Monday, August 20, 2012

Hawaii Vacation - Maui

Where: Maui, Hawaii
When: January 19-21, 2012
1. Hotel
We stayed at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. It is a luxury hotel with its own beach. Thanks to a special rate applied to federal government employees, we were able to stay at 'good' rates. This hotel is very ideal for families like us. From  parrots and flamingos to swans and penguins, there is an abundance of wildlife inside the resort. Our favorite kiddie pool, 'Keiki Lagoon', was relaxing and fun for both adults and kids. Also, there are many free classes and activities throughout each day for both adults and children.

2. Restaurants
There are several restaurants and bars within the resort, but it was quite pricey. Again, for breakfast, we had bagels, juice, and milk which we purchased from Safeway in Maui.
(1) CJ's Deli & Diner
We had two meals at this restaurant. They have non-greasy food such as salads, sandwiches, fish, etc. Also, as it's a self-serviced restaurant, we didn't have to give tips.
(2) Safeway
Safeway is the major grocery store in Maui, and there are meals-to-go such as rotisserie chicken, cold sandwiches, sushi, etc. We tried rotisserie chicken and sushi, and both meals were very good. If you have a little one like mine who's got too many ants in her pants to allow the grown-ups to enjoy a long, sit-down meals at a nice restaurant, to-go-meals from Safeway is a great way to enjoy your meal while watching your little one(s) roaming around.

3. Grocery shopping
We didn't see any Walmart in Maui. Safeway seemed to be the major grocery store in Maui. Of all three islands we've been to during this trip, food cost was the most expensive in Maui.

4. Laundry
There is a small coin laundry room inside the resort and it worked out great for us.

5. Sightseeing
Maui has lots of things to see, and we wished we could stay one more day in Maui. Here are the things we did during our two day stay in Maui.
(1) Sugar Cain Train Ride
After late lunch, CJ and Elisha hopped on this train. Around that time before we left for Hawaii, Elisha was introduced to Thomas trains, so this train ride was very special to her. We paid $23.91 for CJ & Elisha. Click here for more information.
(2) Road to Hana
The most unforgettable ride ever! Turns are so sharp that we couldn't see what's coming 5 feet ahead. You have to plan to spend a whole day to make this round trip. If you are not up for spending several hours in a car, this is not for you. Leave early morning to avoid a bumper-to-bumper rental car parade. If we had one more day to spend in Maui, we would have stayed overnight at Hana.
(3) Whale Watching
You will see so many advertisement about whale watching and there are many companies that offer whale watching boat ride. We picked Pacific Whale Foundation, because it was cheaper than others and the organization carries a important mission - educating people about marine environment and supporting important conservation programs.

Important tip! Inter-island flights are the cheapest when purchased from Hawaiian Airlines. When I was planning this trip, inter-island tickets were about $100 more expensive per tickets at than at Hawaiian Airlines website.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hawaii Vacation - Big Island

Where: Big Island, Hawaii
When: January 15-19, 2012
1. Hotel
We stayed at the Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. What a lengthy name! People usually call it Kona Beach Hotel. It's owned by Marriott, so if you are a member of Marriott rewards program, you can accrue some points. This hotel recently went through total renovation, and, even though it looks old outside, the room was clean and beds were very comfortable. It has a small beach, and it is very close to Kailua-Kona downtown where you can find lots of restaurants including Island Lava Java.
2. Restaurants
We love to eat 'good' food. Good in quality. Wherever we go, we do quite extensive research on food and restaurants. Here are the restaurants we tried while staying in Big Island.
(1) Island Lava Java
It was the very first restaurant we visited in Big Island. I believe we had dinner there on the day we arrived. High quality food. Not greasy. Casual ambience. Good portion size. Not a cheap-eat, though. We paid $47.24 for three main dishes. With tip added, it was over $55.
(2) Breakfast
We tried McDonald on our first morning. It was on our way to Hawaiian Volcano National Park. In Hawaii, McDonald is very expensive! We paid $12.87 for two egg muffins and two small OJs. From the next day, we ate bagel with cream cheese and orange juice which we purchased from a grocery store. That way we not only saved money, but also could save time.
(3) Coffee Shack
We still talk about this restaurant! We loved their food. It sounds like a coffee place, but it's a very popular breakfast and lunch place. As there is usually a long line of people waiting, you'd better be not too hungry. Try their outdoor seating, which gives you a breathtaking view. We ordered three dishes and paid $39.72 plus tip.
(4) Big Island Grill
To save money spent on tips, we had some take-out meals, and Big Island Grill is one the of places we tried. We had two to-go meals from there. Except salads, their entrees are mostly 'grilled', which translates to 'quite oily'. We paid $22 - $23 for two entrees.
(5) Harbor House
Their food is very similar to Big Island Grill. I think people like this restaurant because it's sitting right at the harbor with a great sunset view. For two to-go entrees, we paid $24.48.
(6) Cafe 100
We had a brunch here while we were in Hilo. One of the cheap-eats. Lots of different kinds of loco moco. Outdoor seating with self-service. If you want McDonald-ish food but don't want to pay too much, this is the place to go. For two entrees and one salad, we paid about $14.
(7) Cathee's Kitchen
We found this hidden gem on our last day in Big Island. It's literally hidden inside a gym. Oh, how we wished we had found this place earlier! It was within the walking distance from our hotel, and offered homemade, healthful food at a reasonable price! If we ever get to stay in the same area next time, we will make this place our 'designated' eatery.
3. Grocery shopping
Safeway and Walmart are the two major grocery stores in Kailua-Kona area. We checked out both of them, and found out Walmart offers much better price than Safeway.
4. Laundary
We bought a small bottle of laundry detergent on our first day, and throughout our two-week stay in Hawaii, we used coin laundry machines. Kona Beach Hotel has a coin laundry room on the first floor and it was very convenient.
5. Sightseeing
We planned our sightseeing with the assumption that this might be the only chance we get to see Hawaii. So most of the places we visited are the ones considered 'major'.
(1) Hawaiian Volcano National Park
We were here on January 16, 2012, which was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and we got free admission to the park thanks to MLK! It saved us $10 per vehicle entrance fee. Click here for information on fee free days and entrance fees. Craters and steam vents were really cool. The small Jaggar museum was not very impressive, but the view from the Crater Rim Drive in front of the museum was awesome.
(2) City of Refuge = Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National History Park
There is a very interesting story behind this place and that's what took us there. In old Hawaii, this was a place of refuge for people who broke law and could not avoid death penalty. It was a great learning experience for us. For more information on entrance fees, fee free days, hula programs and Ulana Lauhala (weaving) workshop schedules, click here.
(3) Rainbow Falls
Don't go here. Not worth of visit.
(4) Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls is not as grandiose as Niagara Falls, but we enjoyed the view and walk around the park. There is $1 entrance fee. Click here for more information.
(5) Hilo
(5-1)Hilo Banyan Tree Drive - Thanks to a 19-month old girl who woke up 4 AM, we arrived at Hilo really early in the morning. Instead of sitting around until the Farmers' Market opened, we decided to look around the area and we found Banyan Tree Drive on the map. It is a beautiful park with Jananese gardens and Banyan tree-lined drive. The view of the adjacent Hilo Bay makes this place even more charming.
I like walking around farmers' markets where locals come and sell local stuff. At Hilo Farmers' Market, we bought mangoes, passion fruits, and papayas. We also tried Malasada (Portuguese donuts). I suggest you visit either on Saturday or Sunday. If you are not a Farmers' market person, you might not want to visit, though.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hawaii Vacation - Overview

We started the year 2012 with a "grand" two-week vacation in Hawaii. I usually spend Decembers and Januaries in a slow, quiet manner, but we could not pass up this opportunity to explore Hawaii.

CJ had a four-day training in Oahu, which meant his flights, room & board were to be all paid. So, we decided to add me and Elisha, along with another 10 days to the trip so that we could travel Oahu and other Hawaiian islands.

I described it "grand", because, even though, we didn't splurge in sightseeing or shopping, we did stay at nice hotels/resorts through the two-week period. With a 19-month old toddler, we needed to stay where we could keep our little one entertained for a few hours each day. So we picked beachfront hotels and resorts with swimming pools, gardens, and even some live animals roaming around inside.

However, wherever we could, we did save. Next few postings will be about our this grand & frugal Hawaii vacation covering Big Island, Maui, and Oahu. I hope you could glean some useful tips for your own trip.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Financial Stewardship of My Church

I love my church here in Korea - Seoul International Baptist Church. After we had moved to Seoul, Korea, it took us 18 months to find out a church right for us.

First of all, my church is free of debt. Yes, NO DEBT, which means their financial resource is not being wasted to pay for any kind of interest. YAY!

Secondly, C.J. and I have noticed that SIBC is very prudent in their spending. They give a lot to missions, and a few years ago when there came in an unexpected $100,000 offering, they gave ALL of it to missions.

Thirdly, SIBC is transparent in their finance. Every year, in January, they let the whole congregation (not only members, but also non-members as well) know their budget for the year, and members vote on it to approve or not. Everyone knows from how much our pastors are being paid to how much the church spends on electricity and water. Being a big saver, of course, I notice areas where I can contribute to save for our church, and I would go around the church to turn off unnecessary lights.

Lastly, my church stands on the firm foundation of the Word of God. From the pastor to lay people, there is such a zeal to learn and grow in the Word of God. No wonder SIBC is a faithful steward. They know what God says about money!

In addition, I believe such focus on the Word of God is what makes SIBC a strong and stable church. When the answers are found in the Word, instead of human mind, there is such peace and harmony.

If you are looking for a church in Seoul, which is simple yet powerful, I would like to recommend SIBC.