Monday, August 25, 2014

photo diary #32: waimanalo

Last Friday's hike on the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail. Beautiful.

Friday, August 22, 2014

happy aloha friday

Sorry for the lack of updates in the last few days. Left for LA on Monday and just got back yesterday and have been busy being tour guides for our families. Took a short trip there to bring my mother to Hawai'i. I was supposed to leave for LA last week BUT I decided last minute to stick around a few more days because I JUST spent a whole month and more in LA earlier this summer. Not that I didn't love LA but I'm having a lot of fun here in Hawai'i right now. Like I said on my Instagram: can't live with you. can't live without you. Four days was enough for me. 

Anyway, here's a photo I took yesterday from the plane. You can see Honolulu International Airport on the bottom right but you can also see our home in Ewa Beach as well! Check out the blues in the photo though. Beautiful right? I LOVE seeing O'ahu from the plane. The best time to get incredible photos from the plane is a few hours before and after noon when the sun is high up. That's when the blues of the ocean really pop. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

photo diary #31: westside, waikiki, and lanikai

Charles' brothers are currently on the island so we've been taking them around. I love being a tour guide (hence why I'm doing this blog) as well as other things. It gives me an opportunity to connect with people as well as show them how even beautiful this island is apart from all of the tourist attractions. Don't get me wrong, I'll bring you to tourist locations because I'm a firm believer at doing things at least once in your life like luaus (if you haven't already). Even better, I love showing people around when it comes to food. I love food, sitting around the table, conversing with each other, and just having a good time. Please don't hesitate to share this blog to your friends!

Lately, Charles and I have been working on a few projects. I won't say what he's working on but this blog is one of the few that I'm working on. Trying to figure out a good layout. I've been having a hard time finding one that screams "me" but so far I have found nothing. Also, I have a few trips planned out for photography purposes. Kaua'i is one of them. There are soooo many places I want to take photos at on the island. Hopefully by the end of the year I get to go since I did say on a previous post that Kaua'i isn't a top priority right now. But anyway, I've been spending a lot of my days and nights editing, editing, and more editing then writing, and then researching. Trying to take on three-ish projects is time consuming but I know it will be worth it! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Japanese Restaurants in Honolulu

Because we are #forevereatingjapanesefood, I HAD to do a post on 5 Japanese restaurants you can dine at in Honolulu. I have so many Japanese restaurants bookmarked and have yet to try here but hey, due to budget constraints (rent, bills, food, and a trip next month), we're unable to dine out as much as we would had if we were still living at home with our parents. It's okay, I absolutely love the independence that we have right now! But don't worry, we have an awesome trip planned for next month that will make up for all of the nights we weren't able to go out! I mean like, really awesome and I can not wait!

1. Musubi Cafe Iyasume

I'll admit it, I'm far from being a morning person. If I can sleep in, I will and I do it very often whenever I can. But I'm not saying I'm not trying because I do and I'm trying to be more of a morning person now. Charles just needs to drag me out of bed haha. Charles is the complete opposite. He's always sleeping and waking up early. A few years ago, he found this place in Waikiki while everyone was still asleep and grabbed us some musubis. If you know Hawai'i at all, Hawai'i is all about spam. People either hate or love spam but people in Hawai'i LOVE spam. Spam musubi is no exception. At Iyasume, not only do you get delicious spam but one at a great price. I mean technically, spam musubis should be pretty cheap but I think the spam musubis here are one of the best on the island and we rarely spend more than $10 for the both of us. Definitely perfect to grab some musubis before a hike or an outing at the beach!

Edit: Spam musubi is more of a Hawaiian dish with Japanese influence. The restaurant itself is Japanese selling bentos and curry dishes. I just really like the spam and cheese and musubi here!

2. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin is another one of my favorite restaurants in Waikiki. Their pork here is top notched and crisped to perfection. I usually order the sandwiches. It's not too pricey (because it can get pricey over there) and it's really good. Judging by the photo, it doesn't look like it's much but white bread, tonkatsu, and katsu sauce but man does it work so perfectly together.

3. Yakiniku Hiroshi

Also located in Waikiki is a yakiniku spot that's not too popular on Yelp but still one of my favorites. I think it's not too popular on Yelp partly because of the four times we've been there, there have been a lot of Japanese tourists dining. They are definitely in the know (or maybe we're in the know haha)! So I highly doubt they're writing a review on Yelp but it sure does get busy in there! If you're not familiar with yakiniku, it's pretty much grilling your own meat. I warn you though, this restaurant is pretty pricey. This is partly due to the fact that the meats used here are worth the price. I mean, you're cooking with kobe and wagyu; those are some pretty good meats if you ask me. That said, I've never grilled the meat here because it takes a skilled griller to cook kobe and wagyu haha. If you're familiar with the two meats, you would know that you CAN NOT over cook the meat. It's really pointless to spend all that money and not really enjoy it because it wasn't cooked well. Anyway, Charles is pretty good with grilling the meat and man, they are SOOOO good. It melts in your mouth kind of good. Although I love all of the food here, the marinaded kalbi one is my number one (don't know the exact name though). You can order by courses (the last time I checked, it was about $100/person for the highest course but that was last year!) but we prefer to order ala carte since there are certain ones that we prefer over the other. Don't forget to make reservations here! Like I said, it can get busy in there!

4. Goma Tei

My favorite ramen place in Honolulu at the moment (because I have a whole list to try but haven't been able to go out to eat lately) is Goma Tei located inside Ala Moana Center. The tan tan ramen is my favorite but I can never finish it! Each time, we tell ourselves that we're going to share a bowl but we always fail to do that. We always end up trying a different entree as well as the tan tan ramen. Chicken ban ban ji is another favorite of ours. To top it off, we also order the gyoza as an appetizers and those are pretty fulfilling already.

5. Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant

If you're craving shabu shabu, then Ichiriki would be the place that I would go to. If you love dining at shabu shabu places in California like I do, Ichiriki is slightly different. Just slightly. It's more hot pot than shabu shabu which is called "nabe". I don't know, we just haven't been to a place that serves shabu shabu like they do in California. But anyway, they have some delicious options here. I ordered a certain broth but it turns out that my favorite was the one Charles ordered which was "angry goma". They have several locations on the island so check their website to see which one is closer to you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Instagram: katherine_lou

Follow me on Instagram @katherine_lou !

Some photos from my Instagram: orange crush sunsets, homemade donuts, ripe pineapples, Road to Hana, Curry cuteness overload, more sunset photos (this time, photo was taken by Charles), coconut pancakes, more sunset photos (obviously), and one of my favorite cities! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

photo diary #30: city girl living in hawai'i

People always ask for my advice when it comes to what island they should visit. Although I've only visited two so far (well I live on one and visited Maui three times), I can say this much: it depends on what you want. O'ahu is loved and hated by many and if you ask me, you get the best of both worlds when it comes to O'ahu. O'ahu is divided into two parts: town and country. You can probably figure out the difference between the two if you've been here before. If not, basically it's the city part of the island and then "remoteness" part of the island. When people meet us (as in Charles, Kris, and myself), they assume that we are "townies," but we're not. Well, geographically, we're not townies since we live so far from town but we're townies at heart. I'm a city girl and I will always be one but for now, I'm a girl who lives in a suburban neighborhood in Ewa Beach.

But anyway, I love O'ahu and a lot of people seek a more "remote" vacation when they go to Hawai'i; you won't find it here. But if you are heading here to O'ahu, Waikiki should be avoided if you don't want to be disappointed but in my honest opinion, I love Waikiki. Sure it's crowded. There's tons of tourist BUT the dining variety is SO MUCH MORE in Waikiki and the surrounding area. Hey, I love food if you didn't already know so food is also a factor when it comes to traveling. Having lived in Ewa Beach since we moved here, it's always a struggle to find a place to eat. Kapolei has some options but I'm always drawn to the restaurants in town. You can probably get the "remoteness" by staying in Ko Olina (which I don't even consider that part of the island that "country" enough since I don't live that far from Ko Olina) but I get the most "country" feel from the North Shore. If you can't decide what island to vacation to but you're looking at the lower end when it comes to price point, O'ahu is the cheapest (from what I've seen) price-wise and if you still want that remoteness, I highly recommend staying in North Shore. If you want the nightlife, the crowds, and the delicious food, I would stay in Waikiki. If you're in between, Ko Olina is your best bet. But because the island is so small, you can knock all three areas in one day and that's the beauty of O'ahu. You can also maybe stay at all three parts in one trip to see which one you like the most.

By the end of the year, I'm planning on visiting Kaua'i and the Big Island and when that happens, then I can fully compare the islands. They're not my top priorities BUT if there's room financially, we'll be visiting the two islands. I would still need to visit Moloka'i and Lana'i BUT at least the most popular islands from the chain can be compared.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

travel: the road to hana

Disclaimer: The Road to Hana and the hikes (not just in and around Hana but throughout the state of Hawai'i) can be risky and dangerous. If you choose to do any of this, you do so at your own risk. Please exercise caution while driving on the road. Be respectful. Pay attention to the weather when you do hikes. Always prepare. And please, please, PLEASE help keep Hawai'i beautiful by picking up after yourselves! 

The Road to Hana

Before I ever went to Hawai'i (as a tourist), I think how I envisioned Hawai'i would probably be like the Road to Hana. Not the high rises of Honolulu or the hot and dry Westside of O'ahu. Road to Hana was probably one of my favorite things to do on this island. From experience, I would stay a couple days (two days might be sufficient although I haven't tried). Having to go to all of the stops in one day is probably pushing it. Not only did it take about 3-ish hours to get from Kapalua to Hana, you have to remind yourself to start the drive back before sundown so that you wouldn't be driving through the winding road at night.

The Road to Hana has many twists and turns and it has to be one of the most picturesque drive in the entire state of Hawai'i. It can rain off and on but it's worth the drive. Some parts of the road, we had to drive on a one-lane bridge. We would honk at each bridge to make sure that there wasn't a car going on the opposite direction already on it. The drive isn't bad in my opinion (then again, I was just a passenger, thanks Charles for driving!). Just use common sense. 

Right when you begin the Road to Hana, you can stop by the Wailele Farm stand to grab sugar cane and/or coconut juice. Behind the stands, on their property, you can follow a path to Twin Falls. It is a short hike (I'll call it a walk since it's not too far from the stands). It'll probably take about 3 minutes to get there from the stand. This is a great place to see a waterfall without a strenuous hike and/or long drive through Hana. 

When you get to the town of Hana, stop by the Hana Farms Stand. Amazing banana bread can be found here as well as organic tropical fruits. They also sell other goodies for my foodie friends who want to bring something home such as tropical jam. After a long drive, you're going to want to stop here! 

Black sand beaches. That's all you really need to know. If you haven't seen a black sand beach before, then this has to be one of your stops. The beach is full of black large stones (pebbles maybe?) but as you walk towards the shore, you can find the black sand. When we were there, there was a fashion photo shoot going on. Since we were pressed for time, we didn't get to fully enjoy the beach and I wish we did. 

This trail is actually passed the little town of Hana. We had to exercise caution when driving to this hike. It is a scary, scary drive. When I say scary, don't take that lightly. The road is unmarked at this point (as you can see from the first photo) even at parts where the road was along a cliff; no barriers, just one lane heading in both direction EVEN when the road would wrap around the mountain. At this point, we HAD to honk at every curve to make sure that there wasn't someone already driving around the corner. It only made sense that if you are driving next to the mountain, you would pull over for the person driving next to the cliff; they had NOWHERE to pull over for you to pass by. I almost had a panic attack and I was just a passenger.

But anyway, we finally made it to our destination. Since the hike is part of Haleakalā National Park, there was a parking fee BUT since we had went to the crater the day before, we already paid the fee. We layered on sunscreen and insect repellent and headed our way to hike the Pipiwai Trail. Already dreading the drive back, we had to do this hike in a timely manner. I don't quite remember how long the hike was but it was long and we did not want to drive that one-lane road when there were no street lights in the evening. We did the hike as fast as we could. But anyway, there's a bit of sun during the first part of the hike and throughout the hike, there is a gradual incline. I wouldn't say it was a gradual incline throughout the whole hike (there's some steps that I guess I wouldn't call "gradual"), but it doesn't involve climbing like certain hikes that I've been to. We passed by several waterfalls but our destination was the bamboo forest and the last waterfall: Waimoku Falls.

At first, the hike is a little boring. Well, not too boring but it's a little interesting. The hike, I would say, just keeps getting better. It's like that saying when people say to not give up, just keep going, it'll be worth it. Yea, it's like that. But anyway, you cross bridges and see small waterfalls. Then it gets interesting. You see the beginning of the bamboo forest but it's not even the best part. It's just the bamboo forest and a dirt trail. Then you get to the boardwalk and it's absolutely gorgeous. The sound of the bamboo is soothing. I really felt like I was isolated from the world; birds were chirping, bamboos were swaying; the sounds of nature (despite the fact that there were people on the trail, you don't even notice them because they too were in awe with nature).

Soon enough, you're going to have to cross a stream. I've learned to never cross a stream when its raining (or when the water level is high); you risk being caught in a flash flood and being swept away. Even now, we stay away from the beaches and hikes if it's raining. Better to be safe than sorry. At the time we were there, it was a small stream. We crossed the stream and seeing the falls in front of us was an amazing sight to see. There are signs to tell you not to get too close to the waterfall since you are putting yourself in danger by the falling rocks above. Mother Nature is not someone you want to mess with. There isn't really a pool you can swim in but I don't like swimming in pools anyway (not just in Maui but even here in O'ahu). So not only are you at risk from falling rocks, you are also at risk from getting leptospirosis. No thank you. I'll just marvel at the waterfall from a distance; safe from the falling rocks and bacteria.

As we were heading back to the car, passed the bamboo forest, passed the small bridges, and waterfalls, it started to pour and thank goodness we were almost to our car as soon as it happened.

Coconut Glen's

While we were heading back, I read that Coconut Glen's was the place to go for coconut ice cream. I've never been a coconut fan until recently. I absolutely love coconut now so we had to stop by here. For all of my lactose intolerant friends, this place is the place to go for coconut ice cream because it's dairy free! Nothing like eating coconut ice cream from a coconut and spoons made out of coconut in a tropical rainforest. While you are here, pick up some coconut candy! When you're in Maui, I highly suggest picking up coconut candy if you can! It's delicious!