Going surfing and an excursion to Chinatown Honolulu

As you know, I’m a bit wary now of scams in America, and a lot of things are scammy. One thing that has actually been awesome has been Groupon, to date (fingers crossed), I’ve never had trouble with a Groupon yet! One Groupon I saw was for a day’s surfboard rental for $15 USD. It seems rude to come to the home of surfing and then not do any, so even though I’ve only technically surfed once (and I didn’t know which way to put on the wetsuit), I decided to give it a go:


I got the beginner’s board which was massive, especially if you’re just carrying it by yourself. Thanks Kathryn for the support.

It took me a few minutes to get out to where the waves were. I’ve been hitting the beach a bit, and been a bit casual with sunscreen, so after a while I started to notice a burning sensation… I’d had it before, I had sunburnt nipples. Surely not a problem that affects women (I didn’t see any topless bathing here), but clearly a problem that was affecting me, as I felt two stinging nipples fighting against my surfing progress.

In the end I didn’t so much catch a wave as the board caught a wave, and I was on the board, so ‘technically’ I caught a wave, through no skill of my own. Still, it was awesome fun!


We then decided to head out to Chinatown, which is a downtown suburb of Honolulu. We caught the number 2 bus to School Street:


However, I needed to take a pit stop along the way. When you need need a restroom, the first thing I look for is a McDonald’s. Of course, it’s a little rude just going to McDonald’s without buying anything, so decided to buy a dipped ice cream, a bit like the ones you find at Mr. Whippy’s. Well it turns out that this McDonald’s didn’t have a public restroom which threw me, since, I’ve never seen a McDonald’s without a restroom. And to add to my tale, when you purchase an ice cream in 30 degree weather, it turns out it melts immediately. Which it did with much haste.


I think this guy can explain it better than me:


Then we decided to return back to our hotel room in time for a sunset:


Returning to Honolulu and spending large at Walmart

We landed back in Honolulu, and having to pay $40 USD every time we transfer between Honolulu International Airport and Waikiki starts to take it out of you. There’s a bus that goes to the airport, but unlike any other airport bus, this bus is just a normal bus, with normal luggage restrictions. The Bus (which is the name of the Hawaiian Public Transport system) has luggage restrictions restricting you to one piece of luggage that must be able to fit in your lap. The luggage restrictions are more onerous than being on a plane! So instead we catch basically a taxi with a fixed price fare which is a good deal, but we would have spent $200 NZD on airport transfers by the end of the holiday.

Anyways, we decided we needed to do a bit of touristy shopping, and weirdly, the best value place to get that stuff is Walmart, which is where we headed. The Walmart is just behind Ala Moana Shopping Center, just walk through Nordstrom, and one block over is Walmart. While Kathryn went for clothing, I went straight for the supermarket section. I really enjoy exploring a place through the food they sell:


One of the things that’s different here in America is the disclaimers that exist in life. It’s both scammier, and yet, full of disclaimers to let you know it’s scammier. Interested in some Philly Cheese Steak?


When you watch TV commercials at the front they say things like “Not a real lawyer, this is a paid spokesperson” for an ad saying to sue a company for their IUD contraceptives, or for ads for medicine “This medicine may cause adverse side affects such as cancer, diabetes, will kill your pets, or ruin your credit score, please consult your doctor if these or any general issues in your life affect you”. It’s like you’re being tricked and you know it, and they know it, but because of the disclaimer, you can’t actually say you’re being tricked.


Have you ever suffered from sudden death? Then call us now!

Anyways, the purchasing continued, thankfully, I’d saved my money for this moment:


Sure, I bought 600 grams of beef jerky. My tip is to check out the Biosecurity website to figure out if you’re allowed to bring in foods. For meat products there is the romantic sounding IMPORT HEALTH STANDARD FOR SPECIFIED FOODS FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION CONTAINING ANIMAL PRODUCTS which states that beef imported from America is OK!


Night tour of Las Vegas and a wife addicted to gambling

The second tour as part of our Groupon deal was a night tour of Las Vegas with Big Bus Tours. We really enjoyed Susan the tour guide and Tom the tour driver during our day tour, and it just so happened that they also did our night tour which was good luck.


But before the tour started, we walked from The Tropicana over the walkway to The Excalibur. We had a bit of spare time to kill so of course we did a bit more gambling. Turns out that luck was on our side for the moment, and Kathryn won another $20 and I won $25 so we were up again and our luck was holding!

The one thing Kathryn wanted to see in Las Vegas was the Bellagio fountains, which start from 8 pm. Well in a stroke of really good timing our driver just managed to get the bus outside the Bellagio at exactly the right time!


Seriously, having a good driver means the difference between seeing fountains and eruptions, or nearly seeing fountains and eruptions.

The night tour is much the same as the day tours except all the places you went by the first time around are now lit up. Probably the most impressive is Fremont Street. Just getting to Fremont Street is an experience to sear your eyes with lights:


But of course, the real highlight of Fremont Street is the famous Fremont Street Experience. Basically this is a really large TV screen, and is the world’s largest electronic sign. At 8 pm they do a show, and the one selected for us was all about Bon Jovi (of all people!):


After that, it was back on the bus to head slowly towards The Excalibur again. On the tour we met a really lovely couple from Utah. When I met new people I always ask what the top five attractions there are to the place they live in, and while they struggled around the last couple of attractions, they did make five. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Mormon temples in Salt Lake City, but I digress.

Anyways, Las Vegas casinos put on elaborate shows to attract people to their particular location, and for the Mirage it was a volcano erupting:


It was pretty impressive, with the water shining on the water erupting plus the coloured lights, it did look a lot like lava. And with all the flames from the gas, there really was a bit of the heat of an eruption, even though heat is the last thing you want to feel after a whole day with the stuff.

We made it back to The Excalibur and it was 11.30pm at night. We had a 9am flight, which means being at the airport at 6am, and so leaving the hotel around 5.30am. This didn’t leave a lot of time for sleep, yet Kathryn decided she wanted to do some gambling:


This time luck was not on our side, and we lost about $30. All up at the end of Las Vegas, we were probably up about $50 in total. The next day we headed through the airport, and after buying some expensive airport foods:


We boarded out plane back to Honolulu. I liked Las Vegas, but to be honest, for me, it’s the sort of place that I’d only want to do once. It’s a bit like seeing a sex show I guess, very flash, a bit raunchy, but really, once you’ve seen it once, you’re not going to keep going back for it (unless you really really enjoy the experience) because it’s pretty much all show and not much else.

Day Big Bus Tours of Las Vegas

So we decided a good way to see Las Vegas was via a bus tour. We found the Big Bus Tour of Las Vegas on Groupon, which was $64 for both people, and we had a $10 voucher, bringing it down to around $50 USD. We probably wouldn’t have spent any more than that to be honest, since it’s a bit cheesy, but we went for it anyways.

The pick up was across the road at the Excalibur Casino. This is a big fake castle modelled to look like the castle in a fairy tale rather than an actual castle. Of course to get to the bus stop you have to walk through the casino! Once there we jumped on board the bus at around 11am in the morning and found we were the only two people on the bus. Told you it was a super cheesy bus tour! However, Las Vegas seems like a town where not too much happens in the morning, and everything happens late at night, so I’m not too surprised that it was pretty quiet on the bus.

Las Vegas SignFirst stop on the tour was the Las Vegas sign. Doing a bus tour in the middle of the day is hot work, thankfully, the bus gives you a bottle of ice cold water which was nice.

The next stop was the Hawaiian Marketplace. I said to Kathryn one we should move to Hawaii, and she said if we moved to the place where people go on holiday, then where would we go on holiday? Well it turns out that the place Hawaiians go on holiday to is Las Vegas. We were talking to a taxi driver and they said for locals they can have an all included package deal including flights, hotels, transport, and food for $600 for 7 nights. This is of course all a ploy to get you to stay in the hotel of the company that sponsored the charter flight, so you can spend all your money in the casino. However, the taxi driver said that a lot of people take up the deal but then stay in other nicer hotels, or they’ll take the drive to Disneyland for the day etc. Still, a pretty good deal, but only for the locals. Except it turns out that there’s a few Australians who have decided to get themselves a PO Box address in Hawaii at the Post Office, which then allows you to get a state ID, which then makes you a local, and entitles you to the local rate for tourist deals. Pretty sneaky. So it turns out that so many people from Hawaii go to Las Vegas that Las Vegas is known as the ninth island of Hawaii.

The tour then continues down the strip past all the other casinos featuring names you’ve never heard of, such as Bally’s. Bally’s make slot machines with themes like Michael Jackson, Deal or No Deal, and Pawn Stars. Yes, you too can play a slot machine based around a TV show featuring people who can’t afford to live and need to trade their items for cash in Las Vegas! Yeehah!


So doing a bus tour during the day really takes it out of you. While people say it’s a dry heat, it’s still 40 degrees in the shade which is crazy. We switched buses at Circus Circus from The Strip tour to the Downtown tour. While we really enjoyed our first tour guide Susan who was awesome, the second guy was really weird, in fact, we were the only two people on the tour bus, yet he wasn’t talking to us, he was off in the distance saying stuff like “this building is straight on the front, and curved at the back, like my sister-in-law”.


Told ya. We got sick of that guy, so gave him no tip and jumped off at Fremont Street. Fremont Street was our favourite part of Las Vegas. It’s where the locals go to gamble, it’s a little less in your face (a little, it’s still pretty in your face), and the food’s a truckload cheaper.

White Castle SlidersOne of my highlights was having White Castle sliders. Sure, they were microwaved by a person who didn’t really seem to enjoy her job serving little burgers in the middle of the Flamingo Casino, especially when some rude mother told her to watch her mouth, to which an anger I’d never seen erupted from the servers as they told the mother to go do something to herself which shouldn’t really be repeated on a wholesome modest blog, but I digress.

Anyways, once we’d finished eating food we decided it was time to gamble. Obviously! One of the things about the casinos in Fremont Street was that they look like they were the original casinos. As all the newer fancier casinos moved to The Strip, all these casinos had to encourage people to come visit. One of the methods used was to create the Fremont Street Experience. Another method was to change the odds on some of the slot machines. For instance, some of the Ballys gaming machines have a hit rate (i.e. a win on a real) of about 46%. Some of the really old machines in the Flamingo had a hit rate of 88%. Just by switching casinos your odds of losing money are dramatically reduced!


Kathryn ended up winning about $20 USD playing one of these old slot machines. The newer ones print a ticket which gets redeemed at the cashier, but at some of these old casinos the win was in five cent coins, and winning $20 USD in five cent coins equals a big plastic pottle of coins.


After our (her) winnings we then got off at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North. It’s an outdoor mall, and it’s not particularly cheap. Put it this way, I’m not going to pay $850 USD for a Burberry coat, even if that’s the reduced price. It was a pretty sweet coat though.


So after only buying a couple of things from GAP, we headed back to The Tropicana for a bit of recovery before our night tour.

Scammed into a Timeshare and then winning it all back again

We got up at 10am this morning. Las Vegas seems like a town that parties late, and doesn’t really do much in the morning so we didn’t feel like we were missing out on much.

First thing we did is head to Harrah’s, and went to Flavors the Buffet as part of a Groupon deal. After $10 off for some reason with Groupon, we paid around $20 USD for two lunches including alcoholic drinks. We caught the Deuce bus down the strip from the Tropicana to Harrah’s. We’d bought a 24 hour bus pass for $5 USD which is pretty good value considering a one way ticket is $2 USD. Anyways, the buffet was pretty good. The first of the three meals I had was meat focused, with shrimp, some little tiny crawfish-like things, ham, and some salad as a token gesture of health. The second of the three meals was beef focused, with a slide of fresh roast beef, some bits of turkey, some macaroni cheese, and then more salad, this time as a recovery from all the other bad stuff I just ate. The macaroni cheese had the smooth consistency of gravy and the colouring of unnatural gold. The final meal was a desert focused meal with chocolate pie and watermelon. All of it was pretty good value for $20 USD. And not all of the food was yuck!

After the buffet we decided to head to the Fashion Show Mall. Along the way there was a stand offering Grand Canyon tours which was something I was pondering, so I went over to talk to the woman. She then proceeded to offer us two tickets to Cirque du Soleil for $25 each, down from $120 USD each! All we had to do is hand over the cash, which I did. Kathryn gave me the dagger eyes all throughout this as she realised that if it’s brown and smells, then it’s probably not chocolate. And then they said we just need to attend this presentation at this resort and after 2 or 3 hours, then we’d get our $50 back and we’d get the free tickets to the show! All I needed to do was fill in this form that said I am a homeowner, earned over $50,000 USD, that I’m married, and would be willing to hear a timeshare presentation about the Grandview Resort. I didn’t need to buy a timeshare, just to tell people about this awesome resort back in New Zealand. Once I saw that, I knew it was a scam, but by then it was too late, the money was gone, we were committed, and I still didn’t find out about the Grand Canyon. After this we walked away and headed to the Fashion Show Mall, specifically Neiman Marcus. I did some googling on “Grandview Resort Las Vegas Timeshare Scam” and didn’t really enjoy what I saw. So that’s when I decided we weren’t going to go to the presentation, I’d written off the $50 USD, and all so that I could tell you this cool story, and you can learn from the experiences I’ve had.

After all this Kathryn did a bit of shopping. I of course was not really in the mood to spend any more money at that point in time. An hour or two later we were all done and it was time to return back the Tropicana, via the Grand Venetian. Along the way I did some more pondering and realised that basically everything in Las Vegas is a scam designed to part you from your money, just like the taxi driver commented. At the Grand Venetian you can purchase a gondola ride around a fake Italian town and be serenaded by your pole pushing person. You walk past all these expensive stores like Dior and Vertu which sell bags and phones, except instead of those items being in the hundreds of dollars range, they’re in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars range. Seriously, Vertu phones run Android! Basically take a Samsung Galaxy S 4, slap on some diamonds, and charge $10,000 USD. Even our hotel is pretty scammy, no fridge so we have to buy food all the time, room at the most distance part of the property, the only thing reasonable in this town in Walmart, and that’s in the more … authentic part of town.

We then decided to take a pit stop at our hotel before getting ready to hit the casino again. but first we decided to have a few drinks. I bought a 32 ounce grape slushy-type thing in a long slender yard glass-type thing for $19 and after one of those I was feeling pretty good. We then hit up the slots and Kathryn put in $20 USD which I was a bit hesitant about. I don’t really like spending that much money in the slots, but I think as long as you’re comfortable losing the whole amount, then that’s OK. Anyways, every time I got to a casino with other people, generally I lose and lose and the people I’m with tend to win. I feel I might be a good luck charm for other people, and a bad luck charm for myself. Well before you know it, Kathryn gets one of those bonuses where you get eight free spins, and on two of them, she ended up winning a total of around $50 USD, which just so happens to be the amount that I was scammed out of earlier, so today was a neutral day which was better than expected. We were so happy to win, I can understand why people want to gamble so much. When you’re sitting down slowly watching your money go down and down and down sometimes I wonder what’s the point of it all, I mean, wouldn’t it just be easier to give it all to the casino straight away, and then get them to give back about 8% of what you just gave them, but then, once you win, you forget about all the negativity, and just relish the winnings like it’s bonus money, rather than just winning the money you just lost.

Well we were on a high after our winnings and the booze, so we bought some more booze, tipped the guy $4 USD (we’re not going to be known as cheapskates!), and decided to head out and do some people watching. Some timeshare people approached us, but I said no before they could even finish their sentence causing them to curse to us under their breath. Not in the mood guys! While we were people watching we saw so many people taking pictures of the neon lights, and we decided it would be fun to take pictures of people taking pictures of things. It was awesome, we also tried to photobomb a few people who were taking pictures of a person dressed up like the yellow things from Despicable Me. Basically tuck your chin in so you get a double chin, and then put on your most serious face, and you’ll look like a thumbhead in the back of that person’s photo. Happy wishes from Las Vegas!

Not Rihanna was not good, our introduction to Las Vegas

Yesterday was the day we headed to Las Vegas. Our flight was at 7.50am, so we left Waikiki at 4.30am, got to Honolulu International Airport at 5am, and checked in. We had already checked in online and was given the option of upgrading our seats to the bulkhead seats with extra room for $35USD per person. We opted not to, and stuck with our seats 47 J and H, which the Seatguru link shows to be two of the worst seats on the plane. We’ll see about that.

We then went through TSA security, taking our shoes off, showing ID, and all of that good stuff, even though this was just a domestic flight. I forgot to take out my little bag with 100ml or less of liquids but that didn’t seem to be a worry to them. Once we were through security the national and international terminals are linked together and let people intermingle. I thought that was a little weird but on reflection, separating people is the weird thing. If everyone has been security screened, then it doesn’t really matter if they’re flying domestically or internationally. After a while at the airport, we were ready to depart on our flight.

Airline Cheese

Hawaiian Airlines prides itself on being the only US domestic carrier that provides a meal on their flights, but they also give you the choice of upgrading your meal before departure. We didn’t bother to upgrade, and instead enjoyed a quite nice breakfast of fruit salad, crackers, cheese, and some chocolate. I find it interesting that they need to add the colour Annatto to the cheese to make it this orange colour. Do they not know that cheese is meant to look yellow and golden rather than orange? It is rest assuring that there was no artificial growth hormones in the cheese. Why doesn’t Mainland Cheddar say that on the packet?

Anyway, once on the flight there’s really nothing to watch unless you pay $7 USD which gives you TV and old movies, and then you can pay $7 USD per each new movie. Save your money, put some tv shows from YouTube on your tablet or phone.


Landed at Las Vegas around 4.10pm. As soon as you step off the plane, the terminal has some slot machines in it. That made me laugh, I mean, it’s not unexpected, but there you are, imagine just gotten off a six hour flight, and then thinking “man, I really need to hit those slots, I ain’t gonna’ wait for the hotel, I want it now!”. Good way to pass the time if you’re waiting for a flight I guess.

We then stepped outside and waited for the taxi cab. The temperature was around 110 degrees Fahrenheit or 43 degrees Celsius. However, it’s a bit like having a hair dryer blowing on yourself rather than being in a sauna. It’s a hot dry heat which is reasonable and something you can live with, unlike when we were in Shanghai where it’s 30 degrees Celsius but the humidity is 100% and is unbearable. I asked our taxi driver to take us the cheap way to the Tropicana Hotel. He said I’d come to the wrong town to be cheap. That’s a fair point. I enjoyed how he served to avoid hitting traffic that he wasn’t really paying attention to, as well as smoking at the lights. $18 USD later and a $4 USD tip, we were at the Tropicana.

After waiting in line for a bit we checked in at the Tropicana Hotel. We have to pay a $19.99 USD resort fee per each day that pays for things like Wireless Internet and Pool Usage etc. It’s just a scam. Why not just include it in the hotel fees? That would be like staying at a hotel buy they don’t include changing the sheets or the towels or a door that locks. Oh you want that stuff, that’s $3.99 USD per item extra per 12 hours. Scammy. We opted to take our own bags to our room. The Tropicana is designed in such a way that to get to your room you have to walk through the whole casino, and then past the restaurants, and then past the gift shops, and out the back, as far away from anywhere as possible, there’s a couple of lifts, and that’s where your hotel room will be.

Hooters HotelOur room has a nice king size bed, and the decor’s nice, but it doesn’t have a fridge, so you can’t really have your own food. We have a nice view of the airport and of Hooters Hotel next door. Kathryn thought the first place we should head to was a massive 24 hour Walmart about a 30 minute bus ride away from the strip. On the bus we had an ominous black guy sitting next to us sprawling out all over the bus. Once he moved, a Latino guy with words tattooed into the back of his head decided to stare at us a little. I felt like Norwegian tourists catching the bus to the wrong part of Rotorua. Turns out the Walmart didn’t actually have these special brushes that are a brand of a YouTube makeup guru. We then caught the same bus back, and were thankful that we were back to the strip.

We then got ready to head to a comedy show at The Laugh Factory. We had a Groupon for The Laugh Factory which gave us tickets for two for around $30 USD. American humour tends to revolve around jokes about fat people, disabled people, racism, and gays. The headline act said he was all for gay marriage which made the crowd go silent. Then he said he was “against gay divorce since once you’ve chosen that ass-hole, you should have that ass-hole for life”. Crowd loved it.

After The Laugh Factory we hit the casino. Kathryn ended up a little addicted, but we only spent about $20. You lose and lose and then you win a little, and then you lose and lose some more. It’s like a tease. After we lost all our money we then decided to hit the strip and go for a walk. I now understand why there needs to be a Hoover Dam, it must take up a bit of power to light up this town, it really is amazing!


Heard some karaoke which was Rihanna except it was all in one key, and without any backing music. Not Rihanna was not good.

Anyways, it was then 2.30am and it was time to hit the sack. Las Vegas first night, done!

The largest open air mall in the world and an upgrade to my wardrobe

Today was a day of rest and relaxation after the big touring day yesterday, so we decided to head to Ala Moana Shopping Center, the largest open air mall in the world (so the brochure says).

We caught the Waikiki Trolley Pink Line which is free if you’re staying at the Ohana Waikiki West (and a truckload of other hotels), and therefore is completely packed. There are other trolley buses that exist that are solely for Japanese tourists such as the JTB Aloha Trolley. These buses run all the time, are always empty, and when there are two people on them, they’re both Japanese. Which is fine and good for them, it just sucks sitting on the one trolley that’s always late and has 50 people crammed into it.


Told you.

Anyways, we eventually made it to Ala Moana. When it comes to shopping centres, Kathryn and I generally agree to part ways. She likes to go shopping for fashion and I like to check out electronics and food.

Ala Moana is massive in every sense of the world. It’s anchored by four key tenants, a Sears, a Nordstrom, a Macys, and a Neiman Marcus. These are big shops in their own right, let alone just being four shops out of hundreds of shops. There are four levels, including another level for restaurants. Just massive.

I ended up heading to Shirokiya, which is basically a Japanese department store at Ala Moana. It has its own radio station, is full of Japanese shops, and at the top is a Japanese food court. I decided to go for a Curry Rice and an Asahi Super Dry for $13 USD.


It was delicious, though it’s kinda weird just to be able to order curry sauce and rice, without meat.

We then headed to Ward Center which has a Nordstrom Rack, which is like an outlet version of Nordstrom. There is some amazing bargains, especially for popular brand names. One thing I’ve noticed is that New Zealand is super expensive for brands like Hugo Boss or Calvin Klein, and in America those brands are really reasonable in price.


I ended up getting a CK tie for $15 USD, a really nice Burberry shirt for $99 USD, and a Hugo Boss shirt for $50 USD.

Sunset at Waikiki

We then needed to start packing up for our flight tomorrow at 7.50am, so Kathryn decided to start packing, and I decided to do the washing. By do the washing, put the washing in the washing machine, hit the pool, sit, swim, relax, and then talk to the neighbours. Turns out the neighbours at the pool asked if I was Australian, and it turns out the answer was no, I was a New Zealander. They were from Oamaru, and I thought they were Australian, so I guess we can call it even. Then it was time to put the clothes in the dryer, and then hang out by the pool again. Life is good.

Finally, we rushed down to the waterfront to see the sunset. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the video, but here’s a teaser of the view…