At 4:00 on the dot, the unmistakable call of a rooster pierced the inky blackness. A distant bird responded, and a lengthy conversation ensued. Are they on Pacific time, too? Sleeping in became difficult, especially for those without in-room A/C who had our windows open. By 6:00, a crowd had gathered in the upstairs dining room for breakfast.
I was able to indulge some of my favorite foods while other had more traditional breakfasts of cereal and bizarrely colored yogurts. Ahi shoyu poke mixes meaty yellowfin tuna and onions in a soy sauce marinade that gives the fish a plush and velvety texture. Tako onion poke features tender but slightly chewy slices of boiled octopus with onions and chopped kukui nuts. The “sunrise” papaya provides plenty of potassium to balance the poke seasonings and help ward off leg cramps.
After breakfast, I had a half hour call with a prospective new client before preparing for our first snorkeling excursion. This involved squeezing into an embarrassingly tight long sleeved rash guard (for sun and jellyfish protection), getting together all the various equipment and supplies, and applying an initial layer of sunscreen. It also involved extensive coordination of all sorts of additional supplies, from straw beach mats and folding chairs to boogie boards and “noodles.” By 8:45, the capacious Grand Caravan was loaded and ready to roll.
We hit up the nearby Snorkel Bob’s to rent fins for the kids and headed South on South Kihei Road. The beaches near the house don’t have good snorkeling, but you don’t have to drive far to reach the renowned Kamaole Beach Parks. Unfortunately, upon arriving at our chosen beach and loading everything onto our back and arms, we discovered that the waves were much higher than expected. While the air had been still at our house, there was a pretty serious breeze here. We bundled back into the van and headed South, investigating another stop before finally landing at Ulua Beach in Wailea. This actually had been my original first day suggestion so I didn’t mind at all.
The beach was not full, exactly, but you certainly felt as though you were passing through your neighbors’ yards when traversing the sizzling hot golden sands. Before long, we were knee deep in the waves, helping the kids with their masks and snorkels. I had forgotten how alien it is the first time when you can’t breathe through your nose and water sneaks into your snorkel. (And I always forget how tricky it can be to avoid water leaking into my mask through my mustache.)
We soon were underway at varying speeds across the sandy bottom toward the coral. Here is where experience pays off: you can swim a bit closer when you know how to avoid getting smashed into the rocks and coral heads. And of course when you don’t have a child on your arm. While the water was quite stirred up, you certainly could see a few fish.
I missed the manta ray at the edge of the reef, and didn’t find any eels or turtles, but once the waves calm down this weekend (fingers crossed), we expect to have better luck.
We didn’t leave the beach until almost noon, when there was an exodus of those from the temperate climates. Since we had so many leftovers, we just needed to pick up a few supplemental items from a nearby shopping center. From Ba-le, imperial rolls and an avocado banh mi sandwich; and from the Minit Stop convenience store, spam musubi’s (a pan-fried slab of spam seasoned with teriyaki sauce and strapped to a huge rice ball with a wide ribbon of nori seaweed) and a small order of fried chicken. The kids may have obtained some sugary beverages from these stores as well. The avocado sandwich was at once rich and creamy and slightly mouth puckering from the pickled daikon radish and carrots. Simultaneously bland and intriguing. Possibly worth trying again.
After eating way too much, we took it easy until early evening when it was time to formulate a dinner plan. I suggested a trip up to A Saigon Café in Wailuku, about a 25 minute drive. (We drove in two cars, and I detoured to the beach briefly for a couple of sunset photos, so our first group already was reviewing the menus when we arrived.) At the restaurant, after extensive negotiations, we settled on our selections. Our waiter seemed a little exasperated with the complexity, but a party of 8 will do that to you.
We started with crispy imperial rolls. You wrap it in a large square of lettuce with thin rice noodles (vermicelli) and mint leaves, and dip it in a slightly spicy fish sauce mixture. Quite tasty. The mahi-mahi cooked in a clay pot was delicious; despite the fish having quite a firm texture from long cooking, it flaked easy to pick up more of the deeply caramelized garlic black bean sauce. Definitely not allowed on a low sodium diet. Our other fish was a grilled salmon seasoned with some kind of herbal rub. Oddly, it was a little dry; perhaps it arrives in Hawaii frozen? Lemon-grass curry chicken over rice noodles was very good; the crispy fried noodles with chicken and vegetables was a bit gloppy. The stir-fried green beans and choy sum were well seasoned and more satisfying than a salad. Finally, several of us split an order of the roast duck soup noodles. We managed to finish everything, but it wasn’t easy: I had to take many third and fourth servings.
We stopped at Long’s for sun care products and various items for the road. The famous road. The Road to Hana. That’s our next adventure: Tummy Troubles.