I need to apologize to however many readers I might have, and to myself, for failing to set aside time for writing. In several ways, 2018 was the year of decluttering; as we moved from the suburb of Los Angeles where I lived for as long as I have lived in the States, so much of what I have collected purposelessly and often unintentionally needed to be shaken off of my life, and what is essential needed to be given the space it needed. And as I sit down again in front of an empty digital page, I see that I need to do the same with all the snapshots I have taken along my journey around the sun. I'm gonna go reverse-chronologically and review all the photos and add some context to them, trying to find stories wherever I can find.
I had not been back to Oahu in a while. I had felt that, after the first 5 or so years I frequented the most populous (and developed) of the islands, I'd rather visit outer islands and save Oahu for family occasions. I just wished that it were not for this particular occasion.
Of course, the island always offers the perfect blend of familiar and exciting things.
It's easy for me, a visitor with a local hookup, to think that life here is slow and simple, while I scoff down Malasadas, hike around the hills of Manoa. The reality of course is a lot more complex for many, and in every few breathtakingly beautiful things you see, a somber reminder; water quality warnings for beaches due to the aging sewerage system, plastic waste spotted at every scenic point, homelessness and poverty.
Not too long ago we took 2 trips to Hilo on the Big Island roughly one year apart from each other, and witnessed one particular rather-undiscovered snorkeling spot going from the most vibrant and massive coral reef colonies I've ever seen to a greyed-out shell of its former glory. The amazement of finding myself, upon diving in, surrounded by the massive civilization underwater, and the devastation I felt when I dipped into the exact same spot to find it all gone, are indescribable. ("Chasing Coral" a documentary is one of the many documentations of this urgent, global and very local issue.)
I, off all people, shouldn't need a reminder. I have seen and learned everywhere I have been, new and familiar, the effect of overtourism. That also should not come as a surprise to anyone who has a social media account (or a blog). Stories from your awesome vacation told in pictures are least-controversial, non-combative and popular posts from your peers, and every hard-working middle class who drops money in these communities that accept them deserves those likes. The most importantly, however, throwing the sheet of your hard-earned cash over the pile of dump you took on the street of Venice is definitely not the way to go.
My people used to (and maybe still) do just that, only a few decades back when we started to come up in the global economy, treating this gem of the Pacific as just a wallpaper for their wedding picture or an outlet mall for overpriced trinkets. I don't think anyone should be advised against staring into a sun setting on Waikiki beach or from atop Diamond Head. Hell, I'm pretty sure I'd hit Robot Restaurant next time I'm in Tokyo. Just remember to take your fucking plastic bottle with you when you leave.
Also; count your blessings. To have been and seen where and what you thought was beautiful, you are more fortunate than the most. And that takes way more than some dumb hashtag. I'm not judging, just telling myself how fucking lucky I am to be where I am, and hope to have enough time to thank everyone and everything who made that possible.
This. Might be the largest grocery market I've seen in my travel, maybe next to Tsukiji which doesn't count since it's a wholesale. It would take way too long for me to go thru the entire Galapagos of food aka Or Tor Kor trying to capture everything that looks fascinating, beautiful and delicious. And half of them looks mysterious and at the same time suspicious. I am grossly inadequate to give you explanation on most of the things I see, but here goes...
Now THAT is a Tom Yum Goong; viceral, rich, spicy and sweet, refreshing and invigorating as any soup there is. The heat, in both temp and flavor, suits this warm humid Bangkok afternoon. Also a nice change from all the Chinese-influenced dish I've been injecting to my system, with so much sour and tang that hits you like a muay-Thai elbow. #mindblown, ecstatic.
And here I come across another of my vice in Southeast Asia; fruit smoothies. I Usually prefer raw fruits but refrigeration practice on street stalls can vary, and I like them ICE COLD. And despite that they do add syrup/sugar, good ones don't overdo it like they do Amorika. I usually go for citrus family to tang-down the sweet, but this coconut smoothie was on-point. Coconut juice, meat, syrup and ice. Doesn't sound like much of a vice. Popular flavors seem to be watermelon, lychee, lime and in Vietnam they do it with avocado. Yup, and is as good as it sounds. And with that you're sure to put on some pounds. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Then I go get Pad Thai; was not my intention to grab two of the most iconic Thai dishes in one day, but geographical strategies worked out for me to hit this legendary establishment for the early dinner. Credit goes to Quincy aka Eat Kun Do master. I wasn't thrilled with the wait, but I overheard that you can't avoid with this place so I stood patiently. Thoroughly entertained by the open kitchen right on the street where you're lined up, #clever.
As you see this was a gorgeously put-together, well-executed version of what we get in the states. Wrapped in a thin omelette skin and the noodles cooked perfectly - I have to admit though, I might just not be a Pad Thai person. Checking back my #foodgram it is noodle soup heavy from the day one, but I still crave for more. Gonna have to start using #menkui lol
To be continued.
So the next day I go for another suggestion from Dr Q and hit "Boat Noodle by Victory Monument" aka Golden Boat Noodle aka Ruathong Noodle. Right away I was blown away by the price tag of whopping 12 bahts (40 cents) so I order one, but the server looks at me funny and asks "that's it?" then he tries to sell me a curry noodle which is about 50. Yo, you working on commission brother? I was hoping to find other street grab later but what the hell.
Then my first order comes and I go Ahhhh; it's like the size of a Cup (O') Noodle. Literary three bites. Punchy, amazing, flavor-for-days kinda bites but teeny little. Then I notice many patrons have 5-6 bowls in front. Oh this is fun - then my boy's rec, the curry noodle arrives and yes, another great one. A delicate balance of rich sweetness and the heat mixed with the crisp that comes from fried wontons and sliced onions. Brother, can you hook me up with another rec of yours and a cow stomach for me to replace this one that's full?
Alas, I just have to drag this old system for one last night, and I picked night market. I knew that it would've been better with more people so you can share the variety, but as Dr. Q advised me, I wanted to see where locals hang out at night. And do they come out en masse (I know the good amount here are Chinese tourists, but where are they not?) eating big plates of grilled seafood, skewers, weird rainbow-colored grilled cheese toast, fried cockroaches, imitation crabs straight-up, huge mounds of meat-bone things, what have you. Then buy Western/Japanese flavored hipster tees and trinkets, iPhone cases and selfie sticks, get you nails and facials done, maybe a minor plastic surgery, who knows. Across the 20+ barricade are rows of rooftop bars, VW bar-trucks, bar tents, girly-bar-adjacent establishment? and one Munich-themed bar that had a classic rock band with a horrendous gender-ambiguous singer. So yeah, I'd come out here on a Sunday night till 1am if I was a local.
What I actually ate; very-carefully crafted grilled quail egg skewers that were perfect appetizers. Boiled ginko nuts in sweet iced milk (AWESOME IDEA, the sweetness rounds out the distinctively biting ginko flavor). Tapioca rice pudding thing that looked cool but tasted okay. Tiny pancake-like things with shrimp-flavored something. I don't know what it was, anything but good. That's all I could do but I'm sure I missed a lot of good stuff. More fun than expected given just 8hrs ago I was so miserable I couldn't even bluff. Fun extra as an almost-Osaka'ite was to see how takoyaki grill were used in many creative ways. Outside of regular takoyaki (comes in more variety like only dough, corn, shrip, sausages etc) they make tiny okonomiyaki things with it, aforementioned grilled quail eggs, and even some sweets. Crafty mofos.
Then I proceed to 20+ area and sit where a singer, acoustic guitar and a kit drummer were playing local pop covers among the Thai youth sang along loudly and poor Leo over ice. Wish I was online to Shazam some of these. A little ballad-heavy for my taste, but I wanna know what they like. My lime juice was very good but it was too stuffy despite a dozen fans going all directions, so I moved to a rooftop location for much-obliged "rainbow of tents" shots. A convict-looking server simply said "beer and whiskey" so I ordered a bottle, poured into a cup and did not drink. The fatigue, the crowd, the noise - had to get away and neutralize. It helped that folks next to me weren't there for chatters it seemed, mostly on their devices and cigarettes. So I blankly stared at the pretty lights and sat there motionless, almost meditative, thinking what to do with all the thoughts I've gathered on my walk of the earth.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. Currently travelblogging at #beatvagabond and working on new material.