Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Honolulu Travel Blog

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We landed in Hawaii at 7am after a long flight (and landing 12 hours earlier than we left, due to the international date line) and faced the intense heat again after some overcast days in Tokyo. We had been recommended to take a shuttle from the airport so we found one for $8 each and waited for a while before hopping on board and whizzing down the highways. Our mutual first impression upon arriving in Hawaii was "people here are so fat". After spending months in Asia it was a huge shock to see the chronic levels of obesity.

We arrived at our hostel and checked in. After a shower and changing into clothes more suited to the Hawaiian climate we decided to take advantage of the free breakfast, which was coffee, bread and grape jelly (jam). Not hugely appetising but it wasn't bad.

After breakfast we headed out to explore the area. It was hot, we were tired and dehydrated, my head was spinning and people were loud and everywhere. We were on the island of Oa'hu, in the most populated beach area in all of Hawaii, Honolulu. We grabbed a drink and found a bench to take it easy and watch the world go by while fighting the urge to go back to the hostel and sleep. The sun was still coming up but the sea was a fantastic turquoise colour and there was not a cloud in the sky. We walked down the promenade to watch the surfers and take it all in.

That morning we discovered that in Honolulu, one shop monopolises the area, the ABC Store. This shop sells snacks, sandwiches, drinks, flip flops, snorkel gear, suntan lotion, clothing and everything in between. Each store is about 3 other stores apart and they sell virutally the same thing at every place.

Both of us were fading fast so decided to take refuge in our air conditioned dorm. It wasn't long before we had fallen asleep just before lunchtime. We woke up 15 hours later, feeling more awake but hungry and disoriented. Stupid stupid jetlag. We had seen a 24 hour diner earlier on so made our way there. Even at 3am it was extremely hot and humid and I didn't feel well at all.

We found our way to the diner and ordered our food; a sandwich for me and a burger with fries for Fab. This is when we also discovered the USA's fantastic free refills policy on machine sodas such as Coke, Sprite and other soft drinks. After eating our dinner/breakfast we had a wander back through town. There were lots of filthy homeless people ('Why don't they wash in the sea or at the many public restrooms?' I asked myself) and shady looking characters. At one point I thought someone was following us and we were going to get mugged. It was a really strange feeling.

After arriving back at the hostel we spent a few hours watching some movies on the laptop and just waiting for time to pass until we could reasonably get up and make any noise in the dorm we shared with two others.

When we researched hostels in the area we found that there was one that always had rave reviews so had booked a room there for the rest of our stay (as there was no availability for the day we arrived). They had told us we could check in at 11am as checkout was at 10am. At around 11:30am we walked the 30 metres down the street to the hostel and tried to check in. The skanitly clad receptionist was chatting to her friend about her new sunglasses before noticing we were there, and then told us she couldn't check us in yet because she hadn't finished her other paperwork; "it'll be about 15 minutes" she said. We waited on the bench outside the reception waiting and waiting before she came out and said "do you mind if I have a cigarette before checking you in?". I laughed and said "we'd like to check in now please". It took her 30 seconds to enter our details into the computer, which was all that was needed  to check us in, but the room hadn't been cleaned yet and the previous guests had taken the only key with them. "It'll be 10 minutes to clean the room."

We waited for the room to be cleaned and the key magically appeared again, moments after she handed us the master key, saying "this opens every door in the place, so there's a lot of trust with this..." (erm... moment of shock here... nice to know that they don't mind handing out a master key to anyone... if we had taken it, and not been our trustworthy selves, who knows what we could've done with it!)

Then the next thing, "sorry, there's no clean sheets or towels yet, can you wait 30 minutes?"

We head up to our room, frustrated, hot and bewildered by the terrible service. We began unpacking and decided to take a shower with the only towels we had, the unwashed ones we had used from the days before. Just as I was about to go to the bathroom there was a knock at the door. It was another staff member asking us if we were planning on being in the room for long as they wanted to clean it properly. Surprised, I told her we would be leaving with the hour and they could clean it then.

We put our swimming stuff on and headed for the beach. The sea was really warm and the sun was like fire, but we enjoyed swimming in the sea and feeling the warm sun on our skin. After a few hours we grabbed a bite to eat and a drink from the ABC Store and wandered back to the hostel to clean off the salt. Our room had still not be cleaned and there were no sheets in our room.

We went down to reception and got the sheets and towels and went back up to the room. It was boiling in there with only a ceiling fan but we figured it would cool down a little during the night. We were sleepy so decided to go to bed early.

I had been feeling really uncomfortable since we arrived - I think it was a combination of culture shock, the horrible hostels for the price, jetlag and the fact my tummy had been having problems adjusting to Western food again. I didn't have a good first impression of Hawaii, that's for sure.

The rest of our week in Honolulu mostly consisted of getting up, going to the beach to swim and sunbathe and eating junk food.

One notable exception was when Kawika, a friend of Fab and I, came over from Maui for a seminar and met us afterwards. He took us up to a viewpoint over the island of Oa'hu and we drove around for a bit seeing the island. He also took us on an eye opening tour of an American supermarket - you can buy milk and juice in gallons in the USA!

We had decided to spend the final two weeks of our Hawaii break in Maui, away from all the tourists. We booked some cheap flights over the phone ($43 each, one way) and simple as that we had booked. When our stay in Honolulu was over we ordered a shuttle to the airport and waited for our plane.

We were at the airport way too early but the time passed by, as it does. When the teeny tiny plane pulled up, we boarded and found an exit row seat. The solo stweardess came over and explained that as we were sitting there we would have to agree to help in an emergency etc and she needed a verbal "I will" to confirm. There was a couple sitting opposite us on the other exit row seats and the woman clearly wasn't paying attention, so when the stewardess looked at her for a verbal response she had no idea. The stewardess then said "well, you'll haave to move seats if you can't agree" to which the woman started moaning, "I'm only going to sit next to him, just repeat what you said, I didn't hear you... etc" The stewardess gave in and repeated herself and all was well. Some people!

Moments later the plane started moving and an announcement from the pilot was heard. Now there's a couple of things that you don't want to hear when you're about to take off, and two of them were to follow.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is the pilot here. We're having some problems starting one of our engines so please be patient and we'll take off soon." Just after we took off, the pilot added "Thanks for your patience folks, this almost never happens..."

Hmmm, flying over the ocean for 30 minutes and the rare non-engine-starting problem occurs. Good thing we were in exit row and would have been the first out in an emergency! 
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photo by: crystalware