Thursday, February 25, 2010

Island of Maui

Maui is the most beautiful island of all the major island in Hawaii. It's strikingly blue waters and lush green rainforests are like a dream. After staying in Maui once, you feel like moving there.

Road to Hana: It is a very scenic drive with 500+ blind turns and 62 one lane bridges. There are so many waterfalls along the way. Unfortunately, Maui has been going through a drought so we did not get to see as many, but we have heard from friends about its beauty. The drive has various stops along the way starting with the town of Paia and ending in town of Hana. Beyond the Paia town, stop to watch some amazing windsurfing action going on. Hana town is quaint and has some nice beaches. Beyond Hana town, you can visit Oheo Gulch pools. Again, they were dry when we visited, but the pictures say it all.
If you don't plan to stay in Hana overnight, leave early morning so you can stop and go and hike to the pools and return before nightfall.

Beaches: Makena beach was one of the most beautiful ones especially to just sit and watch the waves that break shore. Ka'anapali beach is a good spot swimming and people watching. You can also go snorkeling from the beaches or take a organized trip to Molokini crater.

Gear Rental: Snorkel Bob has best deals for snorkel and beach equipment rentals. You can even return snorkel gear on another island location. Their one week pricing is really good.

Haleakala Crater: This is a half day trip if you don't plan on hiking much. If you have already hiked a lot in Volcano park or been up Mauna Kea, you won't find much to do. But still going to the top is recommended. Haleakala also has stargazing after sunset in case you missed Mauna Kea summit.

Lu'au: We attended the Old Lahaina Luau in Lahaina town. It was a great authentic hawaiian experience to have. The food isn't great but watching the dancers and just spending the evening doing something different is definitely a must.

Lodging: Most of the high-end resorts are located in West Maui in Ka'anapali. Napili beach area has lots of condos. Kihei which is located little south is a good middle ground with respect to pricing as well as location. There are good beaches in Kihei as well.

Oh I wish I could move to Maui!

Island of Hawaii

The Island of Hawaii is an amazing place. The east and west sides of this island are such a contrast.

Accommodation: The decision to stay on which side of the island is a big one. If you are staying here for 4 or more nights, it is best to divide the stay between the two sides. The town of Hilo which is closer to the Volcano National Park is the only good place to stay. You should stay here if you plan to visit the Volcanoes and do lots of hiking. It will save you some drive time. Of course, the hotels on this side of the island are not great. For more sunny, beach weather, head to the west part of the island. Keauhou Bay area as well as the Kohala Coast are attractive destinations.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: This is a very unique place to visit. Stop by the visitor's center first thing in the morning and get the latest updates from the rangers. They will provide you the latest and best information about lava flows and trails. Lava flow changes a lot, so be flexible about your plans if you do want to see it. We booked a helicopter ride in advance to see the best lava flows from the air, but there wasn't much to see. Make sure you check on the lava flow update 48 hours before any helicopter ride so it will allow you to cancel if there isn't much to see.

Beaches: The best beaches are along the west coast of the island. However, if you have time, drive south past the volcano national park to black sands beach. It is one of the most unique beaches that I have seen.

Mauna Kea: Be sure to visit the Mauna Kea visitor center and stay past sunset to see the amazing night sky views. You can see thousands of stars and so much more without a telescope. There are organized tours to the summit which can be expensive and they come down to the visitor center for stargazing. If you have a four wheel, you can drive to the summit yourself. You can still drive to the visitor center in a two-wheel from Thrifty since they are the only ones to allow their cars on Saddle Road. Of course, the drive itself can 1.5-2 hours from the west coast resorts to the visitor center. We did the organized tour and were glad we didn't have to drive so much through the desert landscape.

Big Island seems like a very different Hawaii, but there is still so much to do besides the water and beach activities.

Island of Oahu

The city of Honolulu is on the island of Oahu along with the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Oahu is not such a big island and can be easily covered in four days. Of course, if you plan to spend more time on water sports or just laying on the beach, go for one week.

Accommodation: Waikiki area has tons of hotels to choose from. You can find very good deals especially closer to your time of travel. If you have already booked refundable rooms, keep looking. If you want to save, try staying a block from the beach. Waikiki is still a close walk.

Food: Again, being a big city there are many options and all different cuisines and price ranges. Be sure to try the puka dog if you haven't ever had one. There is a puka dog vendor on Kuhio Avenue. Be sure to pick up some goodies from Liliha bakery in Honolulu - especially the cocoa puffs. They are wonderful.

Surfing: Be sure to try our surfing at the Waikiki beach. This is one of the best and most popular places to learn surfing. Plan to keep a whole day for surfing and laying around on the beach since it can be quite exhausting.

Diamond Head: The hike up to Diamond Head is good though steep and the Waikiki views are great. However, do not expect anything spectacular.

Pali Lookout: This look out has great views.

Puu Ualakaa State Park: The sunset views from this mountain top are amazing. This is a must do!

Hanauma Bay: This is the best place to go snorkel on the beach. Allow a full day to enjoy the beach and the fishes. The tides can get low so check on the high tide times if you plan to be there for a short period.
East/North Shore: If you want to spend some time driving around the island, you can visit the North Shore, watch high waves and world-class surfing and return via the East shore. The drive around the Makapuu lighthouse is really beautiful.

Honolulu may be a tourist place, but enjoy strolling down Kalakua Avenue. The place has its own unique charm.


Recently, my husband and I went on a two-week trip to Hawaii. We went to Oahu, Big Island and Maui. Each island has tons of activities to do and has its own unique beauty.

Before going, we read every book we could on these island and scoured the Internet for tips and information. But even after getting so much information, there are more things we wish we had known.
For next few posts, I will outline some of the tips, must-see, must-do items while detailing our trip.
Overall it was an amazing trip. I feeling like moving to Hawaii. It was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Political Rants

Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize 2009!

WTH! What has he done so far to receive this prize? It seems just like the media was under his spell during the primaries and subsequent elections, the international populace is taken over by his "magic". Of course my views may differ from many but I do not think he has accomplished anything yet since taking office. There are so many larger issues at hand but none have been resolved.

MNS stops screening of Wake Up Sid!

WTF! Who is Raj Thackarey to curb freedom of expression right given to the Indian Citizen. It is just a word - it doesn't matter if we call it Bombay or Mumbai, those who love the city will keep loving it no matter what. I think Raj Thackarey has not heard the phrase "A Rose by any other name smells the same and is still as beautiful". And I am hugely disappointed with Karan Johar for apologizing for such a non-issue thereby encouraging such regionalistic intentions. But I guess, KJo chose his battle and the movie becoming a hit was more important choice.
And if Thackarey wants to restrict outside people from entering Maharashtra, just build your separate country, set up visa rules and show how you can survive as a self-sufficient entity without using the "India" clout. You are not worth to be called an Indian and you put us all Maharashtrians to shame.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Five Reasons Why Mama's Boys should never marry?

  1. Because the wife will never be good enough.
  2. Because the wife will always feel inferior.
  3. Because the wife will be made to feel guilty for wanting to spend time with just her husband.
  4. Because the wife will be made to give up control when Mother is around.
  5. Because the wife will be told she is right to pacify her but later be told that Mother is always right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

London Trip

I am visiting London and surrounding places all this week. London is an amazing place and so cool. I really enjoyed my visit. Next on my agenda is to do the main European continent.
But for now back to London - Here are my trip details and suggestions
First, if you are visiting England or UK, brush up on your British history. It helps identify all those Kings and Queens who have the same names but different numbers. Otherwise it will get very confusing on who is whose daughter and who is whose son.

First Day in London
Got on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and stopped at Buckingham Palace first. Since I am visiting in July, London and all of England is very crowded with tourists. If you can stand the cold, it is best to visit in May or August. You can also see inside of the Buckingham if you visit August through September. With swelling crowds around us, we decided to skip Changing of the Guard ceremony and move on to other things. The HOHO bus is a great way to visit all sites without tiring your feet.
Next we saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. After taking some good shots we walked over to Westminster Abbey. We did the inside tour for about an hour. No photography is allowed inside the Abbey. It was very grand but kind of spooky since so many kings and queens are buried here.
We moved onto Trafalgar Square which was crowded. We circled the square and then moved onto the London Bridge and Tower of London. We spent couple of hours in the Tower of London touring the Crown Jewels and White Tower. It was great place to see. We did see St. Paul's Cathedral from outside but did not tour the inside. Hopefully next time, I will go atop the dome.
Towards the evening we went over to London Eye to get some great views of the city and river Thames. Unfortunately, it began raining but since we had timed tickets, we had to go. The view from top is great and should be done once.

Second Day in London
Continued seeing the city from atop the HOHO bus. Saw Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus on way to British Museum. After seeing many statues and Egyptian mummies we went over to Kensington Palace and toured the inside. It was a decent tour especially since we got to see it at half price using the 2-for-1 offers that are valid with a travel card.
We did skip over a few things and did them quickly, but considering several logistics we did cover most of London in a good way.

The next week was spent doing an international course for my MBA program. The most I learnt during that week is that all shops close before 6 pm every single day in the UK. This definitely hampered my shopping adventures.

The following Saturday, we visited Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor Castle. We did Stonehenge early in the morning and avoided the crowds. It is such an awesome place. However, we got sucked into the crowds at Oxford and Windsor. It is definitely a good idea to have at least four hours for Windsor Castle. We returned to London on Saturday evening. I walked over to Buckingham Palace so I could take some good pictures of it.

The history and architecture definitely amazed me and I loved all the places I visited. The things that surprised me were the lack of trash cans around London. It was odd that people threw their garbage into plastic bags at various points and the town workers gathered up all the garbage into the bags and then hauled them into the truck.
I loved the Cornish Pasties. They are so yummy. Overall I found the food at pubs and restaurants very tasty even though it was vegetarian. Taking the tube was very easy and doing the travel card is definitely recommended if you are getting on the tube more than once.
I found it funny that many phrases such as "mind the gap", "way out" were on souvenir t-shirts because they were funny to Americans only.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince Review

I saw Half-Blood Prince in the land of Harry Potter and like typical England weather, it was raining on the day. We had to stand outside due to a fire alarm in the pouring rain. Fortunately, it all happened before the movie began.
Well the movie is good but not excellent. I had imagined so much when I read the sixth chapter of Harry Potter series. The movie is only 2.5 hours long which explains the missing parts of the book. A lot of story from the book is missing especially all the memory journeys that Harry has with Dumbledore. Some key fight scenes are also missing. Voldemort hardly makes an appearance only once as a child and then as a teenager. This was disappointing because I was expecting a character build up for him.
I hope the final chapter is better visualized and since it is releasing in two parts, it would include all key scenes and stories.
This one felt more like a romantic comedy with Ron-Hermoine tiffs and Harry-Ginny love angle. It was made worse by giggling teenage girls around us who giggled every time Harry and Ginny looked at each other.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Art of Appreciation!

Indians, in general think very highly of their culture and I as one take pride of the same. But sometimes the love for our own culture results in looking down or being blind to other cultures. There are good and bad points in every culture and recognizing the differences is the key to be respectful to every nation's culture.
Indians who have never traveled to US or lived here hold a very different view of America and its culture. They think that US is mostly about lack of family structure, divorces, rampant public display of affection and more. Mind you that when I say most Indians, I do not mean all and everyone. I just mean that this is the impression I get and not every single person comes under the umbrella of Indians that I am talking about here. Since I have been living here for so long, I can see that the views held by so many are incorrect and not as prevalent as they think. They are many aspects of American culture that we wish aren't there but at the same time there are many good things about the culture of this country and its people.

What I want to talk about today is about is the Art of Appreciation that most Americans possess. In India, people would never say "Thank You" or "Appreciate It" to cashiers, electricians, plumbers or anyone who performs a paid service for them. Paying for the service is considered enough. Here, almost everyone says these kind words as an act of courteousness towards the other person. When I first came to US, I would feel odd and weird as to how everyone says "thank you" like its no big deal. I would think that they don't really mean it and still say it and that's rude. But having stayed here for longer time, I have learnt why it is important to say two words to a person. It always feels good to be appreciated or acknowledged. Even spouses utter these words to each other.
I am sure the Indian generation is changing and I haven't had close contact with them but there are still many who need to assimilate this particular good from the American culture. I think the bottom line behind saying these words of acknowledgement is not taking for granted any relationship or person. Sometimes, people do say things just to make the other person feel important and they don't really believe it. Many years back, I would have thought of it as a bad thing but today I would say that at least an effort was made for someone. It is a classic Dale Carnegie principle. There is an old bollywood song - "pal bhar ke liye koi hume pyar kar le, jhootha hi sahi" which means "Love me just for a moment even if its fake". Everyone likes to be appreciated, liked and loved. It doesn't cost anything except few kind words to make them feel that way, so what's the harm in doing it.

Just because I am friends with you, married to you or related to you does not mean I am not worthy of being acknowledged. Even if its my duty to do something for you, if I did it right, say so.

And even though I am from India, I like living in the suburbs, I like my privacy and I like that no houses are behind my house. I do not like uncalled interference from others or random Indian aunties asking me about baby plans. If other Indians consider it "unIndian", please do by all means since everyone is entitled to their opinion but don't hold your breath!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Totally agree with Bill Maher

I know this is a late post about Bill Maher's take on President Obama, but I totally agree with every statement that he made in this video.

I too am tired of watching Obama whenever I turn on the TV. The media like my husband is totally in love with Barack Obama and overlook whatever he is not doing, giving excuses that how much can he do or he has just come in.
The economy is still trying to pick itself up and there hasn't been any real change. Healthcare is still in the dumps. And Immigration reform is not even on this year's agenda. I don't need to know what Father's Day message Obama sent to his daughters or where he takes his wife on dates. Give me something real to like you.

As a legal immigrant paying taxes every paycheck along with social security and medicare that I will never get to use, I demand a reform in more than one way. Having completed a Master's degree from a great university and working on an MBA degree from another, I have given quite a bit to this country. No doubt, I have received quite a bit in return too, but give me the right to advance my career without having to deal with visa issues every other year. Give me my labor approval that is stuck in audit since 20 months even though my company has proved why they hired me. Fix the immigration system from within and eliminate loopholes that allow offshore companies to use up the visas on people with lower skill and paying them less money.

Help those thousands of students who have come here to obtain advanced degrees using up their parents' lifetime savings. The American Dream is quickly fading away unless something is done. Immigration reform is not difficult and many other countries have implemented the right system which is why people are now moving to those places in search of their dream. Don't tell me that millions of illegal immigrants will receive citizenship under amnesty plan and all the legal immigrants will slog their way through a hopeless immigration system that is called the "green card system".

I did not vote for Obama because I was not eligible to do so, but here is my open request to the President. DO SOMETHING. Otherwise there is no difference between You, The President and You, The Wax Statue!