Monday, May 31, 2010

National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific - Punchbowl, Hawaii

Today, I attended a ceremoy at the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific at Punchbowl, commemorating the fallen US service members, past and present, who endured the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

It was my first time at the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific and I wouldn't have chosen a better day than Memorial Day to spend my time, attending such a meaningful event.

I had a chance to not only see Senator Daniel Inouye and Mayor Mufi Hanneman speak, but I also met a number of war veterans, including a purple heart recipient.  The speeches I heard today were also touching and would quickly soften the hardest of hearts.  As I was snapping a man's photo, he commented, "Wow, this is some really heavy stuff."  I agreed with him.

I can't say that I didn't shed a tear when Mufi Hanneman read a poem about the pain a mother of a soldier endures, as her son pays the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

I asked to take his photo and he was extremely gracious.  I said "Thank you.  Thank you so much!" and he responded, "Thank you!"

When I had first entered the cemetary, I noticed US flags and flowers everywhere. The boy scouts placed flags and flower leis at each grave, while the girl scouts also did the same at the State Veteran's Cemetary. When a flower shortage was announced recently, many throughout Hawaii also purchased leis and helped string flowers together to place leis on the graves of each fallen service member, so that there would be enough.  It was touching to hear and a beautiful sight to see.

During the event, wreaths are also layed.

Before the commemoration ceremony ended, the Hickam Air Force Honor Guard did the 21-Rifle Salute.   Afterward, the thundering sound of four Hawaii Air National Guard F-15s came from behind, shooting through the sky, as on-lookers gazed upward to view the Missing Man Formation.

There was singing from the Pearl City High School Choir, the Honolulu Boy Choir, while the Royal Hawaiian Band also played during the event. 

Once the colors were retired, the ceremony came to an end.   Group photos began among many of the foreign military and dignitaries who were present.  Senator Daniel Inouye and Mayor Mufi Hanneman both took photos for photographers and/or attendees wanting a picture.

I wish I did my hair and dressed a little nicer because I had no idea I would be asked to be in a photo or two! Instead, I am now in two photos wearing shorts and a T-shirt with crazy wind blown hair. I'm just a random girl, holding a camera, standing next to a Laotion military man, so I hope these photos never resurface because I look terrible.

There were also a number of news stations filming the event and interviewing veterans.  If only I had a television hooked up, I could watch the news. 

After seeing the ceremony today, I strongly feel that more people should support the Memorial Day events throughout the islands. If there's anything to be learned, a service member should always be welcomed home. The scars will never heal for some, but by attending a Memorial Day event, I am sure it will truly mean a lot to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It's the least we can do to show our support, especially on Memorial Day.

A Grueling Hike up Koko Head - Hawaii

Hike #1 of 10 for my 101 in 1001 list...

After leaving the photowalk on the North Shore, I tackled the grueling hike up Koko Head afterward.  At around 4:30 p.m., I hiked and did not return until nearly two hours later. 

My friend mentioned that it can take up to half an hour or up to two hours, depending on your physical fitness level.  Honestly, I am not that out of shape, but this hike made me realize I am.  I will have to continue hiking this and other trails to build my endurance. 

I still have no idea how people can run up and down Koko Head and to hear that someone actually made it in 15 minutes - running - is unbelievable.  I struggled immensely as I hiked the steep, old rail road path in the hot sun.  I'm still amazed that children were hiking Koko Head too!  My mouth dropped, as I saw a 5 year old at the summit, as well as several other young chidren. As I was hiking, I remember thinking to myself, "I don't think this hike would be suitable for children," as I reluctantly climbed one section of the path.  I guess I was wrong.

There is one section of the path that is above ground.  I'm skinny, so if I was to fall, I could slip right between the rail road tracks and hit the ground below!  That's what I thought as I carefully hiked the area. I'm also scared of heights, so I had to use all four of my limbs to hike this particular section of the path, knowing that I would have a better chance of not falling if I held on to the rail road tracks as I climbed.  How in the world does anyone run Koko Head, especially on this path!?  I still haven't figured it out, but I'm completely amazed by it.  (For those of you who feel you will not be able to make it past the part of the hike I mentioned, there is an alternate path).

You wouldn't want to fall through these cracks ...

Thankfully, after passing the difficult part of the path, the rest of the train tracks were on the ground.  But the climb becomes steeper as you head towards the summit.  As you hike towards the top of Koko Head, you'll notice more and more hikers hanging out on the side of the path, taking breaks to catch their breath. 

After hitting the summit, however, it's the most exhilirating feeling in the world! Sit down, relax, and take in the view.  The wind feels incredible. It's nice and cool.  It's the perfect place to reward yourself after a tough hike.

The view is unbelievably incredible and worth every step to the top.  Not only will you get a glimpse into Koko Head Crater, but there's a 360 view of the surrounding area to include Hanauma Bay, Makapu'u, and more.

After taking the time to relax a top Koko Head, we finally hiked down the trail, which I thought was ten times easier!  However, I was getting a little nervous as a friend kept on slipping on the path behind me.  I didn't want him to get hurt, especially because it would be a terrifying fall.  But luckily, we made it down rather quickly and safely, although not as fast as the older woman running down the path! 

It was such a relief to have finished the hike.  My legs felt like jello as they wobbled after the hike, while I could tell I was extremely dehyrated from hiking in the sun.  In fact, I felt like hurling, as I asked the lady at the gas station if she had re-hydration packets for me to pour into my gatorade.  She instead offered a free Krispy Creme donut because she thought that something sweet would make me feel better since no rehydration packets were available.  Isn't that so sweet?

My advice to you is to make sure you are hydrated before you hike and to bring a lot of water with you a long the way! Learn from my experience or you'll truly suffer the consequences up until the next day. And let me tell you, it is one of the worst feelings ever to have a pounding headache, chills, and nausea as you try your best to rest, while waking up periodically with blurry vision.  You'll want to sleep endlessly and will wake up with an unrelentless headache until the next day.  Trust me.  Drink a lot of water!

The hike to Koko Head was a lot of fun and totally worth it.  The view was beautiful.  In fact, it was so beautiful that I want to make a copy of the aerial photos I took a top Koko Head to put into a picture frame or to hang on the wall as a memory.  I had an incredible time and I plan to return again.  It will test my endurance and push me to my limits.  Maybe one day, I'll be able to hike a little faster too.  An accomplishment I look forward to ... From what I hear, the more you hike Koko Head, the easier it gets!  Eventually, you may want to run it!

If you plan to hike Koko Head, bring a camera too!  It will be an incredible hike, so have fun and enjoy the moment.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kayaking to Gilligan's Island - Kaneohe, Hawaii

Recently, I accomplished two more items on my 101 in 1001 list.  I went kayaking for the first time and visited Gilligan's Island (more frequently known as coconut island by locals), which is something I've always wanted to do!  I kayaked from Kaneohe Bay to Gilligan's Island and back.  It was a new and exciting challenge and an incredible workout. 

Initially, I felt a bit of trepidation, as I climbed into a kayak, not knowing what to expect.  "You should test the kayak out first!  You might be too tired to come back in such windy weather," the staff member warned, as we were ready to hit the water.  It made me nervous at first, but we were headed off to Gilligan's Island anyway.  I now know why he kindly warned us. 

As we kayaked to Gilligan's Island, I could feel my arms slowly burning, but I continued to move as quickly as I could. I kept hitting my hand on the side of the kayak and could not steer at first.  I had to take several breaks too, just to catch my breath. Thank God for two person kayaks because if not, I would've headed back half way to Gilligan's Island.  It was a lot of hard work!  A lot more than I imagined at least ...

Once we landed on Gilligan's Island,  I was completely relieved.  A friend familiar with Gilligan's Island gave a small introduction to the island.   For one, I learned that Gilligan's Island had only been used for the opening scenes of the show.  And nowadays, the island is used for research purposes.  I also found it alarming that there are several nearby islands that are completely polluted by waste, which is disheartening to know. 

After the introduction, we were planning to kayak around Gilligan's Island, but it seemed too strenuous after we had finished paddling for the last 30 minutes.  Instead, we decided to return to Kaneohe Bay, which was one of the most challenging experiences - ever.  The wind was strong, so it was difficult to move forward, as we were kayaking in 25 knot waters.  Several kayaks tipped over, while others felt as if they weren't moving an inch.  A boat helped some of our friends return to calmer waters.  However, things were much different for myself and for my partner D, as we ended up paddling for the next hour and a half.

Honestly, I'm surprised my kayak never tipped over.  I'm sure it would have flipped over and hit me in the head if I was by myself, but luckily we have partners who are more experienced than newbies like myself.  D and I paddled like crazy through wind and water.  After finally making it back to Kaneohe Bay, it was the most incredible feeling ever.  My arms, legs, and butt hurt for days, but there's truly nothing like a great work out and a little bit of adventure.  It was so much fun!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Hawaii - II

For all of you who read my previous post on Hanauma Bay, here's an update.  It will cost $7.00 to now enter the nature preserve unless you are a Hawaii resident or are a member of the US Armed Forces stationed in Hawaii.  It's a small price to pay for one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii.

You'll still have to watch the safety video prior to entering and can come and go into the bay as you please, as long as you receive a stamp on your hand before exiting.  Sign your name to the list if you plan on returning within the year.  If you need assistance, there' an information booth on the beach  Also, if you don't want to buy snorkeling gear, you can rent out equipment for a low cost.  Other than that, just remember to be safe and have fun.

I went to Hanauma Bay about a week or two ago to snorkel.  I didn't see as many fish as usual, but I had a chance to spot a green sea turtle.  I really love visiting Hanauma Bay because it's beautiful and relaxing to snorkel there.  Although there can be enormous amounts of people at times, to the point where you are almost colliding with others as you snorkel, it is a breathtaking location you should not miss. 

I would really love to try night snorkeling sometime too since I heard it's available during certain times of the month.  It will be a bit scary, but also memorable and fun.

If you visit Hanuama Bay, you may want to bring an underwater camera.  Also, as a reminder, don't step on the coral or mess with any of the marine life, especially the turtles.  It's illegal to harrass turtles, which are protected by law. 

Have a good time!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Le Guignol French Restaurant - Honolulu, Hawaii

For the first time in my life, I finally had a chance to eat at a French restaurant, another goal on my 101 on 1001 list.

I've always wanted to try French food.  I absolutely love exploring food from other countries, which is a favorite pastime of mine. 

There are a handful of French restaurants in Hawaii, but the one that I am most familiar with is Le Guignol, a restaurant I have walked past several times upon returning home.  My sister and I always wanted to eat there to explore the food.

Le Guignol, an Ilima Award winning restaurant, offers contemporary and classic French cuisine.   Across from Thomas Square and Blaisdell Arena, Le Guignol is easy to find, as it's on the street corner nearest to the arena. Inside, the restaurant offers a casual, yet romantic atmosphere.  There's indoor and outdoor seating available depending your preference.  As a side note, if you are interested in drinking alcohol, it is BYOB, meaning you must bring your own to the restaurant.

The service at Le Guignol is excellent.  If you plan to eat at Le Guignol, I would recommend you dress appropriately because you may feel awkward wearing shorts and a T-shirt there.  Unfortunately, I had no choice because I had come home late from snorkeling and horseback riding. 

I could sense the pride Chef and owner Ala places in creating such exquisite French food. 

Before the meal, french bread is offered on the table, along with a spread that tastes much like blue cheese butter.

Suprisingly, I can't recall ever eating French onion soup before, so what better place to have it than at a French restaurant?  It was a light soup, yet rich in flavor.  There was a piece of french bread soaked in French onion soup, covered in guyere cheese. It was delicious.

I tried escargot (snails) for the first time too.  Yes, snails.  I was feeling a bit adventerous and decided that I would at least eat one in my lifetime.  It reminded me of a tiny, round clam.  It was chewy and deeply reminded me of seafood.  It was immersed in parsley butter, which added to the flavor.

Boullibase (bu-yi-base) is delicious too.  I wasn't sure how to pronounce it at first, but the waitress kindly informed me after I asked since I couldn't prounounce half of what was listed on the menu.  A seafood soup, Bouillibase, is a simple, classic dish that any seafood lover would enjoy. 

My all time favorite at Le Guignol, however, was the creme brulee.  I imagined creme brulee to be a slice of cake with layers of pudding inside since I had never eaten it before. When I ate it at Le Guignol, however, it was a custard-like pudding, thick in consistency and rich in flavor.  It was torch fired on top, reminding me of flan with a layer of crispy, caramel flavored goodness.  I have no other way of describing it.

I felt as if I would explode if I ate anymore, but I gladfully forced myself to eat the creme brulee since it could not be taken home.   I ate every ounce of it, as if I had been starving.  It was worth every bite.

It was an interesting experience eating French food at Le Guignol.  The food appears light, but tastes extremely rich in flavor.  It's almost as if the food has been simmering for hours, adding enormous amounts of flavor to every bite.

I now want to try the other French restaurants I have heard about in Honolulu.

While eating at Le Guignol, I also noticed an on-going party that caught my attention. Chef Ala had prepared a 7-course meal for the party, while he made a chocolate souffle.  From what I hear, the chocolate souffle is amazing, but one must order it in advance.  If you are interested in having a party there, you must also request in advance. 

Hope you enjoy eating at Le Guignol!


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