Saturday, September 20, 2014

First Wedding Anniversary - O'ahu, Hawaii, September 2014

We made it through our first year of marriage! It's been a tough year with lots of ups and downs because we are two imperfect people living together day in and day out, but thank God He helped us getting through it all and strengthening us.

This past year, we made weekend road trips to Solvang, Cambria/Hearst Castle, and San Diego, but life has gotten the best of me as I dove into my role as a wife and stepmother of two beautiful girls, so I had not posted any blog entries.

For our first wedding anniversary, we decided to go to Hawaii. My husband was in the Navy and was stationed in O'ahu before, but he never visited it as a civilian. The last time I was in Hawaii was in 2006 (see blog here), so it was time for me to go back. Because other islands were out of our budget during this time, we settled on visiting O'ahu.

Our trip got interesting the moment we arrived at the airport. We saw bunch of paparazzi with big cameras waiting at the gate. As we were going up to the gate, this woman came right in front of me and flashes were going crazy on her. My husband asked who that was, and it turned out to be actress Kate Beckinsale (who played lead female role in the movie "Pearl Harbor." How fitting for our trip). I checked online later and saw that we had made it to the UK Daily Mail's tabloid video! You can watch it here and see us in the background. Once we got into the terminal, I ran into Kate again at the restaurant where we were grabbing a bite before our flight. She turned, smiled at me, and said hi, and I smiled and said hi to her in return. That was a cool star sighting moment.

When we arrived in Waikiki, we were tired because Hawaii is 3 hours behind Pacific Time. While it was only 7pm there, it was really 10pm for our bodies. We decided to go to Gyu-Kaku, a popular Japanese BBQ chain restaurant, for our anniversary dinner. It was a delicious meal making us even more sleepy!

We were trying to adjust to the time difference, so we walked over to the beach after dinner. We went to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and enjoyed some free entertainment.

We were ready to hit the beach the next morning! This is quintessential Hawaiian ocean view.

Hubby had a great time playing in the waves.

Hawaiians eat a lot of spam. We found this little place by our hotel called Musubi & Bento Iyasume where they sell spam musubi and bento boxes at a very cheap price. We are hooked on spam musubi and had these every day.

I also brought an oyster bento box to the beach. You can't beat this!

After hanging out at the beach, we went to a famous Japanese udon place called Marukame Udon to fuel up. Again, a super cheap place since we were on a budget. There is always a line in front of the restaurant, but it's worth the wait. Hubby and I came here twice during our stay. I am hooked on their garlic chicken salad cold udon.

And hubby loved their curry udon.

After our meal, the sun was about to set, so we headed back to the beach to watch our first Hawaiian sunset together.

Waikiki at dusk.

We walked around Waikiki afterward and got some of these delicious cookies from Honolulu Cookie Company. I typically don't like cookies (I prefer cakes), but these are really, really good. My favorite was the dark chocolate kona coffee cookie.

Then, I came across a little stand with this person juicing raw sugar canes. I was so excited because I had not had raw sugar canes since I was a little girl living in Taiwan. This brought back lots of childhood memories where I'd walk from school to my grandparents' house passing by a sugar cane stand, and buying one to chew on it. The cool sugar cane with the sweet juice calmed the summer heat.

The next day, we rented a car to drive around the island. Our first stop was my favorite beach, Lanikai. The sand is so fine and the water calm. I could stay here all day.

While we were in the water, we saw a school of sardines lingering about 2-3 feet in front of us. It was a really neat sight to see.

After saying goodbye to Lanikai, we headed out to the other side of the island and decided to visit the Dole Plantation since neither one of us has ever been. We went to get some pineapple ice cream and saw this crazy expensive pineapple split for $25. Are you serious?!

But the pineapple ice cream was tasty.

There were different animals roaming around, we saw a peacock and several roosters. One rooster came up right next to us because someone had scattered fries on the ground. This is authentic "Chicken and Fries." :)

We then moved on to North Shore to Turtle Beach. There were couple of sea turtles sunbathing on the shore.

For lunch, we went to the best garlic shrimp place on earth, Giovanni Shrimp Truck. It has been 8 years since I've had this. I was a very happy woman savoring every bite.

We continued driving around the island and pulled over to admire the Chinaman's Hat (Mokoli'i Island).

Lance liked the mountains.

Weeks before our trip, we saw several shows on the Travel Channel and the Food Network about different restaurants in Hawaii. We saw this place called The Alley Restaurant situated in a bowling alley. We decided to give it a try and boy, we weren't disappointed. We had their popular "Tasty Chicken." Someone on Yelp had dubbed this "crack chicken" and that is no lie! This dish is so good that it's addictive!

We also tried their famous Chinese style oxtail soup. The meat was very tender and the broth full of flavor.

Apparently, they also have fabulous dessert. This lemon crunch cake with toffee crunch was out of this world.

The next day, we took it easy. We hit the beach, walked around, and rested until sunset time. It was a very cloudy day but the sunset was still spectacular.

The three amigos hanging out on a sandbag.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel had free entertainment again. At the end of the show, they gave Lance a fresh lei, but he gave it to me to finish my Hawaiian attire for that evening. :)

We decided to find a place with live music to relax and chill for dinner. We found Chuck's Cellar. I had a prime rib and it was very well cooked. Hubby had their sirloin steak with mahi mahi and he cleaned his plate.

My favorite dessert is the mud pie. I saw that they have one with macadamia nut ice cream, so I was not going to pass it up. Oh it was fantastic!

The next day, we went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. I didn't get an underwater camera this time because fish move very fast so it's hard to catch them on camera. We saw schools of fish feeding about a foot around us at various spots. There must have been 20-30 fish at a time. There was also a big yellowtail that swam right between me and Lance splitting us out of nowhere. We saw cute spotted puffer fish, yellowfin and goldring surgeon fish, sniper, hawkfish, beautiful moorish idol, and reef triggerfish. But our favorite was the male parrotfish that were breathtakingly gorgeous with their neon rainbow colors.

After snorkeling, we went back to the udon place for our last dinner in Waikiki. After dinner, we decided to go sit on the beach at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and enjoy our last night in Hawaii. We ordered dessert while listening to more beautiful Hawaiian music. Hubby got a royal bread pudding that was really rich and flavorful, and I tried the macadamia nut cassata that was amazing. I highly recommend!

For our last morning in Waikiki, we got breakfast on the beach at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Hotel. This is how everyone should enjoy their breakfast!

We both got the loco moco for breakfast, which came with eggs, beef/hamburger patties, rice, and gravy, except that they made a fancy version of it by using shiitake mushroom gravy. Oh it was so good.

It was hard to say goodbye to Hawaii. While Waikiki is a touristy town, it still has its charm with amazing beaches. The food scene has improved tremendously since I was last here in 2006. We got our much needed rests and time together to celebrate our first year of marriage. By God's grace, there will be many, many more anniversaries to come!

You can view the entire photo album here (96 photos):

Aloha and Mahalo!

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