PIGGY goes to US of A!

I have been so lucky to be traveling so much this year.  First it was Japan, then Canada, then Japan again, Hong Kong and our last overseas trip for the year to cap it all off was to the US of A!

This trip would take us to the grungey, cultural melting pot called San Francisco.  Next we will try our luck in Las Vegas.  We end our trip by relaxing in the beautiful islands of Haiwaii: Maui, Lanai and Oahu (Honolulu).

Alcatraz, San Fran

Gaming Machine @ Las Vegas Airport

Beautiful Sunset, Hawaii

BEFORE LANDING IN US SOIL.

BEFORE LANDING IN US SOIL...

BEFORE LANDING IN US SOIL…

First of all, I do feel a bit bad about never visiting Movida or Cafe Vue at the Melbourne airport, but hubby reasoned that we have to save money for the trip, and we do have Qantas Club membership.  One thing I learn about airport lounges: Australian ones are soooooo much better than the American ones.  We get free food, we even get food handed around to us- hubby got some cheesy toasted when I was in the bathroom.  There is nothing like that in the Admiral’s Club in Los Angeles- you get pretzels and water and ONE drink.

Also super impressed by the Qantas safety videos nowadays- have you seen it? The Olympians in a hilariously synchronized routine putting on seatbelts, reading the safety cards etc.  I simply could not take my eyes off the safety video!  On our way back they changed it to one that’s showing the Cricketers… I suppose it IS the Cricket season.

Another thing I learnt about our trip: some things needed to be booked in advance, some you just gotta wait till the last minute to book or find discount vouchers online.  I thought I could find some discount vouchers for the Alcatraz prison tour in San Francisco in those tourist maps, but to my great surprise, there are no discounts.  What’s even more surprising is that the ferry to Alcatraz was booked out days in advance, even though there were at least 6 ferries running each day.  Amazeballs.

Helicopter Ride to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas

On the flip side of the coin, our Segway tour in San Francisco, which we paid in full, had a sign out that door saying that our tour was discounted by 30% on that night as there were only 5 booked in the tour.  Then there were stuff like Las Vegas show tickets which you can get 30% discount online.  I am sure some shows you needed to book in advance, but shows like Le Reve, there are plenty of empty seats when we went.  We also got $100 off helicopter rides to the Grand Canyon.  The key is to sign up for cheap deals through www.travelzoo.com, or try your luck in getting discount coupons when you get to Las Vegas.

Too much shopping = New suitcase!

There are even discount coupons for outlets!  Our relatives urge us to go to Las Vegas NORTH Premium Outlets because it has better shops than the South Premium Outlets.  We dropped quite a few pennies on Coach, Tory Burch, Kate Spade… Hmmm okay, maybe there is no “we”, I dropped quite a few pennies there.  And word of advice: bring an empty suitcase to the outlet.  It saves you from buying one (which we did, although we did need another suitcase by the time we are done in Las Vegas!)

In Hawaii, hubby put a ban on shopping and instead we focussed on a bit of R&R, beautiful sunsets and island onos.  Ono is a new word I learnt, which in Haiwaii meant yum, nom nom noms…

Hawaii advice? Don on some sunscreens, put on your hat and sunnies and just chillax.  No one is in a hurry here.

In Maui, try to hire a car and do surfing lessons there rather in busier locations such as Waikiki.  Maui seemed to have the best sunsets everywhere we go.  It was just breathtaking.  Food was quite good there too and I would not hesistate to go back to Maui again.
In Lanai island, which only has 2 or 3 main roads, 2 world class resorts (both Four Seasons) and one hotel, we simply lazed around and did nothing.  There is a shuttle that goes between the resorts & hotel (30 mins each way) and it gets quite cold up the mountains where one of the resorts are situated as well as horseriding in the beautiful lush vegetation.

We fell ill between Maui and Lanai, so we mostly stayed down near the beach, laze by the pool and enjoy some sunshine instead.  There was a rumor that dolphins swim near the beach but sadly we didn’t see any during our stay.

Another advice for the Lanai island? Food in the resorts are quite expensive, as any 5 star establishment would be.  With two resorts and about 4 restaurants between them, there are not much in terms of choice either.  We managed to keep the price down by bringing cup noodles and eating a huge buffet breakfast.  Another way to keep the cost down is to go to Lanai town and eat there, but it meant waiting for the shuttle and taking a bumpy ride 15 mins to the town and 15 mins back which wasn’t great when we are both sick.

In Waikiki, the sheer number of tourists overwhelmed us. Waikiki beach area was obviously very commercialised, and since we have done all our shopping in Las Vegas and did a very enjoyable surfing lesson in a quiet beach in Maui, we did not feel that Waikiki has much to offer.  Together with falling ill, we decided to spend our days in the hotel room reading rather than venture out too much.  We did have a few great meals though and visited the famous Saturday market which I will blog about.

Saturday Market

Saturday Market

In terms of transport in Waikiki, to/ from the airport, I would advise to prebook a flat rate taxi instead of a metered taxi.  We arrived during peak hour and took almost 45 mins to get to our Waikiki hotel.  This cost us $33 (tip included).  Going to the airport in a non-peak hour, we decided to chance it and take a metered taxi- it cost us $40 (tip included) for a 20 min ride.  Ouch.

Although we fell ill halfway through our journey, we still enjoyed USA better than we expected.  We expected to find obnoxious, loudmouth Yanks or Jersey Shore style crazies and although there might be one or two of those, people are mostly extremely friendly and normal.  As hubby mused afterwards, there were many firsts in this trip- we rode on a Segway for the first time, stood up on the surfboard for the first time, went gun shooting for the first time, sat in front of a helicopter for the first time and ahem… Spend so much money on clothing for the first time (I am looking at BOTH of us Hubby!)… Somehow, somewhere between the premium outlets we managed to drop by Saks Fifth Avenue for some Dolce Gabbana and Herve Leger…. Doh!

Hope you will enjoy reading the following blog posts about our trip as much as I love reliving it!

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