Island Girl Problems - Perfect and not so Perfect Vacations

Inside the Byodo-In Temple,
Oahu, Hawaii
Initially, vacation was off the cards for this year. I have a major project which is ongoing, which I felt would be negatively impacted by the expense of a vacation. Four months into the year, I am already bored, frustrated and tired. Vacation is back on. The theme now is Make it Work.

I have no idea where I want to go though, or more importantly, no idea where a limited budget can take me. Now a limited budget can take me to a few places, mainly in the immediate vicinity. I think I have commented more than once that I am not a huge fan of island vacations though. I live on an island. The novelty wore off years ago. Unless the island has more going for it than lying on a beach all day, I am not going to dedicate my big annual vacation to an island vacation. A weekend, yes. A week - pushing it, but doable. Three weeks - no way. Only Europeans and people stuck with never-ending winters do that. Big shout out to the lovely Scottish couple I spent time with on my birthday trip to Tobago - spending 2 months in Tobago. I would go crazy!

This brings me to the last extended island vacation I did. Every year I do something for my birthday and for the big 3-0, I did an island vacation. The horror, one may say, but it was not just any island. I spent the first half of the vacation on Oahu, one of the islands which make up Hawaii. It was actually a birthday present. Yes, I have awesome friends. I had really high hopes for this trip. I had done research and knew what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to see. I wanted to hike up Diamond Head, go to a luau, lie on Waikiki Beach with an adult beverage. None of this happened, as it rained and rained and rained. On my actual birthday, it was a virtual hurricane, both inside and outside my hotel room, as disappointment and depression washed over me. This after an 18hr plus trip to get there!

Waikiki Beach - the one day the skies were covered in bright blue.
But it was still very chilly and I sat on the beach in a hoodie.

Always the optimist, on the last day, I booked a guided tour to salvage what I could from this disaster once-in-a-lifetime (better believe it would be once!) experience. This is where it got really exciting (insert a dollop of sarcasm).

First off, as I have noticed time and time again on my travels, I am truly the Super Brown Tourist. I am ALWAYS the only brown tourist on the damn bus. Do white people have a monopoly on tours? And do old people rule the tour bus? I mean...my goodness!!! Where are the young people? The brown people? The tour guide seemed to want to make me some kind of special project as well - seeing that I was from an island too. It was almost as though he was on a mission to please and impress me as he kept singling me out during the tour.

The tour itself was shit. The bus stank and the tour was devoid of anything interesting. It brings me to the argument I have with friends here about the beauty of Trinidad and Tobago and the fact that we have so much to offer. Real attractions. Beautiful places. I mean, this guy drove around the island and he stopped to show us a patch of sugarcane and a paw-paw tree, also known as papaya tree. I could barely believe that my hard earned money had paid for this guy to stop so he could show us some half dead looking sugar cane stalks and some paw-paw. What was even more distressing was when the British couple next to me told me I was blocking their view of this island wonder as they tried to take photos. The wife actually physically pushed me backwards so they could snap snap with the camera. In fact, I was the only one not whipping out her camera to take pics. I live in what used to be the sugar belt of Trinidad - I grew up with sugar cane around me, and with my dad and uncles cutting cane for us to suck, chew up and spit out. The dude was not impressing me, not even a little bit, and it clearly showed on my face. I think it was more disgust than being unimpressed and he kept staring at me in the rear view mirror, disappointed. lol.

The Dole Plantation was okay but I am not a huge lover of pineapples, and the store was a pineapple mecca. Pineapple body wash, soaps, stuffed pineapple toys, chocolate covered pineapples. It was just too much!!! But it leads me to argue that we can do the same with mangoes and local fruit and make a killing off tourists, as the tourists on this trip bought all sorts of pineapple shite at this place.

Dole Plantation, Oahu, Hawaii

The worst part of all was what was listed as the "Shrimp Farm" stop on the little tour guide pamphlet, where we would stop and have some of the "best shrimp" on the island. We were given menus beforehand to choose how we wanted our shrimp and were told we would stop at this place for lunch. By now, most people know I am literally OCD when it comes to food prep, food hygiene etc. I cook 90% of what I eat and the 10% I buy, I am anal about where it comes from, what the chef looks like, how he smells, what the kitchen looks like. I am chronic! So imagine my ABSOLUTE HORROR when the bus pulled into a clearing, in which maybe a dozen or so old buses were parked - buses doubling as shrimp kitchens, with smoke coming out busted windows and where locals were cooking and serving food. The food I had just ordered and paid for, I don't eat street food, especially in strange places. I just don't. At this point I thought I would cry. I took the styrofoam box and got back on the bus, hungry, angry and knowing all too well, the food would not touch my lips. The rather expensive food too, I might add. Shrimp Farm, my ass. Food - dustbin. I had too many thoughts of me ending up in Honolulu Memorial, or whatever the hospital there was called, from food poisoning or worse. Worse yet, I had a 17-hr plus trip back - and being stuck on the plane with ummm...stomach issues was not on the cards for this trip.

There were some highlights, like the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, and the beautiful, absolutely beautiful natural landscape and there was an actual surfing competition at the Banzai Pipeline.

Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Oahu, Hawaii.
Fave part of this crappy tour

But I was bored, and slept for the rest of the tour.

On my own, earlier in the trip, in-between rain showers, I did the zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and of course, the shops, since they were dry - no rain inside! But again, was not excited too much. I love walking through museums and galleries, and seeing castles, temples, ruins, doing a moderate hike, or something adventurous. Great food, maybe some wine tasting, clean and fun foodie experiences, interesting day trips/tours and meeting new people. Island vacations - not for me, unless as I said, there is really something fantastic about the island. Something more than drinking out of coconuts and tanning. I don't need a tan! I am dark chocolate brown. A tan?

I would do Hawaii again but under different circumstances and definitely not the overly touristy Oahu.

Last year, I walked through the amazing history of Madrid and Rome, and loved it. Not sure what this year will bring yet. On a budget. Still thinking. Plotting. But the crazy notion I had of "no vacation" has been thrown out the window!

5 comments:

  1. I know a couple who spent their honeymoon in March in Hawaii. It rained the entire week. She tells me no one told her that was their rainy season. I know others who were disappointed in Hawaii too - crowded and expensive.

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  2. Oahu can be a disappointment - unless you go at Christmas time - and rent a convertible Mustang and drive to the other side of the island. I've always been told to go to the other islands where there are less tourists. Kind of why you won't catch me anywhere near Europe between May and September (tourists). The experience is never the same. But I always look at the bright side - some people will never see these places. Happiest of birthdays to you!

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  3. Awwwww, that's a total bummer :( I went there once many moons ago but loved it (can't remember liking Oahu as much, but Maui and Kauai-sp?-were my favorites).

    I was just telling a friend about a disappointing trip I had to Portland, OR, a place I had heard so many wonderful things about. But the gripes had less to do with the scenery and more with the people (who were overly hipster-y and one woman on a bus who was a blatant racist) and the fact that the friend I went to visit made no time for me. BUT like you, I want to give it a second chance at some point.

    Also, EWWWW re: shrimp farm. I think I would have had the same reaction and since my tummy is so sensitive anyway, I imagine the worst. Also, who needs pineapple memorabilia?!

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