And now, FINALLY, we have reached the final stretch of my winter travels, my family trip to Hawaii. It has taken me far too long to write all of this, and I really appreciate everyone being patient with me and my turtle’s pace.
Where I left off last time, Annin and I had just left Cambodia and flown back to Ho Chi Minh City. We met up with a group of my friends who also happened to be in the city, and all five of us had decided to cram into a hotel room for the night. And here my family is absolutely right to be thinking, “ahh, to be young and broke,” which is pretty much why it happened. And also because my friend’s friend works at the hotel, and was cool with looking the other way as we squished into the room.
Anyway, that night we all went out for dinner, drinks, and dancing. One friend promised to take us to a club that played hip hop, but after about an hour and a half of techno we gave up on this hope and crawled into bed, sometime in the wee hours of the morning. The next day we all went out for pho, then Annin, Selina and I set out to find the Saigon Flea Market, which is held 2x a month in district 7. None of us had ever been to this district, and it turned out to be a bit of a trek. Once we arrived I felt like I was in a completely different city – District 7 is where all of the mega-wealthy Saigoneers live, and so it’s filled with fancy expensive shops and big buildings. This was all a bit of a surprise for us, and going into the market I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But there was no need to worry, it ended up being a pretty cool place. Lots of boutiques and local artisans were selling everything from clothes to macarons, and it was really cool to see that this sort of artsy event was available in HCMC.
After the market I started feeling the effects of a night of drinking, and suddenly the thought of 12 hours of travel looked downright gruesome. But, with no way out of it I downed some aspirin, hugged Annin and Selina goodbye, and arrived at the airport too early to check-in for my flight, which was then delayed an additional hour. Travel tip for anyone traveling in Asia – avoid all airlines with the word “China” in them. They are probably cheaper, but will inevitably be delayed.
But by some miracle of travel I made my connecting flight in Taipei, and then arrived in Honolulu with time to spare, and even made it onto an earlier flight to Maui. Sadly, my family didn’t have quite as much luck, and after a cancelled flight ended up in Hawaii sometime very late. I woke up and said hello when they arrived, but I can’t say I was too awake. Pretty much the only thing I really remember from my first night in Maui is the drive from the airport to the hotel, where a friendly couple and their dog told me all about how they couldn’t stand Thailand because it had that, “third world stink.” I was really glad when they got off the shuttle before me…
But moving on, it was really great to be reunited with the family, and we spent the week doing the relaxed resort thing: shopping, sitting by the pool, and day-tripping. Our most eventful day was probably the tour of the Road to Hana, a twisty crazy road that winds around the island and is known for beautiful views.
The scenery was indeed gorgeous, but the day was a bit marred for me by the guide, whose colorful commentary managed to be both racist, sexist, and generally uninteresting. By the end of the day I had given up on him, preferring instead to put in my headphones and use music as my guide to the scenery, which made for a much more pleasant experience. But even so, after 12 hours of winding, bumpy, tiny roads, everyone was ready to go back to the hotel.
Otherwise the trip was quite lovely. We spent time in the town of Lahaina, had delicious shave ice and Korean tacos, attempted a day of hiking (which really didn’t work out, but was fun anyway), and I got a lot of quality shopping in, so you know I was happy. The family also tried a fresh coconut for the first time, and learned very quickly that they much preferred the sugary variety found in a pina colada to the real thing.
After a week of fun in the sun it was time for me to say farewell to the family and begin the trek back to Vietnam. It was sad parting with everyone, but, if things fall into place, I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I see everyone again.
I had worked it out so that when I left the family, I still had one day in Honolulu to spend with a friend and fellow Pacrimmer. We spent the day driving around the island and I got a good feel for the absolute chaos that is Oahu traffic. Drivers in Vietnam may be crazy, but I’ve never waited in traffic for more than 10 minutes. But here, we sat on the road for probably an hour, for a stretch that otherwise would have taken 10 minutes. Just… wow. But really I didn’t mind, since the Island was beautiful, and I had a great time catching up with Erin. We ate some AMAZING Korean and Japanese food, I met her adorable dogs, and had avocado bubble tea (which should really move to the mainland, asap).
At the end of the day Erin dropped me off at the airport, and I made the long journey home. On both flights I was seated next to babies, because the universe knows that even on a good day that’s my idea of hell. I think the flight attendant on plane #1 saw the sheer panic in my eyes when I discovered I would be sitting next to two tiny babies for a 11 hour flight, and quickly offered to reseat me. Even though it meant giving up my aisle for a middle seat I jumped on the opportunity, and the mother seemed happy to have extra space to stretch out.
In the end I made it safely back to Vietnam, and I realized I really was really happy to be back. After almost three weeks of travel, it was great to be home again.