You’ll find restaurants for dining in, some with terraces, and places to grab a quick but delicious bite such as Holy Cow (formerly Myungrang Hot Dog), whose specialty is Korean deep-fried hot dogs on a stick. Another favorite is Tanaka Ramen & Izakaya (pictured), serving flavor-packed bowls of noodles, meat and broth alongside a range of Japanese-style snacks. It’s so good – and so popular – that you might want to reserve a table in advance.
Poke, typically served in bowls topped with raw fish, originates from Hawaii so it makes sense Honolulu’s biggest shopping mall food court has excellent places serving it. At Poke & Box you can get ahi (yellowfin tuna), salmon, scallops, shrimp, octopus, chicken or tofu served over rice with extras such as pineapple, pickled ginger, sesame, seaweed, edamame, mango and spicy sauce. People say this is one of the best places for poke, full stop.
Favorite stops of ours: Yummy Korean BBQ (kalbi), Leonard’s malasadas, and soon to be, Chick Fil A. The dessert area has tasty treats like shave ice, mochi donuts, mochi ice cream, Hawaiian pastries, and traditional American desserts.
But if you want a more authentic version of a food court, head slightly west toward Foodland, and dine at the Shirokiya Village. It is the closest cousin of the famous Edo period villages in Japan (and easily found at Haneda Airport in Tokyo). You will find a wide selection of Japanese food, not just your usual teriyaki, sushi, and donburi. You will soon declare umami to be your favorite word in your gustatory vocabulary!
And make sure you take a look at your paper receipt. You may have a pleasant surprise coming to you!!
From Fodor’s: Kona’s award-winning coffee has gained popularity worldwide for its full-bodied flavor. Hawaiian coffee is more diverse than just Kona Coffee; the crop is grown across five islands in eight different regions across the state. Hawaiian coffee stands out due to its mineral-rich volcanic soil and ideal climate for growing coffee plants.
Visit Maui Coffee Attic on Maui, which is a cozy mom-and-pop café with a stage and performance area in addition to fantastic drinks. Honolulu Coffee Co. now features multiple locations but has humble origins as a small kiosk in downtown Honolulu dating back to 1992. In addition to the plethora of artisanal cafes across the islands, visit Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea to try Hedonic, a revolutionary, terroir-driven sensory-focused coffee brand partnered with the property to offer two meticulously sourced, custom-roasted signature blends proprietary to the destination.
My personal favorite in Hawaii is Kauai Coffee. We always make a visit to their plantation, about a half hour outside of Lihue on the southern coast, just past Koloa. Their flavored coffees are a nice addition to our Peet’s French Roast coffee.
It was not all that many years ago when coming to Hawaii and finding Kona coffee was a big deal. Back in 1828, Reverend Samuel Ruggles planted the very first coffee tree in the Kona District of Kailua-Kona, watching it grow from a piece of a tree originated in Oahu into a coffee empire. By 1899, nearly 3 million coffee trees had grown throughout the region. Today, there are around 650 farms responsible for coffee cultivation in the Kona district. Hawaii Kona coffee accounts for about 95% of all coffee produced on the Big Island.
Kona coffee trees bloom each January and May. The small white blooms of the coffee tree, which locals call “Kona Snow”, emit a sweet aroma. After several months, the blossoms melt away, leaving behind a green cherry that holds the coffee bean. These green cherries ripen over the warm summer months, and are picked by hand once they reach the perfect shade of red. This process is a very meticulous, and expertly trained pickers will not harvest the coffee beans until they have reached a dark and rosy color. This process does not happen all at once—pickers will return to the trees a dozen times until they are satisfied with their ripeness. The coffee is then naturally sun dried and raked on hoshidanas (large decks). After the beans have dried, they are ready to be milled, sorted, graded, and sent off to behand-roasted right at the plantation.
Kona coffee — and Hawaiian coffee in general — went through several periods of growth and contraction in conjunction with major events like the Klondike Gold Rush, the annexation of Hawaii by the US, and the two World Wars of the 20th century. During these years, most of the Kona region was farmed in small family holdings by migrant workers when they weren’t contracted to work on the much larger, more lucrative sugar and pineapple plantations. But through it all, the Kona coffee varieties continued to quietly develop and improve.
Finally, beginning in the 1980s, Kona coffee began to experience its long-awaited resurgence, along with the rest of specialty coffee all around the globe. As sugar and other cash crops declined, and the coffee enthusiasts of the world turned to better tasting and more ethically sourced coffees, Kona was able to reclaim its earlier fame. Now, it is one of the most sought-after origins!
Hawaiian geography and climate also play a significant role in the quality of Kona Coffee. Altitude is vital for quality coffee since the best coffees tend to grow in slightly cooler conditions. Compared to global coffee production, coffees in Hawaii are grown at a lower relative elevation. But because Hawaii is so much farther north of the equator than many other coffee regions, smaller changes in elevation have a larger impact on the coffee’s quality by allowing access to cooler air and the necessary blend of sunlight and moisture. The climate in Hawaii’s Kona region, and the mineral-rich volcanic soils of Mauna Loa’s steep slopes, ensure exceptional conditions for growing some of the world’s best coffee.
Well, I for one am happy about this. But I do miss some of the sugar cane and pineapple farms on Kauai.
Kauai is probably just about everyone’s happy place if you have been here. Many people I know do not venture much beyond the madness of Waki Waki (Waikiki Beach in Honolulu), and the increasingly mad and bustling island of Maui.
But Kauai has always been special for us, since our first visit together, over twenty-five years ago. Why? We met our dear friends, Rey, and Corinne during a round of golf at Princeville, on the north side of this small island paradise. While I do not remember much about that round of golf, save for a birdie here and there, we made lifelong friends.
Quite unusual in that both are natives of the island, as are their parents and family. Over the years, we have enjoyed many meals, rounds of golf, social activities, and family outings. But there is one thing that stands out about Rey and Corinne after all these years. They are just fantastic people!
Another unique part of Kauai is that everyone on the island knows everyone else. And of course, we can hardly go anywhere without running into one of their friends or family. I even ran into a fellow at the Padres-Giants game, who brought his Little League team to San Diego. Of course, he knew Rey!
So, along with the great scenery and peaceful vibe of the island, our friends make the island feel like home. I think that is the best way to describe the feeling we have when we visit. And it is our happy place!!!! Thank you, Rey, and Corinne!
As many of you have read, the state of Hawaii had some severe and unique weather with the recent Tongan tsunamis and heavy rainfall. Along with lots of snow and wind on Haleakala, Maui, the other islands had winds well over 100 mph, some flooding, downed trees, and power poles. Some flights were diverted. But nothing compared to Hurricane Iniki some decades ago.
Two of our favorite activities are visiting the Kauai Cookie factory store, and the ever-prospering Kauai Coffee plantation. We enjoy some of the flavored coffees, often adding a teaspoon or two to our regular coffee, Peet’s French Roast. Both places are fun to visit, and somewhat off the beaten path. The Kauai Cookie factory stores often has hidden “treasures” among their goods, including cookies that are very difficult to find elsewhere.
Another favorite is Hamura Saimin, for the noodles, the meat skewers, and the lilikoi pie!
We plan to see our dear friend Estee one morning at breakfast. We have known her for over twenty years as well, and what a delightful young lady.
They have free bicycles to use here, so I will head out later today and tomorrow, mostly to work off the great food consumed here. Or maybe to build up an appetite for more?
When in Hawaii, you must eat like a local boy, at least once or twice.
Food will be a big part of your Oahu experience, and for good reason. Hawaiian cuisine is made up of five distinct cuisines reflecting the diversity of the island’s inhabitants. To make the food hunt a lot easier, these are some top local picks.
Haupia: A traditional Hawaiian dessert of coconut pudding at Ted’s Bakery, they combine the creamy coconut goodness with whipped cream and chocolate custard cream for one heavenly mouthful. (Ted’s is very under rated, but I prefer Dee-Lite Bakery)
Moco Loco: There’s something extra special about The Highway Inn‘s comfort dish of rice with hamburger patties and fried eggs doused in a rich brown gravy. Warning: You’ll likely slip into a food coma post-meal. (Just about everything is good here, so be prepared to wait!) This might be my favorite Hawaiian dish.
Malasadas: There are donuts and then there are malasadas from at Leonard’s Bakery. A deep-fried, sugar-coated eggy-donut filled with all sorts of goodness from mango to macadamia and the tangy-sweet lilikoi. (Malasadas are everywhere in the islands, but Leoanrds are still the best, ono-liscious!) I might rate malasadas above beignets after my last visit to Nawlins.
Kalua Pig: The secret to Helena’s Hawaiian Food trademark dish is they cook it traditionally in an imu (underground oven), which explains its unique juicy flavor. It’s one of the reasons they were awarded a James Beard Foundation’s Regional Classics award in 2000.
Spam Musubi: You’ll see musubi’s (sushi rice with a protein held together by seaweed) available everywhere, but it’s the spam version that’s a popular favorite of locals. At Mana Musubi, they offer four types of rice and 35 different variations–from salmon flake, spicy tuna, and konbu. This is also very popular in Vegas.
Roast Pork and Poke Bowl: Opened in 1949, Alicia’s Market is a family-run Hawai’i general store known for its roast meats and poke bar (they stock over 15 varieties) so this combination is the best of both worlds. (I have been going to Alicia’s for at least 40 years now)Better yet, try some of the local markets:
A great way to experience local culture and support small business owners is at a farmer’s market–in Oahu there are four for exploring. Running from Thursday to Sunday in neighborhoods like Kailua, Haleiwa, Kaka’ako, and Pearlridge, they’re organized by FarmLovers Markets (check their website for details/timings) and attract an eclectic mix of vendors selling everything from local delicacies to farm-to-table ingredients, chilled beach threads to island-inspired skincare. If transportation isn’t an issue, make a beeline for the Thursday market at Haleiwa in the beautiful Waimea Valley and combine it with a visit to Waimea Falls Park. And definitely go hungry as there’s a rotating list of vendors selling everything from fresh ceviche, Kona coffee, wood-fired pizzas, and local grub from enterprising young chefs.
Local booze too:
From sake to whisky, IPAs and rum, there’s a lot of superb booze being brewed on Oahu. You can choose to DIY your self-guided beer and sake brewery crawl around Kaka’ako (make a note of Islander Sake Brewery and Honolulu Beerworks), have a firsthand tour and taste of Ko’olau whiskey made using local corn and Hawaii-sourced water, or explore the sugarcane garden of Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum before doing a taste test. The flavors and brews using local ingredients will blow you away (and don’t forget to bring home a bottle…or three).
More ono food:
In local slang, #onogrindz means “good food”, and on Oahu, you’ll find mash-ups that’ll have you salivating. Think sweet-salty, super addictive Birria anything (from ramen to lumpia and pizza) with a special mention to @Aloha.Mamacita’s generously sized cheesy beef Birria tacos that’s always a winner.
On a hot day (or any day) if you can track down @guudfellaz for their hot-pressed ice-cream sandwiches, you’re in luck. A failsafe order is their creamy and sweet UBEBEH!, using Ube (purple yam) ice-cream from Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream in a taro bun that’s pressed with butter and then topped with coconut flakes, almonds, Ube sauce, and caramel, it’s a meal all on its own.
Plant-based donuts? Yes, they exist at @holeygraildonuts, made with a savory dough similar to poi (taro) and pimped with local ingredients like Waianae’s Tolentino Honey and Lydgate Farms Kauai chocolate and nibs. Flavors vary, but the signature Reincarnated, with a maple glaze and smoked coconut chips, are always available.
Despite this email, I still have a few “secret” places in the greater Honolulu area. But one of our favorite places, Libby’s Manapua has closed. The place was a real Honolulu institution, with great noodles, chow fun, manapua (pork buns), pork hash (shu mai), barbecued pork, and coconut pudding. But I will find another, thanks to my friends there.
Did you know Hawaii was the first state to ban billboards?
Leave broken appliances on your driveway, it will be gone by morning!
Don’t take sand from the beach or lava rocks from the Big Island. Bad things will happen to you until you return it. Pele the fire goddess will curse you!
Don’t wear shoes in the house, it is bad luck.
Posing for a picture with three people, avoid the middle. Filipinos believe the middle position will die first.
A person’s humility is generally deemed a more valuable characteristic than a person’s connections or financial worth. Wearing flashy clothes or name-dropping in Hawaii can be perceived as arrogance rather than pride.
The shaka hand grew in popularity across Hawai‘i in the mid-20th century thanks in part to used car salesman David “Lippy” Espinda, who was the first to link the gesture to the word—which is not actually Hawaiian in origin, but more likely Japanese. As a sign-off for his 1960s television ads, Espinda would throw a shaka and then say his catchphrase: “shaka, brah!” In the 1970s and 1980s, the gesture also featured prominently in reelection campaign ads for Frank Fasi, Honolulu’s longest-serving mayor. While Fasi and Espinda helped make the shaka hand more recognizable in Hawai‘i, surfing’s surge in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s helped export the gesture abroad. As Tamba puts it, “surfing spread it more than anything else.”
Have you ever consumed one of the most popular Hawaiian drinks, the Lava Lava? Once you find out the ingredients, I am certain you will try one. Start with an ounce of vodka, add an ounce of Kahlua, then a “dash” of vanilla ice cream (I always ask for a full scoop), and half a banana. Then blend. Doesn’t that sound tasty?
Hawaiian women used to bury their placentas after childbirth under trees. This was to keep the childʻs spirit connected to their home, and so that their soul would never be hungry or homeless when they passed away.
It was believed that if you died in your sleep, then your soul would be taken from your body if your feet were facing the door. To avoid this, Hawaiians never sleep with their feet facing the doorways in their houses.
A few years ago, the sports talk station interviewed retired Warrior coach Don Nelson. He lives in Maui now, and apparently plays poker on a regular basis. He mentioned that two of his card playing buddies for that particular evening were none other than Willie Nelson, and Paul Simon. Now, I would pay to see that!
If you have not already done so, take the sunrise hike up the Diamond Head crater. It is simply magnificent.
If you have been to any of these countries, you know how much they value and appreciate the almighty U.S. dollar.
Back in 1980, the Vietnamese dong was trading at 2.05 to the US dollar. Fast-forward to November 2021 and the rate of exchange has nose-dived to 22,946.6 dong to the dollar. The Vietnamese government has devalued the currency many times since the 1980s in order to boost exports, which has helped the country to become an increasingly attractive alternative to China on the global manufacturing stage. However, Vietnam’s national currency remains one of the weakest in the world. This can in part be attributed to its relative newness compared to long-established currencies, which leads investors to view the money as a riskier investment.
The dong can only be exchanged within Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, and its coinage is no longer minted due to its incredibly low value. Denominations of the Vietnamese banknotes start at 1,000 and go up to 500,000. Confidence in the currency is so low that US dollars are widely used and largely preferred as a means to pay for goods and services, particularly by wealthier Vietnamese citizens and foreign tourists.
I know I have some 500,000 bank notes somewhere. They love Americans and the US dollar. Very few people remember the war, most likely because they were not alive at the time!!!
When Laos declared its independence from France in 1952, it officially replaced the French Indochinese piastre with its own currency: the Royal kip. This was then replaced by the Pathet Lao kip following the communist takeover in 1975, which itself was then swapped for the new Lao PDR kip just three years later.
Unlike other currencies deemed almost worthless, the kip didn’t suffer extortionate inflation rates, but was actually issued with a very low rate compared to the US dollar. However, inflation has affected the currency since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which has helped to push down the value of the kip. Thai baht and US dollars are also commonly accepted in Laos due to the kip’s instability, and at the time of writing $1 is equivalent to 10,922.9 Laotian kip.
I recall that we used Thai baht and dollars when we visited Laos. Of course, the US bombed the crap out of Laos, denying that we did anything to endanger innocent people there. During the rule of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge, in the 1970s, Cambodia became the first country to abolish money. The Cambodian riel was then introduced in 1980 after the regime was toppled, but the country has since struggled to establish a solid and stable economy.
As part of a peacekeeping mission in 1992, $1.7 billion flowed into Cambodia courtesy of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia and foreign investment in the country has been on the up and up ever since. The riel rode on the back of the dollar’s strength, to the extent that American money has since become Cambodia’s de facto currency.
However, more than four decades after its introduction, the government is pushing for the riel to become the predominant currency once again. In 2015 the National Bank of Cambodia unveiled a new strategy to encourage citizens to use riel and the country is currently going through a de-dollarization process that involves phasing out small denominations of US bills. Cambodia also launched its “Bakong” digital currency in October 2020, and it is one of only two central bank digital currencies in the world. As it stands, $1 is currently equivalent to 4,076.52 Cambodian riel.
Our dear friends in Cambodia love us, maybe because we bring US dollars when we visit. I have visited Cambodia three times, and Angkor Wat is one of my favorite places in the world! I will probably go again. Can you imagine having to carry your cash around in a laundry bag or wheelbarrow, just to have enough money to buy a loaf of bread? Plagued by serious devaluation, this is the reality in some nations as their currencies are not worth the paper they’re printed on. From the collapsing Venezuelan Bolívar to the ailing Iranian rial, read on as we reveal the world’s most worthless money. All conversions are based on Xe currency charts and are accurate as of 10 December 2021.
Consider yourselves fortunate to be an American when traveling to some of these places. I am sure you can picture me with “millions” of dongs, kip, and riel in my pockets. Forget using a wallet to hold it. A thick rubber band is best!!!
Euros, U.S. dollars and British pounds are much more manageable.
You would think that I am running out of ideas to keep busy during the pandemic, and the cold weather outside. But you may not realize that I am the “king” of staying busy.
I have covered a wide range of activities but left out one very important gift. Like many of you, I love to read, and my choice of subjects changes as rapidly as the weather, or my flights while traversing through Europe or SE Asia.
When I travel, I read lighter books, like novels, with John Grisham as my favorite. I also like Robert Ludlum, and even Dan Brown. I can usually trade with another traveler when I am done or donate it to the hotel “library.” Just keep it light.
I always carry a travel guide if I have not visited the country I am headed toward. And I sometimes carry a more “serious” book, like non fiction and biographies (my favs are former US Presidents and world leaders, inventors, musicians, scientists, and travel gurus). If you have never read a Paul Theroux, or Bruce Chatwin, I strongly suggest you start. They make travel and their cultural experiences come alive! That means I carry three books: light reading, serious reading, and a travel guide (I like several, Rough Guides, Fodors). You will never regret it!
And please, though it is easy to order from Amazon, support your local bookstore. I found a good used bookstore in my city, and love to patronize them. They buy back the books I have read, and I can put the $$ toward my purchase!!!!
If you think I am just finding busy work for you, you are greatly mistaken. Today, is “attack a new recipe” day. What I mean is that you need to find a recipe for something you have always wanted to make, but were afraid to try.
Last year, I learned to make a Five Cheese Penne Pasta. Would you believe I heard them talking about it on KNBR radio, a sports talk station? This year, I am going to make Pistachio Pudding.
Over the years, though I do not cook much, I have added to following to my limited list of menu items: carnitas, sashimi plate, Greek yogurt with kydoni, Italian sausage (with a little help from my friends), steamed Maine lobster, and cucumber seaweed salad.
Here is the Pistachio Pudding recipe:
1 box of pistachio pudding20 oz can undrained crushed pineapple2 cups of mini marshmallows1/2 cup chopped pecans1 container of thawed Coolwhip(8 oz)Start by mixing together the dry pudding mix, crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, and chopped pecans. Next, fold in the thawed Cool Whip until well combined. Chill until serving time.
Simple right? Just try one new recipe, and you will be both surprised and pleased. The addition of a new recipe makes the dinner hour a bit more interesting. It certainly sounds better than Eight Maids A Milking!!!!
The thought of seven swans swimming presents a messy picture for many of us. But I can think of seven board games that might pique your interest.
My dear friends in Las Vegas/Sherwood are the board game experts. Hardly a day goes by when they are not playing some sort of board or card game with their friends and family. Some popular games (seven) from the past:
Trivial Pursuit (Family Feud has a version)
Sky-Jo (my new favorite)
Apples to Apples
Scrabble (always challenging)
I have enjoyed learning the new games from my friends. The games also make perfect gifts and stocking stuffers. There are times when we play for 3 to 4 hours at a time! And it keeps everyone involved and talking. And laughing! Great fun!!!