo-in and Pearl Harbor (Day 11-13)

Day 11 
We walked to Kalama Beach (10 minutes from our rental), and along the beach to Kailua Beach. Pleasant walk on soft sand. Saw heaps of kitesurfers. Back to the rental for a late lunch and napped with baby. She napped for nearly 2.5 hours and I was glad for that because sleep would help her recover from her cold. When she woke, we drove 20 minutes to check out Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area. Apart from a pair of bodyboarders, we had the entire beach to ourselves. It was gorgeous. Soft soft sand, but bigger waves and windy. Stopped at Whole Foods for some groceries on the way back to the rental, and had pasta for dinner.

Day 12 - From Kailua to Haleiwa, Coastal Drive
Drove up the east coast, which was a very scenic drive. Stopped at Byodo-in, a replica of a 900 year old temple in Japan. We arrived shortly before 10 am, and there were only two other cars in the parking lot. About 15 minutes after we had entered the Byodo-in, the tour buses arrived, so I think we did well with timing! It has well manicured grounds, and probably would be very interesting to those who have never seen a temple before. We have visited actual temples all over Asia that are larger and that house practising monks, and don't charge a $6 per entry (they are free to enter), so we weren't blown away by the Byodo-in. By the time we left, the parking lot was full and cars were circling the lot.

We stopped briefly at Malaekahana State Recreation Area, hoping to spend some time at the beach there before lunch, but decided against it in favor of letting baby continue her nap. It was very windy and rough surf there.
Lunch was shrimp scampi from Giovanni's Shrimp Truck at Kahuku. It was good - decent size shrimp, well cooked and loaded with garlic oil that the two scoop rice soaked up nicely ($13 for a dozen shrimp).

Met up with hubby's brother at Waimea Bay and had a nice time at the beach there. We parked ourselves on the far left of the bay where we could watch people jump off the big rock into the water. Hubby also did some rock climbing on the cliff face fronting the beach. He didn't go all the way to the top - there seemed to be a homeless encampment on the ridge there. We all took turns snorkeling. There are two resident turtles.

Waimea Falls was next. I think $15 for admission is kinda steep. It was like an arboretum, with the plants all labelled with their scientific names.
Last beach stop was Sharks Cove where hubby went for a quick snorkel. He spotted a six foot long pipefish! He was very excited about that. The water that evening was calm and visibility very good.
Dinner was at Luibuenos - we ordered the fish tacos ($7 each) and were disappointed. The tacos were very small and not particularly tasty. Hubby's brother thought the tacos at Killer Tacos were better.

Day 13 - Pearl Harbor
As soon as we could, we left the rental for Pearl Harbor. Baby has been waking around 8 am, and we left at 9.30 am, after breakfast and doing laundry (a quick swish and rinse, then hang dry in the yard). We pulled in to the parking lot at 10 am and it was already full. Hubby dropped me off to try get tickets while he attempted to find parking. I got tickets no problem, which was pretty awesome considering how I'd agonized over dragging baby out of bed early to be first in line for walk in tickets. We visited the free museums at the visitor center and had lunch while waiting for our turn to visit the USS Arizona at 12.45 pm. Baby was unfortunately a little chatty during the movie viewing, but dozed throughout the ferry ride and memorial visit. It was a solemn time for me, and I felt close to tears thinking of those young men who died. An average age of 19 years old, they were just boys.

After the USS Arizona visit, we took turns seeing the Bowfin submarine. I found the kid's audio much more entertaining than the adult's one. We paid $6 each for admissions (reg $12), using our Entertainment book coupon.

Talking to the staff at the ticket and information counter, I found out that the busiest days are Mondays and Tuesdays, because that's when the tour buses come. The slowest days are Saturdays and Sundays. We visited on a Wednesday. The 1500 tickets allotted for walk-ins that day, ran out at 2 pm.

Picked up hubby's brother at Waikiki, and headed out to Hanauma Bay to snorkel, but found out on arrival that it was closed due to tsunami warnings. After taking some pics and seeing what we could see, we went to Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha for some shaved ice. It was delicious and refreshing. I loved the lilikoi (passionfruit), but the strawberry and mango were good too. That was followed by dinner at Mama Pho's next door. Meili ordered the kid's chicken pho and attacked it with gusto. It was okay for pho, the soup base much sweeter than the pho I've had in Vietnam.
Dropped Jeff off at the airport and said our goodbyes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Oahu Hawaii for a Wedding: Day 7-10

Day 7: Pre wedding dinner and sick baby
Had my hands full taking care of poor sick baby Meili

We still managed to get out to the beach for a little bit.

 Pic below: Jungle girl with extreme bed head attacks mango

The pre wedding dinner, where the families of the bride and groom and the extended American family all met for our first dinner. 

Day 8: Wedding Day
The wedding wasn't until late afternoon so we spent some more time at the beach. Baby's worst day yet. Chest rattling cough and stuffy nose. Super clingy. The beach time was good for her though. 

The wedding

Bowing ceremony

(these pics were taken by Beth, youngmin's big sis). 

We had an incredible dinner at Roys Waikiki that night. I ate too much. 

Day 9: Sea Life Park
The families of the newlyweds left for Korea early morning, and the remaining American family got to hang out with the newlyweds for the day. 

We got six dolphin encounters at $65 (reg $120) thanks to our Makai card, and four admissions at $10 (reg $30). 

The kids, mom and newlyweds were happy about being able to interact with the dolphin. 

Day 10: Move to Kailua Rental
Dropped the family off at the airport for their trip back to pittsburgh brrrr. And checked out of waikiki gateway, checked into a lovely studio rental at Kailua. We got lucky with our flurry of last minute quote requests - were offered a week's stay for $580 all in and grabbed it. We cancelled our slightly pricier waikiki prince reservation for this. So glad to be out of waikiki. No more extra parking expense!

Pic below: yard with picnic table where we had some steak and salad for lunch. 

Kailua beach

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Oahu Hawaii for a Wedding: Day 1-6

After months of planning and packing we are finally in Hawaii! It has been an eventful couple days. Of note, a hike up Diamond Head, visit to KCC farmers market, surf lesson on the North Shore, trying to find free parking in Waikiki (and failing), tasting new foods (loco moco, poke, Cuban empanadas), and getting food poisoning. :/

Here are some pics of our adventures so far. 

Surviving a 2 x 5 hr plane journey with our ten month old who currently speed crawls. 

Hiking Diamond Head

first time surfing! That's the ever awesome Matt of Blue Rush Surf School. 

Baby Meili approves of her high chair from Goodwill ($3). 

That brings us to the end of Day 6. Another ten days left to this once in a lifetime trip...

Monday, September 24, 2012

My White Valentine Wedding: Part Two

Note: This is continued from Part One (on how I nearly missed my own wedding).

The day of the wedding was a little... erm... chaotic.

The stately facade of the wedding venue belies the state of controlled chaos within

Mom and Dad, Ma and Pa, Jeff and Spencer were mostly downstairs in the church kitchen and dining area preparing food and decorating the reception venue.

Clockwise from top right: Mom laying out the reception decor; Ma putting together the salad; Pa taking photos of everything; Dad and Jeff taste-testing the lasagna.
The reception looked so beautiful. *sniffle*
The exquisite wedding cake made by Dolores Austin; Ring pillow bearing our engraved titanium rings; Stunning
decoration put together by my crafty Cousin Yoonie.

I was kept busy doing my bridesmaids' (Ariana, Faith and Courtney) make up.
Twenty minutes to the wedding march and I still hadn't changed into my wedding gown yet; Courtney had her hair
professionally styled!; Carver is not liking his bow tie.

Houston We Have a Problem
I was kept so busy in fact, that I didn't have enough time to finish my own make up. I got as far as slapping on some foundation and lipstick, and was applying shadow to my left eyelid, when I was called to 'Get Out There!' and do that walk up the aisle.

Oh dear.

I walked down the aisle with my left eye-shadowed and my right eye bare, a chalk-white face (no time to put blush on my cheeks) and looking generally disheveled. I didn't have time to straighten my hair so it was frizzy and all over the place. Of all the days to have a bad hair day.

Erm, maybe nobody will notice if I hide behind this veil.

The Ceremony
Fortunately, everything else went as rehearsed. My Pa handed me over to Spencer who was waiting up by the altar. Mom read a passage of scripture from the Bible.

Pastor Barbara led us in saying our vows.

I choked up just a bit while saying my part of the vows, looking into Spencer's eyes. Do. Not. Cry.

Then before I knew it, Spencer was lifting my veil back and kissing me. Did I just miss Pastor Howard's "And now I pronounce you man and wife"?  *blur*

Pastors Barbara and Howard Ravenstahl led us through the exchange of vows. 
Post Ceremony
Everyone was invited to partake of holy communion.

Then we all went downstairs for a Chinese Tea Ceremony. This was not very well rehearsed. Actually it wasn't planned at all. But I think everyone found it entertaining enough. Everyone seemed to be serving tea to everyone else, and red 'ang pow' packets of money randomly exchanged hands.

In a Chinese Tea Ceremony, the newlyweds serve tea to their elders in exchange for words of wisdom and red
packets. Then the newlyweds receive tea from the young 'uns and have to dole out red packets too. Clockwise from
top right: John and Janette Clark, David and Dorcas Lim, Ernie and Colleen Armor; and the Newlyweds bestowing
an 'ang pow' to Courtney.

The Food
Thanks to the efforts of Chef Jeff and Mom, the food was delicious and plentiful. No guest left hungry! The deer lasagna was hugely popular but it was good that Jeff also made beef lasagna and veg lasagna for those who did not fancy partaking of bambi.

The Entertainment
Jeff, who was also Spencer's Best Man, gave a heart-warming toast.

The entertainment for the night also included Spencer and I cutting the wedding cake and attempting (but only partly succeeding) to feed each other some of it. I am not posting any photos of that disaster hehe.

Spencer and I also entertained the guests with a dance. Spencer picked an extremely long Malay love song - he didn't realize it was soooo long. We shuffled around on the dance floor for six long, awkward minutes!

Please end. Please end.

After that first dance, everyone got down and partied hard. I can't imagine this sort of thing happening in my church in Malaysia Charis Christian Center.  :O

Dad with my Ma, tearing up the dance floor. Uncle E and Aunt Colleen giving stiff competition behind.

Father and daughter on the dance floor
Carver and I. 

Papa leading Mama in 'The Shuffle' . Wow it's getting hot in here hehe.

Jeff with his girls: Evangeline, Faith, Ariana and Courtney

Time flies when you're having fun and all too soon we were bidding our guests goodbye and safe travels. But not before we'd captured photos of us with each and every one of our guests who had made the time and effort to witness and share our happiness, and who gave so generously the lovely gifts that we treasure till this day. We love you all. Thanks so much for coming!

Photos were taken by Andy Mitchell and Papa. Videos (coming soon) taken by Damon Dlubak and Mark Dempster. Thank you!

xoxo Grace and Spencer

Next post: Honeymoon #1

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My White Valentine Wedding (that I almost missed!): Part 1

With Jeff and Kim's wedding happening in less than a week, I've been feeling sentimental.

You know, I'm not exactly the sentimental type. 

An auspicious wedding date
Spencer and I decided on a Valentine's Day wedding in 2008 for three reasons: 
  1. Because it is an easy date to remember. 
  2. He didn't want to wait anymore.
  3. So everyone would think we are uber-romantic.
At that point, I'd not seen him for nearly five months. Five months prior, when he visited me in KL to celebrate my September birthday, he also sprung a very romantic proposal that we get married. I guess I said 'yes'.  :)

Mom suggested Faith Lutheran Church as our wedding venue. We loved that suggestion and went with it. Spencer invited everyone in the family, all his friends and colleagues, Mom and Dad's friends. Basically anyone he could think of. That came up to about 70 people hehe. Most everyone lived close by. Except Ma, Pa, my side of the family, and myself. :p

Cousin Yoonie designed the beautiful invites.

Behind the Scenes
  • Mom ordered the cake, wedding decorations, made cookies, prepped fruit and salad for the wedding and everything. 
  • Chef Jeff cooked veg, beef and deer lasagna. He also doubled up as Spencer's Best Man. And he made assorted gourmet chocolates for the wedding favors. 
  • Yoonie also designed and hand-crafted stunning boutonnieres, bridesmaid bouquets and the bridal party wedding table centerpieces. She also crafted the wedding favor thank you cards.
  • All the family chipped in to help. We couldn't have done this without them. Thank You Family.

Travel Plans
The plan was for me to fly in to Pittsburgh for the wedding, then we both fly to California for our honeymoon (at the same time spend some time with Beth who couldn't make it to the wedding). 

Pa, Ma and Faith would be fly in to Pittsburgh a few days before the wedding. This would be after their tour of the Grand Canyon and their visit with Pastor Ray Johnson and family at Mustard Seed Ranch. 

I missed my flight.
Yep. I wasn't feeling well, thus my brain wasn't working as well as it usually does. Which is to say, it wasn't working at all. I arrived at KLIA at 6 pm to get on plane to the US. But that plane that had left for the US at 6 am that morning

Uh oh.

I was in imminent danger of missing my own wedding!

The nice MAS people let me on the first plane out next morning. 

On his end, Spencer had a fine (read: awful) time rebooking my connecting flights. 

It could have all gone horribly awry. 

But we all know it didn't :)

I arrived in Pittsburgh after a 30 hour journey, two days before the wedding.

The Nights Before

We packed the chocolates Jeff made, into boxes for the guests.

The assorted hand-made chocolates included chocolate ganache truffles, coconut clusters, even a curry powder one!

We added ribbons and personalized thank you tags to the wedding favors.

We had a wedding rehearsal at church.

We had a family dinner at Shanghai Tokyo Restaurant.

Up next: The Wedding Day. Some things never go quite as planned!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jogoya Japanese Buffet Glutton Fest and Engagement Party!

Special occasions call for special makan places. After us kids all veto-ed Mama and Papa (who wanted to eat at home 'Save money mah'), we descended upon Joyoga Japanese Buffet Restaurant at Starhill Gallery for my sis Eirene & Ben's Engagement Party. Most of us hadn't been before, and actually, I haven't been in Starhill before! Like rusa masuk kampung only. I got there at 6 pm, but decided to wait a few minutes before entering the Starhill parking just to make sure I got in after 6 pm (flat rate RM5). I drove nervously down the road behind Starhill - the road itself was marked with arrows going the other way (i.e. one way street) but the Parking Signs were the other way. Confusing!

Baby Z and gang arrived early to get a headstart on the buffet

Saturday, October 08, 2011

BBGS Reunion Class of '92: The Ones That Do Not Age

Quickie post! Am on Cloud 9, having just got back from a wonderful reunion for fifteen of us BBGS classmates Class of '92 (and kids!). Hosted by Evelyn Leong at the Go-To place for all your party needs - Party Moo Moo @ Solaris Dutamas.

Everyone literally looks the same! I can barely believe how ageless all you ladies are. In fact, in this pic, Stef looks eleven years old!