Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Frugal Bastard's Hawaii Trip 2007 - 25/5/07

This morning we needed to go to the supermarket. There were three shopping centres nearby on the map but I asked a delivery guy for directions and he showed me how to get to SackNSave. Drove around town a bit before finding it. The bill for three days groceries came to US$80 and that included US$13 of savings for picking up a makai'i card (type of loyalty card) which offered significant savings.

I tried to pay with travellers cheques and the checkout machine wouldn't input the cheque number. This created a wait for close to 15 minutes for the transaction to take place before receiving my receipt.

We had a large turkey and ham roll for lunch and it was nearly all meat. Can't believe what people will eat in this country. Miky wanted to stay in the hotel so Yu-Jin and I took the car to the volcano.

Weird banyan tree in Hilo

We visited the steam vents (very hot), the Jaggar Museum, a few craters (Yu-Jin almost lost his hat down one and had to crawl under a fence to retrieve it), Thurston Lava Tube and Kilauea Iki before driving another 20-25 miles down the coast to see the lava. From the car park it was about a four mile hike and we didn't have a torch or enough water so didn't attempt it.

Steam vents

Steam vents sign

Kilauea Caldera

The Steaming bluff (Akanikolea) at Kilauea Caldera looks like it's on fire

Earthquake reading from Hilo yesterday

Kilauea Caldera is desolate - the spot where Yu-Jin nearly lost his hat

Thurston Lava Tube - big, cool and wet

Kilauea Iki

Lava flow from in the 1970s - just missed my car

Active lava flow - this bit is dead though

Pahoehoe lava - very much like rope

Surreal lava

It was 8 o'clock before I got back to the visitor centre and I rang Miky to tell her that we would be late. Arrived home at 9pm after stopping at Taco Bell for some tacos, of all things.

As we left Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park we were greeted with a road block. The ranger asked me if I had been visiting the park and told me that they were checking for drink-drivers. Had I been drinking tonight? No. I even mentioned that, "I don't even drink," and the ranger said bewilderedly, "Don't even drink?"

Miky had cooked tuna as part of tea and it was delicious. Can't buy tuna like that back home.
We Now Have A 4th Gup In The Family

Yu-Jin had a taekwondo grading on Saturday. It came as a bit of a surprise as he had been struggling with his taeguk five pattern before we left on holiday and then he didn't do taekwondo for three weeks. Lo and behold we return and he's finally worked it out. His performance wasn't as good as it could have been, which would have a lot to do with the pressure, but this is the way to make you feel responsible for your own actions. Nobody else would be responsible if you fail. Well done my boy for achieving your fourth gup.

Congratulations on becoming a 4th Gup.

It appears that tae kwon do associations around the world have different levels of skills required for each test and colour of belt associated with it. Here's a video of tae guk o jang (tae guk five poomsae pattern) that is the highest level pattern for a prospective fourth gup to achieve.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frugal Bastard's Hawaii Trip 2007 - 24/5/07

Four forty five am. Mad panic. Alarm went off, wake up call, second alarm. I didn't want to sleep in and miss the boat trip. Luckily we didn't rely on the alarm clock as there was a power outage during the night.

Checked our baggage with reception at 5:10 and drove down to Port Allen to join Holo Holo Charters for our cruise/snorkelling tour. Had 10 minutes to spare for our 6am check-in. Cost was $135/adult and $95 for the kid plus taxes. Only 27 people turned up out of the 37 expected so there will be a few disappointed people who've blown a lot of money. They did receive a phone call from a group of four who became lost on the drive to town and they didn't make it. Too bad if they turned up late as they still had to pay up. Glad I scoped it out a few days ago.

Miky didn't feel too well early on although she'd taken a seasickness tablet. Our crew was Jeff the captain, Jeff (cousin of Andy Irons), Felia and David (both native Hawaiians).

Motored out to the Na Pali coast. Saw spinner dolphins but they weren't very excited. Not half as excited as the people on board were to see them. Next came a larger pod of dolphins and a group of honu (turtles). Had a close-up look as some arches and sea caves with wild goats and waterfalls to see also. Then we took off from the coast to do some sailing and got up a fair rate of knots.

It's not often the boy gets Coke for breakfast


More dolphins

Natural arch on Na Pali coast

Waterfall on Na Pali coast

Ancient burial ground on secluded beach on Na Pali coast

Jagged coastline

Contrasting beach and cliffs on Na Pali coast

Ahoy there cap'n

Picture postcard Na Pali

Back down the coast a bit and we pulled up for snorkelling. In the water was a man-of-war and sea lice and little creatures that stung us. Yu-Jin hopped in and had to get out to put his flippers on. As soon as he got in he wanted to get out again because he had been stung. Miky isn't a strong swimmer so she required a noodle.

Hammy snorkelling with Jeff Irons in the background

There wasn't a lot of fish or colourful coral to see. I took a dive and after coming up I noticed that there were only three of us left in the water. I was wondering if something dangerous had been spotted but it was most likely to have been due to the stingers. Bunch of wusses.

Before all of this we had a continental breakfast - bread and fruit - although Captain Jeff had warned us that eating fruit was not good for our stomachs. Later I noticed that Captain Jeff was tucking into lots of fruit and challenged him that there was nothing wrong with eating the fruit and it was just that he wanted it all for himself. He motioned "shh" to me. Man, the Americans on board were wasting. They would grab heaps of food and end up throwing half of it away. Pretty disgusting really. The other Jeff sarcastically thanked everybody for leaving so much food because they had a Japanese man who cleaned the bins and fed the leftovers to his dog who would be very happy.

The water was a little more choppy on the return leg but Yu-Jin stayed at the top at the front for the whole journey, getting wet in the process. The coastline was fabulous and deckhand Jeff had lots of great stories. The dolphins were a little more active on the way back. Lunch was a fabulous array of meats, cheeses and fruit.

As we pulled into the harbour Jeff told us that he gave a prize to the best passenger, a handmade basket, and that Yu-Jin would be the recipient. I was concerned that we wouldn't get it past quarantine in Australia but was grateful to accept it. We arrived back just after 12. Certainly worth the early start to the day.

Jeff Irons

Holo Holo Charters' Leila - our boat

Bit of window shopping before going through the McDonalds drive-thru for a $1.34 coffee. Drove back to Lydgate Park so that Yu-Jin could play on the big playground. We were all a bit pooped by then. Picked up our luggage from the resort and drove into town to fill up the car with fuel before returning it.

Filling up the car was an exercise in itself. There was a choice of self- or full-service bowsers. Once I was able to park next to a bowser I couldn't find the petrol cap release. Fumbled around for about a minute and then got out of the car, popped the cap manually and found that there was no locking mechanism. Strange for a new car I thought. Also, you couldn't open the back door when the petrol cap was open. Nice idea that. Put my credit card into the bowser and then it asked me to lift the nozzle and then the lever. I lifted the nozzle but didn't know what lever it was talking about. Finally worked out that the lever was situated underneath where the nozzle sits. Even then I had to try twice to get the petrol pumping. Must have looked like a right twit. We did 220 miles on 12.1 US gallons. Petrol was US$3.591/US gallon.

Back to the car rental at the airport and the guy read the mileage via an electronic device. Cool. Didn't have to pay anything extra for all of the dirt that we had deposited in the back. Our rental car was an 8-seater Dodge Grand Caravan with four-on-the-tree. In and out of the car rental within two minutes and then a courtesy bus just for us to go to the terminal.

Had to go through airport security again and Miky hadn't brought a clear ziplock bag for toiletries in carry-on luggage. And the security people weren't overly helpful. In Australia they had these bags available. Such a hassle. It sucks to be a woman.

Our flight was delayed by some 36 minutes due to it arriving late and then having a computer fault which required the computer to be rebooted. Missed our original flight to Hilo and left Honolulu after we should have arrived in Hilo (had an interconnecting flight to make). We sat apart even though a woman behind us wanted to change seats so that Yu-Jin could sit with me. Call me a bad parent but I was happy for him to sit away from me as he has to behave himself and he can talk his head off to the person sitting next to him.

Originally we were to be sitting apart on the Hilo flight but our rescheduled flight had us sitting right at the rear of the plane together. Yu-Jin had the window seat but no window. We were unable to put the seats back either.

After arriving at the airport over an hour late we walked to the car rental. Little bit of trouble issuing the correct insurance and then when we went to load up the car because I couldn't locate the boot release. It turns out that the boot release, as there is also no key lock on the boot, is a double-click of the unlock button.

Found Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel ok but there is only street parking available. It's a very busy place. The time was 8:30 before we headed down for tea at Uncle Billy's Steakhouse and they had some guy playing a ukulele and singing. He was almost as bad as a runner-up to William Hung. The meal was a nice size, the water service was excellent and it was nice when the entertainment stopped so I paid a 10% tip.

Note to self - don't let wife do holiday shopping before you check into a hotel for a third floor room which has no elevator access.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who Says There's No Discrimination In Australia?

I was talking to the father of one boy at taekwondo last night. He mentioned that Medicare was sometimes a subject that he could laugh at over the strange rules. It is supposed to be delivering health and payments programs to Australians or permanent residents. My friend mentioned that his boy's voice had broken and at this stage, back in his Indonesian homeland, boys were normally circumcised. It is a cultural practice.

He took his son to the doctor's clinic and discovered that Medicare would not cover the procedure as he wasn't a Jew or a Muslim. My friend is a Catholic. Strange or what? Australia stands proudly behind not discriminating on the basis of race, religion, age or sex. I don't think that is true with the national health system, based on our discussion last night. Strikes me as ridiculous. Jews and Muslims have a belief that requires them to have their boys undergo circumcision. But, according to Medicare, if it isn't part of your religion you won't see any financial benefit for your costs incurred.

Looks and smells like discrimination to me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Frugal Bastard's Hawaii Trip 2007 - 23/5/07

Lazy morning. Visited nearby Wailua Falls. Impressive little twin waterfall. Probably really gets going during the rainy season.

Wailua Falls - up close

Wild chicken on Kauai at Wailua Falls. They were all over the place.

Drove to Hanalei and had lunch at Bubba's - Bill Clinton has eaten there. Waited 10 minutes to order and about 15 minutes to pick up - the place is that popular. The food was nothing special. Walked around the shops and bumped into Sandy from the helicopter ride.

Hanalei with a lovely backdrop

The tourist information center was more interested in selling us a tour than giving help about attractions in the area. Drove to Ke'e Beach, as there was no parking at Tunnels Beach where we were planning to snorkel, and it is about as far north as you can drive. The road to get there is very narrow and there are several one-way bridges on the way.

So many cars at Ke'e Beach. I had to go a fair way off road, with my don't-take-this-vehicle-off-paved-roads hire car, to get a parking spot. Can't believe how far off road I went. In a front-wheel drive too.

Beach sand was very hot under foot. Quite a few people at the beach and the snorkelling was good as there was an extensive reef. Interesting to see little fish pop their heads out of the holes in the reef to look at you and then dart back in again. Spent two hours there and the scenery - volcanic rocks, coconut trees, beach, trees with spindly roots, towering cliffs, etc, was breathtaking.

Lush vegetation on the way to Ke'e Beach

Single lane bridge of which there were several

Ke'e Beach

Warning signs at Ke'e Beach

Trees will grow anywhere in this tropical paradise

Banyan tree roots

Crazy Vines

Vines everywhere - it's a wonder the trees weren't strangled

Our hire car on Kauai

Volcanic rocks near Ke'e Beach

Peaks above Ke'e Beach

Beautiful Kaui countryside

Managed to get the hire car out but only because a car next to a big rock in the middle of the road was about to move. Would've done some serious damage to the hire car otherwise. Lucky as we could have been stuck for hours. The drive home, about 25-30 miles, took one hour and twenty minutes. Had tea at the resort's restaurant which was quite reasonable affordability-wise and the food was nice. Early night and booked a wakeup call for 4:45am.

Monday, June 18, 2007

David Jones Should Advertise Sales Better, Myer Could Price Match Differently, Frugal Bastard Needs To Be More Careful

As I mentioned in the previous post we planned to go shopping in the city. Myer was our preferred destination as this time of year, end of the financial year, they generally have pretty good sales. The Stocktake sale is apparently on on Wednesday so we wanted to see if there was anything we were interested in that could be bought later at a significant discount. As we are MYERone members we're entitled to attend a preview of the stocktake sale and still receive those discounts. Found a nice business shirt that I would put my birthday money towards.

Popped over to David Jones. Miky had had enough of us so we went to the toy section and she did her thing. I'm not too impressed with David Jones' selection of toys and we had a good look around. There was a Hot Wheels race track for $40 which looked ok. It was only several minutes later that I noticed DJ's had 20% off Hot Wheels products. They didn't advertise the fact very well. Just before Miky called to say she had finished I spotted Monopoly - The Here and Now Edition. It was marked as $36.95. Now Myer quite often do ok on pricing so we wandered over there to check. They had it on sale for $39.95 so I asked for a price match. Then I noticed that they had the Australian edition whereas DJ had the UK edition. As it wasn't the same version Myer wouldn't match the price. Pity, I had a Myer $20 voucher to use. Headed back over to DJ to purchase the cheaper board game. To my surprise it cost $25.86. DJs were having 30% the board games and not once did I see it advertised. Miky explained that people who shop at DJs don't necessarily care if it is on sale or not as they have a different mindset to Myer shoppers.

Moral of the story is thus: David Jones should advertise their sales a bit better, Myer could change their price match policy (they were essentially the same games except one was the Australian version and the other the UK version) and the Frugal Bastard had better be more careful price matching as it nearly cost him a saving of over $11.

Yu-Jin and I spent a bit of time playing it last night. I think that he is hooked already.
Lunch With A Sports Star

As a family we headed to Subiaco yesterday to do the fruit and veg shopping. The plan was to have something to eat and do some shopping in Perth. We ended up changing our minds and decided to have lunch in Subiaco instead of the city. Whilst walking to the restaurant/cafe strip I was sure that I spotted David Wirrpanda in a car. He plays Aussie Rules football for the West Coast Eagles.

Miky had her mind set on pasta. Funtastico had pasta dishes but we weren't interested in paying nearly $40/plate. Finally settled on Dome in Subiaco, although I was sure they wouldn't serve pasta, and they had what we wanted.

The place was really busy but Miky found a table. We had to wait 30 minutes for our food as it was so busy. And who do you think she sat next too - David Wirrpanda of course. He is such a quiet young man. When I say young he is 27 but he has been at the Eagles for about 10 years. The same can't be said about the girl who appears to be his girlfriend. Correct, she's not a young man and she certainly isn't quiet. She was so loud as to be annoying and it was driving Miky nuts. Both the ladies in the quintet were loud and the other one wasn't too dignified in her language.

What amused me the most was the fact I had my Essendon jacket on and I'm sure he would have noticed. Essendon defeated the Eagles by one point a week ago. Miky was upset as people in the restaurant were looking at her, to him, the whole time.

We had lasagne and cannelloni for lunch, eventually, and they were very well done with a salad on the side. Quite impressed with the food, I was. Not bad for $12.95 each as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Some People Suffer From The Cold

I had to have a bit of a laugh a couple of nights ago. My wife doesn't like the cold and she was huddled in front of the heater. The reason I was laughing was because I was eating an icy pole at the time. It didn't seem that cold. I guess I'm the type of bloke to eat ice cream or icy poles when it's cold and drink hot tea during the summer.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Frugal Bastard's Hawaii Trip 2007 - 22/5/07

Up reasonably early today to get ready for our Jack Harter Helicopter ride. We were a bit early so Yu-Jin played on a rusted out truck and chased a rooster around. Kauai is known for its feral chickens and they are everywhere. Every person taking a flight has to be weighed and your seating allocation is based on the weight. Cornell, his first day on the job, drove us to the heliport and provide us with a life jacket. FAA rules stipulate if you are flying over water you must wear a life jacket. At least in a helicopter. Our fellow travellers were Sandy from North Carolina and Bruce and Pamela from Cleveland.

The tour was brilliant. There was an abundance of beautiful waterfalls. We journeyed through the Waimea Canyon, up the Na Pali Coast (not as spectacular as I expected because of a lack of perspective, size-wise), the north shore, Mt Wai'ale'ale (perhaps the wettest place on earth) - where it started raining incidentally and Wailua Falls before returning to the heliport.

Jack Harter Helicopters Office

Life jackets make me look sexy

Our Jack Harter helicopter

A boy in a helicopter

Marriot Resort on Kauai

Kauai countryside

Cascading waterfalls

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon 2

Waimea Canyon waterfall

Waimea Canyon 3

Flight control over the Waimea Canyon

Striking photo of Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon 4

Weathered rock of the Waimea Canyon

Classic photo of Na Pali coast

Secluded beach on the Na Pali coast 2

Kauai coastline of the Na Pali

Secluded beach on the Na Pali coast

Arch on the Na Pali coast

Verdent coastline of Na Pali coast

Striking coastline of the Na Pali coast

Four thousand feet high cliffs

Grotto on the coast

Na Pali coast

Jagged coastline of Na Pali

Valley on north side of Kauai

One of the seven rivers eminating from Mt Wai'ale'ale

Waterfalls near Mt Wai'ale'ale

Wailua Falls

Three satisfied customers

Grabbed something for lunch and headed to Port Allen to eat when Miky chucked a spaz. Wasn't happy about doing more than one activity for the day as I planned to drive to the Waimea Canyon. Had lunch at the port next to a rubbish bin, under a shady tree mind, before visiting all of the catamaran/snorkelling tour companies. Not much available for two days time - except at 6:15am on Thursday. I don't even know what day it is. I like the fact that Hawaiians don't have daylight savings but just bring their tours forward by an hour for the summer season. Booked the Thursday morning cruise. Drove back to the hotel for a short rest.

Then we hired a snorkelling set for US$5 from the hotel before heading down to Kauai's only enclosed swim/snorkel cove at Kamalani Playground in Lydgate Park. Great to sea fish up close. Spent probably 1 1/2 hrs there.

After showering we went to Pizza Hut for tea. Cost US$20.49 for a medium pizza (14") but just US$7.50 for an additional pizza of the same size so we bought two. Couldn't quite finish both of them. Cherry Pepsi wasn't particularly nice tasting. The super supreme pizza was great and the pepperoni pizza was probably better than back home.

Hot rod pizza

Grocery shopping at Big Save before shopping at Walmart (they have a Walmart on Kauai?) - sold out of Linkin Park's latest CD - Minutes to Midnight. Nice to shop there - paint shop, auto parts, etc.

Returned to hotel and did the washing. Booked a hotel in Hilo - most hotels didn't have rooms available. The first one I found was US$211/night but I found one for US$119/night. Hired cars from Dollar for US$42.78/day on Hawaii and US$18.90/day on Maui. For the same model, would you believe?