An Australian’s Guide to Hawaii

September 18th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

 

Hawaii has become a favourite jaunt for many Aussies due to the cheap airfares offered by Jetstar and they are the only airline offering direct flights from Melbourne. Although the airfares can be cheap, everything else can be quite expensive. This is a guide to some of the things we have found holidaying on all of the islands.

Waikiki
Probably the most expensive place to stay and eat is Waikiki, it’s full of tourists and the amount of hotels is phenomenal. They can range from price and depending on the quality and the time of the year. Most of the hotesl also sting you for a thing called a “resort tax” which is an absolulte rip off. This is supose to cover things outside of the room rate, but most other parts of the world, these are already included. The one hotel we have found not to include a resort tax is the Hitlon Waikiki Beach. The reason I like this hotel is for a number of reasons. The pool is large for Hawai, not to say it’s a huge pool, but it’s bigger than average and there are plenty of places to sit if you want to catch some sun. Recently we stayed at the Alohilani Resort through Luxury Escapes which already included the resort tax, but at over AUD$440 per night, I didn’t think it was worth the extra amount. We did have an ocean view room although if you want one of the beach front rooms, expect to pay big $$ for them.

The food in Waikiki is very expensive, we have dinned at a number of restaurants, and they can range in price, especially when you are paying USD. And most forget about the tip which can range from 15-20% depending on your service.

 One of my favourite restaurants is the Hula Grill located in the Outrigger hotel. Breakfast is amazing and they have the best strawberry waffles. Another favorite is Roys, but again on the pricy side. If you want to each on the cheap, I would suggest that you get a place with a kitchen so you can go to the supermarket and buy your own food, this can save you a bit of money, but in my view, you need to eat out to experience the differnt cuisine’s and flavours. Some of the best cocktails are at Tommy Bahama’s. Here is there recipe for the famous Mai Tai.

Shopping

There are lots of places to shop in Hawaii, but if you want to find youself a bargin, then go to Ross (located a number of places in Honolulu) as well as TJ Max (Ward Village) along with Nordstrom Rack. Although Nordstrom Rack is a little more up market so their prices arn’t quite as cheap as Ross. I’ve found the Waikele Outlets to be a little more on the espensive side and without any outlets, what is considered cheap or are they just trying to fool us. But it pays to shop around and if you see something you like, grab it.  Also don’t forget the tax which is an extra 4% on Hawaii and 4.5% on Oahu, but the state allows business to charge their customers a maximum of 4.712% to help recoup some of their total GET (general excise tax). Don’t forget to add this on to the original price of your goods.

Car Rental

Another one of the rip offs around the US in general and Hawaii is no exception. Here are some things you probably don’t know about the car rental business. Avis owns Budget, Zipcar and Payless. Hertz owns Dollar and Thrifty. Enterprise owns Alamo and National and Advantage owns E-Z Rent-A-Car.  Prepaid petrol charges can have it’s appeal, especially in Hawaii where you need to pre-pay for your fuel at any petrol station, however the fuel option is heavly tipped in the rental cars favor as you pay the cost of having them refuel your car and it’s always much higher than doing it yourself. Also, when you pickup your car, check what petrol stations around close by, that way when you return your car, you know where to fill up.
Insurance can also be another rental car nightmare. Check out your travel insurance, some companies offer cover for rental cars which is much cheaper than through the rental car company. If using a credit card to secure the car, check that you have coverage on your card. Also remember if you pickup your car at the airport and want to return it in Waikiki or another location other than where you picked it up, the fee can be considerably higher. I was recently quoted an extra $200 to drop my car back in Waikiki after picking it up from the airport. So I opted to drop it at the airport and catch an Uber back to the hotel for an extra $30.

Money

There is a lack of money changers that I’ve seen around the Waikiki area, but the best option for a first timer is to bring some US dollars and get yourself a 28degrees card. Pay no foreign transaction fees on purchases when travelling which makes this a great card. If you are a return visitor, then open a bank account on the island (which I’ve just done), then you can transfer money into the account when the dollar climes. Then all you need to do is access the account from any ATM without any fees. Just make sure you use the card at least once every six months to keep the card active. I’ve opened an account with the Bank of Hawaii and they have a no fee account.

Coffee

Generally coffee in the US is not as good as in Australia, but Hawaii is a coffee growing island and there are still some good coffee places around. One of the best coffee places I’ve found is Kai Coffee which is located in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikiki (on the ground level). They serve a great cup of coffee.

Around the Island
Lanikai is one place I would defiantly come back to. Lanikai means “heavenly sea” in the Hawaiian language and if you ever visit there you will see why it was given it’s name. It’s pristine beach is a favorite of many locals and it was unfortunately that we didn’t stumble across any other Australians during our stay there.

Check out my drone footage from high above the beach (September 2018). You will understand why this is rated one of the best beaches in the USA.

Turtle Bay is another hot spot, but again, expect to pay big bucks here. The location is remote on the north shore of the island, but the beach is awesome and expect to see turtles in the water or sun baking on the rocks. This area is famous for it’s food trucks so there isn’t any need to eat at the restaurant at the hotel, but you need a car!

View from our room at Turtle Bay

 

Malaysia

June 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The first leg of our journey takes us to Penang which is famous for its food. We stayed at the Eastern and Oriental which was established in 1885 by the Sarkies Brothers. The sea-fronting hotel is known for its luxurious accommodation and restaurants. The rooms were very spacious and opulent, read more about my review on TripAdvisor here. Georgetown is a great spot, although you probably only need a few days here.

The street art is magnificent and you need to wander the streets to locate them. Some are in side streets which can be hard to find.

A Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic is the reason why street art became such a tourist attraction in Penang. After his commissioned work ‘Mirrors George Town’ for the George Town Festival back in 2012 it became a huge success and his works are by far the most popular out of all the street art.

Gaggan

June 14th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Gaggan is a restaurant run by chef Gaggan Anand in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2018, it comes top of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for the fourth consecutive year in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Currently rated as number 7 in the world and it shows. I booked some months in advanced and even though I’m a pescatarian, they catered for all my requirements.

It is a 25 course extraviganza, dishes I could never assume ever to be possible.

The menu is presented as emojis so you only get a hint of each course and although the waiter will explain a little, it’s not until the end of the meal when they reveal the real menu. It’s an overlay on the emoji, which is very clever.

The restaurant is NOT cheap, but you can expect that for the 7th best restaurant in the world.

It’s well worth a visit as this restaurant will be closing soon so get in quick.

Vietnam 2017

June 13th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Although I’ve travelled extensivevly thoughout Asia, this is the first trip to Vietnam. We have a friend who came out as a refugee in the 1970’s and now has finally gone back and is living in Ho Chi Minh city with his beautiful wife. We visited them on this trip and travelled throughout the south of the country.

We flew to Bangkok as we got some cheap flights and then took the short flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh.

Hồ Chí Minh led the Việt Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the Communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at the battle of Điện Biên Phủ. He officially stepped down from power in 1965 due to health problems. After the war, Saigon, the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam, was renamed Hồ Chí Minh City.

One thing I learnt, the south don’t like the name Ho Chi Minh, they still refer it as Siagon.

Kauai, Hawaii 2013

September 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Tour of Kauai

Tour of Kauai

Sunrise Kauai

Sunrise Kauai

From the movie, South Pacific.. Bali High

From the movie, South Pacific.. Bali High

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach

Monk Seal, Kauai

Monk Seal, Kauai

Kauai Paradise

Kauai Paradise

Kauai Paradise

Kauai Paradise

Mini Grand Canyon

Mini Grand Canyon

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

From the TV Show, Fantasy Island

From the TV Show, Fantasy Island

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Napali Coast

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Jack Harter Helicopter Tour

Kauai

Kauai

Big Island Hawaii 2013

September 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Lava Flow

Lava Flow

Lava flowing over the road

Lava flowing over the road

Big Island Landscape

Big Island Landscape

Trying to survive!

Trying to survive!

The Lava Tubes on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Lava Tubes on the Big Island of Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii

Gas escaping from the ground on the Big Island of Hawaii

Gas escaping from the ground on the Big Island of Hawaii

An old turtle sunning on a rock on the Big Island of Hawaii

An old turtle sunning on a rock on the Big Island of Hawaii

De La Paix, Cha Am, Thailand

February 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Cha Am is approx 2 hour drive from Bangkok Airport, however it depends on the time of the day you travel and the traffic. Situated in a remote part of Cha Am is the Hotel De La Paix.

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The De La Paix, originally had another name, but 5 years ago it changed its name and while we stayed there, it celebrated its 5th birthday. At first glance the design of the hotel is ultra modern and you will either love it or hate it, but I love the design.

It has 2 pools, one that is nestled between 2 rock walls and the other that is located near the beach, which is the only pool that can be used by children. You are given fresh cold water and fruit skewers by the waiter free of charge. There are only 2 restaurants at the resort and we had lunch on the first day and a special set menu dinner that night. Both meals were really good quality. Breakfast is amazing, just like I remembered travelling through Asia many years ago where there would be a huge variety of food. At many hotels, coffee can be a letdown, however the De La Paix offers coffee any way you like it, included in the price.

The rooms are awesome, one of the best I’ve stayed in! They are spacious and comfortable and each room has a unique rain shower, separate bath and toilet and a huge mirror.

We wanted to stay at Hua Hin, but after visiting there on our last night, we were very happy we didn’t choose this location, it’s busy and full of people..not very relaxing. We had also stayed at the Hotel De La Paix in Seam Reap Cambodia, and loved.

Jungle Flight Zipline Chiang Mai

February 6th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

There are a number of companies that specialise in zipline experiences throughout Chiang Mai which range in price. Based on user reviews, and cost we selected Jungle Flight which didn’t disappoint.

The drive was approx 1 hour from the centre of Chiang Mai city and there are some steep and windey roads, so be prepared if you get car sick, one girl on our bus did feel the effects. When you arrive, you are greeted by the staff who fit you with the appropriate gear.

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It’s then a small walk to the first tree where you are instructed on all the safety requirements.

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Then it’s off you go!


At the end, there is a 40 metre abseil down the tree face which is fun.


Cost: THB2200
Rating: Awesome

Chiang Mai Hill Tribes

February 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

We were warned not to visit the hill tribes just outside Chiang Mai as it was commercialised, however we wanted to do a tour and ran out of time on the day. We drove for about 40 minutes up one of the mountains close to Chiang Mai where we reached what looked liked like a primitive village.

The tribe were sitting outside their bamboo huts weaving or making other items to sell.

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There are a number of different tribes, but what most people want to come and see are the long neck tribes.

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It was a bit like a human zoo, however, they depend on the tourist trade to survive. Tour cost was Thb1000 each for half day tour that also includes entry, transportation, water and entry to the orchid and butterfly farm which really could be missed.

Ristr8to Coffee, Chiang Mai

February 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

To find good coffee is sometimes difficult, and good coffee while travelling even harder. We saw a review on a small coffee house in the in-flight magazine on Bankok Air and decided we must try it. It was some distance from our hotel but we arranged a tuk tuk to take us there for Thb100.

Ristr8to is on the main road which is surrounded by many other coffee places, there was a number of people there and we managed to grab the last table.

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You choose your blend and if you don’t know the blends the staff will make some recommendations based on what you like. Colombian is always my favourite, because its rich with flavour and has a smooth after taste.

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They also provide ” Latte Art “, however they remind people that because of the time taken, it does affect the end taste.

http://www.ristr8to-coffee-chiangmai.com/