October 9, 2011 and October 30, 2011
We knew that once we moved to Honolulu, one of our big expenses was going to be food. I had read that food here costs two to three times as much as on the mainland. I had also found some tips on how to save money on food. One tip was to get produce at the farmer’s markets in Chinatown.
We first ventured to Chinatown on October 9th. From the corner of Namahana St and Kuhio Avenue we can take bus 13 or B. (You can check the current bus schedule on Google Maps.) The Bus costs $2.50 per adult “one-way.” But with a one-way fare you can ask for a transfer slip, which can be used within the next two hours. The time at the top of the transfer indicates when it must be used by that day. The first time we went to Chinatown we didn’t realize that we could use the “transfer” to catch a bus home. Now we are more savvy and realize that as long as it is within the two hour slot, you can use the transfer for your return trip. Just make sure to get a transfer slip from the bus driver when you pay your cash fare of $2.50 in exact change. There are also monthly passes for $60/month, but we have not been taking the bus enough to need that yet.
On our first trip to Chinatown we were anxious about finding the right stop and kept checking our iPhones to see how far along the route we were. But no need to worry, the buses have an LCD display and voice announcing the next stop. The stop at Hotel St. and Maunakea St. announces that it is for Chinatown. That’s a useful feature on these buses. Instead of just announcing the stop they also announce what it located there, like a grocery store, clinic, or school.
When we first arrived in Chinatown we looked around in Maunakea Market place, which has trinkets and a food court and some groceries. Then we wandered to the neighboring blocks, with store upon store selling produce along the sidewalk and also inside. The prices were much better than at the super market, with some prices even better than those in California! For example, at a regular grocery store in Honolulu, bananas are over $1 per pound. But at the farmer’s markets you can find them for 59 cents per lb, 69 cents per lb, or 85 cents per lb, depending upon variety and ripeness. It is a good idea to comparison shop, since sometimes we would buy something only to find it cheaper at the next market over. We loaded up our two cloth grocery bags full with ingredients for guacamole and tacos and bananas and spent $18.
After shopping we were ready for an early lunch and headed back to the food court in Maunakea Market place. We found a stall selling cheap Singapore noodles and sat at the long communal table to eat. When we finished eating we returned the bowls to the stall from which we had ordered. The food was cheap, but only so-so.
Today, October 30th, we returned to Chinatown and brought along our neighbor, to show him the ropes. We are planning to make the trip every other weekend to stock up on fruits and veges. This time we got lots of fruit to help combat the colds we are fighting off: oranges, bananas, papaya, persimmons, ginger; and ingredients for dinner: mushrooms, snow peas, and onions, and only spent $10.
For lunch we tried Fook Lam dim sum restaurant at 100 N. Beretania St. Suite 110, and were quite happy with it. It turns out there are a few dim sum restaurants at the Chinatown Cultural Center Plaza, but we were happy with the fresh tasty dim sum at Fook Lam, the friendly service, and the reasonable price. There is even a vegetarian restaurant nearby (Legend Vegetarian Restaurant), that we plan to try sometime. Now we know a good dim sum place to bring guests to!
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