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Hawaii Food and Travel Blog: A Splash of Aloha — from Hawaii to the Big Apple and beyond bio picture
  • Aloha!!

    Welcome to my blog! My name is Su-Lynn and I love to travel and try new cuisines. I live in New York City with my wonderful husband of five years, Steve. I've had a love affair with Hawaii since I was young. My husband and I have been traveling to Hawaii every year since 2009 (sometimes twice a year if we are lucky).

    This blog will house all my Hawaii trip reports, as well as detail future trip planning...along with doses of yummy food from NYC and beyond (including Disney World!). Hawaii is a wonderful place to visit, filled with amazing food, scenery, beaches, history, and lots of friendly ALOHA. Although I do miss it when I'm not there, I always try to find a little ALOHA in my daily life. Thanks for reading! I'm continually adding new Trip Reports from our past travels to Hawaii. Click here to read more about this blog and me.

    If you're planning a trip to Hawaii, I'd start by reading the Hawaii Help links and then my Hawaii Trip Reports. Hopefully that will help get you started but please feel free to drop me a line to ask a question or two . I can't promise I will have the right answer, but I'll let you know what I think it should be. Aloha! :)

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Our next Hawaii trip…dreaming of Kauai in 2015

Our only trip to the garden isle, Kauai was back in January of 2010. We went with Steve’s parents, older brother, and sister-in-law and had a fantastic time! It is literally the most stunningly beautiful island. It’s always been my dream to return some day, but the airfare to Kauai was always the most expensive out of all the four major Hawaiian Islands and so we’ve chosen to visit other islands over the past few years. Because of some lucrative Hawaiian Airlines credit card sign-up bonuses and bonus miles transfer from American Express, we’ve recently gotten enough miles to get us to Hawaii and back a couple of times; so of course we chose Kauai for our redemption! We’re leaving in February to early March 2015 for my birthday week! (Does a little dance).

Me on the beach in Kauai back in 2010

Of course we are not the only ones who flock to Hawaii during the cold mainland winters…and even though the date is far away I was not surprised to find out a lot of condos are almost fully booked, with the best priced with ocean views going first. I have my work cut out for me, but I am open to the challenge! I’ve had my share of trying to get the best luxury deals for less, so I actually look forward to it! I have the option of redeeming some points for the Grand Hyatt Kauai (for which the cheapest garden view room is going for 500/night during our time frame) so I may just do that…but I also like the convenience of a kitchen and free parking so I’m leaning to finding something in the condo realm.

In the meantime, here is a mini report with photos of our week-long family trip to Kauai back in 2010:

We had a fabulous time exploring Kauai! We stayed at the Waipouli Beach Resort for 4 nights, and then at the Sheraton in Poipu for another 3 nights. I’ve always been a fan of the split stay (if you do it right) so we may do it again on this trip!

The Waipouli Beach Resort is a large sprawling complex located in Kapaa, it’s upscale and outfitted will all the conveniences of home. It has an amazing pool area with a lazy river and water slides…we felt like kids again!

Enjoying the waterslides at the Waipouli Beach Resort

Early in the mornings, we would catch the sunrise since the resort faced east. They were nothing short of amazing!

Sunrise. I took this with a canon rebel xsi and wide angle lens.

Loved the beautiful tropical flowers on Kauai.

We began our days with breakfast, sometimes we’d cook in our condo (well, Steve’s fabulous mama did most of the cooking)…or we’d head out to eat!

“What’s for breakfast, mom?”

Eggbert’s is a Kauai favorite for breakfast!

Delicious side order of Portugese sausage fried rice at Eggbert’s.

We spent a lot of time at different beaches all over the island, with the North Shore beaches, Lydgate beach park and Poipu beach as our favorites.

At Lydgate beach park. The chairs came with our condo, one of the benefits of a vacation rental vs hotel.

A vintage-y shot I took at Haena beach on the north shore.

Steve’s mom also loves to take pictures. It was too bad the north shore beaches had too much high surf to swim.

An amazing rainbow at Poipu beach! I swam out with a waterproof camera to take this shot.

This was in Poipu, not sure if it was baby beach or not…but it was awesome!

I shot this at sunset on one of the westernmost beaches…a horseback rider on a beach in Kauai…looked amazing!

Us on the beach near the Grand Hyatt.

We also did our fair share of eating throughout our stay. We had the delicious burgers at Bubba’s Burgers more than once and we splurged on dinner at Hulikau Lanai, Roy’s and Merrimans….YUM. We also ate a few local specialties, like Hamura Saimin, and Shrimp Station which were great as well.

Bubba’s burgers. I really liked the teriyaki burger with cheese.

At Shrimp Station….spicy shrimp!

We saw our first monk seal! We saw them a lot on Kauai…at least 3 sightings on 3 different beaches.

We took our first helicopter ride, and it was the most amazing thing we did on this trip! I was able to get these beautiful pics from our ride in the air on Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

The waterfall scene when the helicopter lands in the movie, Jurassic Park. I just about died when they played the theme song when we flew by. Coolest thing ever!

The ruggedly stunning Napali Coastline which you can only view from air or boat…cars do not go there.

Lush greenery on the mountainous cliffs. Did you know it rains on the top of Kauai more so than anyplace else on earth?!?

Stunning!

Aerial view of Waimea Canyon

We also visited Waimea Canyon back on the ground…

Waimea Canyon, the grand canyon of Hawaii.

We also ran into a lot of these little fellas…

Roosters were everywhere!

I had my first taste of kulolo, a local treat made with taro, sugar, and coconut milk. I would say it has the texture of Japanese mochi (rice cake) but with a sweeter flavor tinged with coconut. It’s not bad!

Kulolo

We purchased the Kulolo from the Sueoka Store, which shares the same name as my sister-in-law! Think we should have gotten a family discount!

Keepin’ the family business alive!

We’ve missed you, Kauai…

Can’t wait to see you again next year!

Until we meet again!

 

Trip Report – Taiwan Part 3

Continuing from our Asia trip report Part 1 and Part 2…we had checked into the Leofoo resort at Guanshi, which is basically Taiwan’s answer to Disney World. Our resort had been modeled after Disney’s Animal Kingdom which we had recently stayed in last October so we couldn’t help but make comparisons. Overall, they did a decent job “replicating” the vibe but on a much smaller scale catered for Asian tourists.

When we woke up the day after we checked in, it was raining and misty, but we could still see the wildlife from our rooms!

The view from the lobby

I spy a thirsty zebra

and he/she was soon joined by a giraffe

After our breakfast shown in part 2 of my trip report, we headed out to the actual park connected to the resort, called the Leofoo Village Theme Park. Now at this point it has started to rain a little harder and it was really freezing too which made for a mostly empty park and some very cold tourists, but we made the most of it despite the weather.

Couldn’t leave without goofing around in the room before checkout

Entrance at Leofoo Village Theme Park. It’s like the happiest place in…Taiwan!

The first attraction we went on involved getting into a bus and then we’d be driven around a “safari” – basically areas where different animals were kept, somewhat akin to the Kilmanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s less “pretty” but there were quite a lot of animals.

The Rhinos are here!

The tiger resting

The famed White Tiger

We stayed clear of most of the rides because a lot of them were outdoors, and the rain and cold were making us yearn for something cozy and warm, so we got coffees and after only a few hours later we left the park.

Their “Blue Genie” …could that be…Genie from Aladdin? There is some slight resemblance, I think.

Look at my new Blue Genie friend. I’m gonna call him Biff. Actually do you like my new hat?

It was so cold that day and my favorite packable quilted coat just wasn’t cutting it….so I picked up a hat in the gift store for about 10 bucks. It’s super warm and comfy!

Yay or Nay on the new hat?

Steve had a great time imitating mascots

After we returned to the the party bus, we headed back to Taipei for the rest of our stay. The drive was fairly long, about 3-4 hours with some rest stops in between. The last hotel we stayed in, the Grand Victoria Hotel in Neihu, was fully booked upon our return so we had to choose a different place to stay. Our new hotel was the Bellezza Taipei Hotel, which is essentially a couple’s resort since it’s attached to a wedding banquet hall. I don’t know how we ended up with a round bed, but we indeed got stuck with a round bed for a couple of nights because there was no other available room in the hotel.

The infamous round bed…I thought it was pretty awesome and had no complaints

Each room at the Bellazza has a theme. I think ours must have been Sexy 70′s Disco. Everything was dark, paneled, and chintzy. To go with the round bed, one must have an over-the-top bathroom with a …sunken round tub

Wish my bathroom was this big though

The rest of the time in Taiwan, we visited with Grandma, hung out with family and I even got to visit with an old high school friend. Everything, of course, involved a lot of eating.

Visiting Grandma at her house in Nei Hu

Steamed crab over sticky rice dish. We went to Shin Yeh with my Taiwanese friend, Michelle. She kindly brought us here and ordered for us. Thanks Michelle!

Famous goose dish at Shin Yeh

Some delicious buns filled with chicken and vegetables at Shin Yeh

My friend Michelle and us who kindly took us for a great meal.

Later that week, before we were all flying back to the US, (We were all leaving at different dates so it was the last night we’d be all together), Steve’s Uncle took us to wonderful seafood restaurant complete with a crab dish that was out of this world.

Here’s the entrance to the restaurant. I can’t remember what is said..but it’s a seafood restaurant

Huge grilled giant prawns

The delicious and expensive hairy crab. I heard each one costs a few hundred bucks USD….yikes.

We got a chance to walk around Taipei so I picked up some unusual items you can’t find in the US….like portugese egg tarts made at KFC of all places.

Egg tart dessert from a fast food chain. They were so good!

A chestnut flavored macchiatto…interesting but not that great. Think I’d rather just get a bubble tea.

Our last meal and Steve’s favorite: classic beef noodle soup – this was the clear soup version and wasn’t spicy like my recipe here.

After saying all our goodbyes on our last night in Taiwan, we packed up and headed to our next destination…Singapore!! I just want to give a big THANK YOU to Steve’s family for hosting us in Taiwan. They are the most wonderful people and we love to visit Taiwan, especially with all the delicious food and interesting places we get to see on each trip. Can’t wait for the next trip!

The best thing about Taipei Airport is that there is a whole Hello Kitty section. It’s awesome. And the best duty free purchase item ever?? This little beauty:

A Hello KItty Mahjong set!!

It’s “found” it’s way into our new house (so excited to use it!)…now we’ll just have to find people to play with us. Yay!

 

The Trip of a Lifetime?

I’ve had some pretty incredible travels throughout my life, and I was lucky enough to honeymoon in my dream destination more than 5 years ago, Tahiti and Bora Bora. Even though it was an amazing and luxurious honeymoon, it was definitely expensive. I’ve since been learning how to save money by traveling for free or close to free by collecting miles and points. I get to travel further and more frequently and that’s why I do it!

This was where we honeymooned back in 2008.

I am not new to the “frequent flyer”  game, but I am definitely not the expert when it comes to travelling all over the world using miles and points. For one, I am not a business nor a frequent traveler at all. Our travels are limited and it’s usually to visit family or our once-or-twice-a-year trip to Hawaii. For the past five years we’ve traveled to Hawaii 6 times, visiting different islands, and we absolutely love it (obviously), it just works for us.   Despite our love for Hawaii, it occurred to me that there were still a few other places that I’d like to see in this world.

Where will we go to next?

One of those bucket list items was to visit more exotic locales in Asia. Having been born and partly-raised in Singapore and Tokyo, I’ve had a bit of exposure to living in Asia and I do miss it. The culture, the food, the smells, oh and especially the FOOD!  Our recent trips with family to Taiwan and Singapore have definitely re-triggered some inspiration in me to vacation farther away. :) Despite the distance and cost, Asia is defintely someplace we’d like to go more often. Which leads me to our “big” trip that we’ve planned for later this year…to Bali, Indonesia!

Map of Bali island courtesy of lonelyplanet.

Not only will we be traveling to one of my bucket list destinations, we will be traveling for (close to) free in First and Business class premium cabins…what?!?!

Thai Airways’ Royal first class seats. Image from Thai Airways.

We had saved up a ton of United Airline miles, either from regular spending, traveling in United metal or Star Alliance partners (we flew to Taiwan and Singapore on Eva Air which is a partner) and the main source of our miles, credit card sign up bonuses. It took us a while to get above 100k miles because we are not huge spenders and we don’t travel all that much (and usually for domestic flights we fly Virgin America or JetBlue)…but we finally had accumulated (almost) enough miles to get us to Asia in first/business class. Initially I was saving my miles for a round-the-world trip in first class…that would have taken a but more time to obtain, and I was OK with that.. but late last year United announced a major mileage devaulation which would have required us to amass almost double the miles we had saved for the exact same trip.

OLD United Award Chart

NEW United Award Chart (valid from Feb 1st 2014 onwards)

We quickly decided we would have to go somewhere before the devaluation hit. We could still book trips at the old mileage chart…but only until the end of January 2014. I hadn’t kept on top of this news and so I was extremely pressed for time after we arrived back from our Asia Trip to find a destination and dates that worked for us. I probably only had about 2 weeks to work with the old mileage chart, and so every day, I would search and price out itineraries. I thought of returning to Taiwan and Singapore but the flights were just not good. I wanted to use my miles to travel in at least in first class for an entire leg of the trip, and the only flights I could find would have me fly first class for part of the way, and economy for the rest of the time. This wasn’t acceptable to me because that leg would still cost the same amount of miles as first class the entire way. I tried other locations…South Korea, Malaysia, Phuket, Maldives, Tokyo, and it all resulted in the same “mixed cabin” of economy and first but paying for first class. Hmmm….

Finally I found a routing to Bali, which would allow us to fly there mostly in first class (and a portion in business, but it’s a 2-class flight), and the return trip would be entirely in business class. It’s not the prettiest nor most direct route; we’ll be in planes or in airports for more than 60 hours total on this trip! But I’m considering this long journey as part of the adventure (and since it’s in first and business class, I might as well enjoy it!).

Our flights to and from Bali is technically an around-the-world trip! Image created with Great Circle Mapper.

We’d get to try some airlines we’ve never been on, such as Thai Airways, and Asiana. Plus we’ll have access to all the business/first class lounges on our layovers including Thai Airways’ famed first class lounge in in Bangkok, where there are complimentary full-body massages! I cannot wait!

Thai Airways First class lounge in Bangkok includes complimentary massages for first and business class passengers. Image from ugrd.com.

Booking the trip, however, on United.com was a nightmare. It was a feat finding availability for 2 passengers on the same route in first class. When I did find them, I could not book them right away because Steve was a couple of miles short (I was planning to purchase those miles anyways) – but I wasn’t able to hold the reservation for myself while Steve’s itinerary was pending. It took about 2 hours of phone calls with United service reps to book the flight, and it was frustrating to say the least. All in all, I’m happy that the (awful) booking process is complete and we can look forward to planning the rest of our week-long trip to Bali.

We signed up for the United Mileage plus card from Chase in order to get thousands of miles to fund our trip, but it wasn’t THAT easy to book.

In total, we used 130,000 miles per person (70k for first class, and 60k for business class return). I believe I only spent about 200 dollars purchasing the extra miles, and then about 80 dollars per person in taxes in fees. Not bad for a flight which originally costs about 16 thousand dollars (seriously?!?!)

Actual flight searched on United.com. Check out the retail price of a first class ticket!

I’m researching places to stay and sights to visit, but overall, I think I’m pretty set on staying a few days in the cultural heart of Bali: Ubud, then moving down to the swanky beach area of Seminyak. There are many resorts and hotels on Bali, each one more luxurious than the next - the choices are almost endless, that I’m having a hard time picking. If you have any recommendations on a nice villa in either Ubud or Seminyak, or other recommendations on things to eat and do, I’d love to hear them!

The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah in Ubud. One of the examples of the resorts we could be staying at. Images from Splendia.com

Please let me know your recommendations in the comments below or by emailing asplashofaloha@gmail.com. Thanks!