Friday, February 9, 2007

Moby Dick, Tortuous Bus Rides and Lap Dance Sushi

Our last day in Maui was devoted to visiting the west part of the island (also known as “the head”). After getting a late start to the day in order to finish our packing, we made our way to Napili for a late breakfast and an oceanside view at The Gazebo restaurant. While we stood in line awaiting our table, we chatted with some amiable fellow tourists, one of whom spent time in Bhutan filming a documentary with the king. We were also struck by the almost uniform demographics of our fellow visitors. Hawaii, after achieving statehood in 1958, was recolonized in successive waves by the Japanese and the Californians. While in Maui, we saw plenty of the latter, but virtually none of the former. This is almost certainly a reflection of the highly-successful Bush administration policy to protect the U.S. from terrorists by first ridding it of all affluent Asian tourists.

Afterward, we drove down to the tourist hell of Lahainia to inquire about whale watching trips. Unfortunately, the tours conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation (the most reputable and eco-friendly operator) were sold out. As the skies grew increasingly overcast and the whale watching boat pitchmen grew increasingly obnoxious, we settled on passively watching the whales from the shore. Despite our best efforts, we were really only able to catch a glimpse of one speedy sperm whale’s backside, which caused Kaberi to grumpily pronounce, “we came all this way just to get mooned by some whale?!!”

With the west side of the island pretty much a washout at this point (our hopes of taking the scenic northern route of west Maui dashed by increasing precipitation), we decided to make our way back eastward. One of the locals had told us earlier that if it was raining on one side of Maui, it would likely be sunny on another. We found this phenomenon amazing, kind of like finding out that John Kerry moonlights as a motivational speaker in his part time (well, maybe not). Back in sunny Kahului, we ran a few errands before making our way to the airport to take an earlier evening flight out of Maui.

After a short flight, we touched down in our friend Martin’s hometown of Honolulu. Staying only one night before catching a flight to Tokyo didn’t allow us to take advantage of any of Martin’s helpful suggestions, so we contented ourselves with the notion of having a nice dinner. As we awaited the arrival of the Honolulu City Bus, we had no idea what was in store for us. Apparently, Honolulu’s bus system is managed by the same superstars who run Boston’s MBTA. The City Bus showed up about 20 minutes late, stopped once every 13.5 feet, generously boasted enough seating for about one quarter of its ridership and took 90 minutes to cover the 6-mile stretch between the airport and Waikiki. Thrilled to finally arrive at our hotel after being jostled around for an hour plus like a cocktail waitress at a naval officers’ convention (Kaberi is NOT going to like that last metaphor), we quickly sought out a dinner recommendation. With the concierge desk closed, we found a friendly bellman, Marvin, who suggested a sushi joint around the corner.

When we showed up at the restaurant, we immediately recognized its appeal. Situated in a seedy, neon-festooned strip mall fronting an unmemorable back alley, it sat directly next to the Tres Jolie exotic dance club. Vik’s suggestion that we forego the sushi for some “visual” nourishment was immediately dismissed out of hand (and, in his opinion, without being given even the appearance of due consideration). All kidding aside, Vik was actually voting for finding a less seedy alternative, but Kaberi, being the daughter of the ultimate adventure traveler, overruled him. It was a wise decision as the meal turned out to be pretty spectacular. The self-satisfied grin on Kaberi’s face lasted for at least 4 hours.

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