Byodo-In Temple

If you visit O’ahu, get out of Waiki and the North Shore and take a break at the Byodo-In Temple in lush Kahalu’u, on the Windward side of the island. I’ve lived on O’ahu for 29 years and it was my first time visiting this shrine. It’s gorgeous!

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Byodo-In Temple

The temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains, in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park (a graveyard). Don’t let that freak you out, though! It isn’t a graveyard with creepy headstones.

Once I crossed the wooden bridge at the entrance and saw the temple, I felt relaxed. Even with tourists mulling around, I was in a state of calm (this feeling was still with me in the gift shop!). There was a temple tour being held and people going in and out of the shrine that housed a giant Buddha.

The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple, and I always liked the Buddhist teachings. To me, it’s not a religion, but a way of life, and the principles behind Buddhism is what I like. (Plus, I’m a big fan of the Dalai Lama).

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Backside of the temple

We walked the manicured grounds, seeing small waterfalls, ponds, and a lot of koi. It was a peaceful way to spend the afternoon.

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Lots of koi, which you can feed

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Black swan

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Catching Up with the Cousin

My cousin, Todd, and I ate lunch yesterday at Ayame Curry & Ramen, a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in a shopping center. He ordered the cold noodles and gyoza, while I took the beef curry.

Our families used to live five minutes away from one another, so our moms would take us out to the beach, to restaurants, and do other kid stuff. He was, and still is, my “older brother.”

But since he moved to Vegas in 2011, the only time we saw each other was when my family went up during Christmas and/or summer. In between those times, we hardly talked to each other, except the yearly “happy birthday” text.

We talked about him possibly moving back home, but he doesn’t want to since Hawaii’s “so small,” work, and relationships.

After we walked around the shopping center eating ice cream: cotton candy for him, cookies & cream for me. When I dropped him off at his moms’, he told me, “Text me anytime. Just because I’m on the mainland doesn’t mean I’m dead.”

He was always the funny cousin.

And that’s what I miss about him. But I’m happy that he now makes an effort to come out and visit. And that we had our first grown-up outing since being adults!

Sunflowers at Waimanalo Country Farms

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Sunflowers…

They just scream “summer” right? That’s what I love about them, and ever since I heard that they were grown on Oahu (and Maui!), it’s been my mission to see sunflowers in person.

My first attempt was with a friend during winter. Word got out that the North Shore had sunflower fields so we drove up, only to end up in the middle of a large field of dirt. Needless to say, I was sad.

But that hasn’t stopped me.

As luck would have it, Matt sent me a link to a news article about sunflowers at Waimanalo Country Farms. I didn’t know that there was a farm out there, but I should’ve, since it was the country.

We went last Sunday morning, and I was excited! Waimanalo Country Farms is located in a residential area, high above the Pacific Ocean and the busy highway. The majestic Ko’olau Mountain Range is the farm’s backdrop, and it’s gorgeous. To make it even better, the farm faces the Pacific Ocean in all of its blue glory.

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View from the farm

The parking lot was fairly full when we arrived, and when we made our way to the ticket booth there was a short line. Next to it, there were stands selling sweet corn (if you’re on Oahu, you have to try Waimanalo sweet corn–sold at farmer’s markets or out of the bed of their corn truck–it’s the town’s specialty), and lemonade and sweet tea. Across the way people were lounging at picnic tables under a large white tent. I didn’t blame them, it was H-O-T that morning.

Admission was $2 and there was the option to take the tractor trailer up to the sunflowers or walk. We decided to do the latter, which was on a short dirt path lined with avocado and kiawe wood trees. And a goat, that was tied up near the entrance.

Unfortunately, since the news about the sunflowers came out after they were at their peak, they had started to wilt. However, there were still pretty ones standing tall (literally, some were towering over their slumped neighbors). People were taking photos galore with their iPhones and cameras, scoping out the best ones to show friends and family.

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Peek-a-boo!

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I look pretty happy, right?

We stayed for an hour, taking in the sunflowers and the stunning scenery. When we were heading back to the car the ticket line was longer: everyone wanted to see the sunflowers, apparently.

I’m glad that I was able to see the sunflowers, but I still want to see what the fields are like on the North Shore. Maybe I’ll go this year. However, if I miss them again, I now know that there’s a place showcasing these happy plants closer to home.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Hawaii doesn’t have large national parks like California or any other state on the mainland (the exception is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). But we don’t have deep, gorgeous valleys, large Sequoia trees that stretch into the sky, or vast deserts.

No, we have gardens full of greenery.

But I was taken into a “desert” when we visited Koko Crater Botanical Garden last week. I knew that it was going to be hot, with the terrain being dusty and full of rocks–it was inside of a crater, after all.

But I didn’t know that it was going to be that different from the other gardens around Oahu.

On our way to the garden we were in the middle of the bicycle portion of the Tinman Olymic Triathalon on Kalanianaole Highway. Cones and cops were sectioning off a lane on the road, and continued until halfway up to the garden.

We arrived at 7:30am and after passing the security guard sitting at a picnic table under the shade we went to grab a brochure from the mailbox. We read the sign describing the garden and headed off, following the Loop Trail signs to the plumeria section. Even in the desert-like conditions, they were pretty. Among the grown ones, we noticed a bunch getting ready to bloom on some bushes.

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So picturesque

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A group of plumeria

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Baby plumeria

After following a pair of hikers on the trail, we ended up in the Americas section, which was an area with a lot of cacti: tall, strange looking ones, ones that looked like bushes, and round ones were all scattered on the terrain, up and down a hill. The weather was starting to get cool, and the view in front of us reminded me of being in Arizona or the Nevada desert.

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Are we still in Hawaii?

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It was MUCH larger (and thornier!) from where I was standing

We thought we were following the path, but ended up veering off of it a bit when we reached the Madagascar section. The path we were on became more narrow as we continued walking, so we cut through some plants and got back on track.

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More cacti!

Throughout the 2-mile loop trail there were shady spots to stand under, and a nice gentle breeze. It wasn’t sweltering hot, but we needed water once we arrived back to the car!

As we were making our way down the to entrance we noticed more people coming: families and couples decked out in hats, shirts, shorts, and shoes. One woman I saw was wearing sandals and jeans. (She must’ve been sweating after).

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So high up

Since the garden was next door to Koko Crater Stables, we stopped to watch two girls ride very groomed horses. The muffled sound of the hooves on grass filled the (mostly) silent atmosphere with noise.

We completed the hike at 9am and made our way back to town. Out of the gardens that we visited, Koko Crater Botanical Garden is different: besides the obvious dirt paths and heat, it’s more of a hike than a leisurely walk (but I guess you could do that), and the plants are different from what Foster’s or Ho’omaluhia have on display too, which shows the diversity of Hawaii’s ecological system. It was a fun way to spend a Sunday morning.