Honolulu Chinatown Markets

4/27/2009 – 4/28/2009

Many people are wary of going to Chinatown because they’ve heard it’s scary or they think it’s a high crime area. Maybe this is partly true, but I still love going there since my Chinatown experiences have always been pleasant. You should come here and see for yourself.

Since I didn’t have a detailed Chinatown map with me, I just let myself loose and simply roamed around. The traffic police was extremely helpful. I have no problem asking for directions. There was one time when a couple police were trying to figure the direction for me, a few locals stopped by as well trying to help. We chatted a little. The police told me that you’ll get a $30 ticket if your parking meter expires. He was smiling when telling me this, so I wasn’t sure if he was telling a joke or it’s a fact. Anyway, just don’t let your parking meter expires if you park at the roadside.

A shopkeeper at a bakery saw me crossing the road and she told me that it’s $130 ticket if I get caught not using the traffic light. Oppps! I didn’t know that. Thanks for the advice from all these friendly people. :)

I visited Chinatown pretty early in the morning (7-8am ish). It was an indescribable good feeling to see the merchants open their doors one by one and get ready for business.

Guide book says Oahu Market has the freshest poke (fresh raw fish mixed with seaweed, sesame sees and other seasonings) on the island. So, Oahu Market, here I came!

There are three markets in Chinatown, namely Maunakea, Oahu and Kekaulike. They are all next to each other, but on different streets.

Maunakea Market, Honolulu Chinatown
Maunakea Market. It has a food court inside.

Maunakea Market, Honolulu Chinatown
Maunakea Market, second entrance

Kekaulike Market, Honolulu Chinatown
Kekaulike Market

Oahu Market, Honolulu Chinatown
Oahu Market

Pig, Honolulu Chinatown
Hey. Look at me! Now, that is a bit scary….

Fresh produce, Honolulu Chinatown
Lots of fresh produce – the turnover is high

Fresh fruits, Honolulu Chinatown
Fresh fruits, anyone?

seafood, Honolulu Chinatown
Fresh seafood is abundant. You can get sweet island shrimps here

Pig head, Honolulu Chinatown
I tried not to look at this pig head when I passed by this stall.

Fish head, Oahu Market
How about fish head soup for tonight?

POKE!!!! I found you!

Poke, Oahu Market
Good selections of poke

Limu Kuku Onion Poke, Oahu Market
I tried this Limu (seaweed) Kuku Onion Poke

There were three stalls selling poke. I just randomly picked one stall. I am a big fan of raw fish and seaweed. But I didn’t like the poke that I bought. The taste of seaweed was too overpowering. :( No regret for trying though.

Karan and Radim joined me for a late lunch/early dinner at the Maunakea Market food court. This food court offers a good assortment of Asian food stalls: Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese.

Maunakea Market Food Court, Honolulu Chinatown
Maunakea Market Food Court

Maunakea Market Food Court, Honolulu Chinatown
Some vendors offer fully-cooked meals ready to take, as well as short-order items like fried noodle cooked to order.

Of the more than dozen stalls here, almost half offer Filipino foods. Radim and Karan ordered Abodo Chicken and loved it. We intended to have a snack here but ended up sampling different regional foods.

Maunakea Market Food Court
Happy camper Radim tries some food from Karan’s plate. $3 for a plate of white rice and Abodo Chicken. Can’t beat that!

Maunakea Market, Honolulu Chinatown
Before leaving the market, Radim didn’t forget to tease the crabs/lobsters in the tank.

Roaming Around Honolulu Chinatown

4/27/2009 Monday

I woke up at 4am today- jet lagged.

Our apartment is located just 2 blocks away from Waikiki beach. I could hear the constant traffic from my apartment and that didn’t help me to sleep better.

So, I got up and made breakfast.

Later, Karan and Radim had to go to work. So, I was alone and ready to explore Honolulu. With guide book in my hand, I headed towards Honolulu Chinatown.

In an unfamiliar place, I always like to study the road map in advance so I get a general idea about the main highways and directions. Driving in Honolulu is not difficult. However, the road signs are small and the road names are not the usual – 3rd Street, Washington Street, etc. The road names here don’t mean anything to me and they could be long and hard to remember, such as Keeaumoku, Waiakamilo, Kanekapolei, Liliuokalani, etc. Luckily in Waikiki area and even Honolulu downtown, the speed limit is only 25-35 miles/hr. There are lots of traffic lights (if you are not using the highway), so that gives me chance to make quick reference to the map when I come to a red light.

I didn’t have a detailed map of Chinatown with me. So, I had trouble finding a good parking spot that was close to where I wanted to go. There were lots of one way streets. I drove round and round and finally found a parking that I was happy with (since I wasn’t ready to pay $10 for full day parking and the roadside parking is only for 1 hour).

I have been to Chinatown in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Seattle. Honolulu Chinatown is on the small side. There are a few vacant shops. What I like about this Chinatown is it’s not very touristy and not filled with souvenir shops. I visited this Chinatown three more times in the next two days at various times. I found that the markets weren’t too busy. The shoppers here were so laid back. They didn’t seem rushed when doing their grocery shopping.

I passed by a hair salon and made an appointment for tomorrow (see next post). :)

Honolulu Chinatown Riverside
People hang out at Chinatown riverside, play chess, drink tea etc

Honolulu Chinatown
The street signs in Chinatown are pretty distinct, as they’re written in both English and Chinese words.

Honolulu Chinatown
Getting blessings from Guanyin

Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen (Father of modern China) statute in Chinatown

Pho To-Chau Vietnamese restaurant
A line outside Pho To-Chau Vietnamese restaurant, just like what is described in the guide book. I love Pho soup, but I wasn’t hungry when I passed by this restaurant. So, I didn’t try the food. :(

Golden Palace Restaurant
Golden Palace Restaurant

chinese food in Honolulu Chinatown

Although fresh local and imported fruit selections are unparalleled here, I specifically looked for fruits from Oahu, not imported from Mexico or China.

Local Hawaii Fruits
We found local Oahu fruits here (Hotel/Maunakea Street, see the shop banner below).

Local Oahu Fruits
The very friendly shop owner told me that Oahu produces limited amount of local fruits. So, they have to import fruits from other countries. But he specializes in local fruits. :) And, he gave me discount. Yay!

Karan and Radim joined me at Chinatown after their work. We stopped by Summer Frappe to have a very refreshing fresh fruit smoothie.

Summer Frappe smoothie, Honolulu Chinatown
At Summer Frappe (Pauahi Street). Yummy fresh fruit smoothies. The lady in the middle is the shop owner, Summer Chau. No artificially-flavored powdered smoothies here. I had aloe, mango and papaya smoothie. :)

After that, we stopped by the Maunakea market to have a bite (see next post).

First Night in Honolulu

Our plane reached Honolulu at 3pm.

Although I’ve traveled for a whole day and it’s 8pm in Iowa, I wasn’t tired.

I walked out of the airport, and immediately filled my lung with the island air. Ohhh.. this air smells so familiar. The temperature was perfect (76F/24C).

I was delighted to feast my eyes with exotic tropical plants which some are available in Borneo and some I’ve never seen.

You don’t see this in Iowa.

Radim was able to connect with Kim and Natalie and arrange to have a dinner together. It was so nice to see some old friends, in Oahu!

We went to Phuket Thai restaurant for little din din.

My first impression of the restaurant was the waiters were very friendly and laid back. Perhaps a little too laid back because the service was slow. I was in such good mood and company that I didn’t mind.

Yummy seafood Pad Thai
Yummy seafood Pad Thai

Great company
Me, Radim, Natalie, Kim and Karan

In the photo, Natalie, Kim and I were showing the shaka sign. This is done by extending the pinkie and the thumb while curling the middle three fingers. This is a friendly sign of greeting in Hawaii.

After the dinner, it was about 9pm and the weather get chilly. Nothing unbearable though.

On our way home to the apartment, we stopped by a grocery store to buy some bread and eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast (we rented an apartment and it has kitchen). I’ve read in the guide book that the produce here could be expensive. So, I was very curious about the prices of the grocery.

eggs in honolulu

eggs in honolulu

Well, what do you think of the prices?

The price of eggs in Malaysia is about RM3 (less than USD1) per dozen. My mom would get a heart attack when she sees the prices of eggs in Honolulu.

We picked up some papayas, bananas, bread, jam, water, etc from the supermarket. By the time we finished grocery shopping, I was quite tired (already 3am in Iowa time).

Came back t to the apartment and went straight to bed!

On my way to Oahu!

I have been waiting for this day to come for a while now!

I have never been to Hawaii and didn’t really have any desire to go. It’s simply because it’s a world renowned vacation spot and I always have this impression that Hawaiian islands would be filled with tourists. I certainly am not into touristy spots.

Karan and his colleague Radim will be going to Oahu for work. So, I Googled Hawaii for fun and hmm… it’s world renowned for a reason! I decided to tag along with Karan and see it for myself.

Despite of morning alarm issue, we managed to reach the airport on time. Hallelujah.

Minneapolis Airport
Radim & Karan at Minneapolis airport

Radim, me & Karan
Radim, me & Karan at Minneapolis airport

Our flight: Cedar Rapids – Minneapolis – Honolulu

The Minneapolis to Honolulu flight was 8 hours long. From my experience of American flights, I didn’t expect them to serve food (I still have vivid memory of the tiny pack of low calorie pretzel on my first domestic flight), even on an 8 hour flight. Well, they did.

Flight food
Lunch – Although not very appetizing, for the love of rice, I did finish the terriyaki chicken with rice. Other food … please judge for yourself.

flight food
Snack time: Cold ham and cheese burger, chocolate and chips. What’s up with the cold sandwich??? Yuck!

Thank goodness that I was prepared for this flight. :) You want to see what I could pull out from my backpack?
Food in backpack
Is this a backpack or a pantry?

Karan made the nut balls. Yummy!

food in laptop bag
Gotta have fresh fruits!

You would never go hungry when traveling with OuOu. :)

I watched the Hindi movie “Fashion” during the flight. There’s a always a risk watching Hindi movie on board. Last time I ended up with two giant red tomato eyes after watching one. Although I enjoyed Fashion, thank goodness this movie didn’t tickle my tear gland too much.

Oahu Ultimate Guide Book
Oahu Revealed – The Ultimate Guidebook to Honolulu, Waikiki and Beyond

I read this book cover to cover before this trip. I always like to prepare myself prior to a trip so that I learn about the local culture before hand, know what to bring with me and what to expect. Having said that, one could never fully expect what’s coming his way on a trip.

Almost there
We are almost there!

I am ready to see for myself what’s Oahu all about! Aloha!

My Random 25

(From Facebook- Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.)

1. Strange that I am sitting down and writing these 25 random things, ‘cos I thought I would never do this. Really!!!

2. When I was small, I was very afraid of dogs. I even dreamed of dogs biting me. Funny now I absolutely love my precious Kai. My family still calls me ouou (sounds like dog’s bark) – a nick name that I get since I was small. You could tell that I have a mean family.

3. I hope one day my parents (and brother, and sisters) could come here and live with me.

4. My mom pulled her hair out raising me. I didn’t do my homework, I cursed, etc. A note from my elementary school report card (which I kept till now) said I had horrible handwriting. LOL

5. I wonder why I was born as a female.

6. I have blue belt brown tip in Tak Kwan Do (high school). My mom strongly opposed to furthering my training. She felt that I was becoming too tomboy. LOL. No regrets for not getting black belt. I had fun.

7. When I was 14, I had the same hairstyle as Demi Moore’s in Ghost, the Movie.

8. My sisters are my best friends. I miss hanging out together. No matter how long we haven’t met each other, the bond will always be there. I love them (and my brother) tremendously.

9. Since i was small, I have dreamed to build a lovely family – a husband, three kids and two dogs. So far, only part of it has come through – i have one dog now.

10. I love books. I collect books.

11. I don’t like to read English books. No English books and English songs could affect me like Mandarin books and songs. I will never like English more than Mandarin. Never.

12. People see me as feminine and well put together – in fact, I am a tomboy and I love t-shirt and sweatpants. Oh yeah!

13. I don’t like to wear jewelry – well, I accessorize when I go out, but honestly, I don’t like to wear any jewelry, including watches.

14. I don’t like high heels. I love flip-flops.

15. I have a weakness in noodles – especially kangpua noodle. You could give me the fanciest menu in the world, and I would still order kangpua noodle. Oh well, that’s if shark’s fin soup is not on the menu.

16. I had my first kiss when I was 18, that followed by a relationship that last nine years long.

17. When I was 19, I won first prize in essay writing competition organized by a major newspaper. I still don’t understand why I won since the competition was fierce. I must be really good. :)

18. I often spend too much time imagining scenarios that would never happen.

19. Although I love my friends and could be a social butterfly, I feel like an outsider in most social gatherings. In fact, I am not a very social person. I don’t feel comfortable in any party. Spending time with flowers and trees in the nature makes me feel more at home.

20. I have acrophobia.

21. I like to travel the local style – use public transportation, eat at random cafes, walk without specific plans, etc.

22. I can’t stand men with no body hair.

23. I like to shop alone.

24. I am very good at investigation. I should be a detective.

25. I was a Sunday School teacher at a local church.

26. I lived in Taiwan for two years.

27. I don’t like rules, so I am not going to stop writing at #25.

28. Living in this foreign land, I often feel an ocean of loneliness sweeping through me.

29. I plan to settle down in two years.

30. I love old wooden furniture and old wooden doors.