Category Archives: Travel

Hawaii Travel Tips – part 2 – Food Tips

Hawaii is a marvelous mixture of many food types, courtesy of the many cultures that thrive there.  My favorites include:

  • Portuguese Sausage.   I have had similar sausages made in other places, but the Hawaiian concoction is my favorite.   McDonald’s serves it a a breakfast meat.
  • Portuguese Bean Soup.  Yummy.  Cinnamon’s Restaurant is my favorite place for Portuguese Bean Soup, but Cinnamon’s is in Kailua and is popular with the locals.  Expect to wait a while, particularly on weekends.   Lots of places make an acceptable version.  Give it a try.
  • Teri beef, pork or chicken.  Yeah, I know,  it’s a Japanese dish, but it’s everywhere in Hawaii.  I grew up munching on teri beef sandwiches after a day at the beach.   Lunch wagons, fast food restaurants, and even relatively nice restaurants feature the stuff.
  • Saimin is a noodle dish similar to Ramen served in a broth with lots of other stuff thrown in.  My favorite place to get Saimin is Zippy’s.   Zippy’s offers both sit down and counter service.  Sit down and order my personal favorite, Chicken Katsu Curry Saimin.  I really like the way the curry flavors the broth.  A full meal for less than $8.  Zippy’s has about 5 different types of Saimin and they are all good.  And Cheap.
  • Kalbi.  Korean barbecue ribs.  Yummy.
  • Katsu Chicken, another yummy treat courtesy of Korea.
  • Mahi Mahi.  I like it dipped in egg batter and fried.  It makes a good sandwich or a main course at dinner.
  • Ahi in some form.  Yellow fin tuna (Ahi) is served raw as Sashimi or Poki (both are available at Costco) and cooked as sandwiches and as a main course in restaurants.  I like my Ahi charred rare with a nice spicy dipping sause.

Spice-Rubbed Seared Tuna Steaks with Balsamic Reduction

You have probably noticed a dearth of Hawaiian Food.   I’m not a fan, but if you’re a first time visitor give some a try.  It’s definitely different.  A worthwhile experience.

I tolerate Lau Lau

and enjoy Kalua Pork.

I avoid poi

Lomi Lomi Salmon  and Haupia.  Lomi is just too salty for me, and I have never been a fan of coconut, so Haupia fails to make it for me as a dessert.

Some odd American concoctions are available too.   I’d avoid Spam, it’s everywhere.  And Vienna Sausage too.   And then there’s a uniquely Hawaiian Breakfast sure to give you a heart attack, the Loco Moco.

Loco Moco Plate

Two scoops of rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and gravy.   It’s everywhere and I must admit I have never even considered eating one.   Rice and gravy for breakfast is just not my thing.

Hawaii Travel Tips

Tomorrow I leave the Islands after a 3 week stay.   I am ever amazed by the number of people that visit Honolulu and never leave Waikiki.   Hawaii is so much more.  Rent a car or book a tour.  Take a city bus.  But go.

And there are so many great places to visit.

The Tripadvisor Oahu top ten is a good place to start.  10 popular destinations.   I’ve been to all of them at one time or another in my years spent in Hawaii.   Each is a good place to visit.  I haven’t been to most of them in years and years.  It’s not what I do when I go to Oahu.   I sight-see, eat in my favorite restaurants, and walk at my favorite places.

  • I like the trail inside Diamond Head.  Lots of cool stuff including old WWII bunkers.  It can  be crowded and hot, so go early in the day.
  • A walk around Ala Moana Park including Magic Island (not really an island) is a short walk from Waikiki and a great place to walk in the evening.  And the Friday night fireworks look good from there.
  • I love walking on Kailua Beach.  My favorite beach in Hawaii.   A trip to the Island that does not include a walk on Kailua Beach is a bit of a disappointment.   Go at low tide for the best walking.
  • The Malaekalana Recreation Area is a wonderful undiscovered Oahu gem.   A beautiful stretch of beach that is never crowded.
  • I try not to miss the short hike up to Makapuu Point Lighthouse.

The scenery is spectacular.

And I go mostly on weekdays.   Oahu literally means The Gathering Place in Hawaiian.  80% of Hawaii’s million plus population live on Oahu. Places that are relatively quiet on weekdays are crowded with locals on weekends.  Popular beaches (like Hanauma Bay) are crowded every day, but just a few miles up the road is Bellows, a beautiful beach that is nearly empty on weekdays.

Hawaii is an Island, and the perimeter roads are circular.   The result, nobody seems to know which way is North.  North moves around.  The mountains (Mauka in Hawaiian) are to the North in Honolulu, but to the South in Kaneohe.

And the city fathers were, shall we say, creative in their use of directional labels on streets.   North King Street is West of downtown is South King Street is East of downtown.  East Manoa Road is East of Manoa Road, but both Manoa and East Manoa run in a northerly direction.

Local directions are given using reference points.  Head Mauka or Makai (towards the ocean) or perhaps toward Diamond Head or perhaps Pearl Harbor.  As one moves around the Island, the references change.   Once you know where the local landmarks are, it’s easy.

Two mountain ranges run diagonally from Southeast to Northwest and there is a large central plain in between.  The Koolau Mountains separate Honolulu from Kailua and the windward side.   The Waianae Mountains run all along the western coast.  Northeasterly trade winds dominate normal weather.   The windward shore including most of of the Koolau Mountains are wet, the West shore is hot and much drier.

The map that follows has one important flaw.  THERE IS NO ROAD around Kaena Point (the western most point on the island).   The road has been impassable since the late 1960’s.  I have no idea why it is shown as  a road.

And the road across the Waianae Mountains (route 780) traverses military lands and is only open one day a year.

If you rent a car and want to view the dramatic scenery there are 3 basic choices.

  1. Tour the East end of the Island
  2. Visit the West shore
  3. Tour the stuff in the middle.

My favorite relatively short one day trip covers the East end of the island.   Take Kalakaua Ave. toward Diamond Head until the road ends, then follow Diamond Head Road into Kahala.  Work your way up to H1 East.  When the freeway ends you will be on the Kalanianiole Highway, the main road around the East end of the Island.

Possible stops include Hanauma Bay, the Blow Hole, Sandy Beach, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse, Makapuu Beach, Sea Life Park, Waimanalo Beach, Bellows Beach and Kailua town.  The stretch of road from Hanauma Bay to Waimanalo is spectacularly beautiful.   Pull off the road a few times and take in the view.   On a clear day you can see Molokai in the distance, and if the humidity is low you can see Maui too.

I like to stop at Hanauma Bay,

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park, Honolulu, HI

just to look at the spectacular view, then stop again at some point along  the road before Sandy Beach.  If the surf is high, the Blow Hole is a fun choice.

Next is the Makapuu Lighthouse parking lot.  The walk to the lighthouse and back takes about an hour.  After a lunch in Kailua town,

I’m ready for Kailua Beach before heading back to town.

Aloha from Manoa

I’m off to the land of rubbish, poi (aka paste) and Portuguese Sausage.    I’ll be back in three weeks.

Speaking of poi.   Poi is made from the root of the Taro plant and it really does taste and look like paste.  Two finger poi (thick) or three finger poi (thin), it’s all paste to me.  Grey paste.

Last year I was in Fiji and I attended a feast put on by the locals.  In Fiji they serve Taro differently.  They sliced the root,  and then fried it or maybe baked it, I cannot be sure.  They then prepared a topping made of taro leaves.  Sliced Taro root with a cooked leaf topping.  It was pretty good.   Way better than poi.

The meal was prepared in the same manner in both places (baked in a hole with warm rocks and covered with leaves).  They share a similar culture and heritage.  Too bad Hawaii didn’t get Taro preparation tips from Fiji.

Bye for now, Aloha….oh and Bula too.

Balmy weather in Alaska

Today, Thursday January 23rd was a noteworthy day for South-central Alaska.  It was 48 degrees F at my house in the Hillside area of Anchorage, and we had 7 hours of daylight.  The Sun is getting a bit higher in the sky and the extraordinarily flat light that is early January is beginning to fade.  On December 21st, we had only 5 hours, 27 minutes and 41 second of daylight.  Today we had 7 hours, 2 minutes and 31 seconds.  And the Sun is 4 degrees higher in the sky than it was just a month ago.

And that 4 degrees is a big change.  As we near the Winter Solstice, the Sun almost disappears, rising to about 5.5 degrees above the horizon.  Such is life at 61 degrees North Latitude.   On January 20th, we were all treated to a spectacular sunrise.   The sun rises at a flat angle, which allowed for viewing like this that lasted half an hour as the Sun struggled to come up above the Chugach Mountains:

We are having a Chinook, which means we have a warm wind blowing down from the mountains east of Anchorage.  The warm wind makes it’s quite a bit warmer near the mountains, and cooler down in the flat-lands.  Also,  there’s a funny bend in the Jet Stream causing most of the State to feel a warm wet Southerly flow of air.  The same bend is making it super cold in the Midwest.

The result. It’s almost 30 degrees F warmer than the average Anchorage January Day.  Yesterday, the Weather Channel, AP and ABC News  all ran the same Alaska  weather story.  Alaska was on average 2 degrees F warmer the lower 48 states.  Yep, the calculated average for the State of Alaska was 24 degrees F and the lower 48 US States were a whopping 22.

It was a fun story to read, but was it true?   Let me use today as an example.  Today my car thermometer said 37 degrees in a midtown parking lot.   I immediately drove the 10 miles to my house where the same thermometer said 48.  I have no idea what the temperature was 10 miles east of my house.  Nobody knows.   It’s in the middle of an uninhabited mountain range.   Alaska is a really big place with not very many weather stations.

Today my house was 10 degrees warmer than the official weather station.   In cold clear weather, I am 5 to 10 degrees cooler…and I’m only 10 miles away.  The trip from Anchorage to Barrow is 800 miles long and crosses two mountain ranges…including the tallest Mountain in North America.

Any single number temperature for the entire state at any given time must be a guess.  A Scientific Wild Ass Guess.   It has been a warm January.   No doubt about it.  One for the record books.  But, we really don’t know  how warm, exactly.  Nobody knows.  But we can give a pretty good educated guess….and it is just that, a guess!

Rubbish and Speed Bumps

Last fall I was out of the country for a few weeks, traveling in Fiji and New Zealand.  I love the odd little surprises encountered along the way when visiting a place for the first time.

New Zealand has rubbish containers.  I grew up in Hawaii and in Hawaii trash is frequently referred to as rubbish….but I never knew….it is common in New Zealand too.  For years Hawaii has had signs that encourage travelers not to litter by saying Do Not Throw Rubbish over Bridge.   UNDER OR ALONG the bridge is apparently OK.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered Rubbish containers in New Zealand.  Here, there, everywhere.  Rubbish containers are right next to the recycling containers at most restaurants and in parks.   A use of the English language that I thought particularly Hawaii, was more widespread.  Who knew.

When I am asked about Fiji, I comment that I liked the place even if I felt a bit isolated. Small towns, lots of agricultural land; everything is pretty spread out.  The distance from the International Airport at Nadi to Suva, the capitol is about 200 kilometers.   Google maps calculates the driving time at 2 hours 39 minutes.   They were on a different island than the one I visited.

The one main road….well….it works on Fiji time. The main island has a semi paved highway near the coast that is the main transport between  Nadi and Suva, the Queens Highway.  The road has an 80 kilometer speed limit and many local police officers with radar guns to enforce the maximum.

All along the road are many small towns with slower speed limits, and speed bumps.   I have encountered speed bumps in odd places before, but never on the major highway between the two major cities of a country.

Each individual town has a town speed limit, frequently it’s 50 kph or less.  And the speed bumps are a challenge at any speed over about 20 kph … and they are everywhere.   Most noteworthy, one town had 7 speed bumps in about 1 kilometer.  That works out to one every 500 feet.   Drivers accelerate to 50 in between the bumps only to slow again as they approach them.  Fascinating.

If you are planning to drive from Nadi to Suva, figure 3 1/2 to 4 hours travel time.  Relax and look around, it’s a beautiful drive.

The DC Mindset — A License Plate Story

I recently visited Washington D.C.  I rode the Metro, visited several Smithsonian Museums, walked along the Mall and checked out several monuments. I particularly like the WWII Monument and the Jefferson.  A great trip.  I will return.

This trip to DC had a bit of odd thrown in too.  The license plate slogan is a perfect example of DC’s odd mindset.

Most states brag about themselves in their license plates, not DC.  Ohio and North Carolina both claim the Wright Brothers.  Ohio’s plate  – Birthplace of Aviation, North Carolina’s – First in Flight. Idaho has Famous Potatoes, West Virginia is Wild and Wonderful and you can Live Free or Die in New Hampshire.  Minnesota has 10,000 Lakes and Alaska is the Frontier State.  Several states throw in tourism web addresses.

What does DC say on their plate?   Taxation without representation. Yep, the folks in DC are whining because the founding fathers stiffed them when they wrote the US Constitution.  What was James Madison thinking?  And Thomas Jefferson too?  But is DC really getting stiffed?  It is true that only states are allowed to have congressional delegations and DC is not a state.

Should it be a state?

It’s pretty small.

Washington, DC

That’s right, just 68.3 square miles.  And most of the people that live in the Washington DC area don’t live in the Federal Capitol.  The Washington DC metro area has a population of about 5 million but only about 600,000 actually live in DC.

The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gave DC residents the right to vote for President (DC gets 3 electoral votes).  It fares better than American Territories (American Samoa, The US Virgin Islands) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  They don’t get to vote for President.

Maybe the founding fathers did it on purpose.   DC gets lots of really great stuff because it is the seat of government.   All the museums are free as is the National Zoo.  And it has a great Metro, paid for with Federal Tax dollars.  One could argue that DC already has 100 senators and 435 congressmen living there.  And since they live there, they care about it.

DC is a City with a special status.  And it is getting it’s fare share of the federal pie which would indicate that it is getting represented.

DC gets 28% of it’s budget in federal grants.  That’s over 2 billion dollars a year in federal money.  Special grants paid for much of the Metro.  DC has the best subway in the US….and we all helped pay for it.  Imagine how much more they could grab with 2 senators and a congressman.

DC’s political status is not going to change.   DC’s demographics virtually assure that it will be a Democrat stronghold politically.   2 more Democrat senators will change the political landscape in ways that Republicans will not like.   Any  change in DC’s political makeup requires a change in the US Constitution.   That’s not going to happen (it was tried in the 1970’s and went nowhere)

What are the powers that be trying to accomplish with their license plate slogan?  You got me.  I have no idea.  It does say something about the Washington DC mindset.  They would rather complain than focus on the positive.

European Travel — Some random thoughts and helpful hints

Christmas — the perfect time to change things up a bit and talk about my favorite pastime, travel.

My wife and I frequently travel in November, anxious to shorten the long Alaska winter.  This fall we returned to Europe, exploring new places and revisiting old favorites, mostly in Austria, Italy and Spain. Some random thoughts and observations.

I love to travel by train in Europe.   It is usually convenient, sometimes fast, and can be inexpensive. German trains tend to be relatively expensive while trains in Italy are among the cheapest I’ve encountered.   Fast trains don’t always go where you want to go which means it can sometimes be faster and cheaper to fly. Try getting from Rome to Barcelona on a train.

On this past trip we scheduled a train from Innsbruck to Verona around a scheduled Italian rail strike.  We knew when the one day strike would end, and purchased our tickets accordingly.  Sure enough the train showed up.  We had a great trip through the Alps by train.

Avoid what Italians call American coffee, stick with espresso or cappuccino.  I don’t know what happens at the border.  Coffee in Austria is OK, cross into Italy and it ….well….just stick to cappuccino.

If you want to experience slow service in Italy… for a meal with a credit card.   I once waited 20 minutes for my server to take my VISA card.  I finally gave up and put down a few euros….swoosh …it was gone in an instant, and my change arrived a minute or two later.

Sausages in Austria taste nothing like the American version of Vienna Sausages.

I’m a big fan of the breakfasts served in most hotels in Continental Europe;  wonderful breads, espresso drinks, yummy cheeses and cold cuts, maybe some eggs and/or bacon,  juices,  and fruits including some I’ve never seen before.

Question 1:  Why are egg yokes a darker color in Europe?

Question 2:  Does anybody grow seedless table grapes in Europe?

Question 3:  Who uses money changers? The kiosks are everywhere in Europe and the rates are awful.   Want to really get ripped off, cash a travelers check in a foreign currency. You get a lousy exchange rate, and get charged an additional fee because it’s a check.    Last year I read a guide book actually recommending them….how 1970’s.

ATM’s are everywhere and free.  And the exchange rate is better at an ATM too.  I’ve taken to charging stuff only when necessary.  Cash is king and you avoid the foreign currency fees on your credit card when you use ATM’s.

Question 4:  I wonder how much soda is taxed?  I was in a convenience story in Italy.  Wine started at 2 euro for a 750 ml bottle, a giant bottle of beer was 2.8 euro and a coke was 3 euro  for a small can.  My solution to this dilemma….drink wine.

Happy traveling