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In #AlohaBeijing, ‘Aloha’ can mean goodbye

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So if you haven’t already noticed from my Instagram feed, I’m not in Beijing.

In fact, I didn’t even get near the country.

Turns out, the travel agent who told me I didn’t need a visa because I wouldn’t be in China for 72 hours was wrong.

Here’s how it went down:

I went to the travel agent’s office with just enough time to get a visa to China, which is required in most cases. He told me as long as I wouldn’t be in the country for more than 72 hours, I didn’t need one. He had clients who had done it before, so I shouldn’t worry.

I trusted his advice. I mean, who was I to go against a guy who makes his living scheduling vacations and business trips?

Last night I picked up Melissa Chang and got to the airport with about an hour until boarding. As I was checking into the flight, the Hawaiian Airlines worker asked for my visa. I told her I didn’t have one.

After several huddles among employees, the woman came back and said I wasn’t going to be allowed on the plane. It was company policy that everyone had to have a visa. So I was out of luck. (She was very apologetic about it, though.)

I’ve gotten a lot of flack online — primarily on Facebook — about what I did. I even got called stupid, which was bit overly harsh. Look, I went with information I thought was valid. Did I know you needed a visa to enter China? Yes. Did I know about the policy allowing foreigners into the country for less than 72 hours? Yes. But did I know about the minor stipulations — like you had to be transiting through China, yada yada — that an expert like a travel agent would know? Absolutely not.

It’s not like I was trying to circumvent getting a visa — or trying to get out of this trip to Beijing, as was also implied. It was a simple but disastrous mistake — and one that I will likely regret for awhile.

So that’s what happened.

I went to Chinatown this morning and grabbed a box of baked manapua from Royal Kitchen. I took it to my surfing buddies, who were meeting for breakfast, and told them this was their omiyage from China.

Because that’s as close as I was going to get!

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#CatTravels: 67 hours in Beijing

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This trip has already been, well, a trip.

Awhile back, Hawaiian Airlines invited me on its inaugural flight to Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. The airlines is starting this new route Wednesday morning, with a departure just after midnight.

I had months to prepare for this — and I was preparing. Fellow blogger — and one of my favorite travel partners — Melissa Chang (@melissa808) and I had started mapping out a 10-day trip to China, which included a stop in Shanghai to visit her niece.

But then I got sick.

And then I was hospitalized.

And then three doctors advised me not to travel to China anytime soon.

So here I was, with a coveted invitation to travel on this landmark flight to a mysterious city I really know nothing about.

I’ll be honest, Beijing wasn’t high on my list of Places to Visit Before I Die. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have its allure.

The fact that there are more than 21 million people living in this uber-metropolis is reason enough to go. But it’s also the hub of all things Chinese, from its politics to its culture.

This is the site of Tiananmen Square, the focal point of pro-demoncracy protests in 1989 that ended with the declaration of martial law in Beijing and the death of hundreds of people.

It’s also where you can access the Great Wall of China, which stretches for more than 13,000 miles.

There’s the Beijing Zoo, the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs and the various hutongs (or small streets lined with shops and restaurants), not to mention the venues built for the 2008 Summer Olympics, which the city hosted.

So there’s a lot to see and do.

But I was sick — and the healthcare system, air quality (@BeijingAir) and overall cleanliness of China are all suspect, especially to first-time visitors like me.

But that’s not the only reason this trip almost never happened.

I didn’t get a visa in time.

This may sound dire, maybe even downright crazy, but here’s the thing: According to one travel agent I spoke to and a dozens of sites online, China instituted a visa-free transit policy in 2013, which allows passengers with passports from certain countries — U.S. included — to stay for up to 72 hours without a visa if entering and exiting Beijing (and a few other airports).

I had three people — the travel agent, a Hawaiian Air rep, and my CPA friend — to calculate the exact number of hours I’d be in China.

67.

I would just make it.

And if, by some reason, I don’t, I’ll be stuck in China for at least another week — or I might have to start learning Mandarin. (Melissa did promise to bust me out of a Chinese prison, so I’m counting on that.)

So stay tuned! Follow me on Twitter (@thedailydish), Instagram (@catherinetoth) and on YouTube to see what happens to me!

Special thanks to Hawaiian Airlines who graciously invited me on its inaugural flight to Beijing! Learn more about Beijing here.

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Opening tonight: Honolulu’s newest brewpub

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Geoff Seideman has come a long way from brewing craft beers at home.

Tonight he flings open the doors to his latest venture — and Honolulu’s newest brewpub, Honolulu Beerworks, in Kakaako.

This laid-back, warehouse-style pub on Cooke Street will feature 12 beers on tap, all brewed in-house. It sprawls over 3,200 square feet, with an additional 800-square-foot beer garden outside.

Consider this Honolulu’s New Favorite Pau Hana Spot.

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With both a culinary and construction background, Seideman spent more than six months gutting and building out the space. “I built out everything except the stuff that can kill you,” he said, laughing.

He enlisted the help from veteran brewmaster Dave Campbell, who has spent nearly three decades in the business, most recently at Aloha Beer, to handle day-to-day brewing.

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That’s Seideman on the left and Campbell in the middle.

On Tuesday the media was invited to check out the new pub and sample the craft beers on tap, including the crisp Kakaako Kolsch, the earthy It’s Not Bitter Ale, and the Pia Mahiai Saison made with Big Island citrus, lemongrass and honey.

“The whole neighborhood here is seeking out special, unusual, bolder flavors,” Campbell said. “What we’re doing, it’s a lot more fun than what we might be doing at a chain brewing or family-dining brewpub. We’re able to get a lot more creative here … It’s a little more adventure, a little more passion, a little more soul.”

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Here’s the menu, which will change every two weeks or so.

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Here’s what the tasting glasses look like. Just $2.

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Here’s Lisa Yamada, editorial director of FLUX Hawaii, and Martha Cheng, food editor at HONOLULU Magazine, sampling some of the Honolulu Beerworks’ brews.

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A sampling of brews and ingredients.

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Seideman shows us the hops he uses.

Though the pub opens today, it will feature a limited, pupu-style menu. The food portion of the business will be rolled out in phases, Seideman said, with compatible fare such as briskets and ribs eventually hitting the menu.

You can sit at the bar with a view of the back room and its fermenters — or you can head outside to one of the picnic tables set up in the beer garden. Or you can pick up a keg — likely in the $75 range — for your own pau hana.

“It’s just the beginning,” Campbell said. “And we look forward to the neighborhood growing up around us.”

Honolulu Beerworks at 328 Cooke St. opens today. Hours are 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly. (It will be closed April 13)

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What? Archie is dead?

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Maybe news of the death of Archie Andrews, the beloved redhead protagonist in the popular comic book series, didn’t rattle your morning.

But it did mine.

My mom texted me the link to a CNN article announcing the tragic news of his impending death come July, when the series, “Life With Archie,” ends after a 73-year run.

The #36 issue hits stores on July 16.

This is devastating to me. Very, very few people know I’m a hardcore Archie Comics fan. My parents would buy me issues all the time, feeding my addiction to all things Riverdale.

These characters — Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Moose, Midge — were my childhood friends, and I followed their teenage exploits since the time I could read.

It’s hard enough knowing that the comic series will come to an end. It’s like a part of my life is over. But it’s even stranger — and, frankly, difficult to accept — that the freckled-faced teenager who always tried to do the right thing is going to die.

Die.

Sure, he supposedly will die saving a friend. (“Archie dies as he lived — heroically,” Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater told the New York Post. “He dies saving the life of a friend and does it in his usual selfless way. Archie has always been a representation of us — the best of us. Our strengths and our faults.”) But it’s just tragic. I mean, what’s the point in killing the poor guy? Doesn’t this just add weight to the argument that nice guys finish last?

In a way, I suppose it’s much more interesting than ending the series with Archie finally choosing between the saccharine-sweet Betty and spoiled-but-fetching Veronica. (I’ve always been a Betty fan, so there’s no argument there.) But death? Isn’t this going too far?

It actually makes me sad to think a whole generation of kids won’t grow up with Archie Andrews and his Riverdale High classmates. But I suppose, like all good things, this, too, had to come to an end.

What has amazed me with this series is how, well, normal it was. These characters didn’t have superpowers, they didn’t live in far-off galaxies. These were regular teenagers dealing with the same problems we all face with — love, rejection, heartache, trust, envy, friendship. And that’s what has made them all so lovable.

So why kill him.

I’m not about to stage a protest — though I’ve seriously thought about it — since, to be honest, it won’t help. But I just don’t think it’s necessary to do something this tragic and heartbreaking. Let Archie live. Let him grow up, find a job, pay taxes, maybe get married and then divorced. Let him live that normal life trajectory he was already on. It would make me feel better that he’s still out there, trying to do the right thing and giving us hope that it’s OK to fail at it.

Who’s with me?

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Oh, age is more than just a number!

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Something happened when I turned 39.

OK, maybe when I turned 35.

Everything changed.

My body started to ache after surfing for three consecutive days. I couldn’t eat Taco Bell without hurting later. And I realize I don’t walk into a room the same way. The swag — if I even had any — is now more of a limp.

I was never one to believe the complaints about getting older. I never really looked my age — thank the Asian genes — and I never subscribed to “adult” things like home ownership and retirement plans.

Then I turned 39 and realized this was my last year to be thirtysomething. And really, what do I have to show for it?

It never occurred to me that I would get old — and what that would mean. I’ve hung out with older folks — I’m talking guys in their 60s and 70s — for more than a decade and never felt like I was a kid. We all did the same things — surf, run, swim, eat donuts — so age never mattered.

But now I’m starting to feel it. I’m tired by 9 p.m. I’d rather sip wine than kick back tequila shots. And I’m starting to squint. That freaks me out.

There was a graphic that I saw posted on the Facebook walls of friends that was a bit startling. It put into perspective how quickly time has passed. It said that “Shrek” and “Monsters Inc.” were released 11 years ago. Hillary Duff is a mom. And Dylan and Cole Sprouse are 20 years old.

I don’t even know who Dylan and Cole Sprouse are!

I can’t change the fact that I’m 39, nor can I fight this aging thing. But I’m just not ready to embrace it yet, either.

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