Oahu Travel Tips from Katherine Lou, Blogger of Wander Hour

Conversations with Locals

Cali girl Katherine Lou is the blogger of Wander Hour, and has called Hawaii home since five years ago. Katherine divulges where to go for poke, Oahu’s snorkelling spots, and why you should not miss out on Oahu’s Chinatown. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What do you feel defines Hawaiian cuisine? 

Native Hawaiian cuisine differs from local cuisine in Hawaii. Therefore, I feel there are many things that define the cuisine of Hawaii. When I think of native Hawaiian food, I think of kalua (pig) and poi (taro) amongst many other things. The type of food that you find in a traditional luau is more in tune with Hawaiian cuisine. Even better, family parties here serve some of the best native Hawaiian food and they put so much love in their dishes!

When I think of local food, which is entirely different from the native cuisine, I think of the melting pot of different cultures that contribute to it. There are strong Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, etc. influences in the local cuisine here. Overall, both native and local food are delicious. Most places are big in using local ingredients, so very often, the food is fresh – especially the fish!

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Oahu without trying? 

You cannot leave Hawaii without eating fresh poke, shave ice, and haupia (coconut pudding)! 

What about your favourite restaurants?

My current favourites would be Maguro for their spicy ahi poke, Marukame for their fresh udon, ARVO for their cute coffee and aesthetics, and Helena’s for the Hawaiian food. At Helena’s, I love their pipikaula which is a type of dried beef and their haupia. For shave ice, I love Waiola.

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Waiola Shave Ice. Photo: Wander Hour

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Oahu

There aren’t many to speak of, but don’t spend your entire week in Waikiki. It has its charms but venture out! There’s so much more to see! 

What is the one activity travellers should do in Oahu? 

When you go to Honolulu (in Oahu), put aside some time to hike the many trails! 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What about the best spot to catch the sunset? 

The best place to catch the sunset in Hawaii would be from the North Shore, which is about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. If you’re in Honolulu though, Ala Moana Beach Park might be a good place!

Where are some of your favourite snorkelling spots? 

When the water is calm during the summers, Shark’s Cove in North Shore is a good place to snorkel! Hanauma Bay is also good! Always be aware of your safety even if it’s summer. A lot of visitors and locals underestimate the power of Mother Nature! That said, I wouldn’t recommend snorkelling at North Shore around winter time. During winter, the North Shore gets some of the biggest waves and lots of surfing competitions happen around this time. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

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Photo: Wander Hour

Name one best kept secret of Oahu

The best kept secret would be Chinatown! Tourists normally don’t head to Chinatown in Honolulu but you can find some of the best restaurants there like Maguro which is my favourite place for poke, The Pig & The Lady, Livestock Tavern, and Lucky Belly. There are also cute boutiques, bars, and coffee shops in Chinatown! 

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Lobster roll at Livestock Tavern. Photo: Wander Hour
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Lucky Belly. Photo: Wander Hour

Describe the perfect day trip 

If you’re staying on the island, a perfect day trip would be driving east from Honolulu and around the island, and stopping at one of the many beaches. Continue towards North Shore and stop by the shrimp trucks such as Giovanni’s, then head back down to Honolulu.

If you’re feeling real adventurous, hop on a plane to Maui! Just a short 40 minute flight to Kahului from Honolulu, you can rent a car and drive around the island. My favourite stops would be Ululani’s for their shave ice. Drive up to Haleakala which is out of this world – it literally looks like Mars! If you leave early enough, check out the waterfalls on the Road to Hana. The whole drive can take about 6 hours back and forth depending on how many stops you make! 

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Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Photo: Wander Hour

 

 

WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU


Maguro Brothers Hawaii
Where: 421 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Poke bowls

Waiola Shave Ice
Where:2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826, USA
For: Shave ice

Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Where: 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Hawaiian food

Marukame Udon
Where: 2310 Kuhio Ave #124, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Udon

ARVO
Where: 675 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
For: Coffee

The Pig & The Lady
Where: 83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Vietnamese food

Livestock Tavern
Where: 49 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Lobster rolls and burgers

Lucky Belly
Where: 50 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Ramen and dumplings

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Where: 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA
For: Shrimps
 

WHERE TO GO IN HONOLULU


North Shore
Where: North Shore, Waialua, Honolulu, HI, USA
For: Sunsets
Ala Moana Beach Park
Where: 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
For: Sunsets
Shark’s Cove
Where: Pupukea, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96712, USA
For: Snorkelling
Hanauma Bay
Where: 100 Hanauma Bay Drive, ueber Kalanianaole Highway, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96825-2005, USA
For: Snorkelling

Tuscany Travel Tips from Emiko Davies, Florentine Cook & Writer

Conversations with Locals

Married to a Florentine sommelier, admirer of Pellegrino Artusi, a food blogger cooking in the suburbs of Tuscany – Emiko Davies is synonymous with the notion of Tuscan cuisine. She’s a Food52 columnist and food writer for The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Jamie Oliver Magazine. Emiko reveals her secret to picking an authentic gelateria, which wineries to go to, and the farm to table restaurant you need to dine at in Tuscany.

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Photo: Emiko Davies 

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Tuscany without trying? 

This definitely depends where you are in Tuscany, as each town has their unique specialties. In Livorno, it would be cinque e cinque, a baguette filled with chickpea flour pancake. In Florence, it would be a panino with lampredotto, or abomasum tripe, it’s not your regular tripe or your regular panino! Served warm with chilli sauce and salsa verde, it’s absolutely delicious.

In the lagoon town of Orbetello in southern Tuscany, it would be spicy smoked eel or bottarga (cured fish roe), served with some lemon juice and olive oil. In Siena, you’d want to order a plate of pici, or hand-rolled fresh noodles, or pinci if you were in Montalcino. In the town of San Miniato, where my husband was born, it’s fresh white truffles that you need to try.

What about your favourite restaurants?

I am partial to my neighbourhood of Florence and I love the little restaurants in hilltop suburb of Settignano like Caffè Desiderio and La Sosta del Rossellino, full of character and run by people who want to make other people happy through their food and wine.

I also love Canto del Maggio in Terranuova Bracciolini, between Florence and Arezzo. It’s another special place run by a family who grow their own vegetables and make everything from scratch, all set in the most enchanting garden.

In San Miniato, there is a family-run butcher shop called Sergio Falaschi that has created a restaurant out the back behind the counters. They have the most exquisite view over the hills and have a small, appealing menu that changes daily.

The Fioroni family farm in San Gimignano, Poggio Alloro, is also a wonderful place for an organic farm to table meal with a stunning view over San Gimignano. On Saturday nights, they serve their own hand-raised bistecca from chianina cattle

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Fattoria Poggio Alloro. Photo: Emiko Davies

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Fattoria Poggio Alloro. Photo: Emiko Davies

Name one Italian dining etiquette most travellers miss

I think it can be hard to get used to the ordering of a meal they way Tuscans are used to. You start with antipasto, which is often something shared like a plate of salumi or a basket of broad beans with pecorino cheese. Then, move onto primi, which is either a soup or a pasta dish. Then you have secondi (mains) with various contorni (side dishes) that have to be ordered individually, and are usually portions large enough to share amongst the table.

Some people assume they have to order one of each thing, but in reality, Tuscans themselves may not always do that. It’s a huge amount of food and you may feel more comfortable ordering just two courses, say an antipasto and a main, which is often shared, and saving a bit of space for a simple dessert. 

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Tuscany

Unfortunately there are many. Get gelato at a dedicated gelateria – that is, a place that only does gelato. Bars that sell gelato as well as sandwiches and pastries and coffee and everything else probably aren’t making their gelato in house! And remember that good gelato comes in metal tubs, often hidden, it isn’t displayed in huge mounds.

Bars – the Italian word for a café – have different prices for sitting down and for standing at the bar. Italians will stand at the bar for their coffee and pastry. In a few places, this is being phased out in favour of a more Anglo-Saxon style café where you can sit all day long. But in general, and especially in a really classic Italian bar, be aware that there are two different prices depending on where you take your coffee. Many places don’t bother making this known or assume you should know, and some people can get a shock when their bill arrives. 

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Photo: Emiko Davies

Describe the perfect way to explore Tuscany

There are so many beautiful parts of Tuscany, but it is a very large region, so I personally would recommend sticking to one small area and getting to know that well.

For example, the Val d’Orcia, a beautiful valley near Siena, has plenty to keep you busy between pretty towns, spa towns and cheese, but you could combine it with an itinerary that takes you to Siena and Florence too.

Or another area that I just mentioned above is Maremma. Maremma is large too, so you could follow it all the way down the coast, even including some islands like Elba Island, which you can reach from Piombino or Giglio Island, from Porto Santo Stefano. You can also stick to the area south of Grosseto and enjoy the hilltop towns, the sea and good, country food.

If you’re in a rush, don’t try to do too much. Just pick one place. Florence, for example, makes a perfect city break for a long weekend because you don’t need to worry about renting a car, it’s easy to arrive by train or plane and you can choose to stick just to the historical centre. 

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Val d’Orcia. Photo: Emiko Davies

What about wineries? 

This is something I hope to write more about on my blog soon, as it can be tricky to find places that have a cellar door that are easy to get to or even visit. My husband is a sommelier so we are often visiting wineries but they are definitely not the usual kind that would be easy for a traveller to find!

One of the ones we love, Altura Winery, is on Giglio Island, where you definitely need a car, but there is no cellar door. You can, however, find the wine at the same family’s restaurant, Arcobaleno, on the island.

Places like Montalcino and the Chianti Classico area that are better equipped for visitors and the wineries there make it easier to drop by and visit or taste wine. Another lovely place to try a bit of wine is the beautiful little town of Bolgheri, it’s basically made up of wine bars and wine shops so you can visit the town and taste all the local Super Tuscan wines directly there. Do a bit of research before you go, rent a car and have a designated driver! 

What do you mean by wineries with a cellar door? 

A cellar door is the term for a sales point in a winery. It could be a room, a shop or a tasting room, sometimes it’s even bigger and there is a restaurant or seating. It depends, but the main thing is that there is somewhere guests can taste and buy wine. Wineries that don’t have this aren’t often prepared to receive visitors. For travellers, it would be easier to go to wineries that have cellar doors. 

Name one best kept secret of Tuscany

I’ve just written a cookbook about it, so it is not so secret now, but the coast and islands of Tuscany are incredibly beautiful and have a lot to offer. I particularly love the southernmost coast of Tuscany around Monte Argentario. We lived there for 6 months in Porto Ercole.

Many people have never heard of it, which shows you just what a secret treasure it is. Nearby is Giglio Island, one of the most beautiful places I have visited, and the Maremma countryside from Capalbio to Pitigliano and the towns in between make for wonderful exploring and eating.

One thing is that you need a car and you need to be a bit adventurous, and this is also what makes it so secret. It’s not the kind of place that people can easily wander into or stumble across, you need to have a bit of motivation. It’s for proper travellers and people who love the outdoors, the sparkling sea and eating traditional dishes like wild boar stew, deep fried anchovies and hearty soups.

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Porto Ercole. Photo: Emiko Davies

What should travellers bring home with them from Tuscany? 

I always like to bring food or drink as a souvenir, something you can’t find anywhere else. If you are lucky enough to be able to bring fresh goods like cheese or salumi home, that’s a good option and most places will vacuum pack these for you. Otherwise, something like good extra virgin olive oil. Look for the ones in a tin if you are afraid of the glass breaking in your suitcase.

An unusual bottle of wine or something harder to find like vin santo (Tuscan dessert wine) makes a nice memento, especially when accompanied by a large bag of cantuccini (Tuscan almond biscotti), which are made for dipping into vin santo. This is a typical finish to any Tuscan meal, and cantuccini are also very hardy and travel well.

I personally like to bring home a big box of panbriacone, a panettone-like cake soaked in an alcoholic syrup from the Pasticceria Bonci pastry shop in Montevarchi. Many pastry shops in Florence sell it too. It’s divine and always well-appreciated!

 

WHERE TO EAT IN TUSCANY


Caffè Desiderio
Where: Piazza Niccolò Tommaseo, 5r, 50135 Settignano FI, Italy
For: Tuscan food

La Sosta del Rossellino
Where: Via del Rossellino, 2R, 50135 Settignano, Firenze FI, Italy
For: Views

Il Canto del Maggio
Where: Area Naturale Protetta di Interesse Locale Le Balze, Località Penna Alta, 30/d, 52028 Terranuova Bracciolini AR, Italy
For: A garden restaurant

Sergio Falaschi
Where: Via Augusto Conti, 16, 56028 San Miniato PI, Italy
For: A restaurant in a butchery

Fattoria Poggio Alloro
Where: Via Saint Andrea, 23, 53037 San Gimignano SI, Italy
For: Farm to table meals
 

WHERE TO GO IN TUSCANY


Val d’Orcia
Area: Siena
For: Shopping
Maremma
Area: Grosseto
For: Coastal drives and thermal baths
Altura Island
Where: Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Wine
Bolgheri
Area: Livorno
For: Wine shops
Porto Ercole
Area: Grosseto
For: A coastal getaway

Tokyo Travel Tips from Yukie, Blogger of Tokyo Mode Addict

Conversations with Locals

You would know Yukie Shaw from her UNIQLO/Rosebullet-esque getups and her blog Tokyo Mode AddictThis Singaporean-Japanese blogger has her roots in Japan and is a regular in Tokyo. Yukie talks about navigating the busy city, Tokyo’s best dry ramen, and a traditional teahouse you just can’t miss. 

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Photo: Tokyo Mode Addict

What should travellers know about Tokyo before heading there?

Rely on google maps with your life when in Tokyo! The city’s train map is as crazy as the people are. It really is best to have mobile internet when commuting in Tokyo.

What do you feel defines Japanese cuisine?

I would describe Japanese cuisine as homely. Considering that I was raised by a Japanese mother, I know that sounds like I am tooting my own horn. But the people there are gentle with their flavours. And no matter where you eat, you can feel a sense of pride on a plate.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Tokyo without trying? 

Abura Soba! Hands down. It is basically a dry version of ramen, and better!

What about your favourite restaurants?

Omotesando is the best area to find Tokyo-style café food with its Japanese-Western menus. I really miss sitting in a pretty cafe and having things like negitoro-don or a loco moco with friends over lunch on a weekend. Some of my favourites are Bills, BOWLS Café and Madosh! Café

What is a typical Japanese breakfast for you? 

Grilled salmon, soup and white Japanese rice! And it doesn’t get any better.

Name one Japanese dining etiquette most travellers miss

Do not leave your chopsticks poked in to your rice! It resembles as joss sticks in Japan, even for a short while. If you need to put your chopsticks down, place them back on the rests or on top of your bowl.

Name one best kept secret of Tokyo

There is a quiet and quaint breakfast/tea house in the middle of Nakameguro, called Yakumo Saryo. By reservation only. 

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Yakumo Saryo. Photo: Tokyo Mode Addict

Name your favourite local labels  

I do love young, modish brands like MURUA and The Dayz Tokyo.

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Tokyo

Convenient stores. Try not to let them take all your money. 

What’s your favourite day trip to take from the city? 

I went on a drive to Lake Kawaguchi once with fellow blogger Andrea Chong, two hours away from the city. It was breathtaking!

Describe the perfect way to explore Tokyo

For me, it depends which season of visit. Japan’s obvious secrets glisten with her seasons. My favourite time in Tokyo is Christmas. Some of my must-dos are shopping around Ginza or Shibuya, going to restaurant that serves fresh winter produce, and taking a long night walk at illumination spots in Tokyo. 

 

WHERE TO EAT IN TOKYO


Aruba Soba
Where: 3-10-20 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Dry soba noodles 

Yakumo Saryo
Where: 3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro 152-0023, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Breakfast

Bills
Where: 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Fluffy pancakes

BOWLS Café
Where: 2-5-16 Shinjuku, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Donburis

Madosh! Café
Where: 5-28-7 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Avocado dishes
 

WHERE TO GO IN TOKYO


MURUA
Where: TOKYO Solamachi, 1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045 Japan
For: Shopping

 

The Dayz Tokyo
Where: 〒150-0042 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Udagawachō, 16−16
For: Shopping

 

Omotesando
Where: Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
For: Tokyo-style cafés