I have a question for you: When you go on vacation, do you make an itinerary?
Let it be known that I am an inveterate list-maker. Thinking about what I need to do tomorrow? I make a list. In my office ready to start my day? I make a list. Going grocery shopping? If I don’t have a list in hand when I leave the house, I sit in the car and make one before I walk in the store.
Why? Because I hate it when I forget something.
When I travel, I do pretty much the same. While on a plane, I will jot down those places I want to see, restaurants I want to eat and people I want to meet. I will do this for each day. Sometimes, I will even sketch out several options for the same day. Why? Because I always want options. Options are a good thing. Remember that.
When I went to Maui earlier this month, I decided to stop by Oahu on my way home to Kauai. My plan was to attend the opening of IONA Dance Theater’s “The Living Earth.” I had two hours to de-plane, rent a car, drive to Waikiki, check in at my hotel—the newly-renovated Outrigger Reef--freshen up and head over to Honolulu Hale for the performance. If my flight was on time and if there was no traffic, I should have no problems. Two big if’s.
But my flight was on time and everything went according to plan. Until I plopped my bags on the comfy bed in my hotel room and dug out my phone from my bag. The message that changed the course of the evening said—in a nutshell—the show’s opening was delayed by one day. Drats. I had a meeting back on Kaua’i the next morning that I couldn’t re-schedule. I would miss the show.
This is why I plan for options. Especially living in Hawai’i. A few weeks ago, I decided a smoothie sounded good. So I loaded up the dog in the car, and I drove 10 miles down the road to the supposed best smoothie stand on the North Shore of Kaua’i—Banana Joe’s. The whole way there, I debated what to order. Mango or papaya? Protein powder or peanut butter? A little ginger? But when I arrived, the place was closed for the week. The owner had gone on his own vacation or just decided to take the week off.
When I pressed the appropriate number to delete the message on my phone, I stood motionless for a second. I had made this trip to O’ahu just to see this performance. Now, what? And, then, like a torrent of water off a cliff, I remembered all the things I keep saying I want to do the next time I am on O’ahu.
I chose two.
I started with a colorful umbrella drink at the new Kani Ka Pila Grille, where Hawaiian music legends—or those destined to become Hawaiian music legends—tend to gather, sing and strum their ukuleles or slack key guitars. On the night I stopped in, Kawika Kahiapo and Martin Pahinui played, performing, among other songs, a memorable rendition of Bruddah Iz’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That song always gets me.
For dinner, I decided on Chai’s Island Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace. I had no idea when I picked the place that my friend—and publisher of OutriggerHawaii—who joined me knew the restaurant’s owner Chai Chaowasaree. When we walked up to the restaurant, Chai was chatting with two guests at the hostess stand. He looked over, saw us and pushing his way through the couple, yelled, “Lisa.” She laughed, they hugged, and our evening was off like a horse at the races. Next thing I knew, we were sitting inside, listening to the evening’s entertainment—Maunalua—and noshing on dishes that I am sure were not on the menu.
Chai opened Chai’s Island Bistro, his second in Hawai’i, in 1998. He is one of a dozen chefs credited with creating what is called “Hawai’i Regional Cuisine,” a style of food and a group of chefs who formed an organization by the same name in 1991 to work with local growers and producers. Using fresh ingredients from Hawai’i, the chefs blend their personal interests, instincts and attitude to create their own signature style. For Chai, that includes the influences of his native home, Thailand.
Last year, Chai published his first cookbook, appropriately named The Island Bistro Cookbook, a collection of over 90 recipes. (Tip: Don’t cook? Use it as a coffee table book. It’s beautiful.) Last month, the book won the Hawaii Book Publisher Association’s Award of Excellence.
I guess it’s true what they say about Hawai’i: Hang loose. Now, I know it’s not just owner-operated businesses on the sleepy, neighbor island of Kaua’i that are flexible with their hours--that hangs loose. It’s also professional dance troupes in the big city of Honolulu.
If you’re making detailed itineraries for your Hawaiian vacation, take a breath. Slow down. Go ahead and plan, but plan for contingencies, too. Not a bad approach to life in general, I’ve found.
Oh, and I heard that the dance performance the next night was superb. Oh, well. Next time.