I close my eyes and think, ‘Aloha’

By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Ko Olina Resort (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

I was in Hawaii’s Ko Olina Resort for a wedding when snow hit Seattle on Feb. 8. I long for snow every once in a while, but when I get my wish, I really hate it.

I felt the misery of Washingtonians, stuck in the freezing cold with tightened muscles and dry skin, wearing layers of clothes, while I was enjoying the lovely lagoons, warm weather, and fresh-smelling flowers in Hawaii. The temperature was perfect — 76 degrees.

The last few days in Seattle were unbearable — gray, rainy, and cold. I had to close my eyes, listen to a CD of Hawaiian music my friend Jane gave me, then think Aloha, hold the palm trees, touch the sand and ocean, and enjoy watching the surfers riding the unbreakable waves.

Like the song, “Live a little, Hawaiian style,” instantly I felt better. Hawaii has become my therapy when bracing for a cold, blue winter.

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Chapel at Ko Olina (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Wedding Aloha-style

On the leeward coast of Oahu, Ko Olina Resort is a 642-acre vacation and residential community, 17 miles northwest of Honolulu. What you see is not just beaches, but four beautiful man-made lagoons, bordered by 2.3 miles of beaches. It’s a pleasant and easy hike.

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Groom Michael Chen and Bride Nancy Ng (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Ko Olina is a popular place for weddings. My son and I saw as many as three weddings in one day. There is even a chapel on the waterfront. The wedding we attended was held on the lawn of JW Marriott Hotel, facing the Pacific Ocean. The ceremony was arranged in the late afternoon to capture the sunset. A two-member band sang Hawaiian songs and played native music. How romantic!

After the wedding, a buffet dinner of East and West cuisine, including sushi, prime rib, and many kinds of tasty desserts, was set on the hotel lawn, where 60 guests could dance or just enjoy the sound of the ocean and the crickets chirping.

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Ko Olina’s lagoons (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Questioning assumptions

Hawaii is an expensive city. Not many people from the continental U.S. can afford to pay the airfare and hotels just to attend a wedding.

How expensive? For instance, I bought bottled water at the Sea-Tac International Airport for less than $2 dollars. I did the same at the Hawaii Airport before I flew back to Seattle. Guess how much the Fuji bottle water cost me — $4.19! I almost punched myself when I saw the price tag at Uwajimaya: 99 cents.

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Disney Aulani Resort’s AMA AMA seafood platter (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Even though I had been to the Aloha state a few times, I still carry assumptions that were proved wrong. Disney is part of the Ko Olina resort. Disney bought the property for $144 million, in addition to construction costs.

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Disney Aulani Resort’s AMA AMA salad (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

My son said, “It must be expensive to eat at a Disney restaurant.”

“We should eat at least once for the experience,” I said. It turned out the price was decent.

There are five restaurants inside the hotel. We picked AMA AMA, the casual one facing the lagoon. We didn’t order any entrees, just a seafood platter appetizer, which cost $26; a vegetable side dish, $6; a mixed salad, $12; and a fresh papaya, $6.50. The appetizer was filled with fresh ingredients, consisting of one big Alaskan king crab leg, live oysters, fish, and prawns. I made a good decision by ordering myself just a salad. The salad was mixed with quality ingredients. All the dishes were served in a gorgeous presentation. As for the papaya — it was one of the best papayas I have ever tasted.

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Swimming pool at JW Marriott Ihilani (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

My son swam and snorkeled. I was tempted to follow. The 79-degree temperature created an illusion that the water was warm. So I put my foot in the water, but quickly pulled it out. It was about 50 degrees. No wonder there were not very many people swimming at the beach. People would rather swim in the hotel’s pool.

We ventured into a local fast-food restaurant one afternoon. To my surprise, the menu was loaded with heavy and greasy stuff. Most of the items had buttery sauce and were deep fried.

You don’t see steamed or baked items without sauces (cooking out the fat from the food) on the menu. No wonder a study found obesity is a problem in Hawaii.

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New spa on the Ko Olina waterfront (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Unexpected surprise

Paul Ishii, manager of the Mayflower Park Hotel, said it is better to book hotel rooms directly from the hotel, and not Expedia or other tourist websites. We did. Chinatown travel agents also do a nice job of getting good deals from hotels for customers.

When we arrived at the hotel at about 9 p.m., I asked for a room upgrade. The clerk said he had to charge $50 more if I wanted a room facing the ocean.

“It’s actually $150 additional, but I’ll give you a discount, $50 (more),” he said. “We only have one room left (facing the ocean).”

“If you charge me extra, you are not giving me a discount,” I responded. “Can I see the room with a view and the room without, to compare?”

Without pausing, he said, “I’ll give it to you.” We were pleasantly surprised. Why did he change his mind so fast? I had no clue. All I did was ask.

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Lobster and spaghetti from Mariposa Restaurant inside Neiman Marcus (Photo by John Liu/NWAW)

Mother and son

This was the first time I traveled with my son, just the two of us. I wasn’t sure if we were compatible travel companions. I have to confess that I am a very picky traveler. But with my son, I tried to keep my mouth shut and be a good sport.

Still, our habits are different, including spending money and eating. When my husband and I travel together, we often share one entrée because I am not a big eater. I just don’t want to waste food. My son always likes to order his own dish. Later, I learned to order side dishes only, while my son ordered main dishes. I was content to nibble on his leftovers.

It didn’t make sense to me that to save money, he wouldn’t rent a GPS with his rental car. I would have rented it. It’s only $15 a day. My son argued, “Everything adds up, Mom!” Yes, we got lost. Is this a generational difference, or is he simply frugal?

Anyway, I was happy that my son could finally visit Hawaii, and most happy that mother and son could spend time together — sharing a memory for a lifetime. (end)

Assunta Ng can be reached at assunta@nwasianweekly.com.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I close my eyes and think, 'Aloha' I felt the misery of Washingtonians, stuck in the freezing cold with tightened muscles and dry skin, wearing layers of clothes, while I was enjoying the lovely lagoons, warm weather, and fresh-smelling flowers in Hawaii. The temperature was perfect … Read more on Northwest Asian Weekly […]

  2. […] I close my eyes and think, 'Aloha' The wedding we attended was held on the lawn of JW Marriott Hotel, facing the Pacific Ocean. The ceremony was arranged in the late afternoon to capture the sunset. A two-member band sang Hawaiian songs and played native music. How romantic! Read more on Northwest Asian Weekly […]


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