Monday, December 1, 1997

French Polynesia - Moorea

Interestingly enough, I was given a chance to study in Moorea (right next door to Tahiti one might say) for three weeks, none other than during the smack middle of summer time there, which is winter time in Northern hemisphere.
Arriving in Tahith was a bit of a culture shock. Most airplanes seem to land there around midnight or 2 a.m., which is strange enough, but the airport is the queerest thing I've ever seen. Walking out of the plane, down the steps...immediately, you hear the guitars play and you know you are going to the right direction. You are then given a small Polynesia flower and directed to two little booth where a French immigration officers sit. Just imagine that! All I could think of...somehow...was the movie Casablanca. Don't ask me why I thought of it.

Sunset Over Moorea
If you are fortunate enough when going to Tahiti, I mean through the normal channels, not as researcher, you will end up staying at one of these beautiful hut on top of the water.
Moorea, the island we stayed on, had only one road and of course, that took us around the whole island around the once volcanic mountain in the middle.
Club Med huts
Hiking here is also quite interesting although I would highly suggest some sort of mosquito repellent. It literally was jungle out there.
Mountain of Moorea

I encountered my first truly big Tropical Hurrican in Moorea.
Wind literally blew over 200 miles an hour! Thankfully, the roofs of bungalows were all 2 inches from the wall to let the wind through and there was no big damage, but the sound of large wave breaking against the corals. It truly was something...
View form the dorm

This was a view from our little bungalow looking out to the corals and the ocean beyond...
Sunsets in Moorea was always gorgeous with the special iridescent colors that photograph cannot justify. It is something you have to see for yourself. And if you thought sunset was will fall in love with the night sky.  I literally saw a whole Mikyway galaxy just by looking up to the sky!
The living conditions were not so great, We barely got enough water...not even hot water I might add and hopeless plumbing, but we definitely had a great view.

Moorea and Tahiti Travel Guides:
Moon Tahiti (Moon Handbooks) Hidden Tahiti and French Polynesia: Including Moorea, Bora Bora, and the Society, Austral, Gambier, Tuamotu, and Marquesas Islands (Hidden Travel)

Thursday, September 25, 1997

Hawaii - Oahu, Kauai, Big Island

I lived in Hawaii, actually a place called "Coconut Island" off the shore of Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, for 8 weeks of my college life. I guess it was a chance of lifetime to have such experience, but, sometimes it was rather challenging to be stuck on such a small little island (one could literally walk around the whole thing in 20 minutes!) with small number of classmates (It was granted that everyone knew everyone else's secret within few weeks) and with not so great accomodation. (Lack of hot water for example...)
Regardless, I have quite fond memories of Hawaii...what little or lot I saw of it.
I tried to explore as much as I could and as usual, took too many pictures (only about 8 rolls of film really...). 

It was my first and so far only such sailing experience...from Waikiki harbor around the coast of Honolulu, Diamond Head. Did I mention it was clothes optional boat?
Picture taken from a beautiful wooden sailboat

Snorkeling around Coconut Island is something I wish everyone could experience. Unlike the popular tourist snorkeling sites, this site is protected due to the environmental reasons (guess why it is a research station!).
We always swam through the sand/mangrove shallow bay to the forest of corals...then the coral forest suddenly drops us to the deeper ocean. There, you will see tropical fishes as though you have just dunked your head into an aquarium...except it is not through the glass but through an actual ocean water. The water itself is probably close to the temperature of swimming pool. I have experienced little better conditions (in terms of water temperature and clarity on my next destination of Moorea, French Polynesia (commonly more known as an island next to Tahiti), but never have I seen so many fishes anywhere else.  

On this little travel page, I tried my best to limit the amount of pictures to few, not best nor worst of my pictures. I have so many more, but scanning pictures really could try one's patience.
For something more serious in terms of water falls or hiking, I would suggest Sacred falls up few hours from Waikiki in North Shore area (also known for their waves). Just beware to not take a single item from there...Goddess Pele will be very angry.

Manoa Falls, Oahu
Manoa Falls is probably the only such beautiful waterfall you will find in the midst of civilization. Manoa falls was literally right behind the University of Hawaii! Boy the hiking path was absolutely muddy... squeeshy and wonderful! Wear your Tevas for those who knows what I'm talking about!

Kauai was another Island I was able to visit. There are so many beautiful hiking paths...leading to waterfalls, secluded beaches, rivers, plain no where...
We walked though the miles and miles of the jungle path, so many palm trees, tropical fruit trees, and the fragrance of the ocean as well as the sweet fruits were everywhere. Mostly the hiking path was empty.  
Big Island
The most strenuous hiking I did in Hawaii was perhaps on Big Island. The most memorable being a hike through miles of the hardened lava to a black sand beach where the real lava was flowing out to the ocean.
Volcanos? Big Island has them in abundance. The famous Kilauea Caldera, Mauna loa, lava tubes, volcanic waterfalls...the list goes on.
One warning for those who care, the high volcanic mountain area between Hilo and Kona is absolutely freezing. I did not relish being there during semi-drizzly weather.
The most strenuous hiking I did in Hawaii was perhaps on Big Island. The most memorable being a hike through miles of the hardened lava to a black sand beach where the real lava was flowing out to the ocean. 
I did a small bit of snorkeling and sampling of local areas. In terms of snorkeling, I saw a number of species of fishes I never encountered in Oahu, but the conditions are rather scary with heavy waves pushing you back toward the beach. The beach themselves are interesting...have you ever wondered what it felt to be sitting on a black sand beach?

Hilo had many past volcanic activity sites...there are some interesting lava tube caves (definitely worth checking out) as well as the usual tourist attractions...various interesting waterfalls created by the volcanic activity. Just beware that Hilo has some history of getting submerged under water. If possible, try looking for a privately owned local lodgings...definitely worth looking for.... 

Oahu Travel Guides:
Oahu Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki & Beyond (Oahu Revisited)  Top 10 Honolulu & Oahu (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides) Lonely Planet Oahu
Kauai Travel Guides:
The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed Lonely Planet Guide to Diving and Snorkeling Hawaii Book Scuba Dive Diver Divers Guide
Big Island Travel Guides:
Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook Lonely Planet Hawaii: Hawai'i the Big Island