Our magnificent lives.
And so the April escapade continues…
Maui, 14-20 April 2010
Despite leaving Tokyo on a Wednesday evening, we arrived in Honolulu early Wednesday morning. It was an uneventful and tiring eight-hour flight, but there is still plenty to marvel about at the simple thought of flying forward to the east, and yet seemingly having gone back in time.
I like to think of it as a cheap time travelling gimmick, designed to pacify one’s desire for a mini sci-fi adventure.
After another half-hour plane ride later on Hawaiian Airlines, we finally found ourselves in Maui.
My first impression of Maui was that it reminded me of home – the day was sunny with brilliant blue skies overhead, with trees by the beach swaying merrily in the wind – much like one of those cliched tourism advertisements used to entice travellers to Malaysia. There was an exception, however – despite the glowing omnipresence of the sun, the air remained refreshingly cool wherever we went, as though we were perpetually up on the highlands.
Having taken care of registration matters, we explored the hotel and its sprawling premises on our own, checking out the many pools and well-manicured gardens. At the hotel’s famed Chapel Lawn fronting the beach, tables and chairs were being prepared for a dinner function to be held that night. The hotel staff was a mostly jovial bunch, ever ready with a friendly smile and a cheery “Aloha!” to put guests at ease.
All rooms here face the sea – which definitely makes a good view to wake up to every day. Throughout our five days in Maui, I thought I saw a lone dolphin doing a few jumps out of the water, and a blow from a whale. It was rather unfortunate that whale viewing was not in season while we were there.
Most of the time, we were easily contented by our close proximity to the sea, preferring to walk with sand under our feet, hear the soft crashing of the waves, feel the ocean wind lightly caressing our faces. Our hotel was also (in)conveniently located a fair distance away from town; I suppose that was why we never thought of heading there anyway. There is simply something enchanting about a beach getaway that makes you want to stay further away from civilisation – it takes away all your worries and actually discourages you from going to places where there is bound to be heavy traffic in terms of vehicles and people.
Somehow that did not stop us from spending a mini fortune at a nearby small street mall. It was well within walking distance and, quite surprisingly, housed a number of luxury boutiques and high-end brands, so much so I found myself wondering: had there been anyone who travelled halfway across the world, only to buy their dream Louis Vuitton bag from, of all places, an island somewhere in the great Pacific Ocean?
In any case, we did plenty of shopping for souvenirs for the good people back at home, and had ice cream at Lappert’s.
Our third day there saw plenty of action, with an array of activities lined up and free to our choosing. We could opt to, for instance, head out to do some snorkelling at the nearby horseshoe-shaped Molokini Island, go deep sea fishing at one of the best spots in Maui, or sign up for a zipline adventure at an 800-acre family owned ranch.
The activities mentioned above did seem infinitely more exciting, but I was lured by the idea of getting to see the picturesque valleys along the famed Hana Highway. I had the impression that the Hana Highway is something akin to Melbourne’s Great Ocean Road – of long winding roads leading to nowhere, framed by lush greenery and ancient trees on one side, and blue waters and black sand beaches on the other, with the addition of perhaps an occasional rare four-legged creature or two straying onto our path.
So: I chose to go on a hiking exploration in the rainforests at east of Maui.
It was a half-day hike that was not too difficult, but nor was it easy peasy for a non-hiking person like me. When we started the hike by touring a botanical garden, with the guide showing us a variety of plants and fruits that I thought I could have commonly seen even on the roadsides of Malaysia, I began to have doubts about my choice of activity. Eh, marvelling at a banana tree here? Seriously?
(But it was not all for nought – I now know why the fruits of the banana tree face upwards. I do not recall studying this back in school decades ago, though…)
Anyway. Throughout the hike, there were a few steep cliffs to tackle, pointy rocks to climb, and a river with water reaching up to my thighs to wade through. Two good things, however: I hardly sweated throughout the hike as the weather was cool; and luckily, there were no bugs to annoy me or make me periodically slap myself in the face. The other hikers in the group came armed with handy insect repellents and used them at every other opportunity.
The few waterfalls that we came across during the hike seemed relatively tame compared to the ones in Malaysia. It was, much to my amusement, a sentiment not quite shared by the other hikers, for they were gushing over the waterfalls, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the supposed beauty of it all.
At one point, we were told that we would have to cross a river by going into the water – as in walking in it, not on top of it. For the umpteenth time that day, I found myself wondering just what had I gotten myself into…
Here, we switched to wearing a pair of special shoes provided by our guide. I thought they were called Japanese tapis, but I couldn’t find them on Google. It had sort of a sponge-like material for soles, rubbery sides, and came attached with stockings. It looked half like duck feet, but oddly with hooves attached.
The water was, not surprisingly, freezing cold. We crossed the river carefully, attempting to get a secured footing as the maze of rocks underneath and the current of the waters threatened to throw us off balance. It was as though we were amateur trapeze artists for the day, our arms doing awkward pedalling movements and flailing wildly about in search of anything to hold on to – mostly helpful stray tree branches, or each other. We proceeded with much apprehension, with the uneasy knowledge that one wrong step would undoubtedly make one fall with an undignified splash into the water.
Thankfully, nothing untoward happened – most of us got through safe (with some somewhat wetter than the others). The hiking trip ended with us sampling fruits from the nearby orchard (pineapples and mandarins, sigh).
And no, we did not get to stop at any spots along the Hana Highway! Gahhh!
That night for dinner, we were driven to an open spot on one of the hills located at the Makena Golf Course, which gave us a clear view of the ocean and the sunset. Here, we had a picnic under the stars and were serenaded by a local jazz band.
It was also another cold day for us in Maui. The local news reported that that day was the coldest Hawaii had experienced in 20+ years. I could certainly vouch for that as the wind whipped about us unmercilessly at the golf course. It was no surprise that dinner came to a premature finish, as guests – some wrapped in thick blankets and hands clutching warm cups of Hawaiian coffee – scrambled to make an early exit.
The next day saw us idly exploring both ends of the beach. Basically, we strolled from one end to the other (or as far as we could go, anyway) – it would have led us closer to Molokini Island, or made us see better the windmills on Mauna Kahalawai. It was also a weekend, so the volume of people and activities on the beach was a notch higher.
There were also hushed whispers of celebrity sightings: some of Hollywood’s finest had descended in Maui for the filming of a movie. For the life of me, I could not catch even a glimpse of any of the four stars that had reportedly checked into the very hotel we were in – of course, they had to do this on the eve of my departure. Just my luck.
Early the next morning, we bade a fond farewell to the island that had been our home for five days, and rushed off to the airport to catch our 7am flight.
We flew back to the future and arrived home two days later. Yep. Sort of. This time travelling business, I cannot get used to.
1) Hawaii is a place of many cultures and influences, with people of all nationalities and ancestries. We shared jokes with our airport driver, who claimed to have roots in Indonesia; and chatted in Cantonese with the hotel’s bartender, who had migrated there from Hong Kong.
2) The weather there was mild. The sun was there, yes, but interestingly, it was never hot (for us anyway). Sweating, umbrellas, fans: these had somehow became very alien concepts to us while we were there. More often than not, we complained of the, er, cold there…
3) The language is colourful, but names can be quite a mouthful. I relish the challenge of saying humuhumunukunukuapua’a (or triggerfish – the state fish; also the name of one of the hotel’s restaurants) every day.
More pictures available on Flickr.
Previously: Tokyo, 8-14 April 2010