Papakolea Beach: Another World

24 May


Papakolea Beach, one of a few green sand beaches in the world, is located on the southernmost part of the Big Island in Hawaii. When we started driving, the GPS indicated it was an hour away, but after half an hour of driving, it recalculated and said it was another hour and a half away.


It was a longer ride than we expected, but we wanted to see this rare beach. When we got to the area, we saw a sign that said “Southernmost part of the U.S.” There we saw a crowd of people jumping off a cliff and into the water. They were climbing back up on a ladder. I could barely even look over the edge of the cliff.


We got back to our car and drove on the other road which led to Papakolea Beach. There we found dozens of parked cars and local people waving at us.


“You going to green sand beach?” a large Auntie asked us.




“We have a shuttle leaving right now. It takes twenty minutes. If you walk it, it’s over an hour one way.”


It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It was hot and we’d just travelled two hours to see the beach. Of course we were taking the shuttle.


The drive to Papakolea was itself an adventure. We rode at the back of this banged up truck with six other tourists. The road was unpaved, the terrain unforgiving. Huge boulders, dust swirling in the air, plants turning brown. It felt like a rollercoaster ride, except that we couldn’t go very fast. We felt every bump and rise and fall of the earth.


We finally arrived at Papakolea Beach. The blue-green water rushed into a C-shaped bay where the sand was olive green. There was a sloping wall and jagged rocks next to the beach that made it look like outer space. We walked down to the beach from above. The strong wind blew large bits of sand on our skin; it felt like little needles. It was not fun getting it in our eyes. The seawater was too rough to enter, so we stayed on the beach.




My husband noticed two small white objects dancing in the wind, far up on the walls surrounding the beach. They were paper cups, and the graceful way they were carried and tossed by the wind made it seem choreographed.


The trip to the southernmost part of the U.S. felt like a trip to another world.




‘The Revenant’ is a Revelation

11 Jan

The Revenant has made me return from the death of my blog because this kind of film revives me.


(First of all, give Leonardo diCaprio an Oscar already!)


What happens to Leonardo’s character, a hunter named Hugh Glass, is horrific. Let’s see. First there was a brutal bear attack (how long was this scene going to last?), then being buried and left for dead in the middle of winter, and later falling off a cliff while riding a horse! My friends and I winced, gasped loudly, and covered our faces multiple times throughout the movie, as the gruesome scenes charged at us.


Side note: if you’re looking to gush over how gorgeous Leonardo diCaprio is, go watch Titanic. In The Revenant, all you’ll see is snot and spit and mangled flesh.

Never mind the horrible bear attack. The cold alone would have killed me. (I was shivering inside the air-conditioned theater).


But Glass keeps coming back, sustained by his need for retribution for his murdered son. This is set in the early 1800s. The Americans, French, the Sioux and Pawnee Indians are all entangled in a struggle for profit, supremacy and survival.


The cinematography is mesmerizing. Glass limping alone through a snowy valley, a speck of darkness against white. The gushing river, snowflakes on the character’s crusty beards, fire bursting from flints. Every scene is like a perfect photograph.


Snowstorm, avalanche, gusting wind… the elements are like characters in this story. Not that the human characters were less impressive—Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter were all excellent.


Of course, cinematography and acting is nothing without a good story. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s storytelling hooks you and doesn’t let you go.


When we exited the theater I read a CNN update on my phone: The Revenant Wins Best Drama at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards. Later, I learned Leonardo won Best Actor. Iñárritu won Best Director. I felt triumphant, as if I were part of the team.


The Revenant is a revelation.

Playing Tourist

7 Nov

The Moana Hotel, which opened in March 1901, was the first hotel in Waikiki. It still stands today as the Moana Surfrider Hotel, a Westin Resort. An H-shaped hotel, it has lanais facing Kalakaua Avenue (the main street in Waikiki), a huge Banyan tree shading a beach bar, open courtyard, Victorian-style façade, and wooden staircase. This is where my husband and I decided to stay for a night and play tourist in Waikiki.

We were greeted with a beautiful fresh floral lei for me and a kukui nut lei for Klaus. The staff was incredibly accommodating and friendly, even when they found out we weren’t rich tourists but humble “kama’aina” (who took advantage of the kama’aina discount.)

We walked on Kalakaua Avenue, which is crawling with interesting characters. You have the Japanese tourists, the hawkers, the peddlers, the street artists, performers, animals, the homeless, etc. There were also the beggars holding cardboard signs: “2 Ugly 2 Prostitute” and “Need Weed.” As Klaus and I left H & M store, we passed by this homeless man with wet shorts and bare feet standing in front of the floor to ceiling mirror, inspecting himself. The guard was saying something to him about “…coming in here with your sandy feet.”

Hubby missed out on an interesting encounter when I went to Urban Outfitters while he returned to the hotel.

I was holding up a skirt in front of the mirror when out of the corner of my eye I saw a heavy girl with long dark hair wearing what I thought was a bra-like top. She stood next to me and I saw she was wearing just a bra with a short skirt. Her ample breasts threatened to spill out of her bra. She was leisurely putting on a shirt and remarking,

“I guess I really am brown…I didn’t realize it until I stood next to you.”

Me (trying not to get flustered): It’s a nice color! (avoiding looking at her boobs at all cost)

She finally buttoned up the shirt, still with cleavage revealed.

She continued chatting, asking if I was from Hawaii, if I worked in the store, etc. “Well, you’re from Hawaii then, girl,” she said when I told her I lived here now.

A young guy who worked for UO approached me and asked if I was doing ok. I said yes. He looked sideways at the other girl. “Did she say anything rude to you?”

No, but it was a weird encounter nonetheless.



One World Observatory

4 Nov

My husband and I got our tickets months in advance, and we got there early.

Security was serious. Tickets, check. Scanners, check. Security guards, check. You can bet they will be very thorough: they will inspect bags, pockets and buttholes before you enter.

I shouldn’t exaggerate. Actually, the staff was very welcoming and courteous. And they all helped make the visit smooth and enjoyable.

As you plod along the line, you pass the time watching videos of people who worked on the building. They made statements about how it was a labor of love for them and how proud it made them feel to be a part of that special project.

The elevator took no time to deliver us to the 102nd floor, a thousand feet above ground. They used only the best technology. We have an elevator at my workplace that takes longer to take passengers to the 2nd floor.

The video presentation was a feast for the eyes: a time-lapse show of the changes that New York has gone through over the years, complete with sound effects, music and moving TV monitors. It was a lengthy one, too, and as I was watching it I thought that was it, that was what we’d come to this building to see. Because the video was spectacular.

But then the TV monitors slid away to reveal the view of New York City from 1,000 feet above ground. The video presentation was just a curtain.

One World Observatory provided a 360-degree view of New York City.

At One World, they didn’t emphasize the fact that it was born out of the destruction of the World Trade Center. I like that it symbolized a fresh start, and that they didn’t want to shroud it with negativity.

One Wo

Weekend in Hilo: A Steady Rain

11 Oct

My friend and her husband had property in a remote area in Hilo, 3 acres of wild land that they turned into a sanctuary from the busy life of Honolulu. They invited us to stay there and camp in the grounds for the weekend.

It was past nine p.m.on a Friday night when we neared the property. We turned left off of the highway and onto unpaved, rocky road that reminded me of my father’s hometown in the Philippines. There were no street lights around; just overgrown bushes on either side. Parts of the road were covered with water, and would have been difficult to guess its depth, but our friends had told us ahead of time that it was safe to drive on.

Their property reminded me of the Blair Witch Project: rocky paths, overgrown bushes, trees, and no light except for little ones that illuminated part of the path. Nobody told me to bring a flashlight, but my friend’s sister loaned me her small one. There were, however, beautiful blue, white and red lights strung around tree trunks, and the sky above mimicked the Coldplay song, “A Sky Full of Stars.”

We were a group of more than thirteen, with people coming in from Honolulu, California and Oregon. We were roughing it, but I had no problem sleeping outdoors or in a tent. My biggest challenge was to go without soap and water to wash my hands after using the toilet, even for number 1. Hand sanitizer just didn’t satisfy me. Next day, after I learned how to use the shower (turn on gas regulator, turn on shower system, push down button of shower head handle), I got to wash my hands, and I was at peace.

It constantly rained in Hilo, but on Saturday we were blessed with sunny skies. We went to Kaumana Cave and hiked inside. It was essentially a lava tunnel, its ground covered with very sharp lava rocks. One fall and you could hurt yourself badly, the lava rocks cutting up your skin with knife-like sharpness. It was pitch-dark, as we discovered when we turned off all our lights for one minute. I expected Shelob, the giant spider from Lord of the Rings, to emerge from behind stalactites or stalagmites. After about 40 minutes in, we came up to a bunch of boulders. It must’ve toppled down somehow, and some friends didn’t want to continue on, so we headed back.

Hilo Farmer's Market

After the cave we went to the Farmers market. There were so many Filipinos, selling everything from “budbud” to halo-halo. I couldn’t resist talking to a group of women manning a stall who spoke my dialect. Of course, they invited me to eat lunch with them, but I politely declined. Instead, I had summer rolls with veggies and avocado, with a peanut butter dipping sauce. It was amazing.

That night, we returned to the property and I took a nap; sleeping at 1am the previous night had messed up my system. Soon it got dark, and I saw that the owners had spruced up the grounds with some disco lights and paper lanterns. They also distributed barrettes with flashing lights, which everyone put on their hair, clothes, over the nipples and crotch.

After a burger dinner it was time for Burning Chicken, not Burning Man. The seven-foot tall wooden sculpture that was built to be burnt looked like a chicken pirate, with sticks for feather on its back and a sword for a right hand. Just when they set it on fire, the rain started pouring and didn’t stop. It was saving the life of the Burning Chicken pirate. My friend’s husband suddenly whipped out a flamethrower to finish the job, and several people took turns with it. As I watched them I thought–why did he have the flamethrower in the first place?

After the Burning Chicken, I went to my tent and found it was collapsed on one side from the non-stop rain. I pushed up on the roof to dump the water. Then a couple of us went to the Hawaii Volcano National Park to see the smoke and fire coming


from the mouth of Kilauea from a few hundred feet away. We stood at an outdoor viewing station at a hotel called Volcano House. It must have been 60 degrees and I was freezing. It reminded me I couldn’t go back to the east coast.

On our second and last night in Hilo, the Coqui frogs were croaking nonstop. It sounded like they were saying “cookie?”I couldn’t sleep for hours because of the heavy rain. Finally, the tent caved in at my feet. At least it was good timing: It was 5:30 am and I had to get up anyway and get ready for my flight. But it was dark, and I only had my cellphone’s flashlight to use. I had trouble gathering my belongings. I couldn’t maneuver around the collapsed tent very well and there was insufficient light and a puddle had started forming inside the tent. I was dropping everything: underwear, contact lens case, hairbrush. I was stepping in water puddles with my socked feet. All the while, the tent was slowly collapsing. I hurried, as I didn’t want to end up getting hit in the head with the poles.

A few hours later, we left the steady rain of Hilo and back to the hot sunshine of Honolulu. Funny how cave, lava rocks, sunshine, heavy rain, 90 degrees and 60 degrees all exist in one state.

Breakfast With Mickey

6 Sep

The breakfast buffet at Disney Aulani resort in Kapolei, Hawaii is called “Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at Makahiki,” but my friend always called it “Breakfast with Mickey,” and I like that better.

I’d called the resort multiple times to get a reservation for me and my friends, but we could only go on the weekends and they were very busy. They kept telling me, “I’m sorry, we’re fully committed.” Boy, it was harder to get into Mickey’s breakfast than the Pentagon.

Finally, I was able to get reservations a month in advance, and yesterday was the big day. We got up early on a Saturday to make it to our 7:30 reservation.

First of all, the resort is gorgeous. The main lobby has high ceilings with glass windows and Hawaiian-themed paintings on the walls. The verdant grounds are well-manicured and they have a mini-waterpark, complete with lazy river, pools, and water playground for the kids. They have a koi pond, an aquarium, a lagoon with kayak and paddle board rentals, and a building facing the water with arched rooftops where they hold private weddings.


But back to breakfast.

There was a party of 12 in front of us and they had little children, but three adults were wearing variations of Mickey ears: one with a pink and white polka dot bow, one with sparkly purple sequins, and one with a little veil. In my own party, our ages ranged from 24 to 41. None of us had kids, but we brought the kids within us. Hey, no one’s too old for Disney.

When you first arrive, they usher you to a photo session with the man himself—Mickey Mouse! Then we went in for breakfast.

The array of food was mind-boggling: they had an omelet station, a yogurt parfait station, oatmeal, porridge and grits. Eggs benedict, loco moco, fish, hash browns, lox, bagels and fixins. Fruit, cottage cheese, kalua pork, waffles, pancakes and pastries. They also had sausages, chorizo, and bacon. I saw the turkey bacon and thought “where’s the real bacon?” Sure enough, it was there.

They even had a low, little section for the keiki, with waffles shaped like Mickey’s head, scrambled eggs and pancakes.

While having breakfast, they entertain you with songs and dance and encourage the kids to participate in a mini parade with the host, “Aunty,” and Minnie Mouse and Goofy. Meanwhile, Minnie and Goofy are roaming around constantly, taking photos with the guests. Minnie is dainty and prim, holding her skirt up on one side, while Goofy is, well, goofy: jumping and dancing around, and giving the guests big hugs.

The staff is always helpful, willing to take endless photos, attentive to the guests’ needs, and very organized.

We had a magical time, both kids and the kids at heart.

Koko Head Arch

31 Aug


There’s a rock arch at the side of the mountain that leads up to the ridge connecting to the top of Koko Head. That’s where we were today.

The reviews all warned of its steepness and loose gravel in some areas, especially under the arch. One reviewer deemed it “easy-moderate.”


“Easy-moderate,” my ass! It was STEEP, with ample opportunity to plunge to your death.

It was a short walk from the parking lot across the highway from Halona Blowhole lookout point to the base of the arch. We spent time underneath the arch to get shade, feel the breeze, and take photos. Then we went back up to start on the arch.

To get up to the arch was a rock climbing feat. To me, it looked like a vertical wall of rock with no crevices to stick my foot in. For a few moments I wondered how in the world I could get up without some kind of mechanical lift or a Roman catapult. Or someone could hypnotize me to pretend like I was a giant pancake with limbs, and crawl up the wall.

My husband came to my rescue, as usual. With his help and guidance I somehow managed to get up. After that initial feat, the rest wasn’t as bad. The rocks had plenty of bumps and dips for traction.


Acrophobic as I was, I dared not look down. When I do, I usually go on temporary paraplegia, and lose feeling in my legs. There were a couple other spots on the ridge that made me gulp and prompted me to behave like a cat, traversing the terrain on all fours. But it was a gorgeous day, and the scenery from that vantage point was worth it.

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the wuc

a broth of thoughts, stories, wucs and wit.