‘There it’s just…a little different’

Photo credit - Kathryn Morgan (thanks!)

Photo credit – Kathryn Morgan (thanks!)

I am going to confess something now that will make the hard core film fans amongst you recoil in horror. I am not a Quentin Tarantino fan. Yep, I said it. His films are ok but I don’t love them – and some of them I really don’t like at all. But, I will say two things about the guy: 1. He can write fantastic dialogue and 2. He is a most excellent chooser of soundtracks. As a result I have the Pulp Fiction soundtrack in my car and am intimately familiar with some of the film’s dialogue which is included on the soundtrack. This is all a REALLY round about way of getting to the point of my blog – which has nothing to do with film, Quentin Tarantino or soundtracks (sorry if you were getting excited QT fans!). There is one bit of dialogue on the soundtrack when John Revolting is talking to Samuel L Jackson about the differences between American and Europe and he says ‘they got the same shit over there that they got here but there it’s just…a little different’. I just got back from Hawaii and that quote went through my head a number of times while I was there. NZ and Hawaii have quite a lot in common but it’s still markedly different. Here are some examples (as Samuel L Jackson would demand them…):

Their volcanoes are active: (well, two of them are, though one of them is underwater). We went on a tour to the ‘Big Island’ (confusingly called Hawai’i, which is no doubt part of the reason why they call it the ‘Big Island’) primarily to see the Kilauea Caldera and other volcanic wondrousness. There was an Australian couple on our tour and one of them commented on the craziness of three girls from a city built on 50 volcanos coming to see another volcano. But this is no ordinary volcano. This one ACTUALLY DOES STUFF. And not the lame slightly warmer lake leading to wisps of steam like Ruapehu does from time to time. I am talking about PROPER LAVA. We couldn’t see the lava up close – that might be a bit dangerous – but as twilight approached the orange glow from the lava lake was unmistakable. Not to mention the other awesome stuff we got to see – like walking through the Thurston Lava tube (massive, and not even that old!) and walking on some pretty recent (in volcanic terms) lava flows. The only disappointment was the sulfur vents. Seriously Hawaii, you could learn from Rotorua when it comes to being truly smelly. But seeing an active volcano was amazeballs and I would highly recommend it.

Condo living:  when we were researching options for accommodation on Maui it quickly became clear that a condo was the way to go. What is a condo you ask? Well, it’s basically an apartment but, being American, they need to have a special word for it. All down the west coast of Maui there is condo complex after condo complex after condo complex. ‘Baches’ don’t really seem to exist there (though there was one in The Descendants so clearly you can find them in some places). But for a group of four of us who wanted access to a pool and to be in walking distance to a beach, condo living was the way to go. And you can see why the Yanks like it. It’s convenient, easy, lock up and leave type digs – ideal for people who come for a few weeks a year and rent it out the rest of the time. Our complex was on the older side but had everything we needed – fabulous pool, just across the road from the beach, a block or two from markets, restaurants and about 50 shaved ice stands (shaved ice is prolific in Hawaii – it isn’t just that big dude on Hawaii 50 who sells it…). And being low season (for American tourists at least, phew!) we didn’t have battles for the pool or BBQs and often had them to ourselves. Win win really. Though I can’t really see it catching on in NZ. I mean, where would we play back yard cricket???

They have 16 shops for every 1 of ours: we only had limited shopping time (well, when I say limited, I mean like 3/4s of a day) so we tried to be strategic about it. And we had to be! The Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu is HUMOUNGOUS. I even got lost in the food court. And when we tried to ask where we could find a surf shop they were like ‘there isn’t one, there are about 8’. It was out of this world insane and awesome. And by awesome I mean dangerous to my sanity and bank balance. We started off in Macys (a department store) which helpfully had a special 10% discount for tourists. As it was we only hit about three areas of Macys before both our feet and our credit cards were exhausted from their work outs. And we hadn’t even spent that much or checked many things off our lists (we are organised girls – we had lists)! And the cheapness of everything – especially American brands that you pay top dollar for here (like Sketchers and Havianas) – made everything just more tempting. Probably the only saving grace was the knowledge that we had 23kg luggage limits and we still had 8 days of the trip to go. Lucky for that or I would have come back with 20 pairs of Havianas. Seriously.

They Tip: Customer service is great in the States – as it is here too most of the time – though there you can understand why when the size of their tip is directly correlated to how nice/helpful they are to the customers. But GOD I have so many problems with the whole concept of tipping. For a start it is just a faff, having to do maths at the end of a meal when all you want to do is roll yourself home and have a late night swim. Thank god for travelling with accountants, one of whom lives in a tipping country already, is all I can say. Not to mention it just feels awkward and kind of shady – especially when you aren’t adding it onto the bill but are giving someone cash. It is just SO BIZARRE. Also, it makes me inherently question the actual friendliness of the people serving us. When you know they are just doing it for tips it does make you wonder – are they a nice person or are they just putting on a front? Sure, it doesn’t really matter if you get good service, and god knows it is preferable to the English ‘I will maybe grunt at you if I can be bothered’ approach – but I much prefer our way of doing things. Build the tips into the price and just be nice to your customers because it is both the right and commercially sensible way to go. Though I can’t see this changing in America any time ever. Oh well.

They have heaps of different flavours of M&Ms!!!: I know, this probably isn’t a big deal for most people but for me – someone who would list M&Ms in my top three desert island all time best kinds of confectionery – this was a HUGE revelation. In NZ all you get is Chocolate (yay!), Peanut (yuck) and Crispy (ok if I have to). But there they had Peanut Butter, Mint, Candy Corn and the revelatory experience that was Coconut. Just like a bounty bar but BETTER and with patterns of palm trees, frangipani and sun umbrellas printed on them. They were the culinary hit of the holiday – which is saying A LOT as I had some amazing meals there and I also had two Twinkies! Again, thank god for the baggage limit or I could have been doing some not so subtle importing of large quantities of coconut M&Ms into NZ. And lucky we weren’t flying that airline that weighs its passengers or I could have been paying for seriously excess holiday baggage 😉

So there you go. Hawaii really isn’t so different from NZ – especially when it comes to the Polynesian influence and the beach meets volcano landscapes. I would totally recommend it as a holiday destination for anyone. Let’s you have a great balance of relaxing on a tropical beach while also eating amazing meals and shopping and seeing amazing sights. And it is only 8 hours from NZ. Pfft, that is nothing when you have done the London trip a few times. I literally did it in my sleep 😉 So yes, highly highly highly recommend. And no, this blog was in no way funded by the Hawaiian Tourist Board. I really don’t think they need any help 😉


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