All posts filed under: Huakaʻi Hele

Reconnecting to the Journeying Spirit

It took a lot for me to continue writing, since my life is already so full, but after a month of non-stop work and being placed on lockdown for one year for my rigorous doctoral program, I realized that my responsibilities are enriching, but currently not getting my blood pumping. I then decided to revisit the reason why I aspire to be a travel blogger. I grew up believing that my life would fall into place and make sense once I graduated from college and got a job, which for a first-generation student from a poor, but loving family, seemed like the only thing that mattered. But things still felt incomplete after I graduated and started my career. I wanted more. I wanted to see more. Despite my humble beginnings, I have traveled a lot in my life, as a child tagging along with extended family, and later, for work and hula and I’ve come to realize that traveling is my passion. In Hawai’i, sacred and storied geographies are called wahi pana, but I like the more literal definition of a particular place with a “pulse”. As travelers, we …

At Home in Gangnam

In June of this year, after spending some time at home with my family on Kauaʻi, I returned to Seoul with one of my best friends, despite the MERS advisory for South Korea. We stayed in Gangnam for two weeks and during that time, I realized that had I not gone into Hawaiian Studies, I would have likely been living abroad. I’ve been adventurous, fiercely independent, and a traveler from a very young age, so with a knack for languages, I think I would’ve found myself living the better part of my life on foreign soil. I don’t regret the path I chose for my life because it’s been a beautiful journey, but this latest trip to Seoul helped put to rest the “what if” of whether or not I could’ve “made it” living so far away from home. For some reason, this recent epiphany is sweet because after a lifetime spent in Hawaiʻi , it’s thanks to my life thus far that I’m truly able to recognize and celebrate the beauty of difference when I engage with new cultures.

Seoul-O Travel Reflections

Spending time in Seoul reaffirmed one thing about myself: I love traveling, but more importantly, I love who I am when I’m somewhere foreign and unfamiliar and I can totally travel alone. When I’m at home, I’m careful and my sensibilities are in overdrive, but when I’m somewhere new, my adventurous self shows up. Eat silkwork larvae? Absolutely, hand it over! Walk into a space with live, feral monkeys? Sounds fun! Traveling to new places allows us to suspend judgement, to immerse ourselves into landscapes, and to blend into the background. It’s through these experiences that we begin to scratch the surface of a place and a people. The most enlightening experiences I had about South Korea were not spent in places like Insa-dong or Myeong-dong, where foreigners are expected to show up en masse, but rather, it was on the subway, watching people commuting to or from work and smartly dressed young friends getting excited about a new music video they’re watching on a hand phone. Although my Korean is limited, the language of emotion is universal. …

Realizations about Solo Traveling

While riding the metro today, I realized that I really like being where the tourists aren’t. There haven’t been a lot of them since I’ve arrived, other than the huge group I saw at Insa-dong yesterday. I saw a ton of them walking the streets and suddenly felt uncomfortable being around other foreigners. I think it has more to do with the fact that I could be grouped into the classification of people that are generally misrepresented by a few “bad eggs”. Unfair, I know, but when traveling alone, I’m extra sensitive it. The one thing I find refreshing is that people in Korea don’t give you a second look when you’re a foreigner. I rather like it. Maybe they’re too busy to notice, or maybe I’m a nobody, or maybe it’s just not a big deal. Either way, I like blending into the background and people-watching. I don’t think they know what to make of me since I’m quiet, but quick to flash a smile and a bow. They know I’m not in my 20’s and …

Day Trip to Apgujeong and Gangnam

After yesterday’s marathon wandering, I decided to take it easy and head down to Gangnam and Apgujeong, the status locations of South Korea and I immediately noticed the difference in terms of the dress, cars, and style of the people in these areas versus where I’m staying in Jongno-gu. If I had to assign an equivalent, I’d say Gangnam is a lot like New York. People do high end business here and as a result, have access to a lot of money. The suit, tie, and fine leather shoes are standard attire here. These are the people who look like they are chaebol characters in Korean dramas with slick haircuts and a kind of confidence that I’ve not seen since I arrived. The difference from New York? Streets are wide and clean and people aren’t rushing around. They’re probably in their offices already so sidewalks are relatively empty. As I sat in the local The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I saw one bus drive by. This area feels the most like the United States. …

Misadventures in Seoul

I had read about Dongdaemun being the mecca for traditional medicines in South Korea and being that I long divorced myself from over the counter pain relievers and embraced ancestral knowledge by opting for traditional medicines, like my preventative daily tonic of ʻōlena tea, I just knew I had to go there. After arriving in Dongdaemun, I walked briskly on the main drag, keeping up with people rushing off to work, but after a few moments, I realized I was lost. None of the names I saw on the signs looked vaguely familiar and to avoid looking like a pathetic tourist like I did yesterday, I ducked into Coffee Bay Coffee and Bakery, to let the foot traffic die down, check my metro map, and enjoy two lattes while I continued pecking away at my computer to bide my time. In the meantime, I enjoyed two coffees: a goguma (sweet potato) latte and a red velvet latte, each being 3300 won. I don’t know about you, but getting a less than $3 regular latte is …

Korean Baseball Experience

In preparing for my trip, I read a blog post somewhere that baseball games in Korea are fun, so I ended up going to one by myself in Jamsil between LT and Doosan. Normally, I’m not a big baseball fan, but considering it’s an experience I should have while I’m here, I took the plunge. I caught the metro and amazingly, the station was a few feet from the ticket office. Then again, I’m realizing that everything in Seoul is this convenient. I bought my ticket and it costed me a little less than $10.00 USD. Not too shabby. Being solo on this trip, I’m thinking it might’ve been fun to attend the game with friends, to share a bowl of ddeokbokki, drink beer, and actually converse with someone, but alas, it was not meant to be and so I sat alone, amongst hardcore fans, and enjoyed being somewhere Seoulites gather during their downtime. As expected, fan cheers are amazing. Here are a few clips of fans getting rowdy with their inflatable noise makers.

Finding your Seoul

I am sitting in The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Jongno-gu and watching people hurrying about on a Sunday. It is quite a sight. Young couples, dressed alike in the same shirts or jackets or shoes and holding hands, while others are bundled up as the temperature continues to drop outside. Here, indoors, there have been two arranged dates in the last hour and the men seem enthusiastic, while the women appear ambivalent. I’m not sure if it’s a strategy to not seem overexcited, therefore forcing the man to pull out all stops in the dating game or if they really are thinking about mundane things like doing laundry or what they’ll eat for dinner. I am not an expert in Korean dating behaviors, but it is an interesting process to observe. You can only order 2 sizes of coffee here. Small or regular and both are smaller than the U.S. equivalent of a tall and a grande, but more expensive per ounce and I am silently grateful that this country doesn’t contribute to …

678 Hawaii

I’ve been wanting to try Kang Ho Dong’s restaurant, 678 Hawaii, when it first opened its doors in 2012, but because I never spend more than 4 hours in O’ahu at a time, I’ve never had the pleasure, so I was tickled when a group of us went there for dinner on Wednesday night. We decided on the large Mixed Combo with pork belly, prime rib eye, and a marinated boneless short rib, and also came with 2 stews, so we ordered the kimchi and the seafood soft tofu stews. There was a nice variety of side dishes awaiting us on the table, along with a refreshing greens you can mix into a spicy salad, with what I could recognize included scallions, bean sprouts, lettuce, and gojuchang (pepper paste). For good measure, we ordered some melon soju. Everything was delicious, and even though we had pupus (finger food) prior to our reservation, we still threw back a considerable amount of food, then packed the rest. The service was exceptional and the patrons reflected a broad mix, from families, to college students, to visiting …

real travel swag

It’s been awhile since I actually invested in luggage. A few years ago, I was given a standard issue LL Bean rolling duffle for hula-related travel, which has served me well in the thousands of miles of flying, but now that I’m about to embark on my next chapter of traveling and I want stuff that meets my needs. To Wheel or Not to Wheel? I began exploring suitcases, duffles, even travel backpacks and was fairly certain I would be moving toward a travel backpack. I appreciate the concept of strapping your luggage to your person, but after a reality check, I had to ‘fess up to being a lightweight when it comes to carrying weight for extended periods of time. I ruled out the Tortuga Travel Backpack, despite excellent reviews, and dismissed the Pacsafe Duffelsafe that converts to a backpack, which had all the bells and whistles of anti-theft technology I was looking for. The thought of a regular suitcase did cross my mind, but it’s restrictive in terms of form and I’m notorious for buying weird shaped gift …