Thursday, 31 May 2007

A hobbit surprise...

"Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about them in a month, and yet after a hundred years, they can still surprise you."
GANDALF, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
It is with great joy and some surprise that we announce: two hobbits left the shire and three will be returning. Pamela is pregnant! The baby's due at the end of November and we are delighted.
At the moment we are staying with Pamela's sister's family- Tim, Angela, Anna and Megan in Torrance, California. It's been really nice to catch up with them and spend time with our ridiculously cute nieces. Between Anna's birthday sleepover and Megan's constant mischief, it's like attending an intense parenthood bootcamp! Help!
You will notice the absence of photos in this post due to our camera being stolen while Ryan and Tim went to watch the LA Galaxy v Rangers. We're not sure if it was a Rangers fan who lifted the camera from the hotdog stand but they also took our photos of Seattle and Whistler. We'll find some similiar photos on Flickr or Google images and write the Canada and Seattle post soon.
Hope everyone is doing good and we hope that everyone who was sitting exams got on well.
Take care. x

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Aloha and mahalo...

Transported through time and space our particles arrived safely in Honolulu about ten minutes after we left New Zealand! We had decided to split our time in Hawaii between Maui and O'ahu and had booked a cheap internal flight straight to Maui for a few hours after we landed in Honolulu. This saved us from doubling up the cost of transfers to and from the airport. We caught our flight to Maui and ended up sitting next to a very nice guy called Ron. Ron was from Hawaii and he gave us some great advice on where to go and what to see while we were in Hawaii. At the end of the flight Ron gave us his card and told us that he owned a restaurant on Maui and O'ahu and he insisted we go along and have dinner as his guests. More on this later...

We had done lots of reading on Australia and New Zealand and we knew all about the hostel set up there but we were a bit unsure about Hawaii and decided to book hotel accommodation just to be on the safe side. After spending five weeks sleeping in a van we fancied a bit of luxury so we decided to push the boat out and booked five nights at the Royal Lahaina resort on the west coast of Maui.

The Royal Lahaina, Maui

Lamps were lit as part of a Hawaiian ceremony every night

At the reception we decided to chance our luck and ask if there were any nicer rooms available than the basic room we had booked. The very friendly manager obviously fell for our cheeky hobbit charm and they moved us to a room in the newly renovated tower overlooking the ocean, the mountains and a golf course! We don't want Ming to feel bad but this room was so nice we spent ten minutes giggling, ten minutes jumping on the bed, ten minutes exchanging high fives and then we thanked the guy standing in the corner for bringing up our bags!

Ryan sports a dashing housecoat and admires the view

The view from the balcony was spectacular. We could see the other islands, the ridiculously blue ocean, the mountains and the golf course. Maui is a beautiful island and it easily exceeded our expectations of what Hawaii would look like. The beautiful room obviously helped but Maui may just have made it to the top of our 'let's come back' list.

Our view

The garden cottages and golf course

Maui, luxury hotel room, big flat screen TV, chimp in a sombrero. Does life get any better?

Real men drink cocktails

A Hawaiian dance is performed at sunset as we enjoy our dinner

We spent most of our time in Maui lazing by the pool or going for walks along the beautiful beach. There are other things to do on the island like snorkelling or cycling down a volcano but after Australia and New Zealand we were genuinely exhausted. Travelling is hard work! Maui was really the first time we spent more than a few days relaxing in the one place, so we didn't get up to much and loved every minute of it!

The beaches on the west coast were lovely and the water is the bluest we have seen on our trip so far

Ryan in the sea

One of the nice things about this hotel was that the pool was about 50ft from the sea, so you could go a for a dip in the sea if you fancied it or just lie by the pool. Other than lying around sunbathing we caught the bus one day into Lahaina where we walked along the front and wandered into the shops. We went to a traditional Hawaiian Luau held in the hotel grounds. It was good, the food was nice and the entertainment was impressive but they had really squeezed the punters in. There must have been about 300 people in a spot suitable for about 100- goodness knows how they would have dealt with a fire-not an unlikely event considering the shows finale!

The laua host

Kids on the stage singing. Adults in the audience waiting for dinner.

A Hawaiin tradition- bury a pig in an underground oven, let it slowly cook and then unearth it and eat it. The fact that burying livestock is usually a solution for Mad Cow Disease didn't hamper our willingness to dig in during the buffet.

The Laua involved lots of Hawaiin singing and dancing and the finale involved some bloke spinning torches while trying to avoid lighting his grass skirt.

More fire antics

After a relaxing week in Maui we spent our last night walking along the beach. Ryan went in the sea for a quick dip and then we sat on the beach and watched the sunset.

From Maui we went back to Honolulu, O'ahu. This time we made it out of the airport and made our way to our hotel. It's a bit of a shock going from Maui to Honolulu. Maui had a few hotels and miles of empty beaches, where as Hononlulu is probably best described as America's Majorca. Honolulu is a cool place and definitely worth a visit but not if you are looking for a quiet Hawaiian paradise.

Not quite the same view as Maui!

Honolulu is a big city to get around but the bus network is really good and we quickly found our way around. Our hotel was next to some really good malls and it was only a short bus ride away from the famous Waikiki Beach. Waikiki was so crowded you had to spend five minutes trying to find a spot to sit down.

We only spent one day on the beach in Honolulu and we spent the rest of the time walking around the shops or visiting some of the tourist attractions.

On the Sunday we went along to a service at a Calvary called Horizon Honolulu( the service was nice and the people were extremely friendly. Ryan got chatting with Pastor Francis who kindly offered to take him golfing during the week. The course was and proudly claimed to be the hardest course in America. The views were amazing and they more than made up for the questionable golf! The course was really tough with tight fairways and jungle for rough! The mountains in the background are straight out of Lost and I was scared to look for balls incase 'the others' got me. It was a really nice day and the best part had to be when four mongoose climbed onto the cart while we were putting and stole the Pastor's lunch! Pamela also had a great day at the mall.

The modest club house

The par 4 18th

This was just the practice area!

Pastor Francis mid-swing

We spent a day visiting Pearl Harbour. There is an interesting museum and a short movie explaining the events that led to the attack on Pearl Harbour. The main feature is the memorial to the USS Arizona, a warship that sank during the attack losing over 1000 of its crew. The memorial is a kind of bridge that has been built over the remains of the ship that still holds the bodies of those killed in the attack. We also found out that survivors who have since passed away have been interred there also. Some of the stories around this event were really interesting and seeing the names of the victims on the memorial wall was a bit emotional. It was also a bit strange to see loads of Japanese tourists walking around taking photos.

The first Japanese plane was seen in the sky at roughly the top right hand corner of this photo

USS Arizona

The buoy marks the bow of the ship

The Arizona's anchor

This place was Bowfin!

Two nights before we were due to leave we took a walk along Waikiki Beach and we noticed the bloke from the plane's restauraunt. It was called LuLu's and it looked really nice, with a view from the front looking out over the ocean. We hadn't contacted Ron when we were in Maui but we thought we'd pop in to see what the place was like. It was really nice, we couldn't see Ron around but we were hungry so we ordered food anyway and it was pretty tasty. Before we left we spotted Ron and he insisted that we come back the next night and have a meal on him. Not ones to turn down such a generous offer, we went back the following night and were treated to some great service and an excellent meal all on the house! It clearly pays to be nice to people when you are on a plane and if you are ever in Honolulu go to LuLu's restaurant(across from the zoo) and order the coconut shrimp. It was a delicious meal and a great way to end our time in Hawaii.

Our view from LuLu's restaurant

Waikiki Beach

We had a really relaxing time in Hawaii and would definitely go back there. The people were really friendly and helpful and the islands were stunning. It's onto Vancouver and then down to Seattle next...