Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hawaii: The Island of Hawai'i (Final Day)

Our last day on the Big Island was mostly spent doing a few final things in the Hilo area, mostly so we wouldn't be too far away when the time came to return to the airport and begin our strip back. Our plane left at 10:45pm, I believe, for an overnight flight back to the mainland.

So, we killed time around town. There was plenty to do.

The first thing we did was locate the local farmer's market, where farmers from around the island came to peddle their wares. It was a destination suggested to us by multiple people. There was tons of stuff for sale: coffee, bento boxes, baked goods, and, of course, all sorts of fruits and vegetables. However, since we were leaving later that day, most of that stuff didn't interest me.

Ont he other hand, there were also booths for artists and craftsmen, selling various baubles, accessories, clothing, and artwork. So, I scouted the whole place out for souvenirs I could bring home for friends and family.

The farmer's market was located right in downtown Hilo, so once we were done with the stalls we headed down the strip. I was particularly distracted by a candy store (as is often the case), and Laura was lured into a place selling tatami mats. It was a nice strip of shops, but in the end it was just shopping, which doesn't interest me for very long.

For lunch we returned to Ken's House of Pancakes, where this time I ate something called "The Original Loco Moco," which reminded me of the beef bowls served at Yoshinoya restaurants in Japan: eggs on top of beef and gravy on top of rice. I'm not certain you can get eggs on top of Yoshinoya beef bowls (though it wouldn't surprise me), but the main difference was that the beef came in patty form in the Loco Moco, while Yoshinoya beef bowls feature shredded beef. The similarity to Yoshinoya didn't do the dish any favors, though; it was good, but it mostly just made me long for Yoshinoya.

After lunch we headed to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, an attraction nestled in a cove just north of town. The place was filled with all sorts of exotic plants I'd never seen before, many of which looked positively alien. The gardens themselves were arranged within a rainforest on a slope that led down to a magnificent cove nestled between two prominent cliffs. At the bottom of the garden you could gaze out into the ocean and watch the waves crash into the rocks below.

It was particularly stormy while we were there, and thankfully the gardens provided umbrellas for visitors to use. The downpour, though uncomfortable, likely enhanced the beauty of the gardens, and the weather ensured that the water of the ocean was active and fun to watch. All in all, it was a good experience, even if our socks were soaked through for most of the rest of the day.

Out last adventure of the trip was visiting a Hawaiin supermarket. In my opinion, you can learn a lot about a place and its people by walking around their supermarkets. As it is, I was expecting grocery prices in Hawaii to be significantly higher than normal due to the distance from the mainland, but in general you can get a box of Cheerios for basically the same price as at any Albertson's or similar grocery store back home. However, the Asian food section was much more robust than at local grocery stores, prompting Laura and I to stock up on a few things to try. The snack aisle was also filled with local favorites that I don't remember offhand, except that I know they didn't sound terribly appetizing. Also, the nuts section took practically an entire aisle due to the variety of uses they've found for macadamia nuts.

After that we headed to Hilo's tiny airport to begin the long trip home. It was a fascinating vacation, and I'm looking forward to returning some day.

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