In 2007, I was in the US for my birthday. The previous year, Australia. We’d moved to Malaysia by the time my birthday rolled around in 2008. By pure coincidence, I had managed to be in 3 different countries, 3 years in a row. That alone made me want to try being in a different country for my birthday every year for as long as I could. Last year I went to Vietnam. This entry is about where I went this year.
It did take me a while to decide where to go. We had a few options on the table, but I think as soon as my friend R Kevin, who lives in Hawaii, mentioned Robin Williams was going to be performing there a week before my birthday, there was not really any other option for me. Mind you, I left Hawaii before my actual birthday, but it was still part of the birthday trip.
We could’ve just flown to Honolulu from Kuala Lumpur, but it was cheaper for us to fly to Macau or Hong Kong first, and then fly from Hong Kong to Honolulu. And once the flights were booked, a few other things fell into place. See, Robin Williams wasn’t my only motivation for flying to Honolulu. I met R Kevin online a little over a year ago and we became friends through a mutual interest in improv comedy, which satisfied a need for me since we unfortunately do not have improv in KL. Sure, we’ve talked about it, but so far – despite the fact I know several improvisers in other countries who could potentially come over and lead workshops for us – nothing has really come from that. Basically that meant I got my improv fix by following R Kevin and one of his improv partners, Sean, on Facebook, for their improv rock duo, Oil in the Alley. As much fun as it was watching the videos and listening to the audio tracks Sean posted online, I knew that I really wanted to see them live. Luckily for me, Sean had announced their November performance date well in advance, and it was only two days before Robin Williams was performing. Two shows I desperately wanted to see made it too hard to resist.
About a month before I was due to fly out, and having fangirled my way into making Sean notice me by posting artwork of the two of them to their Facebook page, I asked them both if they’d be interested in having me shoot a music video for them while I was in Honolulu. Their excitement seemed to match mine, which feels like a rare thing for me – to connect so well with other creative people I’d like to work with. In fact that excitement made the music video the single thing I was looking forward to most about this trip, and the success of the shoot makes me want to work with them again on a second video. But I must edit the first one before thinking how we’ll manage that! Sean gave me a list of songs to choose from that we could shoot a video for, and I chose Rule the World (Skulls & Dragons), which was improvised in September during the Improvaganza improv festival.
Hopefully that is a satisfactory prelude before I share the details of each day of this most remarkable birthday trip.
Saturday, November 13th
An afternoon flight meant we didn’t have much time to do a lot for our first night in Macau. We took a taxi from the airport, but our driver didn’t know any English, and as such, he had to give us a list of hotels in English with their Chinese translation so he knew where to take us.
After we checked in and dropped off our things, and I discovered we had free Internet, we went for a bit of a wander around the nearby area to a) see where we might have dinner and b) be amazed at the number of casinos and all the dazzling lights.
We eventually found a restaurant that looked like it probably had an English menu with explanations of the food. The first couple of places we found kind of scared me off because I thought I might accidentally order something I really would not want to try if I knew what it was. For example, there were a lot of shark’s fin dishes on the menu at this particular restaurant.
Since this was my first time in China, albeit a section of China that does not require a visa for me to visit, and was once a Portuguese settlement, I decided to order my favourite Chinese dish – sweet and sour pork – to compare it to what I’ve tried in other countries. Now, I can’t say that sweet and sour pork in Macau is representative of that which is served throughout the entirety of China, however, I can say that it is certainly different from what I’ve tried in other countries. I suppose it was most similar to the kind I eat in Malaysia, but that is not particularly representative either. There were two distinct differences. First of all, it had chunks of apple in it. Apple! Normally the only fruit I get in sweet and sour pork is pineapple, which it also had, though it wasn’t as nice as Malaysian pineapple, unfortunately. The second distinct difference was the red and green capsicum (bell peppers). At least, they certainly looked like capsicum. The flavour, however, was a lot spicier than I was used to, so I figure it must be part of the same vegetable family as capsicum and chili, but it was more like a combination of the two. I couldn’t really eat it so I tended to stick with the deep fried pork, fruit chunks, and sauce. This is probably more information about the food I ate than I’ve ever detailed in the past.
After dinner, we wandered into the lobby of one casino hotel in order to marvel at the largest emerald in the world, as well as an incredibly large diamond, before we headed back to our hotel to get some sleep.
Sunday, November 14th
We had a pretty delayed start to our sightseeing today because Jeremy still had a work assignment he needed to complete before he could kick back and enjoy our holiday, and I didn’t want to have to take both of our boys out on my own since Doyle has reached quite a defiant stage. So we had breakfast together at the hotel, then I looked after the boys in our hotel room while Jeremy went to a business room to do some work, until he joined us when it was time to go out and try something for lunch.
Jeremy hadn’t quite finished his work, however, so we only walked a couple of blocks until Doyle picked out a small restaurant for us to try. Jeremy and I both had pork burger sandwiches, which Jeremy said was a Macau item, though it ended up being not exactly what he expected. However, this place also let us try yoghurt soda drinks, which I’d never heard of before. We figured it must be something particular to the area, so Jeremy and I both ordered a different flavour, and they were absolutely delicious. Highly recommended to anyone who gets the chance to try it.
After lunch, we popped into a supermarket to buy a bottle for Leo, since he would need one in Hawaii and I forgot to pack one, and then we went exploring some more of the casino area for a little while. We were lucky when we came up to the StarWorld Hotel because, as we were there, we got to see a musical fountain show that runs every 15 minutes. That was pretty cool!
We didn’t stay out and about too long, though, because as I said, Jeremy still had a bit more work to do. So we came back to the hotel for him to finish before heading back out again for dinner, though I don’t recall what we had. This was probably the night we went to the restaurant that was next door to where we had lunch.
Monday, November 15th
Being the navigator in our family, Jeremy gave me the task of directing us to the Portuguese areas of Macau for the first part of our day. This would have been a far easier task had Doyle not been misbehaving, though I was lucky that I was the one looking after Leo. The first part of the walk took us past part of the Macau Grand Prix race track, which was taking place (luckily, in my opinion) the day after we were due to leave Macau. Considering our hotel was positioned smack in the middle of the race track, I’m not sure how much sightseeing we could have done during the race had we been there for it! Anyway, as we were heading down to Senado Square, we walked past the Military Club and were intrigued by the Portuguese mosaics along a good portion of the footpaths we walked.
When we reached Senado Square, it was like walking into Portugal from China. The contrast is spectacular!
This whole general area had a lot of Portuguese buildings, so we wandered around for a while, then took a small street filled with shops (some of which sold both unusual Chinese meat and Portuguese egg tarts), noting bamboo scaffolding, up to have a look at the ruins of St. Paul’s, which is a prominent point of Macau’s heritage. There’s a small museum in the bottom of the ruins, which we visited, before moving on to Mount Fortress.
We climbed to the top of Mount Fortress, but since it was Monday, the museum of Macau, located at the top, was closed, so we just took some photos (the views of Macau from here are amazing) and then headed back down the hill. A lot of the day was spent wandering to see other notable sites on our map, such as St Michael’s Cemetary and Lou Lim Ieoc Garden, which happened to be hosting a bonsai festival while we were there.
From the beautiful Chinese garden, we walked a fair distance around Guia Hill and past the reservoir in order to arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf, an attraction with replicas of various sights around the world, such as the Roman Coliseum and some volcano. Tacky tourist trap? I don’t know; most of the area didn’t seem to have much open to even be generating business.
As we continued on, we were going to head back to our hotel until I decided I wanted to get a photo of the interestingly designed Science Centre, but since my camera battery had gone by then, that meant I needed to use Jeremy’s iPhone, and he wanted me to get as close as I could to the building so it was decent. Since we were already practically at the entrance anyway, we decided to go inside. It was still open for another hour, and Doyle was interested to explore it (yay fun learning!) so we rushed through the whole place to see as much as we could. Doyle really seemed to enjoy it.
Our final stop for the day was dinner at The Sands.
Tuesday, November 16th
As we seemed to do a pretty good job walking everywhere yesterday, and Macau appeared to be a pretty good city to walk in, we walked down to Macau Tower from our hotel, and paid the appropriate amount in order to take the lift to the top. This tower happens to accommodate the tallest bungee in the world, where guests are welcome to bungee jump or sky jump (this is when there is a harness around your body rather than the bungee being attached to your ankles) off the tower… for quite a hefty fee. I’ve considered bungee jumping ever since I watched my sister give it a go in Rotorua, New Zealand in early 2005, but I figured the tallest bungee in the world was probably not the best place for a first timer to try it! So it was just the tower’s views for us, though we did get to witness some people jumping.
We were just going to walk to our next destination, but since Doyle seemed to be pretty tired from all the walking, we instead caught a bus and got off by the A-Ma Temple. This temple is interesting because it is dedicated to Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs.
After checking out the temple, which had been there since before Macau became a Portuguese settlement, we decided to walk to some of the nearby historical sites: Moorish Barracks, Lilau Square and Mandarin’s House. Lilau Square was a bit like Senado Square, just smaller. For Mandarin’s House, we got to admire some Chinese architecture and furniture designs.
Our final plan for the day was to visit The Venetian, which Jeremy informed me is the largest casino complex in the world. This complex is on Taipa, and as such we decided to catch a taxi to get there. We found our way upstairs to the main shopping area pretty easily, and sat down in the food court for lunch.
I didn’t go into the casino itself as they do not accept minors and I had two children to look after, but even the rest of the building where minors were allowed had the regular trappings one might expect to find in a casino � mainly a lack of clocks and bright lights so you don’t know what time it is. To add to that effect, the ceilings were painted blue, with clouds, so you would feel like it was always daytime.
The Venetian is pretty much what you might expect from its name, that is, it takes well known parts of Venice, such as St Mark’s Square and gondola boat rides, and encloses it in the building. Spread throughout this section of the building are many luxury brand stores, as well as a few more affordable ones.
I really don’t think the casino owners want their patrons to leave, as even non-gamblers like myself got lost just looking for the restroom and baby change room. There were coloured lines on the floor designed to help you find your destination, but the only help they were to me was when I had to find a way to entertain my three year old for the half hour I let my husband visit the casino. I must admit playing “follow the line” worked a treat, and it thankfully led us back to my husband right at our appointed meeting time. Entertaining a child throwing a tantrum is no easy feat in The Venetian!
There are also electronic touch screen maps spread throughout the complex, and I fancy myself as someone with a fairly good sense of direction. Usually I only have to look at a map a couple of times before it becomes etched into my memory. The Venetian, however, had me going in completely the opposite direction that I intended almost every time. And by the time you want to go downstairs to leave, you find that you can’t, if you have children in tow, since most of the downstairs routes lead to the casino.
In the end I magically navigated my way back to the lift that took us upstairs in the first place, and – four hours after we arrived – somehow managed to find Ramone and Flo from Pixar’s Cars movie before heading back to the entrance where the taxi had initially dropped us.
Wednesday, November 17th
We were on the move today, not long after our breakfast, since we had to switch to Hong Kong at some point, what with flying to Honolulu via Manila from Hong Kong rather than Macau. Our hotel was pretty good because it had a free bus to the ferry terminal, which we had to go to in order to ferry across to Hong Kong.
The terminal on the other side? Much bigger, and much harder to navigate. Plus we kind of made the mistake of not really knowing how to get to our hotel once we got to Hong Kong. So we stopped for lunch at a Japanese restaurant and then walked all the way to Hong Kong train station to try and figure out where to go next, figuring a train would be able to get us in the general area at least.
Jeremy picked us up some Octopus cards, which provide a discount for all rides on public transport, for our use while in Hong Kong, and then decided we should take the train to Mong Kok station, since our hotel booking indicated the hotel was in Mong Kok. However, the map we found in the train station when we arrived didn’t give any indication as to where we should go next, and Doyle was generally misbehaving to the extent we could barely walk anywhere. As such, we ended up hiring a taxi to take us the rest of the way.
We checked in and discovered I’d booked us the tiniest hotel room imaginable, particularly considering we’re a family of four. I’m relatively sure I’d looked for accommodation that was meant to fit at least two adults and one child, but I’d hardly believe this place should be classified as such. The room was basically the size of a double bed, doubled – one half of the room was the double bed, where Jeremy, Doyle and I had to sleep, and the majority of the rest of the space was the bathroom. We had to sleep Leo on the floor behind the door, which was hardly suitable but the best we could do since there wasn’t even enough room for his sleeping tent that we’d brought.
So, since the room was tiny, Jeremy took us out for a walk to an outdoor market a few blocks away, and then we went into a kind of IT mall area, which particularly interested Jeremy since he wanted to look at tablet computers, and eventually bought one running Android.
Unfortunately with Doyle’s misbehaving throughout the day, our stress levels were completely through the roof, which meant we didn’t get to try any more Chinese food for dinner. We all pretty much crashed (or tried to) once we got back to the hotel.
Thursday, November 18th
After a terrible night’s sleep, we got up early in order to catch a taxi to Hong Kong airport, figuring it was a lot less trouble than the bus with all the tantrums Doyle had been throwing. We arrived early enough that check-in hadn’t opened yet. I checked the board to see where our check-in counter would be and it didn’t list our flight yet, but the earlier Philippine Airlines flight to Manila had been cancelled. I started panicking that it might have to do with the strikes that had been threatened to take place and we might not be going anywhere. But it was too early to tell, so we headed back downstairs for breakfast.
Luckily there wasn’t a strike, and there were no real issues when we went to check in, though it did take us some time. Doyle still enjoyed misbehaving, which meant we pretty much had to head straight to the gate because we had no idea how much he was going to slow us down, and Hong Kong airport is huge.
A short flight to Manila. The weirdest transfer process I’ve ever encountered (we were escorted past immigration into the exit of the airport and then back into the security screening area to get back to the gates). A 9 hour flight to Honolulu. I tried to sleep but it wasn’t particularly successful. It was about 1am Hong Kong time when we arrived in Honolulu, but 7am local. I’m sure you can imagine how tired I must have been, though I was excited, too. Honolulu airport was pretty close to how I remembered it when I was there for a transfer when I was 7. In a way, it’s probably bad that it doesn’t look like it’d been improved in those 19 years, though I’m surprised I even remembered it at all.
I never know what lane to go in when I arrive in the US with my family. Can they join me in the US Citizen lane, or do I have to join them with everyone else? So I had someone show us where to go, and then she let us go into a shorter queue anyway since we had the kids with us. I must say, this is the first time I’ve been to the US with my family since ESTA was introduced, and now I know how that works, it really is an easier process than what was previously in place.
Once the immigration process was sorted out and we collected our bags, we got a taxi to our hotel. It was hours before you can generally check in to any hotel, but again, since we had the kids with us, they let us into our room immediately. This was fantastic since it allowed all of us to have some much needed sleep we didn’t get on the flight. Though Doyle and Leo got more sleep than Jeremy and I did. In fact, we didn’t even really get out of the hotel until around 4pm.
Armed with a passport sized booklet that included a map of the nearby area, we wandered down toward Waikiki Beach and found out where the US Army Museum was. It closed pretty much the time we arrived, though, so we just looked at the large weapons and tanks they had on display outside, and went down to the beach.
It was kind of funny going to Waikiki Beach because I spent my childhood growing up near Waikiki Beach in Australia, and now I was finally visiting the “real” one. It did feel a bit like the tourist beach that it is, but the views around the island from the beach are still beautiful.
Doyle was thirsty, so we sat down at a concrete table and chair setting while Jeremy fetched a pineapple ginger drink from a stall near the beach. Not being a fan of ginger, I didn’t really like it, but at least I tried it. I later asked R Kevin if this ginger drink thing was a Hawaiian thing like we assumed it was, but he’d never heard of it! So I have no idea if it is or not.
Friday, November 19th
The first item on our agenda for the day was for us to head back to the US Army museum and actually have a look around it while it was open. We were greeted by a friendly author who was there for a book signing, though I didn’t get a close enough look at what the book was.
The museum itself was interesting and less biased than I’d expect of the US government. It really highlighted the diversity in Hawaii, and included information about how Hawaii became a US territory. I was especially fascinated by the documentation on World War II, and found myself wishing the information included there was what I’d studied on WWII in high school, rather than just the Nazi Germany side of it. As an Australian, the Japanese involvement felt more relevant to me. I had no idea they’d occupied so much of China! Of particular note in the museum was the section on the Japanese Americans who went above and beyond expectations to basically help the US beat the Japanese in WWII. It was also a great companion to our trip to Manila earlier in the year as it included information about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and how the US helped there.
The last section of the museum was about the US involvement in the Vietnam War, which I found an interesting companion to our time in Vietnam last year, and was the area I was particular surprised about the lack of bias, as well as the history of Japanese American and former army General, but currently the Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Eric Shinseki. Given I don’t closely follow US war efforts past and present, I didn’t know who he was, but I really found everything he had done in the US Army to be quite exceptional.
It was well after lunch by the time we were done with the museum, though we first went upstairs to learn about some of the efforts that have been made to help conserve some of the environmental areas of Oahu (the island Honolulu is on). We headed back to Waikiki Beach for lunch, where I picked up a corn dog, since I love those and can only ever find them in the US, and Jeremy and Doyle had Subway.
We then took the free Hilo Hattie trolley to the International Market Place to check out the stalls, and waited far too long for the trolley to return. When I got tired of waiting, I walked us back to our hotel via the Ala Wai Canal, which is stunningly beautiful.
In the evening, I took a taxi out to a warehouse to check out the play Closer, which was co-directed by my friend R Kevin, and I was particularly interested to see to compare to the movie version, which I’d seen in the cinema years ago. It was also my only chance to meet him before meeting Sean, which I thought would’ve been odd given I’ve known R Kevin longer. Perhaps I’m biased but I enjoyed the play more than the movie; I thought all of the actors gave really strong performances and was glad I had the chance to go. The other times it was playing whilst I was in Honolulu were times we would be shooting for the music video.
I’ve met a lot of Internet friends in my lifetime and consider some of them to be my closest of friends, to the extent that I usually drop the “Internet” part when I talk about them. I only include it here to point it out. Indeed, when I was last in Europe, I met three people I had known from the Internet. So with those past experiences under my belt, meeting R Kevin was no different. He was pretty much exactly what I expected, which is a very cool thing. And after briefly talking to him in the interval, the woman sitting next to me, who didn’t know him but knew he was the director, asked how I knew him. I think I had mentioned by this point, or she overheard, that I live in Malaysia. I guess I still feel a little odd mentioning when I’ve made friends on the Internet, but at least I don’t lie about it, so I shared that information with her and we had a chat about social networking sites and so forth.
R also introduced me to one of our music video cast members, Jen, who attended that night. Then he was kind enough to give me a ride back to my hotel so I didn’t have to fork over more cash for another taxi. I was most intrigued when we went to the car park and he paid for his parking with his credit card – which was inserted into the same slot the parking ticket was. What an unusual idea! Clearly I can be fascinated by the most mundane actions. On our way back to the hotel, R gave me a quick tour of the nearby area, pointing out some shopping areas, and Ala Moana park, where he runs, as well as his favourite drinking fountain. Considering I would return to Ala Moana beach twice more before leaving, this was clearly a prominent area to point out.
Saturday, November 20th
Since I had organised so much for myself to do in Hawaii without my family, I opted for Jeremy to decide what most of our activities would be for the rest of the trip. He took us to the Ala Moana Center in the morning where we went to Barnes & Noble for a book signing event with several local authors. Eventually Doyle chose to to go to the table at the front of the store to make some Christmas star decorations they had there, and I talked to the author (Leslie Ann Hayashi) and illustrator (Kathleen Wong Bishop) at that table. Both ladies were really lovely, and I marvelled at the openness shared when a customer and the author discovered they lived on the same street in central Oahu. I suppose that has something to do with the population size – Oahu has a smaller population than Perth, where I’m from. Given how many people I know from back home who’ve met other people I know, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that people are so connected in Oahu, too. The author, in fact, also knew Sean and R Kevin – or at least had seen them perform. Check out their web site here
It was time for lunch by the time we left Barnes & Noble, so we headed to the food court in the Ala Moana Center and Jeremy picked us up a couple of platters of various Hawaiian food. I couldn’t name you everything (or anything) we tried, but it was certainly worthwhile.
Next we hopped a bus to Chinatown for a bit of a wander before meandering down towards the State Capitol and Iolani Palace. Iolani Palace is quite stunning to look at, and from the opposite side, we found it decorated in plenty of red, white and blue. We didn’t stick around too long, however, because we wanted to use our free bus transfer tickets, and I was also expecting to be picked up by Sean at 5:30pm.
So, after freshening up and feeding Leo, I went downstairs to wait for Sean, who was only a little later than I expected. I’ll admit I was a little nervous to meet Sean because I didn’t know him as well as R and thus scared my shyness in meeting new people would win out, but apart from a couple of minutes of silence wherein I felt awkward, I think I managed to conquer my social awkwardness. Of course it helped that he was pretty friendly, too.
When we arrived at LaughTrack Theater, I helped Sean unload everything for the show, which was considerably more than he usually has since he had extra instruments for the music video shoot. The theatre itself, despite having been told it was small, was still smaller than I expected it to be. Indeed, the smallness could not be captured in the videos I had watched online. Luckily this didn’t interfere with my ability to film their sets (plural because there were two shows), particularly because I focused on getting quite a few closer shots than Sean normally taped.
I didn’t just get to see Oil in the Alley, however. It was neat also to see some more long form improv with Vinylytte and Aftermath. The style and format of both acts were particularly new to me, though I have seen long form improv in the past, which made for an interesting night. It also made me more keen on the hope that, one day, we will have workshops and introduce improv comedy to KL.
Seeing Oil in the Alley live for the first time was kind of a surreal experience for me, given how long I’d been following them on Facebook. First of all, I hadn’t really realised that they use the same tunes during each show, improvising only the lyrics, but that is perhaps because I’ve seen improvised comedy music in the past and was always under the impression the music was improvised along with the lyrics. R Kevin later explained why they do that, which made a lot of sense to me. I guess it was kind of magical in a way, too, given how much I admired them. Definitely a highlight of the trip.
Of course, my fangirling would not be complete without making sure I got a picture (or several) with the pair. I’d been away from Leo for about 7 hours by this stage and as such even one of my nursing pads had begun to fail, hence my awkward position to hide this fact in the photo on the left, taken by the other videographer, Jeff.
(In the picture, from L to R: Sean T.C. O’Malley, me, and R Kevin Garcia Doyle)
Sunday, November 21st
I had camera batteries to charge in the morning, to make sure I’d have enough power for the afternoon shoot, so we didn’t leave the hotel really until it was time for lunch. We headed across the street to Red Lobster, since Jeremy had never been and he desires trying every single American restaurant chain at some point. I had not been to a Red Lobster since I threw up into my daiquiri glass in January 2005, so I had kind of developed a little fear of the seafood from said restaurant, which led to me choosing to order New England Clam Chowder, since I figured that was not likely to make me sick. And, of course, no alcohol. I also had to feed Leo in the restaurant as I would again be away from him for more video shooting, and at that point, was unsure how long that would be.
After lunch, I pretty much had just enough time to grab my equipment and head downstairs for R Kevin to pick me up. Finally I also got to meet his wife, albeit quickly during the car ride to where we were meeting everyone else for the shoot, since she wasn’t joining us. I attempted to impress with my knowledge of the US by asking about the candidate support signs that were still on display for an election that had since passed, whilst R pointed out some interesting buildings. Of particular note was a beautiful building, which his wife identified as the Korean Studies building, on the university campus (the university being where we were meeting everyone else involved in the shoot).
Jen was already waiting for us when we arrived, and then we waited for Sean to come with his daughters, and the other actor, Makke. After Sean’s daughters got into costume, Jen joined me in Kevin’s car, and we headed out in three separate cars to our first location for the shoot, which we would be using for both the Dukakis campaign scenes, and classroom scenes (listen to the song in the video linked above for reference). Jeff, the videographer whom I mentioned above, also joined us from this point.
First was an office for the Dukakis campaign. Given the computer screens were LCD and rather modern looking, I opted to use the half of the office that was basically just filing cabinets, and put Jen and Makke both in a T-shirt I had designed for the shoot, and Jeremy had ironed on earlier in the day. The design, if you can’t be bothered clicking the link to see, was a picture of George H.W. Bush as a dragon, standing on skulls, to keep with the “skulls and dragons” theme. After filming the bits I needed for the narrative part with the girls, Sean and R Kevin jumped on top of the filing cabinets to sing (well, lip sync) the whole song through, which was certainly a lot of fun to watch.
Moving onto the classroom scene, it was time to film Sean’s daughters, who were playing the younger versions of Jen and Makke in the first two verses. I thought they both played their parts perfectly, which could probably be partly attributed to the fact they knew the song so well, having most likely listened to it as much or even more than I had during Sean’s at-home studio recording process. We filmed another round of Sean and R Kevin singing the whole song, the final chorus with everyone, and people drawing skulls and dragons on each other’s chests, which I still find to be the most amusing section of the entire song.
We were meant to go back to my hotel to collect my family after this, and I had concerns that Leo might need to be fed, but since we were a bit strapped for time, we all followed Sean up to Round Top, which is a “hill” that overlooks all of Honolulu and was absolutely the most perfect setting for the first verse of the song.
(Photo; back row, L to R: R Kevin Garcia Doyle, Sean T.C. O’Malley; front row, L to R: Jen, Sean’s daughters, Makke)
There were quite a few people, presumably tourists, enjoying the view, though largely they remained in the gazebo rather than braving the lack of fencing where we went to shoot the video. Some of them even decided to take some snapshots of us, which was rather amusing since we’re all far from famous!
Again, since we were strapped for time, particularly for Jen, I believe, we filmed the group shots as well as Sean and R Kevin singing the whole song through, first, so R Kevin could take the older girls back to the university. We followed that up with filming the sequences I needed for the first verse with Sean’s daughters, as well as more chest drawing.
By this time, Jeremy was stressing out and Leo definitely needed to be fed, so we packed up our things and Sean drove me back to the hotel so I could feed Leo. He waited in his car with his daughters until I returned so we could go film one last scene on Ala Moana Beach at sunset. When I did return, I was informed that R would be unable to join us at the beach due to timing, but Sean still wanted to go ahead with it to shoot the guitar instrumental verse. I was only too happy to do this, and I think we did end up with some pretty good footage here, with Sean in half a tuxedo, standing in the ocean, playing his guitar as the sun set behind him. It also gave his daughters a chance to relax after all their hard work.
For more pictures from the music video shoot, please check out the screen grabs I took in the relevant Oil in the Alley photo album on Facebook.
With the shoot finally over, it was nice to have a little bit of time to sit and chat to Sean to get to know him a little better while his daughters swam, before he dropped me back at the hotel, and I gave him Australian biscuits (Tim Tams and Mint Slice), Filipino Polvorons and Malaysian Teh Tarik to share with his family and R Kevin as a thank you for working with me.
Naturally, as tends to happen when good things are over, that night I got rather sick with a fever and shivers, but I was not going to let that ruin my trip. Not with the plans we’d organised for the next day!
Monday, November 22nd
I woke up feeling at least a little less cruddy than I had the night before; at least well enough not to break our plans to head out early in the morning to Kualoa Ranch. We signed up to a half day package that included two hour long tours, a buffet lunch and hotel transfers.
The ranch itself is located on the other side of Oahu and includes some of the coast. The first tour we went on was their Movie Location and Ranch Tour, which took us to see some old WWII bunkers as well as locations used in Jurassic Park, Lost, Windtalkers, Mighty Joe Young, Kippendorf’s Tribe, 50 First Dates, Godzilla, and several other films. We learned how they first got to be part of Jurassic Park, which ended up having a ripple effect that led to all those other films choosing the ranch for locations. The history of the ranch is that it is currently owned by the ancestors of the doctor who initially bought it from a Polynesian king as kind of a favour for all the help he had provided the Polynesians.
Our second tour started almost immediately after the first one, and was a catamaran ride in the ocean nearby. First we had to take a bus to this dock and a whole group of people piled into a low boat that took us to a “secret island,” which is where we boarded the catamaran.
The views of Oahu from the catamaran were absolutely stunning, and I particularly liked the blues of the ocean. After we were taken out a suitable distance for great photo opportunities, we were taken to a reef to see some baby (10-12 year old) turtles, and then returned to the bus the same way we went to the catamaran.
It was time for the buffet lunch when we returned to the ranch, which we had just enough time for before getting our 1:30pm bus back to our hotel in Waikiki. We had a short break at the hotel before heading out to Walmart, since Jeremy was interested in some of the sales he’d seen advertised, and it was on the way to the Neil Blaisdell Arena, which is where I was seeing Robin Williams and I still had to collect my ticket. No issues collecting the ticket, which I arrived to collect about two hours before the show was due to start/an hour before the gates opened. Then we headed to Jack-in-the-Box because it was on the opposing street corner and we wanted to have dinner together. Once I gave Jeremy directions to get back to our hotel, I headed back to the Arena for the show.
What can I say about Robin Williams? As a stand up comedian, comedy fan AND Disney fan (he played Genie in Aladdin, in case anyone is unaware), there was pretty much no way I would not enjoy this show. I had read before the tickets went on sale that this Weapons of Self-Destruction tour was his first tour in 8 years. That alone was a good reason for me to not miss the show, because otherwise, who’s to say I’d ever have another chance? At the show, I found out that Honolulu was his final stop on the tour. Not only was this a highlight of this holiday, but probably my entire lifetime; getting to see one of my heroes live on stage. And he did not disappoint. From political commentary to dirty sex jokes and suggesting Mrs Doubtfire porn, I was probably grinning from ear to ear the entire show. It was absolutely worth the trip out to Hawaii.
Tuesday, November 23rd
I was still feeling a little under the weather (as was Doyle) and thus, since we didn’t have anything specific planned, we spent most of the morning in the hotel until Jeremy decided we should do something, and we headed out to Ala Moana Beach for a swim. After our swim, I made a point to use R Kevin’s favourite drinking fountain simply because it amused me that he even pointed it out.
As I mentioned previously, given I’d made so many of my own plans for the trip, I asked Jeremy to work out most of the rest of our activities. When we were headed back toward the hotel/lunch after our swim, Doyle decided he needed to use the toilet, so I took him back to the hotel while Jeremy fetched us some lunch. Then we kind of stuck around the hotel a while before heading out toward the Waikiki beach area, where a hotel restaurant was hosting some Hawaiian dancing and music, so we went there for dinner. The hotel also had a small museum about some of the history of Polynesian boats, which was quite interesting, so we checked that out before heading back to the hotel.
Wednesday, November 24th
We attempted to have an early-ish start to the day, but I think we ended up heading out a little later than expected. After our boring free hotel breakfast (I actually skipped it like 2-3 mornings in the week since it was so boring), we headed out to catch a bus. We actually missed the bus by about one minute so we had to wait a while for the next one. I had no idea where we were going because Jeremy wanted to surprise me. Anyhow, it was quite a lengthy bus ride (about 45 minutes or so) and took us past the Pearl Harbour area, which is where I suspected we were going, to a stadium that was holding a swap meet that morning. The swap meet was huge and surrounded the stadium entirely to the extent that I didn’t even know if we’d be able to find our way back to where we started to find our bus. I really liked it, though, and picked up a pair of earrings as well as a neat flower hair clip that I could wear and feel a little Hawaiian. I liked both items so much, I wore them immediately.
Our timing when leaving the swap meet was pretty awesome because we got to the bus just before it arrived, and just managed to use our free transfer tickets again. We got back to our hotel a bit before 1pm, and Jeremy headed out to fetch us some lunch. Our next activity wasn’t until the evening, but the Hilo Hattie trolley service, which Jeremy wanted to use to get there, finished at 5:30pm, so we headed out a bit earlier to make sure we could catch it. We did, and got off at the International Market Place again. We looked around some nearby stores before heading to the Waikiki Town Center for dinner.
That’s about where I learned what our evening plans would be – a free hula show at 7pm. The show wasn’t exactly what I expected, I suppose because of the stereotype you see in movies about it being just girls in grass skirts wiggling their hips. In the show we saw, there were two male dancers to the one female one, who changed costumes a couple of times.
We also learned that hula dancing was the way the Polynesians shared stories through the generations, with different movements for different words, since they didn’t have a written language. I found that pretty fascinating.
Thursday, November 25th
Today was Thanksgiving in the US, and given I thought it’d be pretty rude for us to invite ourselves to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, I’d figured this would be the perfect day for me to book us to leave Honolulu. We had an early morning start, with the airport shuttle collecting us at 7am. It was a little sad to be saying goodbye to Hawaii already, but I’d had an absolute ball, and promised myself I’d have to return sometime to see more of the parts I’d missed.
Checking in at the airport was interesting. As I mentioned when we arrived, the airport looked like it had not been upgraded in the whole 19 years it’d been since I was last there. The check-in desks seemed to match that assumption, although I suppose they must have at some point; it just didn’t seem particularly modern compared to other airports I’ve been to. Considering how many I’ve been to, I figure that says something about HNL. Nevertheless, we eventually got checked in, and getting to our gate wasn’t too much trouble, though it was a bit of a hike to get to.
Given the 18 hour time difference between Honolulu and our arrival city, Manila, plus the 10 hour flight, it was already Friday afternoon when we arrived at our next stopover, which was only 4 hours.
Friday, November 26th
Another short day to report on given, as I mentioned above, it was already the afternoon when we arrived in Manila. I entertained Doyle by letting him play games for the majority of the stopover time. Also, given it was for four hours, Philippine Airlines actually gave us a free snack voucher (for all of us) to use at Delifrance while we waited, which I thought was pretty nice of them.
It was only about a two hour flight back to Hong Kong, but it was after 8pm when our flight landed, so basically all we did was catch the train in to Hong Kong station and get a taxi to our hotel. Luckily the hotel (well, sort of serviced apartment block, really) was much nicer than our last place in Hong Kong!
Saturday, November 27th
Today’s plan was to have Jeremy make all the plans, and as such, I had no clue what we were going to do. When I have no expectations for these days, they turn out spectacularly because I just surrender myself to whatever happens, and Jeremy enjoys my relaxed attitude (let’s face it, I can be a pretty stressed-out traveller sometimes, especially when I’m aware I have to be somewhere by a particular time). So Jeremy headed out early to fetch us some breakfast, which we ate in the hotel room, and then headed out.
It turned out that we were staying not very far from the Peak Tram, which Jeremy walked us to early enough in the morning to completely avoid the crowds, and we took the tram up the peak to get some amazing views of Hong Kong. We also checked out the shopping at the top, which had some pretty cool gadgets, such as a video camera that looked like sunglasses that you wear (what great spy gear ;)) and a remote control car that drives on walls and ceilings without falling down! Gravity defying brilliance. We had a snack at Delifrance, and then took the tram back down to the bottom.
Next, Jeremy tried to take us to the escalator (or travellator?) that also takes you partway up the peak, but it wasn’t running, so we went to a grocery store where Jeremy bought some dim sums to make for our lunch back at the hotel.
After lunch, we walked down to the main ferry terminal where we caught a ferry across to Kowloon. Upon exiting, there were some fun Christmas decorations, which led up to a shopping mall. The most interesting thing inside the mall was getting to see a harpist play. The unfortunate side of entering the mall, however, was not knowing where we were when we exited. We ended up walking in the opposite direction Jeremy intended, but since I had no clue what the plan was, it didn’t stress me out in the slightest. Bliss! The walk took us to Kowloon train station, where Jeremy got his bearings before taking us to another nearby station to get us on a train to where he actually wanted to take us – the south shore of Kowloon.
We wandered past the Peninsula Hotel, which Jeremy wanted to point out to me, and through the southern parts of Kowloon to the sea, where we got a nice view of Hong Kong Island, as well as viewing a Chinese style ship that was sailing nearby.
This was also the area where the “Avenue of the Stars” is located, so, despite not knowing too many Hong Kong stars, we decided to still wander through to see if we recognised any names. I particularly had my eye out for Jackie Chan, which we found surrounded by a large crowd of people, some of which were putting their hands in his hand prints. Luckily I did manage to snap a picture of his star without anyone else in being in it. I also found stars for Bruce Lee and Chow Yun Fat, but they were the only other names I was familiar with.
The next area Jeremy wanted to show me was by Nathan Road, so we took the subway under the street to get to that area, and had a wander for a while. Jeremy especially wanted to point out all the signs that overhang the streets. Eventually we found a Chinese restaurant that served Peking Duck, which is a Chinese dish I’d never tried, and Jeremy thought was worth giving a chance. I didn’t have any expectations as to what it would be like, though it was certainly interesting and different!
Doyle was practically falling asleep by the time we finished eating, and I think Leo already was asleep, so it was time to carry both boys back to the ferry to return to Hong Kong Island. Jeremy sort of put his back out from having to carry Doyle for so long, getting back to our hotel.
Sunday, November 28th
Our last full day on this trip was one of the ones I was looking forward to most because the plan was to go to Hong Kong Disneyland. See, one of my life goals is to visit all Disney theme parks in the world. I went to the American ones as a kid and teen, and we took Doyle to the one in Tokyo when he was still a baby, but this year Doyle would actually be able to appreciate it more since I’ve been raising him a Disney fan. He in fact even requested to meet Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
We left early because we didn’t know what time the park opened, and took the train. We had to swap trains at the stop just before Disneyland, and the Disneyland line had a very special Disney themed train. The windows and hand straps were shaped like Mickey Mouse ears, and there were silver Disney character statues behind glass spread throughout. Very cool!
We actually arrived at the park about an hour before it was due to open, but that gave us plenty of time to buy our tickets and be one of the first in line to enter. We waited patiently, and Doyle was eager. It was probably our only day that he was really excited for. That made it much easier to make sure he behaved! Clearly I have trained him well in Disney interests.
Once inside the park, there were a few places to line up and meet some characters. Doyle and I lined up to meet Mickey and Minnie first, before the line got too long, as it was already long enough for a three year old to have to wait! Doyle managed surprisingly well, even when Mickey and Minnie disappeared for five minutes when we were second in the queue. So Jeremy took a photo of us, and then we moved onto the next lot of characters where the queue was really short because people were waiting for, as I presumed, Goofy and Pluto to return, but we actually got to meet Donald and Daisy instead!
Since Doyle wasn’t interested in meeting Chip and Dale, we then continued on through Main Street and stopped for a quick snack before moving onwards to find some rides. Fantasyland was our first stop, and our first ride was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We got to go on this ride as a family, including Leo. In fact, the biggest appeal the Hong Kong park has for it, at least in terms of our family is the fact it has mostly tame rides and shows so you can take a three month old baby on most of them.
I can’t remember the exact order of everything we did in Fantasyland, but we did go to Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, which was a 4D experience, met Goofy and Pluto, and rode It’s a Small World. The last time we went on It’s a Small World was in Tokyo, also during the Christmas theme, and I guess it was similar. However, what I liked about the ride in Hong Kong, which I haven’t seen in the other Disney parks with their own version of the ride, was the fact that Disney cartoon characters from various films, such as Aladdin and Jasmin, Belle, Mowgli and Baloo, and so on, popped up in their corresponding countries along the ride.
We moved onto Tomorrowland next, mainly because we wanted to check what time the Stitch show was in English, and I wanted to try Space Mountain – the only roller coaster in the whole park. It’d been many years since I’d been on the ride since I didn’t go on it in Tokyo, and it was different than I remember, so I suspect it was modified for Hong Kong. Still fun though! Jeremy took the boys on Buzz Lightyear while I did that.
We moved on to Adventureland after that, and were just in time for the Festival of the Lion King show, so we watched that before having lunch at River View Café. The only ride we went on in Adventureland was the Jungle Cruise, which, again, was different from the ride at other Disney parks I’ve been to. What I liked about this one was that it included a few things from Tarzan. Our English speaking guide was also pretty funny. I liked that they gave a choice of English and Chinese speaking guides, because in Tokyo, it was Japanese or not riding.
We headed back to Fantasyland next because we wanted to go to the Golden Mickeys show, but unfortunately it was already full, so we rode Dumbo the Flying Elephant while we waited for the next show to go in. Luckily the amount of time that took was just enough for us to get back to The Golden Mickeys and not be at the back of the queue, and still get reasonable seats.
There was only one attraction left that we really wanted to see after that, so we headed back to Tomorrowland. Actually, Doyle wanted to go on a roller coaster, and though I thought he’d be scared to go on Space Mountain, we took him to see if he was above the minimum height to ride. Luckily he wasn’t, so I didn’t have to worry about whether he could go on and not be scared. The Disney cast members (as employees happened to be called) suggested he go on the Autopia ride instead, so he could drive a car. Since we still had a while to wait for the Stitch Encounter in English, Jeremy took him on that, while I walked Leo around Tomorrowland to get him to go to sleep. We met up again just before the first Stitch show was meant to start, and luckily got to be the last people to queue for that first show.
I didn’t really know what to expect for the Stitch Encounter because I hadn’t read the blurb like Jeremy had, but it was really cool. Basically they had an animated Stitch on a screen, but he interacted with the audience! And I was one of the lucky people he picked out of the audience to talk to. He asked me my name, and then who was sitting next to me (my husband) and then he named a planet after us (Planet Dom and Jeremy) before accidentally blowing it up. Oops! It was definitely a lot of fun.
It was 7pm when the show finished, and though the park was still open for another hour, Doyle was getting pretty tired by then, and we’d seen pretty much everything we wanted to, so we didn’t bother to stay for the fireworks, and caught the train back to our hotel.
So, despite being the smallest and tamest Disney park, we still had a spectacular time at the Magical Kingdom.
Monday, November 29th
Thus endeth a most magnificent holiday, on my actual birthday. Our flight wasn’t until a bit before 5pm (though had somehow moved to 5pm, we later discovered), so we had a little wander through the area nearby our hotel in the morning, hoping to catch the travellator up part of the peak (we didn’t because the direction was downwards rather than upwards when we got there) and attempted to find a café or something in order to pick me up some birthday cake. The best we managed was McDonald’s, or rather, McCafé. This wasn’t entirely disappointing because they did offer Australian Lamingtons, which was actually quite a treat for me.
After that, we headed back to our room to collect our things, then carted it all – by walking – to the Macau ferry terminal. This would then take us back to Macau, where we got a taxi to the airport, had to wait about half an hour for the check in to open, and then flew back to Kuala Lumpur. If that wasn’t bad enough, we took a bus and then another taxi to finally get back home around 10pm.
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