Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Jo-Jo’s, Part Deux

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Our shave ice [sic] story from Kauai doesn’t just end with my previous post.  I’ve since discovered intrigue and drama behind the aforementioned Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice.  It’s probably fitting that I at least post this follow-up story, since just about the only search term that’s led to this blog so far is “shaved ice.”

As you recall, Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice is the legendary shave ice store in the little town of Waimea in southern Kauai.  I say “legendary” because just about every Kauai tour book will tell you to visit it, including the much-lauded, otherwise superb Ultimate Guide to Kauai.  And I say “legendary” in quotes since, as you know, I find shave ice to be one of the most overrated local foods in travel history.  It’s billed as some sort of Kauai / Hawaii specialty, not to be missed, but really — it’s “not to be missed” in the same way that Good Humor or your neighborhood 7-Eleven ICEE is “not to be missed.”

Jo-Jo’s is supposedly the best that Kauai shave ice has to offer, a claim consistently reaffirmed by surveys, guidebooks, and locals.  If that’s the best of shave ice, then I respectfully ask to be excused.  I tried shave ice at several locations in Kauai, including Legendary Jo-Jo’s (more on that below!), and find the snack to fall far short of expectations.  This, coming from a man who loves many other forms of frozen ice desserts:  gelatos, Taiwanese shaved ice, Malaysian ice kachung, etc.  When it comes to frozen desserts, you name it, I love it.

Except for shave ice, which I file in the same Joking Around category as Slurpees, ICEEs, and carnival sno-cones.  In every shave ice stand I visited in Kauai, the dessert was served with fake syrups — artificial colors, artificial flavors.  I have no idea why, on a tropical island known for its pineapple and sugar cane fields, you’d use fake pineapple syrup.  But they do — every last shave ice stand in Kauai.  No amount of quaint grammatical insistence on calling the dessert “shave ice” is going to rescue it from stark reality.  It is a much-ballyhooed, much over-hyped tourist trap of the first order.  My kudos to its marketer.

But that’s all beside the point.  The real point is this:  that the Jo-Jo’s I visited, the famous one, the self-declared “original,” was indeed the original in one sense:  it was the original abandoned Jo-Jo’s.  That’s right.  Jo-Jo, the namesake and founder of Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice, operates a competing shave ice store no more than 50 yards from the original Jo-Jo’s location, just down a small alleyway.  The nondescript new Jo-Jo’s, the one now operated by Jo-Jo herself, is somewhat spitefully named The Original Jo-Jo’s.

As I entered The-New-Location-Of-Jo-Jo’s-Shave-Ice-Shop-Yes-The-One-Still-Run-By-Jo-Jo-Herself (let’s call it “TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH”), you could feel the tinge of hurt.  Signs shouting “The Original,” “The Real One Voted as the Kauai Locals’ Favorite,” and numerous newspaper articles authenticating its claim plastered its walls interior and exterior.  But nothing would change the fact that it was located off the main road, in a little alleyway, righteously declaring its originality to a world that wasn’t listening.  I only happened to stumble upon it because I was on foot and got confused by the signs pointing various ways.  Jo-Jo’s is HERE!  No, the real one’s HERE!  I’m Jo-Jo!  Look!  It’s me!  TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH!

Two Jo-Jo's

The Original Jo-Jo’s (1) and TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH (2)

But no matter.  I’m going to let you in on something:  it doesn’t matter which one you go to since it all tastes the same.  It’s pretty hard to have a unique product when everyone uses artificially colored, artificially flavored syrups from the same bottles.  I tell you, the first person to suggest, to even think, of using — brace yourself — real fruit in their shave ice syrups will rock Kauai.  Jo-Jo’s, Jo-Jo’s, and even Jo-Jo herself, won’t know what hit ’em.

To be fair to Jo-Jo, she quit her original shave ice shop in order to teach at a local school.  According to a newspaper article posted in TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH, she taught school for eight years and then decided that too many of her students were quitting school in order to work.  So she opened TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH in an effort to keep them gainfully employed in local industry without needing to quit school.  All in all, an inspiring story for such a hugely disappointing dessert.

If you make it to Waimea, go ahead and visit the Colorful Jo-Jo’s (pictured at the bottom of my original post).  Then, walk down the nearest alleyway to its west to try TNLJJSISYTOSRBJJH.  You can high five some of Jo-Jo’s students as you ponder the mystery of shave ice.

Hawaiian Signoff

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Hawaiian Signoff 001It’s our last night in Hawaii.  Tomorrow morning, we board a plane to Shanghai.

Kauai was a great island.  Lots of quiet, not too much tourism.  Oahu, on the other hand, has been a madhouse.  Our past week was spent in Wikiki and Honolulu.  Hawaiian Signoff 002It’s essentially LA.  Traffic at all times of day, urban sprawl everywhere, police sirens at night, the whole works.  I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to come to Oahu.  Unless, of course, you want a taste of LA with better beaches.

Humor abounds, however.  I’ve attached photos of two stores we found in Wikiki.  One does wonder whether these store owners are aware of their hilarious choice in names.

Hawaiian Signoff 003 Hawaiian Signoff 004

A Day in the Sun

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

MoveHawaii 006 We left Seattle during several days of freak snow in the middle of April.  That must be some sort of record, snowing as late as it did, for three days nonetheless.  We are now in Kauai, where the temperature and the amount of sun is vastly different!

The only previous trip we had made to Hawaii was for three hours.  We rented a car in Oahu on the way back from Japan to the US and drove around the island in record time.  “Diamond Head — got it!  Airport — got it!”  It was rapid-fire tourism at its best.

MoveHawaii 012So what’s interesting about Kauai?  Sure, the scenery is beautiful and  the weather is great.  But perhaps the thing of most interest is the wild chickens everywhere.  Rumor has it that at some point a farm’s chickens got loose.  Now they’re just everywhere.  And the roosters crow all day long.  Parking lots seem to be a perennial favorite hang-out for these chickens, which come right up to you as soon as you park.  No doubt many hands have fed them before.

MoveHawaii 013 On the south side of the island is Spouting Horn, a hole in a rock on the shore that spouts water, just like a whale’s blowhole, every once in a while.  It’s a neat site.  However, perhaps more interesting is that there used to be a nearby blowhole that was far more powerful than MoveHawaii 014Spouting Horn, sometimes shooting water 200 feet into the air.  A local sugar cane farmer quickly fixed that “national treasure” by dynamiting it apart, since it was messing up his sugar crop.

Many movies were filmed here, so you’ll see things that look familiar, from Jurassic Park all the way Vietnam War movies.  Waimea Canyon is often compared to the Grand Canyon, but I think a better comparison would actually be to Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.  The vegetation growing throughout the canyon is much more like the latter.

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MoveHawaii 009 Lastly, a local treat is “shave ice” [sic].  That’s right, not “shaved” ice, but “shave” ice.  It’s, well, shaved ice.  Served on top of a scoop of ice cream.  I frankly don’t know what the hoopla is about.  It tastes pretty much like fake sugar syrup poured on top of ice shavings, much like snow cones in the US.  But don’t tell the locals that — they’ll get upset.  Jo Jo’s, pictured left, is supposedly one of the best shave ice stands in Kauai.  I had a shave ice there, one of their self-described “best bets.”  I shudder to think what the shave ice from less-renowned shops would be like, if what I tried here was the specimen of perfection.