After a late night coming in, we slept in a bit and decided to take out 1 beach visit from our itinerary. Our plan was to travel to the North shore for beaches and food. We drove to the very top to Ted’s Bakery for breakfast and their famous Haupia Pie. I ordered the Loco Moco mini $8.87USD which was still large for my standards.
Our first beach that we went to was Sunset beach. Parking spots are on the side of the road. We hung out in the water and on the beach for awhile until the rain came down. The rain kept going in and out that day.
After the rain fall became too steady at Sunset Beach, we hopped back in the car and went back down the road a bit to Foodland to grab food and luckily the Coffee Bean had my favourite – Bubbies – Ice Cream Mochi. Across the road was Pūpūkea Beach Park – Shark’s Cove. We didn’t end up staying in this area but it is a mention worthy view to see.
I had visited Waimea Beach in my previous visit to Oahu but we decided to skip it as there were droves of people there and parking looked full. Waimea is known for their jump rock which you can view on the drive to and from North shore and south to Waikiki. Our next stop was Laniakea Beach. Laniakea Beach is the beach in which you need to park on the inner side of the road and cross traffic to get to the beach. It is also known for turtles. We saw one. The traffic was incredibly built up around this area and finding parking was difficult. Also, be warned that the spots also lower from the main road and there is a good chance you will scratch the bottom of your rental car depending on the spot. It also started to rain again as we made this pitstop so our stay wasn’t long. Our drive to Haleiwa gave us views of full rainbows.
Haleiwa is such a cute little town that has everything you need but I mainly know it for the food spots. In Hawaiian culture, w’s are pronounced as v’s so Haleiwa is pronounced ha-leh-ee-vah. Our first stop was to the famous shrimp truck called Giovanni’s Shrimp truck. NOTE: This is the second location – the Northeast shore location is much better and less crowded. There is a parking lot but it does get crowded. Giovanni’s is only opened to a certain time so we made sure that would be our first stop. Renee & Lulu ordered and we waited for about 20-30 minutes. There are plenty of picnic tables to eat at but we took it to go and onward to our next feat – the line for Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice. This is the same location as previous but they have done a big remodel. The line was long but well worth it as I ordered a small for $3USD (3 flavours) lilikoi, pineapple and yuzu with the addition of mochi for $1. The yuzu was my favourite.
We had passed the Dole Plantation on our drive up to the North shore and thought maybe we had time to stop by the gift shop on the way back to get pineapple soft serve however they close at 530PM and we were in line at Giovanni’s around that time. We drove back to Waikiki and walked over to the International Centre and went to the Marketplace – Mitsuwaya to grab some food. I ordered from MODO – mochi donuts. I picked up 3 flavours and they are little balls of mochi really that attach to one another and easy to pull apart to eat. Rather light in doughiness and not too intense flavouring. Strawberry and the Earl Grey were my favourites. We ended up going downstairs to The Street Food Hall for dinner. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing) $14.99USD from Indie Girl and I have to say I was defeated by a bowl of greens and salted sweet potato.
My leg had been in pain and swollen (no resting really) and seemed to have gotten worse as the trip went on. Renee who is a chiro had been working on my leg during the trip and in the span of the first 3-4 days, I had developed jumpers knee and possibly meniscus irritation. I had to drop by Longs Drugs to pick up a patella band and athletic tape as well as a ice pack. (NOTE: When I returned to Toronto, my Chiro gave me a full diagnosis and the knee pain I was experiencing was from overcompensation from over pronation trying to avoid pain as a walked. What this really meant was my alignment was way off causing my knee to have pains from not walking properly with my knee rotated inwards as I walked to avoid pain and messing up my alignment.
For those Terrace House fans, i stopped by 88tees in hopes I would see Avian from Terrace House. I first started at the 88tees on Kuhio but her swimwear line ILA swim was at the other location on the main strip that you have to go up the stairwell to get to. Alas, she wasn’t there. After checking social media, I found out that majority of the people from Terrace House Aloha State were together in Japan. Not meant to be. I also loosely was trying to see if I could spot some Terrace House people when I was in Japan but they were vice versa and in Hawaii during the time I was in Japan.
We got a decent deal on flights ($1024CAD) with United Airlines from Toronto to arrive in Ho Chi Minh / Saigon and fly home from Bangkok however for this trip to be slightly cheaper, there were multiple stopover: YYZ->IAD;IAD->EWR (really UA.. you can’t just fly us to New York instead of detouring out to Washington); EWR->HKG;HKG->SGN. Flight home will be BKK->NRT;NRT->DEN;DEN->ORD;ORD->YYZ.
The flights weren’t actually that bad and I think because it was so broken up in the beginning it didn’t feel as gruelling until we finally made it to Hong Kong and awaited to board one more flight. The airport in Ho Chi Minh is basic. We lined up at the visa counter and handed in our visa approval forms (that we already booked online -$19.99USD ($27.16CAD) – http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/) then had to complete another form with the same basic information (you can leave passport info blank as they take your passport) then fill in your address, profession, accommodation location etc. Then you line back up and hand in that completed form with a passport photo (1 only) then sit down until they call your name. When they call your name proceed to the counter and receive your passport with the visa ticket inside and give $45USD and you are all set. One final bag screening and then out the door you go.
I exchanged $20CAD right away for cab fare and Adam did $20USD. We got swindled off the bat – NOTE FOR FUTURE: STICK WITH MAI LINHS AND VINASUN taxis and negotiate fare before hopping in. There is a exit fee of 10.000 NOT 100.000 which our driver showed us who probably did a switcheroo. When we got to our destination, the meter read 83.0 which is 83.000 but he kept insisting it was 830.000 which we didn’t have enough of anyways but we did give him nearly 700.000. We got ripped off completely but it was also our fault in the beginning because we told him its our first time there… All in all, we are down about $35 already on one taxi ride. If you can arrange a airport transfer, it could be cheaper or same price but less hassle.
We stayed at Hosen 2 Hotel – 4A Thi Sach with a double and a single bed. We ended up falling asleep around 230-3AM and I had set my alarm for 10AM. I easily awoke to 530AM and the sun rises around that time. We started our day around 645AM with our hotel’s buffet breakfast. It wasn’t bad at all as it included normal western food such as omelette, sausage, potatoes, egg, cereal etc but also noodles in soup, custard steam bun, rice, noodles, DIY banh mi, fish, meatballs, squid etc.
After breakfast, we went out to exchange money while trying to spot certain places such as Nhu Lan Bakery and Ben Thanh market. We walked by the water and experienced our first traffic jam with motorbikes, cars, vans, taxis and humans crossing through. I learned how to cross the street by just literally watching an old lady cross the road. You go slowly and keep eye contact with one hand sort of out; this way you and the motorcyclists know whats happening and both can adjust. We found Nhu Lan Bakery but then remembered we didn’t have any cash on us at that point so we went nearby to exchange currency. They round up here in terms of money and also don’t use coins. They barely even use their small bills (500,1000,2000,5000).
After that, we explored Ben Thanh market area which is very similar to every other night market Ive been to selling souvenirs, food and clothing. We walked around some more in the vicinity and ended up at Trung Nguyen Coffee where we sat on the second floor and people watched below and enjoyed some cold beverages. I had the green tea latte with coffee jelly (49.000VND). We then walked around more and ended up going to the Independence Palace which is their version of the white house then continued our walk back to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit and it was perfect timing as it started to pour really hard outside. We watched a little television and re-cooped then off we went to the airport to pick up Amy. This time, the fee was correct with roughly 122.000VND going in and about 155.000VND coming back due to traffic. Amy has been in Asia for 10-12 days prior with family and other friends. Since Amy came in later, we were unfortunately too late to do the Cu Chi Tunnels tour and we didn’t want to spend $52USD/pp to do a private tour since it was only half day and our Mekong Delta (full day) was $50USD/pp.
We got back to the hotel to drop off her stuff then off we went to get lunch at Nhu Lan Bakery (50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1,) Trip advisor had this place highly recommended for their Banh Mi and they were pretty good. If you like hot then keep the pepper in but if not, either ask them to leave it out or pull it out. It left a tingle going on inside my throat and on my lips but it was very good. 20.000VND which is $1USD. We grabbed it and continued on our way to Ben Thanh Market with Amy. After visiting Ben Thanh again, we walked around trying to figure out what we wanted to see next since Cu Chi Tunnels wasn’t going to happen. We walked towards the cathedral but it looked packed with tourists so we went across the street to the Saigon Central Post Office (2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, tp.). From there, we ventured to Vincom Centre (70 – 72 Le Thanh Ton | District 1) where it is filled with UK brands and a store that sold some Canadian brands like Venque and Natives. We ate and drank at Mochi Sweets (72 Lê Thánh Tôn, Tầng B2 Vincom, Bến Nghé, Quận 1). I can’t turn down good japanese treats such as mochi! I got the Green tea ice cream drink – 49.000VND (started off just tasting like water until the ice cream melted. We also decided to get 2 mochis each. I got the durian (with real durian chunks) and peach cream – both were good! We also had green tea, chocolate mousse, apple and purple potato. 28.000 each.
We decided we should get pho for dinner and looked up the top 5 places; we settled for one of the top ones which was also one of the farthest. I suggested we go because it was getting dark so it was a little cooler out plus we wouldn’t be walking that far into that area otherwise and I wanted to walk unfamiliar streets to take in more. Pho Hoa Pasteur (p. 8, 260E Pasteur) where I had Tiger beer with a small Tripe pho bowl. Tastes different but nonetheless still really good! We then took our time to walk back and battled the traffic once again and made it back to our hotel for a good nights sleep as the following day we are to do a Mekong Delta tour which starts at 5AM.
As a full group of 15, we visited Aloha Stadium (99-500 Salt Lake Blvd) bright and early for their swap meet. We caught a bus that apparently went the long way around (should’ve caught the 42 but caught the 20 instead). Took about an hour to get there. The swap meet takes over the exterior perimeter of the stadium with tents set up and vendors sell everything and anything. Similar to ladies market in Hong Kong and any other markets you have ever been to.
Picked up souvenirs and lots of trinkets as well as some locally made foods. I also was able to find a beautiful double infinity bone necklace from the auntie who was selling real authentic Hawaiian costumes.
Back to Ala Moana mall for lunch – I had this amazing acai bowl ($7.95USD) from Grylt. Acai bowls are similar to a yogurt parfait but replace the base with acai frozen yogurt and place granola, honey, banana, strawberries and blueberries on top. And of course, went to Foodland for poke and also to grab mochi ice cream from Beard Papa. My friends wanted to visit some local stores like Fitted and Kicks / HI (1530 Makaloa St) where I bought my first 5 panel hat – Publish Gold Motif ($40 USD) which is this nice dark blue with gold floral. Headed over Walmart and bought everything macadamia nut then we caught the bus home and met up with our friend Justina who just arrived after major delays.
For dinner, went made reservations at Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar by the beach at the Marriott. I ate the cucumber and wakame salad and Sansei Special Roll ($2.95 & $9.95USD). Went to Lawson (2255 Kalakaua Ave) where they also have Bubbies Ice cream mochi. So far on this trip, I’ve had 14 mochi’s and I still haven’t tasted every flavour and have only doubled twice. We didn’t want our night to end so we walked the beach at night to the end with the huge rainbow mural on the Hilton Hotel.
I travelled to Oahu, Hawaii for 13 days for my friend’s (Melissa & Juan) wedding celebration. I did not plan any second of it and just went with the flow of things.
Our main group for the trip was large (15 people – many more joined afterwards). But we managed to stay in Waikiki for a week and then North on the island in Kaʻaʻawa.
We flew with United Airlines to Oahu, Hawaii with a detour in Chicago. The plane ride felt like it was never-ending. The first leg to Chicago was decent but then you get corralled into groups to board the next plane. We took a Boeing 77 so it holds more people. What sucks is that even with this large amount of people and the flight alone being 8-9 hours, no food is provided unless purchased. There was also no outlet or television however they had this United wifi setup so you can view the movies and shows on your electronic devices.
We finally arrived in Honolulu and hopped on the Reliable Shuttle to bring us to our hotel for the week – Aqua Bamboo – It’s a cozy hotel a block away from the beach which lowers costs. After we settled into the rooms, we went straight for the beach and for food. We went to this corner restaurant called Shore Fyre (2446 Koa Ave) and I got a steak and garlic shrimp platter ($14.95USD) which came with salad and brown rice – delicious.
Walked over to the beach and we just took to the water. Palm trees everywhere, bodies everywhere, the salt water was so warm and waves coming in. This is one of the more touristy areas but man this is the life. I could definitely get use to waking up and heading to the beach all golden everyday.
We stayed at the beach on the rocks watching the sun set (which came early and went down quickly) then back to the hotel to rinse off and go for food. There is literally an ABC store on every corner. It has everything you would need but apparently Ala Moana Mall has the items cheaper or head to Walmart (especially if you want the macadamia nuts). We walked to Food Pantry (2370 Kuhio Ave) which is their grocery store but also has a little food court. Right by the main entrance is one steak place called HiSteaks and you can get a steak plate (rice and egg) for $9.99USD. Melissa had noticed they had ice cream mochi but not any ordinary mochi – the have Bubbies (cantaloupe, green tea, pistachio, sakura) which I have been going on and on about. I decided eating only mochi for dinner was a bad choice so I got white truffle oil shoestring fries and 4 ice cream mochi with a small (not small at all) Fanta fruit punch ($9.91USD in total – $1.69/mochi here). Mind you, we ate only an hour or two ago so don’t judge me.
We hit the beach bright and early and stationed ourselves by the beach bistro and police station. There was a surf competition so the water was filled with surfers. The area we anchored ourselves had water that was a little more choppy then the previous day but nonetheless, after you got in it was delightful. Once it rolled around to noon, the became filled with tourists as it was also a Sunday. For lunch, we went to the Hilton Hotel to Mac 24/7 which by the name is open 24/7. Man vs Wild made it known to the world as the manhole cover sized (14 inch) pancakes (3 stacks). Jaira, Melissa and myself attempted it (Pineapple, macadamia nut and coconut with maple syrup and coconut syrup) for $22USD. It was delicious but even though we divided it into 1/3 each, I was the only one able to finish my piece and that was painful to say the least.
Our friends Ronnel and Eric whose flight never left Toronto finally arrived and quickly threw their stuff into our rooms and we all headed to the beach. Took in the afternoon sun and then walked a distance as a whole group to Rainbow Drive-in (3308 Kanaina Ave) and Leonards (933 Kapahulu Ave). Rainbow Drive-in is a good ol’ local eatery – nothing fancy but they sure make some good local comfort food. I had the mixed platter plate with BBQ, chicken and ahi ahi fish with rice and mac salad ($7.95USD). Great food that tasted amazing and best part is that it is cheap! Leonard’s is a Portuguese bakery that specializes in Malasadas – Portuguese donuts with no holes that are usually filled. Even though the walk to dinner was a long one, we decided to go for a night walk and ended up at the Pier and just hung out in the dark. Its amazing how you can see the commercial part of the beach where the hotels are light up the sky but the other side has no lights so its a beautiful chiaroscuro on the ocean and you look up and the stars are so bright. We called it a somewhat early night after that.
With a late start, we did laundry at the hostel and grabbed some onigiri from 7-Eleven before making our way to the Ramen Museum by Ikeda Station. We needed to take the train to Osaka Station to switch over to the Hankyu line. The Ramen museum is free and showcases the origins of cup noodle and the design and packaging methods throughout the years. We made our own customized cup noodle for 300¥. To make your own personalized cup, you put money into a vending machine to receive a blank cup noodle cup. You then proceed to an area where you are free to design and colour your cup any which way you want before getting in line to choose your soup base and 4 ingredients before they vacuum seal it then placing it in an inflatable bag to take it away and protect it.
We were to meet Kayo for dinner at 6PM near Osaka station however we got distracted by Yodobashi Camera Store (so bright and so many signs) that we were late to meet Kayo. We met at Tennoji station and walked over to Tsuruhashi Fugetsu Yodobashiumeda for Okonomiyaki (cabbage and egg pancakes with meat). We chose to share 4 – shrimp, potato & cheese, squid with noodle, and beef. Kayo also ordered something that had meat and mochi which was really good. They bring your order to your table where they have a flat top where they cook it right in front of you.
After dinner, Kayo took us into another building called Abeno Q’s Mall. There are tons of 100¥ shops as well as one of our favourite stores – Uniqlo (much larger than the one at Daimura Mall). Very strange to see the lack of security they had in the malls to “lock-up” their stores using only netting.
I lived in Pasadena for about 3 months back in 2010 and this was my saving grace. Price and quality can’t be beat here. The ultimate grocery store for the college kid and for everyone else whose on a budget and who wants to shop at a cheaper version of Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s has their own line of products that can range from food to even cleaning products. Organic or not, the food is great, fresh and plentiful. NYC is one of the only place on the east coast to have these beautiful stores and every time I go, I make an effort to stop by to purchase their amazing snacks; specifically their unsulfurated dried mangoes and dark chocolate edamame beans that I have grown addicted to. The atmosphere is fun with their employees sporting hawaiian shirts and each store has a plastic lobster hiding around. There are usually tons of sampling going on inside the store but I’ve heard that if you want to try something that isn’t being sampled, you can ask an employee and they can open one up for you. They also sell their own line of reusable totes and I still use mine till this day for everything.
Order off their main menu or order off their “not-so secret menu” the fast food chain is quick and tasty. It has that retro vibe to it and is the west coast equivalent to Shake Shack in the east. Animal Style is a burger of your choice with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread with grilled onions OR if you want to opt for it, you can get all of that on your fries. My goto meal here is usually a double double (2 patties, 2 cheese slices) and animal style fries. Pictured below is an “animal style” cheeseburger with fries.
Run by the talented Christine Moore and her team, this little cafe & bakery shop has amazing quality food for a reasonable fare. Their menu has a good selection for brunch, lunch and dinner. Catering is also available here which we used multiple times during my time there. I don’t think I’ve had anything on their menu that I didn’t like. My favourites were the old fashioned turkey – $9.50USD (oven roasted turkey, comte, aioli, mixed greens, tomatoes on whole wheat) and their Dal Bowl – $10USD (brown rice, curried cauliflower, garlic, spinach, chutney, tofu, raita and yellow lentil dal). This shop is also great for pastries, local goods, gifts and their homemade sea salted caramels and marshmallows are mouthwatering. A must stop if in Pasadena!
Located on Meridian Ave. and El Centro Street next to the Gold Line South Pasadena Station.
Near by the Trader Joes on Mission St, this farmers market opens Thursdays year-round from 4-8 PM. Local vendors selling a large variety of local goods and local produce. It’s a great community event that sells products such as Kettlecorn, tempah, to handmade soaps just to name a few.
A landmark of South Pasadena is Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain and yes it still is used as a pharmacy to this day. On the corner of Mission St and Fair Oaks Avenue, this establishment has been running since 1915 under another name. The Pharmacy is now state of the art and the soda fountain still in its prime to make their homemade malts, ice cream floats and milkshakes. The ambiance is still that classic vintage feel so take a sit on a stool by the counter or slide into a booth for your taste of the past with their tin ceilings and honeycomb tiles. I got a grape ice cream soda and a turkey bacon avocado sandwich.
Another landmark – Fosselmans has been a staple name in Pasadena since 1919. In 1974, they moved shops to its current location in Alhambra. Their ice cream is homemade and was recommended by a local who said it brought back memories of childhood for him. They offer coffee and sandwiches in addition but the ice cream is definitely the highlight of this place (their ice cream can be purchased in multiples places). It’s the perfect solution for a hot sunny day. I got myself a black raspberry milkshake and it was amazing! – Cash only!
So good that I came back again. I ordered #3 which was beans and cheese torta that included avocado, jalapeño, mayo, and some other things I can’t remember. I paired it with a pineapple soda and I practically inhaled it. There was also a place she mentioned called Father Nature which serves really healthy but really good or as the sign says lavish panini’s and next time I’m in the area I will definitely try that out.
My all time favourite place for ramen – hands down. This place is where I recommend everyone to goto if they are ever in LA. Daikokuya isn’t hard to miss with its yellow awning and usually with a line out the door. I’ve been here twice and will be back the next I’m in LA. If you have a large group, you will have to wait to be seated as the restaurant is more on the smaller size but cozy with decor of vintage coca cola ads from Japan. If you are eating alone, you can be seated at the counter and watch the magic happen as ramen is made and sent out. I had the Daikoku Ramen $8.50USD which is the specialty ramen and it was SOOO GOOD. The broth is like no other that I’ve had. – Cash only!
If you like ice cream mochi, you gotta go here! Mikawaya, is 105-year-old confectionary company known for inventing mochi ice cream which is located in Little Tokyo. In recent years, it was privately sold to a firm but still produces the same loved confectionaries they always have made. This shop sells Japanese ice cream & sweets and specialize in various flavours of mochi but the piece du resistance is their mochi-lato which are ice cream mochi. I have a huge thing for mochi especially ice cream mochi and this place hits the spot! I’ve eaten so many but ones that I always got were green tea, raspberry cream and mango and they were so divine. For just around $1USD each, they were the size of hackysacks and just leave a smile on your face. I can’t wait to go back for more.