(This is the 4th article in my 2023 Hawaii travel report. See here for the first article.)
Watery Avatar and a New Discovery
On the plane to Hawaii I started watching the new Avatar movie (Avatar: The Way of Water), but lost interest after around 10 minutes. Despite having nice visuals, it was just too tedious and I didn’t feel a strong sense of story. For all the money put into making the movie, I just didn’t care what happened next.
Then I came across a few episodes of Star Trek: Discovery that were available as well, and on a whim tried out one of them. While it took a little time to get used to the new character lineup, after one episode I was blown away by the quality, especially the acting, story writing, and visual effects. I watched another episode and then three more on the return flight. I’ve been a huge Star Trek: The Next Generation fan since I was young, but didn’t expect to enjoy the series this much. I’m hoping to watch the rest of the episodes in the near future. But if you are into science fiction I highly recommend checking it out.
Traveling with a child generally makes things a bit tricker, especially in terms of finding ways to keep everyone happy, and this limits the activities that can be done during a stay in Hawaii (or anywhere else). Plus, I’m a bit jaded about many of the dramatic marketic claims about Hawaii. After all, I was born and raised near the beach in South Florida, which has similar weather, similar plants, and a similar tropical feel. So many of the things people rave about Hawaii just don’t impress me much.
Having said that, there are certainly unique experiences you can only find in Hawaii, and I think it’s one of the best places for surfing and other water activities. We haven’t seen any of the well-known Hula dances yet, which are perhaps a good symbol of the islands’ traditional culture.
For me, I found the most enjoyment in simply appreciating the architecture, culture, and overall atmosphere of Hawaii. I’m not normally into wild birds, but Hawaii was filled with interesting birds: everything from free-roaming chickens to red-headed birds to colorful birds of paradise you might find in a petshop. There were other animals I had never seen before, like the little rat-like things that ran across the road who turned out to be mongooses. A local told me that supposedly someone brought over a large number of mongooses by boat to take care of the rat problem, but because mongooses are active during the day whereas rats are during the night, the plan failed miserably, and now Hawaii has both of them roaming around. I have also heard some areas are filled with wild deer who come out during the night to steal whatever food they can, but I never actually got to see them with my own eyes.
Hawaii is definitely a nice place to travel, but you have to weigh the costs with what you are looking to do, and not get brainwashed by the travel ads. By the way, overall I wasn’t that impressed with the food. We had a few good experiences, but a handful of bad ones too, even more than one bout of indigestion (including some of the worst Thai food I ever had). I guess the variety of foods available in Hawaii is much higher than a small or medium town in the continental US, but in most big cities (including Portland) you can get a wide selection of foods from many cultures from around the world.
To me a vacation is not necessarily about having a great time for a reasonable cost; it’s more about doing something different from your daily life, finding a way to get out of any mental or other kinds of rut you have built up from the repetition of common everyday activities. So from that perspective, I think this trip to Hawaii definitely served as a good vacation. Not to mention some of the extra time sitting in planes or hotels helped me get in a little more time on a certain Japanese novel I have been reading (hopefully I’ll get out a review on that in a few weeks).
By the way, we also visited Hawaii a few years ago and I wrote about it in good detail here. For that trip we did more touristy things, whereas our trip this year was more about meeting friends and exploring some places.
(continued in Part 5, which focuses on pictures)