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Archive for April, 2007

Local Flavor

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One interesting thing about traveling is the opportunity to experience the local culture.  Even traveling domestically, every locale has its own unique local flavor.  The chain restaurant in your town is not exactly the same elsewhere.  When we got to Kauai, we stopped at a McDonalds near the airport for lunch.  It looks like any other McDonalds except for very slow service.  Even taking into account the slower pace of island life, the wait was very long.  I guess they did’nt get the memo that McDonalds was fast food.  The unique item on this menu is a bowl of ramen noodles.  Christine tried it and it was’nt bad, but by this time, we were very hungry.  They also had the old style baked apple pie which is superior to the current version.

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On the way back to the airport, we stopped at Costco for last minute souvenirs.  I love Costco, and I go there at least once a week.  Every Costco carries something different even in my local area.  When we travel, we usually stop at Costco to load up on supplies such as food and water for the trip.  I enjoy seeing the new items at the local Costco.  This time we did’nt go to Costco until the end of our trip because we mainly ate out and did not cook.  The Kauai Costco is pretty new, opened only last year.  It carries the normal staple items found at all Costcos such as toilet paper, and cereal, but you look further, there is always something new.  At the Kauai Costco, you can buy macadamia nuts, and chocolate in bulk.  They also carry all the souvenirs I have seen in the gift shops, and at the hotels.  So, on your next trip to Hawaii, stop by Costco for all your soveniers, and save some money.

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Another item that caught my eye at Costco was a large hammock.  There was a hammock at the resort we stayed at, and I enjoyed lounging there taking naps.  So when I saw this one at Costco, my eyes lit up, but there was no way I could bring that home.

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Last Day in Kauai

Our last full day in Kauai began with a buffet breakfast in our hotel.  It is a treat to have a full breakfast, sipping Kona coffee, and looking out at this beautiful ocean-view.

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After breakfast we dropped off our kids for half a day in the Kid’s program at the hotel.  This was free as we sat in on a timeshare presentation.  I’ve listened to many timeshare presentations, but have only bought one because the price was so cheap.  We agreed to listen to this presentation at the Sheraton because we get free babysitting, and a $200 hotel credit,which I applied to our hefty food and drink bill.  Normally, I would say timeshares are never a good deal because most people do not use it enough for it to pay off, and the value of the timeshare always goes down in value.  Although, it is often presented as a real estate investment, it is not a real estate investment.  Who would buy real estate that you can only get back half its value if you are lucky when you sell?  However, if I was to buy a timeshare, I would consider the Sheraton because of the generous amount of incentive points I could use in the many Starwood properties for personal as well as business usage.  Also, because of the Starwood brand, and the limited amount of develop-able land in Hawaii, and the preconstrucion opportunity to buy, I believe this particular timeshare would appreciate in value.  Or at the very least retain its value.  We seriously considered it, but in the end, I decided against it because of the many real estate projects that I have pending.  Until I see cash from those deals, I thought it was prudent to hold off against making a major purchase.

After our timeshare presentation we still had some free time before picking up the kids.  The kids even had lunch provided.  A $60 value for our time in the timeshare presentation.  Christine spent some time shopping in the local town, while I returned emails, and phone calls.  After picking up the kids, we went swimming again at the pool while we ate our lunch.  After lunch, the kids continued swimming, but I had an appointment for a massage.  The spa at the Sheraton is not the most luxurious spa I have ever been to.  Its just a regular hotel room converted to a massage spa, however the actual massage made up for its dull exterior.  I had the “Royal Treatment”, which is an hour and a half session of massage and “body glow” treatment.  The “body glow” is “an exfoliating body scrub to remove dry skin, leaving you with a longer lasting tan, and shiny soft skin.”  It delivered as promised.  I don’t usually get massages, usually just on vacation, so I was a little tense to begin.  You are even more tense as you are not usually not used to someone touching you, but 10 minutes later you are asleep and snoring while being worked on.  A very good treat, and I would recommend a occasional massage to relieve the stress.

Following the massage, we headed to the hotel’s luau.  You have to go to a luau when in Hawaii.  Although, they did’nt have a buried pig, they did have the usual poi, and mai tais.  The food was the among the best luau food I have ever had in Hawaii with a good variety including barbecued Kobe steak.  Marcus and I even got invited onstage to help with some Hawaiian music. 

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Between watching the show, and eating dinner, I headed to the TV by the bar to get updates on the Warrior game.  The fact that they easily handling the Mavericks to take a 2-1 lead in the series was an fitting end to a great last day in Hawaii.

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In Kauai

Our Hawaiian vacation continues on the island of Kauai.  I’ve never been to Kauai, and was excited to see it.  Just a short 20 minute plane ride from Oahu, Kauai is very different from the big city of Honolulu.  Kauai is the oldest of the 8 major Hawaiian islands, and the least developed.  Only 3% of the island is developed for commercial and residential usage.  Over 90% of the island is not accessible by road.  By law, no man-made structure can be taller than the height of a mature coconut palm tree(4-6 stories).  This leaves breathtaking views anywhere on the island.  The real estate developer in me sees a lot of potential for development and profits, but I am also glad that the natural terrain and beauty of the island is being preserved.

One thing that strikes me right away is the number of roosters on the isalnd.  They are everywhere, around the hotel, in the streets, and on the beach.  They are like the sacred cows of India, just wandering around.  Less amusing is being awakened by roosters crowing at 6 in the morning while you are on vacation.

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We stayed on the southern part of the island in an area called Poipu beach, at the Shearaton Kauai Resort.  Since the island is not that big, and the roads limited, we did sightseeing by going in a different direction each day.  One day we went east, and saw the beautiful Waimea Canyon on the east side of the island.  It is a bit breezey this time of year, but our drive to various vistas, and lookout points yielded some spectacular views.  On another day, we went east to the northern, top part of the island.  The roads do not connect around the island.  Our drive north took about an hour and a half with several stops, and we ended up at the Princeville Resort.  The Princeville is the sister resort of our hotel, so we were able to use the facilities there, and charge items to our account.

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The Shearaton is a nice resort, but the Princeville is a step up.  No matter where you stay on the island, you will be able to get a good view of the ocean.  However, the views form the Princeville is even more spectacular.  From its grand lobby, the princeivlle has an open 360 degree views of the bay below it, and a gorgous ocean landscape view.

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We spent the afternoon at the Princeville resort’s pool enjoying cool drinks and the scenic view.  The Princeville is home of the $11 Mai Tai, and the $22 burger, but the Mai Tai was the best of the many Mai Tais I’ve enjoyed this week.  Even though, they did’nt have a waterslide like our pool at the Sheraton, the large pool with swim up bar more than made up for it.  Four hours of swimming, and $60 in drinks and snacks later, we were all tired and a bit sunburned.  So, we started to make the drive back, but vowed to stay here next time we visit Kauai.  Even our kids appreciated the Princeville Resort.  My daugheter Mia, who is three remarked at least 3 times during our time at the Princeville, “This is a nice place”.  Even at the age of three, I can see Mia has developed an appreciation of the finer things in life like her mother.  I’m not sure that’s so good.  I can see that I won’t be able to pass the Holiday Inn off to her as luxury accomodations in the future, or knock off designer clothes.

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I have made a case for investing in real estate out of state by pointing out that modern technology has made it much easier to conduct business from a distance.  With the common usage of overnight mail, email, and the Internet today, business is routinely conducted from a long distance.  My current vacation in Hawaii illustrates this point.  Here is my view of Waikiki from my hotel room balcony.

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I am sitting on my balcony with my cell phone and laptop.  I am 3 hours behind the west coast where I live, and 5 hours behind Texas where I have several pending projects.  With the time difference in mind, I am making and returning phone calls early in the morning.  I am also writing and returning emails on my computer, free wifi and internet at this hotel.  I am online checking several out of town newspapers in cities I am doing business in.  In the Austin Statesman, I come across this article about new tenants signed up in a new mall in Austin to be completed later this year.  Once completed, it will have over a million square foot of retail space.  Why do I care?  It is less than a mile of a housing development I am building a very high end spec home that will be completed and on the market in the next six months.  This retail development will be a asset to the community, and a good selling point for my spec home.  Conintuing to surf onlline, I check the weather in San Antonio.   Why do I care about the weather in San Antonio when it is 80 degrees and beautiful in Hawaii?  I have two spec houses in escrow and they need to be completed, so I can get paid.  The weather is sunny and clear in San Antonio so that means work and progress can be made today.  So, even though I am in Hawaii, several time zones away from my home and business interests, I am in touch with everyone I need to be in touch with, and accessible to vital information.  I am in Hawaii, but I could be anywhere in the world, and I would be able to conduct my business as if I were at home.  Distance is no longer a barrier to investing and conducting business outside of your local area.

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Relaxing in Hawaii

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We are taking a break from our daily routine, and taking a vacation to Hawaii this week, spending 8 days in the islands.  The 3 days will be on the island of Oahu, and in the city of Honolulu.  Traveling with 2 young kids, ages, 4 and 3 means we can forget about traveling light.  Its a miracle all our luggage made it, but it did.  I’ve been to Oahu many times, but this time we just want to relax and enjoy the down time and the tropical weather.  We set up base at the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we have also stayed at several times.  We like the Hilton because it has its own beach, and several pools, as well as many restaurants.  The convenience of a nice, large resort is nice when you have young kids.  We really don’t need to venture too far outside of the resort.  Here we are enjoying time at the pool.

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Here is a view from our hotel.  It is of the Ilikai hotel.  Those who remember the tv show Hawaii Five O with Jack Lord may remember Jack Lord standing on the balcony of the Ilikai hotel in the opening sequence.  At the time the Ilikai was the largest and most luxurious hotel in Honolulu.  Now, they are condos and not close to being as luxurious as the Condos being built in Waikiki today.

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We did manage to leave the resort and venture to the Honolulu zoo.  The zoo is not as big or nice as other zoos we’ve been too, but any zoo is great for the kids.  I guess the zoo is limited to animals that can survive in warm climates.

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The downside of staying at a nice resort is of course the price.  My inlaws were gracious enough to let us use their timeshare at the Hilton, so we did’nt have to worry about the daily rates, but the food and drinks were another story.  You have to love those $10 Mai Tais, and $12 burgers, but hey we are on vacation, and what are you going to do?  Here is a picture of my $12 hash and eggs.  At least the portions were decent.

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No vacation would be complete without indulging in some deserts even if all of it did’nt get into the mouth.

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Many bloggers post frequently in order to provide their audience new contents, and to keep them coming back for more.  It is a good strategy, but often their posts are very brief, and offer little substance for the reader. I post less often, not because I am out of ideas, but because of time constraints from my work and family life.  When I do post, I tend to post in much greater detail, more like a researched article rather than a brief note.

If you think the information provided here is worthwhile, please subscibe to this blog via a reader or by email subscription.  It will make it more convenient to keep track of the information provided here.

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A New Look

Past readers may notice that the face of Living the Dream has changed.  I thought the old theme was a bit plain and boring, so I am trying this new Misty theme.  I think it makes the page a lot cleaner, and flows better.  Let me know what you think.

The story behind the header picture is that it is a picture I took a few weeks ago on a business trip to San Antonio.  It is a view from a 45 acres parcel of land that I have under contract in North San Antonio.  The picture represents vision and the future.  Imagine this land developed into a new subdivision of high end homes on 1 1/2 acre lots with hill country view, and a creek running through it.  This is one of 2 subdivisions than my company is a partner in developing.  I am very excited about this project.  If successful, this will be the biggest payday of my life.  I will share my progress as we move forward, but for enjoy the view, and the new look.

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