Hawaii Trip of '02

Dear reader, the following travelogue, written by Mark, is filled with hypertext links. I've tried to include as many shots of us at famous sites; however, some are homepages of the places we visited. After many of the links, I tried to indicate either how big it is or whether it's a pic or website. In all cases, if you visit the URLs you will find that you must hit your back button frequently to get you back to this page. Thanks. 

Also, as a preface, anybody that knows me will know that I like to have fun with the places I visit and that there is no ill will intended in my a commentary travelogues. I really enjoyed the Hawaiian people and culture. OK, now that THAT is over…  
J

Oh yes, the pages works MUCH better with a 17” monitor (800 X 600). Sorry.

 

O’ahu (accent in the correct place, I think). Land where the palm trees are tall; the waters are blue; and the streets have impossible to pronounce names. But first things first, since when does one NOT get a hula-clad Hawaiian girl to plop a lei around your neck and smother you with kisses, while whispering “spend all your money here fella” and swaying her waist, as you leave the airplane? I think they need to bring back that image of walking down the stairs from a DC-3 onto a sparsely populated runway lined with coconut trees maybe picked up in a jeep by Jack Lord.
The illustration to the left has a number of circles on it that present places that we went.

 

Working from top to bottom inside the red circles (text to follow): North Shore (with Banzai Pipeline), Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Pineapple Plantation, Pearl Harbor, Bishop Museum, Manoa Falls,

Waikiki, Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay. We didn’t see any of the western shore because we understand that the entire area is filled with huge, man-eating lepers (or was that on Molakai). Well, we played it safe… though as I gaze on this map there sure are a lot of towns over there.  J

 

 

The kids (Carly, 20 and Alex, 18) and I picked up our largely unnecessary rental car and drove to Waikiki along the Nimitz highway. The area has many interesting names that fall into two broad groups: 1) military names mostly from WWII (although I didn’t see any Kimmel avenue, perhaps there is a back alley to recognize the commander that was in charge of protecting the area on December 7, 1941), and 2) Hawaiian names with WAY too many vowels. You could look at a street sign for a good 30 seconds while trying to imagine how to best say the word onlys to end up making some nonsense sound like “awani-wakki-kapa-hooey-mama.” Frustrated, you’d try again by separating vowel combinations or syllables. Sometimes this would work. Other times, you’d hear a native say the word and it didn’t help one bit! There is a highway named the Likelike Highway… OK your turn. “Like like,” as in some beatnik era attempt to describe a thing? No. How about “lykee lykee” as in some mysterious bird with yellow plumage or something? No. OK, try “leekay leekay.” Much better. “Leaky leaky?” Also, there is a definite fondness for names, like that highway, with repeat syllables. The islands were ruled by the Kamehameha family up until the USA sort of “took” the entire group (and the Queen stepped down in about 1890 under protest). Ah, walk softly but carry a big stick. L  By the way, this royal family shouldn’t be confused with the Flying Kamehameha Pineapple Juggling act seen at the intersection of Kalakaua & Keoniana. OK, I made that up, but not the location. Although you can probably sound it out, it’s DAMNED hard for a navigator to hastily shout out a name to a driver with these… “quick, turn there on…. ah… er… um… Kaka-fricki-allus and Delmonte.” Doh!  [By the way, there is a nice site that helps with such pronunciations.]

 

Heaven help you if someone spoke to you with about 3 of these native Hawaiian words in one sentence… it was like an explosion in a vowel factory. Make no mistake about it, it SOUNDED beautiful, but it might as well have been Japanese. And speaking of Japanese, wow, I think Hawaii is THE destination hotspot for tourists from Japan. There were busloads of them at every turn… courteous, densely packed and small, like schools of fish/Sushi.

 

On Day #2, we decided that we’d get the Pearl Harbor aspect of our touring out of the way. <a Pearl Harbor remembrance website> I actually got the kids to pose for a shot here because it was early in the trip.  J <28kb pic of the kids with Ford Island in the background that shows Ford Island where the actual ships are… that’s the AZ memorial just above Carly’s head and the MO to the right of Alex’s head>  I really was looking forward to this part (having never been to “Pearl”). We arrived bright and early to get in the line to see the USS Arizona memorial <a 20kb pic of a model that shows how the memorial doesn’t actually touch this hallowed ground>. It’s well worth the visit. After some time spent in the museum area, you board a boat and motor over to the memorial itself… somber stuff, hallowed waters. Those hoping to tour the ship were surely disappointed. But when we returned, we took the grand tour of the USS Missouri (“Mighty Mo” – the last of the US battleships). I’d been on the thing before (as a kid) when it was mothballed in Bremerton, Washington but it had since been re-activated and even saw action in the Gulf War (largely as a missile launcher) since being de-commissioned and moved to Pearl Harbor. We took a “behind the scenes” tour <cool site with loads of pics of the ship as well as our tour – worth a look> that took us deep into the bowels of the ship (two guides for just the 3 of us for nearly 2 hours). It’s an amazing ship with a few spots having 17” thick armor!!! After that we closed the day with a tour of the USS Bowfin (AKA the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”), which was a particularly successful WWII submarine. <39kb shot of me in said ship with cool brass controls everywhere, though there were really cool areas elsewhere in the sub>

 

It was at this fateful point in the trip that I bought my one and only refrigerator magnet (and souvenir in general except for a “Might Mo” T-shirt). “Pearl Harbor” (Arizona, Missouri and Bowfin)! We returned to our hotel and rested.

 

Our hotel <17kb shot that shows our little slice of the Pacific Ocean – the trees in the shot are in the International Market Place right next to us> was nice enough, though I thought it was a bit rough around the edges… certainly no beachfront, really swanky place like the famous, and very pink, “Royal Hawaiian Hotel”. The hotels in this part of Oahu are rather amazing; they are supremely densely packed, tall and generally lavish. Many are right smack dab ON the beach! We later walked through several famed hotels to see how the $300-$600/night crowd lives. One can walk right across the main drag (Kal’akaua) and into any hotel… through the lobby (and most lobbies are simply open to the outside with no doors)… and right onto the beach. Just “aloha” in, “aloha” through, and “aloha” out the other side. Maybe a “mahalo” to be nice.

 

OK, time to talk “aloha.” If you’ve not been to the Hawaiian islands, you’ll discover that the ubiquitous “aloha” means 3 things (depending on upon pronunciation and context): “hello/welcome” or “goodbye/farewell” or “I love you/hey good lookin’/nudge nudge wink wink.” It became a bit tiresome to hear the tourguide, welcoming battle-cry “ahhhhlooooohaaaaa everybody”, followed by the returns of half-organized and uncertain “ahhhhlooooohaaaaa”s. Another common word is “mahalo” which means “thank you.” It often seemed like “gesundheit” to me, and you’d see it printed on garbage cans, which could lead a stranger to wonder what the hell you were saying to them if they weren’t properly instructed. J

 

The island of Oahu is relatively small (of the 8 Hawaiian islands). One could probably drive around the entire perimeter in about 4 hours. On day #3 we drove up the “windward” (pronounced “winneehahawawa-alua”, AKA the east) side of the island. On our way to the popular “Polynesian Cultural Center”, we passed a town called “Kaaaaaaawa”! I kid you not (well, I might have thrown an extra “w” in there). Actually, using the correct accents (pauses), I think it was “Ka’a’awa”… which after a brief attempt to pronounce, we decided it was named by a native with a bad case of stuttering. Shushushushurrrr-sounds right to me. Just further north was what I consider the “Epcot Center” of Polynesia; yes, we had arrived at the fully Mormon-created, commercial outpost called “Polynesian Cultural Center,” <very fancy URL with loads of stuff> – a kind of Disneyland that combines the Jungle Boat Ride with Tom Sawyer Island, and tosses in the people of the South Pacific. It’s really a nice example of the world of missionary guilt. Although the local BYU campus, next door, does sponsor a lot of scholarship money for Pacific islanders, I couldn’t help but think that the people of the Pacific would be a lot better if they had never ran into Christian missionaries. We saw some fun shows/demonstrations. Later we eat a big feast at a Lu’au likely cooked in ovens out-of-sight; the traditional lu’au is an open-pit cooking affair which would be tough to pull off for 200+ people! And at the end of the day, there was a great show <20kb shot I took of the stage – amazing how a digital camera can do this with no flash> in the evening with loads of dancing (fire and all). All in all, very nice folks.

 

Day #4 found us heading off for a “climb” (hike? walk?) up the main landmark of Oahu, Diamond Head (known to the natives as Laeahi). <nice URL with pics and info>This is a dormant volcano within potential walking distance of Waikiki. So, we jumped in the car  J  and drove to the inside of the crater floor and headed up. It was a bit steeper than we expected but within 30 minutes we were at the top and gazing out in every direction. The view <a 23kb shot I took looking down to Waikiki, you can see a bit of the zoo> was terrific and you could barely see the island of Molokai to the south.

 

Back to our home base. In the famed Waikiki area (south Honolulu), there is an ongoing competition between which is greater: the number of grains of sand, or the number of tourists. Up until about 10AM I think the grains of sand win (maybe 9:30). By the way, the Waikiki beach area is actually about 5 beaches that run into each other in a string of sand about 2 miles long. The beaches are VERY crowded, as is the shallow water out for a few hundred meters of so.

 

<The photo to the left is of the kids near the north end of Waikiki. You can see some of the many hotels in the background, and this spot is one of the places where there is no beach. The real throngs begin shortly behind them and continue for about a mile! You can also see the Diamond Head volcano (where we were at the very top). The surf here is very mild, and the water everywhere is very warm. This shot was taken just a few hours after we had arrived on June 26th.>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waikiki is a fascinating place, filled with affluence and people of all walks of life. There were people in formal attire mixed with people in bikinis (in bare feet). I don’t think I’ve ever seen more exposed bodies in one place in my entire life. And there really OUGHT to be a law about some people wearing bikinis. I mean if someone is over 250 pounds (and isn’t over 6’2”) they simply ought to be swept out to sea with other beached whales. Really. The nerve of some people. At least book ’em Dano.

 

There was noise on the streets at 4 AM! It’s a happening place. Mobbed. And there was nothing quite as “happening” or entertaining as browsing the “International Market Place” nestled in the center of the district under several huge Banyan trees. This street fair/bizarre is home to hundreds of peddlers of more junk than you might have thought possible in a relatively small area. It was home to the common advertising placard, “7 T-shirts for $19.95” (and one night while passing through, some Korean vendor told me it was a bad day and that I could have 10 for $20). Actually, this is a fun place to visit just for the ambience and the food. It mostly sells cheap clothing and tourist crap, but there is a bit of a carnival atmosphere so it was fun.

 

Shopping and stores in Waikiki is generally amusing. You’ll pass a Gucci store only to be followed by a Jack-In-The-Box. Everything on the strip was expensive (including fast food). And speaking of fast food, all fast food joints LACKED bathrooms! And McDonald’s had something unique here that I’d not seen back home… in addition to a “McMuffin” or a “Big Breakfast, they had “Spam, Eggs and Rice” on their breakfast menu!!! Oh boy, SPAM!!!!!!! I’m not kidding.  [I’ve since learned that Hawaii is a HUGE importer of Spam and it’s rather popular.]

 

Elsewhere in the Waikiki area is another, amazing retail phenomenon. They have this chain of “five and dime”-type stores called “ABC” stores. I’m NOT exaggerating when I report that they could be right across the street from each other!!!!!!!!!!!! There must have been 25 in the Waikiki area alone (and they were basically all identical).

 

Day #5 began with a trip to nearby Hanauma Bay <great website with loads of pics> (SE tip of the island). This is one of the more famous snorkeling venues on Oahu. Having snorkeled in the south Pacific, I wasn’t too impressed, but the kids loved it (and I really did enjoy it). This is a bay formed by a decayed crater and is filled with a fair bit of sea life. At times it was like swimming in a tropical fish tank… with schools of yellow or rainbow fish all around you. The water was very shallow which made the diving aspect of the exploration very easy.

 

After a morning of swallowing salt water, we visited the famous Bishop Museum <official URL of the place>. This is home to a terrific collection of Hawaiian history set in a huge, old home. Although a bit seedy in spots, we learned a lot from this grand old place. We saw wonderful old ceremonial pieces worn by Hawaiian royalty (costumes with rare, yellow feathers), and we learned a depressingly great deal about religious missionaries. In a new building on the complex, we visited the very authentic (and brand new) display called “Jurassic Park.” Now THERE is some exciting Hawaiian history. Dinosaurs galore!

 

The museum did a good job explaining about the origins of the Hawaiian people from other Polynesians (and not from South America as Thor Hyerdal has claimed). Wrapping up our stay at the Bishop Museum, we visited their planetarium. It was here that I learned what the Japanese call the star cluster known as The Pleiades. Yep. Subaru! Now THERE is something you don’t come back from Hawaii to tell people very often. [Check out the logo on Subaru’s and you’ll know I’m right.] 

 

To close out this day or some other day (I’m getting confused when we did what), the late afternoon was spent on an arranged “eco-tour” of a rainforest. This was a pleasant surprise. We headed into the mountains that couldn’t have been more than 5 miles NE of Honolulu (almost always seen everyday encased in misty clouds). This was an amazing area. We hiked up to the Manoa Falls <nice website with more pics> in pouring rain! It was beautiful and relatively warm. What most of us would call “house plants” were everywhere, and our guide was great fun. Our guide, Lucia, works for HIKE HAWAII (look them up if you visit – they’re very inexpensive).

 

[That’s us standing in a Banyan tree root system (which has amazing roots that drop from branches to the ground to either establish new support or to sweep up small children for food). We are sporting our officially issued garbage bag for a raincoat and bamboo walking stick… of course Alex would have nothing to do with such sissy-ness. I wore the bag mostly to protect my camera. It was extremely wet and rained nearly all the time we were there. The hike up was filled with interesting birds, bamboo, huge trees and an occasional humanoid walking the trail.]

 

OK, onward. The “north shore” was our destination for much of Day #6. We’re growing tired, but we just had to see this more remote part of the island. The famed surfer heaven, the Banzai Pipeline, was as calm as a lake this time of year; the huge surf one hears about is during the winter months. We snorkeled just south of Sunset Beach (next to or in “Sharks Cove” though we weren’t sure). We then toured the general area, including a brief visit through an artsy town called Hale’iwa. There were many fewer tourists in this general area.

 

On our way home from the north shore, we visited the Dole Plantation <official webpage> home of the mighty Dole pineapple production site. They claim to be a “must see” site… must be like “must see TV” then.    ;-)   We learned how they build pineapples from scratch using slave labor from Indonesia (not). They have the largest living maze in the world (which we were too cheap to pay to walk through – actually, having done the famous one at Hampton Court and a large one at Leeds Castle in England, this just didn’t appeal to us in the heat and humidity). Although one could learn about the entire pineapple growing process, methinks this was really just a marketing extravaganza designed to sell Dole T-shirts and ANY food with pineapple flavoring. “Hello, sir, would you care to taste our pineapple ice cream?” “Huh, are you kidding?!” “Then how about some zesty pineapple licorice or maybe some hmmm, hmmm, pineapple cookies.” “Do I LOOK stupid?!!!” “Sir, you need to leave.” “Take you hand off my arm, pineapple face. I’m going!!!! Please direct me to the DelMonte farms!” “Ksshk, security, security, disrespectful pineapple tourist on aisle 5, ksshk.”  [No, this didn’t happen, but they DID market anything in the form of pineapples in this huge store – and for the record, I DO like pineapples.]

 

Hey, I forgot to mention something about Hawaiian speech. Although the language is unique, the general way of speaking English seems VERY similar to native American Indians, Eskimos and other south Pacific Islanders. They speak in a sort of slow drawl…and many like to say “Oohkey folks.” And as for additional loose ends in this travelogue, Alex reports that paradise looks a lot better in sunglasses.

 

Our last full day (#7) was a day to surf. We went to one of the Waikiki beaches (Kuhio I think) and wrestled some sand away from other tourists. We commissioned a couple of boards and some lessons… great idea, bad idea.

 

Digression time. Sometime when I passed 40 I discovered something that was really quite shocking. I no longer wanted to do every wild roller-coaster I saw. I love roller-coasters, but I began to fear the new ones and found that they were simply too hard on my body. Again, I don’t know exactly when this began, but I reckon it was about 40. Well, something happened here at about 50. I am no longer able to just DO a silly thing like surfing. OK, back to our story.

 

We received instructions on the beach (10 minutes) and then headed off to sea. When we were out about 200 yards, we prepared to ride in on the mighty 20” waves in this location. The instructors would get you on your board and push you really fast at just the right time (while telling you to paddle like made); they would tell you when to stand… and by-golly it worked. Every time I did this I surfed for a pretty good distance. So, what’s the problem? Getting back out was the problem. Although Alex had no difficulty at all (and Carly found it damn easy sitting there on the beach working on her tan in the hot sun), I found it increasingly difficult to get these 50 year old arms to flail about to push myself back out to the instructor (Sean). Sean was a nice, maybe 25 year old Hawaiian kid with muscles to spare… and he’d see me floundering after about 3 runs and would come over and TOW me out (“here, Mark, hold on to my ankle”). Embarrassing? Yes. Essential. Yes. I was growing completely exhausted and I’d only been at this business for maybe 40 minutes total. So, I threw in the towel and collapse onto the beach like a dying sea turtle, moaning. I’d only been at this thing for about 50 minutes and I had to pass on the remaining extra hour on my own that I’d paid for.

 

We took a break and had lunch. Alex, then, did go out and surf for about another hour. He reports that it is VERY difficult to get yourself moving at just the right time to hit the wave right (i.e., that the pushes of our instructors is what really made it all work).  J  It’s definitely a younger person’s sport. I have a couple of bruises (one on my chin) to show for this foolishness. So, we can scratch huge roller-coasters and surfing off the list of things to think about in my future.

 

[THIS JUST IN: Alex who NEVER, ever burns, is sunburning just a bit. Carly and I have a pretty good pinkness thing going despite trying to protect ourselves with regular application of level 30 sunscreen. The sun is directly overhead and it’s HOT.]

 

We did a few other things, but few that warrant valuable space here. For example, we also visited the Honolulu Zoo located at the south end of Waikiki. It’s not an impressive zoo at all, but it was a nice distraction.

 

It’s Day #8 and we’re off to the airport. After paying an outrageous series of airport automobile taxes ($45) we got on our 777 and flew home. It was fun. It was exhausting. And it was a good learning experience… sunscreen level 30 is about right (if put on repeatedly). Portland is no Honolulu, but I’ve got a refrigerator magnet to comfort me when the weather turns cold.

 

Some time I’ll take Carly and Alex to the other islands… or, better, the South Pacific. But for now, I think we polished off Oahu for good.  J  <hey, this is the first big trip I’ve been on when I’ve NOT run into somebody I knew at an airport or destination!>

Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour.

- MARK

 

THE END