Saturday, 5 January 2013

OooOoOooo I Can See Your Honolulu

Other than Graceland, Hawaii was the place I was most looking forward to visiting when planning this trip. Aside from New Orleans. And Memphis, of course. But Honolulu was capitalised, italicised, underscored and highlighted in BOLD in both my homemade travel schedule and my whirrly little mind.

It's the sort of place you daydream about while writing completely useless summaries about Anthony Worrall Thompson shoplifting cheese from a Tesco in Henley-on-Thames at 3.18 a.m on a Thursday morning. WHO CARES? It was probably only a cry for attention. He's not so hot these days, is old Ant. Anyway, back to my holiday hard-on.

HAWAII and all her pleasures; palm trees and sunshine-happy ukele music, warm sand and skilled surfers, grass skirts and ham and pineapple pizza. Bloody paradise. I remember doing a 30-second jig after clicking on the confirm button to book my flight and gurning like I was at my first festival for about four hours afterwards. Excited doesn't even cover it. I was champing at the bit to get out there.

It takes six hours to fly to Honolulu on the island of Oahu from LAX and the islands, the most remote chain in the world, is two hours behind Pacific Standard Time - basically making it the end of the world. I would be ten whole hours behind almost everyone I know. After waving goodbye to Leah and whiling away two days in grungy Venice Beach eating 7-Eleven pizza and catching up on the latest series of Dexter, I travelled to LAX at about 11pm the day before my flight to sit out the eight hours before I could board the plane and dream all the way to paradise.

For entertainment, I pretended to be Tom Hanks in Terminal and shuffled around the departures lounge mumbling emotionally in a made up language from a fictional country, before finding the softest piece of marble I could to try and snooze for a few hours before the check-in kiosks opened.
For anyone thinking about ever sleeping at the airport: if you can avoid it, do. If not, purchase an inflatable mattress. It is NOT easy nesting.

I got on the plane and tucked myself into my seat, finally falling asleep before the engines got going. My neighbour very sweetly shoved his soft, fat elbow into my face just as the islands came into view underneath us hours later, allowing me to lean all the way over from the aisle to the window to catch my first glimpse.

It was a photoshopped world I was staring down into, everything popping out in bright technicolour and looking sparkly and fun and happy and Aloha. Absolutely beautiful. 

Hawaii may be a stunner but its also one of the most expensive places I've been to. The starting price for most items seemed to be $10, and that was considered a good deal. With my bank account dwindling, budget was the order of the day. Google pointed me in the direction of Waikiki Backpackers Hostel, which had good reviews, and more importantly, offered travellers two UNLIMITED beer nights a week, for free. I was staying for ten days over Christmas, so this had to be taken strongly into consideration. They also offered a complimentary shuttle service from Honolulu airport if you were staying for four days or more.
Yes please.
bezzie mates
Two blocks from Waikiki Beach, the hostel is a former motel and each room has been converted into dorms that sleep four. You get your own kitchenette and bathroom in the room, which is pretty handy for storing supermarket-bought beer. At its helm is the owner, Charles, a well-built Nigerian man who used to be in the British Army and who reminisced with me extensively about England and J.D Wetherspoons' curry nights. You can't get a decent curry in Hawaii, it seems. Charles seemed pleased to have another British accent knocking about the place and as he left, promised to bring me a can of cider the next night.

I had managed to turn up on Tuesday, one of the free beer nights, so got stuck in chatting with my fellow hostellers and worked on becoming increasingly shit faced before we all piled into the minivan at 10 p,m and were driven to Moose McGillycuddy's, a ridiculously-named rowdy bar in the city where drinks remarkably, only cost $1 that night. NO BLOODY TAX ADDED ON, EITHER.

I waved my $5 bill like I was in Her Maj's inner circle, graciously buying drinks for my new chums and throwing out unique dance moves to the pop music under the strobe lighting. It was just like a school disco, except with lei's, mai tais and lots and lots of military personnel. I chatted with a Marine (there are a ton based on the island) and egged on a German girl looking at a bit of beef that had caught her eye across the crowded bar. A superb night out.

I'd promised myself I'd go surfing the next morning. Obviously I would have been a complete natural. However I failed spectacularly to wake up in time for the Early Bird Special ($30 for an hour's lesson on Waikiki - but only before 8 a.m) so ended up heading to the Dole Pineapple Factory on the local bus system, which took an hour and a half and very nearly robbed me of my will to live.

It took FOREVER going all round the houses and back again to visit the driver's grandma. I sassed quietly in the back, but not too loudly because I'm a scaredy cat and didn't want to get chucked off the bloody thing in the middle of nowhere. Also, I was in Hawaii and had no right to be moody about the slow-pace of everything.

The Dole Factory was horrendous, hugely overpriced ($8 for a packet of dried pineapple. What in holy hell?) and inexplicably, sold pearls in oysters at every corner. What do unshucked oysters have to do with the seeding, harvesting and distribution of pineapples? I may die before I find out.
Seeing as it took so long to get there, the least I could do was treat myself to a ride on the Pineapple Express, a fire-red train that takes visitors around the pineapple fields and explains the history of the factory in a neat twenty minute ride. The pictures would have been nicer if the sun had gotten its act together that day, but it didn't, so here's what I got:

no idea pineapple grew like that
this cockrel was trying to shake off the advances of a LUSTY peacock

I wandered back to the bus stop and waited for my ride home, stopping in a shopping centre to hear Hawaiian Christmas carols before meandering along Waikiki beach to the hostel. The cheapest drinks the local ABC stores (sort of like a Sainsbury's Local) sold was the same brand of Californian champagne I had toasted my 26th birthday to with Leah in Monterey. Seven bucks and it didn't taste like a urinal in a strip club. THAT'LL DO. 

I took my loot back to the hostel's teeny common area and shared it with my new room-mate, Martina from Sweden. Martina was on holiday with her mate Karin, who was fast asleep in our room, exhausted from the trek halfway across the world. She mentioned they'd hired a car for the next three days and would I like to join her and two other Swedes on a road trip to the east coast the next day?

Four Swedes and Abha packed into one rental car?

There is only one appropriate way to end this post, and it is with this video >>>

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