Friday, October 17, 2014

Hawaii and Japan, 2014 - 10/16 - Day 1 - Settling in, cocktails and brunches

Front Entrance to the Andaz Resort

We started our first day in Maui at 6:30am, which for us was sleeping in late relative to the time change. We awoke to a completely unstocked condo, through no-one's fault but our own, so we went out in search of breakfast. Atop our list of places to try was the Ka'ana Kitchen at the Andaz resort. The Andaz was only a brief 15 or so minute walk from our condo, so we walked there and were greeted by a beautiful main lobby with a great view and an very delicious, albeit costly brunch at Ka'ana Kitchen. 
Brunch itself was a high-end buffet, full of local delights and international favorites. Particularly good was the Kona coffee, which to the uninitiated, rather  defies description as to its quality. The breakfast buns filled with eggs and pork with ponzu sauce were also great, as too the thin, opalescent slices of smoked Ono, the fresh papaya-orange-guava juice, and a pastry which Sean called a Craquelin that was filled to bursting with nutella. We also had some mighty fine mimosas...of course. Perhaps the best part of the experience was the wait staff, who were all smiles and competence. Every time we went away from the table, our coffee cups were covered with napkins when we came back, presumably to keep the coffee warm, and our spent plates would disappear like magic when we turned away to admire the view from the splendid balcony.
We returned to the condo by way of the beach, which was everything one expects from paradise -- soft sand, attractive people, sunny skies, salt-sea air, and glass-clear water. There was even an unexpected sea turtle sighting right by the shore, and people were huddled around with their phones, braving water-damage and voided warranties to get a good shot of the enormous testudines. The turtles were not being very cooperative, so we didn't try to get a shot of them.
Afterward we drove north to a drug store and got some essentials we had neglected to bring with us and then went to Whole Foods to stock up on snacky things and bottled water, as we'd been warned that Hurricane Ana was indeed going to cause some trouble on Saturday. The beaches will apparently be closed tomorrow and Saturday, so hopefully the storm will blow over Sunday and we'll have some time to experience a bit more sand and sun before we're off to Oahu on Monday afternoon.
On the way to Whole Foods we stopped at a little farmer's market, a place I had actually been to last time I was in Maui, because I remembered they had fresh coconuts. A skillful old man with all his fingers intact hacked them up with a machete and we drank them by the side of road in the company of a smattering of tourists, locals, and some coy chickens. We also picked up a few passion fruits which I'm determined to figure out how to consume, and a handful of rambutan.
Rambutan - Alien Egg
Here's the deal with rambutan. Its name in Malay translates roughly to 'hairy thing' as it is a fruit with a rough, spiny outer shell. Inside said shell lies a mass of slimy white flesh surrounding a hard pit that looks like an almond. To me, it has the appearance, from start to finish, of an alien egg. Its bizarre presentation however belies a soft, sweet taste reminiscent of lychee, to which it is in fact closely related. Rambutan is climacteric - it only ripens on the tree - which means it's not easy to come by outside its native growing region. If you happen to find some, do try them. My grotesque description aside, they are pretty delicious.
I also discovered today that I forgot the charger for my camera batteries. I've got at least a few days of charge left between the two I have with me, but I'm going to have to find a charger either here or in Honolulu to get through the rest of the trip or there will be decidedly fewer high quality photos for the gallery when I get home.
With the remains of the day, prior to our scheduled cocktail evening with the wedding, we hiked the paved path along the beach at Wailea, which winds through the various resorts and condominiums along the shore. We eventually wound up at the Grand Wailea, which is a gorgeous luxury hotel built in 1991 and owned by the Waldorf Astoria.
The Grand Wailea has a split-level design with a large, lush internal courtyard and is, frankly, a maze. Paths lead off in all directions within the grounds and it's difficult to figure out which one leads you where. We wandered around for twenty minutes or so before finally breaking down and asking a staff member how to get to the lobby. With our bearings set, we spent the last 45 minutes before our cocktail engagement at the Shops and Wailea mall just north of the Grand Wailea. Originally intending to window shop the generally overpriced high-end boutique shops, we actually ended up getting a really nice shirt for Sean from one the stores, which he promptly put on for the party we were about to go to.
That evening's wedding-related event was a cocktail gathering at the Botero bar in the lobby of the Grand Wailea. We each had far too many high-sugar-content drinks -- I had a mojito (not a great one), two pina coladas (not bad ones), and something called a "Maui Mist", which tasted like a passionfruit bomb had gone off in my mouth.
Sean and I spent the whole evening chatting with several of my current and ex-coworkers and a pleasant evening was presumably had by all. Tomorrow we plan on waking up pretty early and driving the Hana Highway, stopping at a few places along the way before hopefully returning in two human-shaped pieces for dinner tomorrow night at Tommy Bahamas' with the wedding group.

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