We checked out of our room in the morning and went to Kailua-Kona for some sightseeing. We happened to park right by a town market, so we walked among the stalls and picked up some fresh fruit. After that we meandered down the main street. We stopped in a gallery called Pacific Fine Art that had a lot of spectacular paintings. While megory chatted with an artist painting in the back of the gallery, I admired this painting by artist Jia Lu. (If I owned a house where I could display it, I probably would have bought it.) Next we went on a tour of Hulihe'e Palace, where members of the Hawaiian royal family used to live.
After leaving Kailua-Kona, we drove across the north side of the island, stopping for lunch in Waimea. Waimea is in the middle of ranch country, so cowboy themed items are everywhere. We ate at a place called Village Burger at the Parker Ranch Center, where they served "mushroom burgers" made of mushrooms pressed into a patty shape, then breaded and fried. Painted on the shop wall was a list of all the farms from which they obtained their ingredients and the distance to each farm, most of which were within five miles.
Once we got to the east coast, we stopped at Waipio Lookout to gaze at the valley below. We continued down the coast, past several gulches, and stopped again to see Akaka Falls. This spectacular falls is part of a lush, tropical state park. It was mentioned that walking through the plants in the park was like stepping into the movie Avatar. When we returned to the car, we got a little more nature than we bargained for when we caught sight of a pair of mating mongooses.
We continued on into Hilo, where we checked into the Seaside Hotel for the night. Our room was unfortunately situated facing the pool, which meant we heard every shriek of the children swimming. Even after the pool closed, people would sit around in the pool courtyard to talk on their cell phones, so it wasn't exactly quiet. On the bright side, the hotel was at least conveniently located.
Thursday, June 17
megory roused us out of bed early in the morning and hurried us to Coconut Island to watch the sunrise. While the view in the east was spectacular, the show later wasn't bad either. If you turn around and face west toward Mauna Kea (in this shot, the observatory at the top is just visible as tiny white dots), you eventually get to see the entire mountain turn pink from reflected sunlight.
After getting our fill of the pink mountain, we went for a stroll through the Liliuokalani Gardens, which are designed in the Japanese style. It appeared to be a popular spot for people out on a morning walk. After we finished touring the gardens, we were treated to a lovely double rainbow. (The second rainbow, with colors reversed, is just visible at the horizon to the right of the main rainbow.) We went back to our hotel for breakfast in the cafe, where I was impressed by the coconut syrup. If only it weren't so heavy--and liquid, therefore impossible to bring in carryon luggage--I would have bought some.
Next we went to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, where we saw scads of beautiful tropical plants. We also admired Onomea Falls. The entrance fee is expensive, but it is well worth it.
When we finished touring the garden, we headed back to Hilo and boarded our plane to Honolulu. My uncle picked us up there and took us to Kailua, where we purchased some snacks at the local farmer's market. One of our discoveries was sea asparagus, which has an interesting flavor because it is naturally salty. After we ate, my uncle drove us back to the city, where we checked in at our hotel. My parents tried to put some valuables in the room safe, but it was locked with no key in evidence.
Friday, June 18
In the morning, we set out to get acquainted with Waikiki. About a block from the hotel, we came across the first (of many) shops selling gorgeous Hawaiian clothes. Both megory and I bought dresses, though my dad adamantly refused to get any Hawaiian shirts. We continued walking around, admiring the flowering trees and scouting out places where other family members would be staying. The whole crew would be coming in a few days to celebrate my youngest brother's wedding. We returned in time to be picked up by the parents of the bride, who took us on a tour of the locations where the wedding and rehearsal would be held. They also showed us around their home, where they would be holding a meet-and-greet party once everyone arrived. After we returned, we met up with my aunt staying at a hotel down the block and went out to watch the weekly fireworks display put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort next door.
Saturday, June 19
I hooked my computer up to the hotel's internet and made use of a few spare moments to post a quick update. As I was doing so, I was distracted by some noises coming from the street outside. We all went to the balcony outside our room to look, and saw that the city's Pride Parade was just going past.
megory and I set out for the nearby Ala Moana Shopping Center. We browsed through Shirokiya, one of the shopping center's department stores that contains Japanese merchandise, including a branch of Book Off. While there, we met up with my aunt again and spent some time examining the clothing in Macy's. I wanted to get a new swimsuit to wear at the meet-and-greet, but it was hard to find something in the style that I like that is the right color. Plus, most of the suits were around $75 on sale.
We all headed out together to join up with my dad and uncle, who had picked up my brother (the groom) at the airport. We had a dim sum lunch and took a brief tour of Chinatown to see the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner would be held. Afterward, we turned our hotel room over to my brother, while we checked in to a room arranged for us by my uncle at the Grand Waikikian, part of the Hilton Village. My parents were teased mercilessly about the bathtub in the bedroom. The Hilton Village is a huge complex containing numerous shops and restaurants. It even has its own private lagoon. And, as if that weren't enough, it also has penguins.
We later found out from my brother that he went to the hotel manager and got a key to the safe in his room (formerly our room). When he opened the safe, he discovered it contained two bullets. Hmm...