Thursday, September 04, 2008
I am sorry that I cannot post any pictures this round. John's computer isn't working with the internet here at the hotel so I have to use one in the lobby (and pay for it too).
We first arrived on Tuesday (after being up for more than 36 hours with the plane ride and the time changes). We got here at about 9:30 in the morning and had the whole ahead of us. We picked up our beautiful car, Ford Mustang convertible, and headed to the hotel. We thought we were just going to leave our bags and go, but a room was open for us. We had planned on a standard hotel room with no real view or anything special, but upon arrival we were offered an oceanview room with a king bed. Needless to say, we took the upgrade and we are glad we did, minus the screaming child that cries most of the day. The room is great and the view is amazing. That day we decided to get settled and get some lunch, take a nap and then go out for dinner. We had lunch at the infamous, Cheeseburger in Paradise and dinner was at Duke's at the Outrigger Hotel. Good times.
Wednesday, yesterday, we headed out early in the morning for our day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is on the other side of the island so we left around 9:30 a.m. and took a nice leisurely drive around the island. It was great to have the top down and the wind blowing in my hair. We stopped along the way to take pictures at different view points and just took our time. The speed limits here are ridiculously slow. The fastest one I have seen is 50 mph. The center was great. You walk around through the different villages (Tonga, Tahiti, Aoteroa, Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa) and see the presentations about their culture. Most of the presenters are actually from the islands or their families are from them. We also got to see a canoe pageant where they dress up and get on canoes and go down the little river. It was pretty cool to see some of the more formal outfits of the different islands.
John has been looking for a ukeleile (I don't remember how to spell it) since we have arrived and yesterday we found a small shop inside the PCC. It was really cute. An old man, that works there, was trying to give John some information about them. He was so helpful, but there was a gentleman that knew more. His name was Uncle Benny. He has been at the PCC for over 30 years and the kids all call him Uncle Benny or "Ukeleile Man." He taught himself how to play and doesn't even read music. He is so amazing. He sat and talked with John and gave him a little lesson and of course then John had to buy one. Unlce Benny was the Master of Ceremonies at our Luau and told us to find him when we came to dinner, so we did, and thank God we did, it was amazing. Uncle Benny gave us front and center seats at the dinner. We got to see the show from up close and personal. They have dancers and singers and they even bring the pig out of the ground right in front of you. It was a great day made even better by Uncle Benny. He even bought us a picture that we took with him and signed it and gave us his email address so John can email him with questions on how to play this new instrument.
Today we went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. It was tons of fun but the company was a rip off. More to come on that later. My time and money are running out.
Just a few more days to our vacation. I might not post again until we get home, but keep checking back.
Aloha and mahalo!!
Monday, September 01, 2008
Angel fish at the aquarium.
Puffer fish (or a relative of it).
An ugly fish, but brilliant colors and awesome blue lips.
John standing under the big tank with manna rays.
Me and the sea turtles.
Pretending to lift the Niya-Thiya cave rock that causes pregnancy.
The YYY Resort on Ie Island provides pajamas and slippers for their guests. Of course I had to model them.
One of the cool plant sculptures at the Ocean Expo Park/Churaumi Aquarium.
John at the Ie YYY Resort.
Mt. Guzuko - we hiked to the top.
Self-portrait at the top of the mountain.
A traditional Japanese toilet. I only saw these by the mountain on Ie, but I know they have them other places. Usually there is a "western" toilet at the very end.
A view from the Wajee overlook. We first drove down that road you can see.
Torii Beach lifeguard tower.
John's nasty sunburn. He chose not to heed his wife's advise to use sunscreen.
A shot of the memorial walls at Peace Memorial Park.
John and I and the shishaa dog and a dog dressed as an isa drummer.
Puffy Snow is kind of like shaved ice/ice cream. I didn't have any but it looked good.
Day 5 (Friday):
- Snorkeling at Maeda Flats (very cool place with tons of bright colored fish)
- Peace Memorial Park- this is a park to remember those fallen during WWII. There are many walls that have built with the names of all the people who died. We also went through the museum with an audio tour which was very interesting. It was great to get the Japanese perspective on the war. Very touching and moving, sad really.
- We ate at a McDonald's on the way to Kokusai street. It all tastes the same, but they have cool little trays that hold your food and your drinks all in one, and they use plastic shopping bags instead of paper bags.
- Kokusai Street (International Street) - a ton of shopping and food. This is the main place where we bought our souvenirs and knick knacks. They even have a couple of streets that are underground. It is very interesting to see the shop owners on theside of the street trying to get you to enter their shop and buy their products. Even the people from the restaurants are on the street passing out menus and coupons even I think.
Day 6 (Saturday): We left this island and took a ferry to Ie-jima (Ie Island). It is a very small island just North of Okinawa Island. We stayed in a very nice cottage at this little resort. I guess it was a Labor Day special package because our meals were included. Once we got to the island and got all checked in, we rented a car and went about touring the 7 mile wide island. Here is what we saw:
- Mt. Guzuko - we drove as far as we could and then John and I walked up about a thousand stairs (I have no idea how many there were really, but it was a lot and my legs were killing me) to the top of the "Mountain." What a fabulous 360 degree view of the island as well as Okinawa.
- Niya-Thiya Cave - This was a cave that 1000 people lived in during the war as a shelter from the soldiers and bombings. In this cave there is a stone that they say will cause a girl to get pregnant if she lifts it. John would hardly let me get near the thing and threatened my life if I actually picked it up. I don't know if it is true, but that is pretty interesting. The Japanese people are very superstitious and who knows if it could have or would have come true (I just pretended to pick it up).
- Wajee (a spring) - we drove all over trying to find this thing. We even drove all along the old air strip that the US Military used during the war. I don't know if we were supposed to, but we wanted to get to the other side of it and the rode next to it didn't go far enough. It was definitely an adventure. We got to this really lookout and saw the beautiful waters and cliffs of Wajee. The rode was very windy and narrow (of course) but we made it down and back up without getting into an accident.
- GI Beach - We have no idea why it is named that, but we assume that is where the soldiers used to go for relaxation during the war. This beach is beautiful and hardly touched it seems. There was a group of locals down on the beach on their hands and knees basically cleaning up the beach from debris and trash. So cool that they care so much for their island and for the waters.
- Ernie Pyle Memorial - We didn't really stop at this place, but we did drive by it really slowly. Ernie Pyle was a great journalist during the war and was following around a unit that was fighting on Ie Island. During the war he was killed and in the same spot where he died, they erected a memorial.
- Dinner at the resort - they have three options for dinner, BBQ, Japanese and Western. This night we all chose the BBQ. They have these patio tables outside that have small round BBQs right in the middle. The staff bring you your plate of food and you do the cooking. It is pretty cool. We had every kind of meat you could think of: beef, chicken, pork, white fish, and prawns. They also give you a bunch of veggies and mini baked potatoes. A great experience, but a lot of work.
- Bar - after dinner and a little chill time, we headed to the bar at the resort to play pool and have a few drinks. While we were there playing, these young Japanese guys asked Liz and a couple other ladies (in their early 40s) to take a picture. At first the ladies thought the boys just wanted their picture taken, but then they soon found out they wanted the ladies to be in the picture with them. It was a hilarious sight. The ladies were flattered and the guys just thought they were the coolest. It was definitely interesting.
Day 7 (Sunday): We took the ferry back to Okinawa Island (Motobu Port) and drove our car to Nago to the Churaumi Aquarium. This aquarium is pretty cool. They have a few big tanks with some really neat looking fish. It was just an aquarium, but the fish were amazing, such bright colors and all shapes and sizes. The aquarium is part of Ocean Expo Park (which is gigantic) but we didn't have the time and didn't feel the need to see the whole thing. The grounds are amazing, beautiful structures and really cool plants that make up different sculptures (like crabs and birds). After this we drove to the Nago Pineapple Park (mom you would have been right at home and in heaven). They give you a little tour indoors of the different kinds of pineapple plants and palm trees and some other flowers like Hibiscus and Anthurium. For the tour you ride on these little automatic pineapple cart and they have a MP3 player that plays a recording telling you about the different plants you are seeing. Once you finish the tour, you go inside and you see the factory where they take a whole pineapple and can it. It is pretty cool to see how they get the outer skin off and get into the can and seal it all up. From the factory, you go down into the store part and you get to sample everything from wine to cake, pie to chocolate (everything in pineapple flavor). The wine is pretty good, sweet. My favorite was the pineapple pie. After we got back on the ferry and headed to the resort we attempted another snorkeling adventure, but were unlucky. It was too dark outside and there was no coral for the fish to hide in and around. We didn't really see anything special. Before dinner we took a walk on the beach and John started his seashell collection. Yes, I said John started HIS seashell collection. He is just like his mother in that regard. It was funny. He just handed them to me and said we could put them in a vase or something when we got home.
Day 8 (Monday, Today): We got up this morning and packed our bags to head back to Liz and Jeff's apartment. We couldn't leave the hotel until 12:30 but we had to check out by 11:00 a.m. so we went back down to the beach to continue or shell hunt. This time John and Liz were on a mission to find the big clam shells. Liz has only found them on this beach and boy did we find some. It was awesome, I even got into finally. We walked up and down the beach along the water's edge searching for clam shells, sea glass, and shells. It was very relaxing. It even started to rain and we just continued walking. Once we got back to our car in Okinawa we started the drive home and made a short stop at Manzamo Beach. It is supposedly a great lookout point over these large cliffs, but it was very overcast so it wasn't that great, but it was still amazing to see some of the rocks on the cliffs and this large hole in the middle of one cliff. While we were there taking pictures it started to rain and pretty heavy rain too, but we survived, it was very short lived. They have some really cute vendors there so bought a few last minute gifts for people and for ourselves.
All in all, this has been a great adventure. We have enjoyed our time here and really wish we could stay longer. Jeff and Liz are great tour guides and planners and are so generous. It is nice to have such great in-laws. I have to get going to start packing all of our clothes and souvenirs but I will post pictures as soon as I can.
We will be in Hawaii for the next 5 days and returning to California on Saturday, September 6th. I will try and post pictures on MySpace, Facebook and SnapFish when I get back.