Table of Contents:
(I will try to get all the glottal stops--okinas--correct in place names, but I may miss a few. They are usually shown as apostrophes ['], but most books seem to indicate they should be backward apostrophes [`], so I will go with that. There are other diacritical marks, such as the kahako [line above a vowel], that because I am doing this log in ASCII, I cannot represent well.)
April 26, 2006: Well, we finally managed to schedule our Hawai`i trip. We have had the frequent flier mileage for a while, but wanted to go in the spring and this was the first year we had enough time after Passover and before our May activities. One problem with using miles is that you have less choice of flights--our outgoing flight was originally scheduled to depart at 7AM (meaning leaving the house about 4:30AM), and then a couple of weeks beforehand they moved it back to 6:40AM!
We shared the flight to Los Angeles with the Nutley High School Marching Band--they were clearly inexperienced fliers, but on the other hand, they had very little carry-on luggage and there was tons of room left over in the overhead bins.
United serves no included meals except flights from JFK or international flights. One wonders, then, why they ask for meal preferences when you book on-line.
We got to LAX early, and the airport was cold and drafty. I put on my sweater *and* my denim shirt over my T-shirt. The departures board had not been updated since early morning, so everyone had to go ask an attendant which gate their flight was leaving from. Luckily ours was the same gate we arrived at, so we did not have a long walk.
I forgot another benefit of having a plane full of high school students--none of them brought crying babies. We were not so lucky on the Los Angeles-Honolulu leg.
United had a game called "Halfway to Hawai`i", where passengers attempt to guess exactly when the plane would pass the halfway point between Los Angeles and Honolulu. The pilot gave all sorts of information, such as that our average airspeed was 467 knots (but how could he know this until the end of the trip?). that the wind differential was +6 knots, that the distance was 2284 nautical miles, and so on. Then he said that we took off at 8:20AM Honolulu time--which was wrong! We took off at 9:20AM Honolulu time, and were due to land about 2:33PM. In any case, the speed and all that is pretty superfluous--the halfway point (as well as one can estimate it at all) should be halfway between 9:20PM and 2:33PM, or about 11:57AM or so. (It was 11:43:45AM.)
The problem with travel is definitely the travel part, particularly airplanes. Unfortunately, they are the only way to get to the most interesting places. We did drive from New Jersey to Idaho and back in 2002, to Los Angeles and back in 2003, and to Phoenix and back in 2004, but you just cannot get to Hawai`i, or Asia, or even Britain that way. So we end up with two flights of about five-and-a-half hours each, plus connection time and such, or about sixteen hours door-to-door. (It could be worse--Australia was forty hours door-to-door!)
I have now achieved the Big Five-O. No, I did not just turn fifty--I did that a while ago--I have visited all fifty states. And also the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and forty-nine countries. Which reminds me--various magazines, brochures, etc., say that Honolulu is the only United States city in the tropics, and that South Point on the Big Island is the southernmost point of the United States. But San Juan (Puerto Rico) is in the tropics, and I believe is further south than South Point. I suppose the answer would be that San Juan is not in the United States, because Puerto Rico is not a state, but then would they also say that the White House is not in the United States, because the District of Columbia is not a state?
After checking in to the Royal Grove Hotel (a real bargain at $445/week, *including* the tax, for an air-conditioned double with a kitchenette), we went out looking for dinner, and ended up at Mak Won, a Korean Restaurant, where we shared a mixed barbecue plate and a tofu stew. The latter is very similar to what I get back home, but the barbecue is not something I am seen as a sampler platter (beef, chicken, pork jun/chun, and mandoo [dumplings]). The total came to $30.35, not too bad.
We picked up some groceries at the Food Pantry. This is supposedly cheaper than the ubiquitous ABC Shops, but food is not cheap here--yogurt on sale is 90 cents a container and a box of wheat crackers on sale is $3.89. We picked up some food for breakfasts and snacks in the room.
Then we went back to the room and fell asleep about 8PM.
For reasons not clear to me now, I did not bring our copy of Kalakalia's "Legends and Myths of Hawai`i". (It is possible that it was thicker than I remember it being.) It might have been interesting to read while traveling around. Nor did I bring Cook's journals of his trips. As it is, I am reading Robert Graves's I, CLAUDIUS (for our general discussion group) and Philip K. Dick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (for our science fiction discussion group.
April 27, 2006: I woke up about 5:30AM; Mark had already been up for a couple of hours. We had some yogurt and at about 7AM went out, got our four-day bus passes at the ABC across the street ($20 each--single rides are $2) and got on the #20 bus to Pearl Harbor. This took us past most of Waikiki, then past downtown Honolulu, the Dole cannery (now closed), the airport, and finally to Pearl Harbor and the U. S. S. Arizona Memorial. Total trip time was an hour and fifteen minutes.
The cheapest I saw gas on O`ahu was $3.01/gallon, going up to $3.36 in places. We are renting cars on the Big Island and on Maui, but on O`ahu, the bus makes much more sense. On NPR, someone was talking about how she spends $15 for gas for the eighty-mile round trip to her son's hockey practice. She is getting only about 16 miles to the gallon, but says she has to drive a mini-van because of all the equipment. I am unconvinced. When I was young, we moved five people from Maine to Illinois in a Volkswagen bug--and lived on the clothing, linens, and kitchenware we brought with us for two weeks when the moving van was delayed! (We did have a luggage roof rack, but no trailer or anything like that.)
(By the time we got to Maui, the price of gasoline had risen to about $3.66/gallon. Some may be due to higher prices on Maui, but there was also some gas price cap that was lifted, contributing to the rise.)
Because of heightened security, no bags of any sort are allowed in the Memorial, including purses. Since I had heard this ahead of time, I brought most of my stuff in my pockets, and Mark was able to put a couple of items into his photo vest pockets. (Why they allow photo vests and not small purses is very unclear.)
We got in fairly quickly, only to find that our explanatory film (and tour) would not start for another hour and ten minutes. So we spent the time looking through the small museum there.
A film in the museum asks, "What brought Japan, an island nation the size of California, to war with the United States?" They say one reason was hurt pride; my theory is that part of this is being dismissed as an island nation the size of California. Another reason was that we stopped oil sales to Japan, so in that sense our involvement in World War II was about oil.
In addition to the attack on the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, there were also attacks on Kanohe Naval Station, Hickam Field, Bellows Field, Ford Island Naval Air Station, Ewa Naval Air Station, Wheeler Naval Air Station, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
The Japanese carriers were the Akagi, the Kaga, the Soryu, the Hiryu, the Shokaku, and the Zuikaku. The first four were sunk at Midway. There were 183 planes in the First Wave, and 167 in the Second Wave. Only twelve were shot down.
One exhibit describes Doris Miller was "the first citizen of African-American ancestry to merit the Navy Cross." Well, he was certainly the first one to receive it.
There are 1177 sailors interred in the Arizona. (It is not clear whether this includes the dozen or so who survived the attack, but have been interred there since 1982.) Included among these are twenty-three sets of brothers, and one father and son. (During the War, the Navy advised against brothers serving together. I think after the Sullivan brothers died on the Juneau the Navy stopped allowing it altogether.)
All in all, we spent about two hours and fifteen minutes at the Memorial. People arriving when we left had about the same wait--I suspect the really long lines are during the winter and the summer, when more people come here.
The problem with TheBus (as the bus is called) is that the route that stops at the Memorial and the airport runs only once an hour. So we waited about a half hour for the bus. Then when we got to the airport to buy inter-island tickets, we discovered that we could save a lot by buying them on-line. So we decided to find an Internet cafe in Waikiki. We also decided to use Aloha Airlines, since they did not have the long, chaotic line Hawaiian Airlines did, and also because the man selling tickets for them was the person who told us we would be much better off on-line.
We then caught a bus back to Honolulu and Chinatown (after a wait, of course). We first ate lunch at the Ken Fong Restaurant. We had Ginger and Green Onion Beef, and Squid with Black Bean Sauce over Noodle, for a total bill of $14.30. Then we followed the walking tour from Frommer's, but it was a bit disappointing--after New York's Chinatown, all the others seem somewhat tame. Then we waited another half hour for the bus to go back to Waikiki.
We relaxed in the hotel room. I made some iced tea (by making tea and then putting it in the refrigerator for later), and some iced coffee (by adding just enough boiling water to dissolve the instant coffee, then adding cold water and ice) to drink right away. I then went downstairs to ask about taking TheBus to the Dole Plantation, and ended up getting a lot of advice from one of the staff, along with several free bus route timetables that they had if you knew to ask for them. (It turns out that the McDonalds across from the beach had a rack of them as well, a nice bit of customer service.)
About 7PM we went out for a small dinner, which we got at Run Sushi, a conveyor-belt sushi bar. That is, the sushi is put on plates that circle past the patrons; the sushi is priced by the color of the plates (yellow, $1.50; blue, $2.50, pink, $3.25; and green, $3.95). At the end they total up the plates stacked in front of you. We had 2 at $1.50 (creamed corn sushi and teriyaki chicken maki), four at $2.50 (sea snail, mackerel, squid, and rice in bean curd skin), and three at $3.25 (eel, flying fish roe, and spicy tuna maki). The total with tax and tea was $24.74 (one does not really tip at this sort of place).
April 28, 2006: Our first stop was the Internet cafe next door, where for $2.70 we saved almost $250 on our airplane tickets ($483.20 rather than $732--and I am assuming the $122 per leg quoted at the airport was including taxes). We could have done this from home (and should have), but I foolishly figured it would be just as easy and cheap to buy them in Hawai`i. (By the way, Aloha Airlines no longer has an AAA discount.)
We then boarded the #58 bus to the Ala Moana Center, a major transfer point for buses. This took about twenty minutes. (There is an express, but we are not in that much of a hurry, and we would have had to walk further to catch it.) We transferred to the #52 for our Island Circle Tour, starting at 8:50AM. This is the sort of thing that would cost a lot more if we paid for a narrated version, but on TheBus it costs $2, plus $2 per stop (but is all included in our pass). We are doing it clockwise, so we get to the Dole Plantation relatively early, while the day is cool and we are fresh.
One drawback of TheBus for seeing the island is that the windows are not glass and are not kept pristine for sight-seeing, so you get a *slightly* blurry look through the Plexiglass. Since I suspect most tour bus windows are tinted anyway, it probably does not matter that much.
We arrived at the Dole Plantation at about 10:10AM. We walked around the pineapple garden for a bit, where we learned that a good worker can plant 10,000 pineapple plants a day (all by hand), which works out to less than three seconds for each one (assuming an eight-hour day). The Dole cannery closed in 1993, but they are not going to stop growing pineapples here soon (as Del Monte is) because they will be shipping all their crop as fresh pineapples. Even so, there was not much growing at this time--just enough to make sure people on the tram tour felt they had seen pineapples.
We got the combination Tram Tour (twenty minutes) and Plantation Garden Tour (thirty minutes) for $9.50 per person. (The Tram is $7.50 and the Garden $3.75 if you want only one.) The Tram was narrated--complete with three songs about pineapples which were written especially for the tour--but since the fields were mostly empty, you had the feeling an informational video would have been just as good. Maybe if and when there are lots of pineapples growing it is better. The Garden Tour was better, though the college-age woman giving it was probably fairly new at it. There are obviously a lot of unusual plants in Hawai`i, or at least unusual to people from New Jersey. There were a lot of bromiliads (pineapples are bromiliads). The guide said something about bromiliads being "air plants" (i.e., not needing soil to grow in), but that is not true of pineapples. There was something called "mondo grass" which is very low maintenance and very cushiony (it develops many layers), but I suspect it would not grow in New Jersey. The guide said not to worry about stepping on it--there are no snakes in Hawai`i. We saw helliconia, which looks a lot like Bird of Paradise, except that it is not nearly as brightly colored.
The guide talked about ti leafs (not tea leaves!), which have a waxy coating and are heat- and water-resistant, so are used for cooking, robes, and sandals. (After the tour we passed up a chance to weave a ti-leaf bracelet.)
Rainfall is the only source of fresh water on the islands. Normally one might wonder why later was she saying not to do something that supposedly brings rain. but with this year's exceptionally heavy rain I can understand it. (A few days after this, the President declared parts of Hawai`i a Federal disaster area from the heavy rains.)
The native plants (mostly ferns) have no protection (e.g., thorns) against animals or insects, or any way to attract insects (e.g., flowers) because there were very few native animals or insects. ("Native" meaning before the first settlers from Polynesia.) So now that there are more animals, etc., they are endangered.
The mango is related to poison ivy, so if you are sensitive to the latter, do not mess around with the leaves or stalks of the former.
After all this, we got pineapple floats ($3.75 each), which are Dole Whip (pineapple sorbet?) in pineapple juice.
We left about 12:45PM (this route runs every thirty minutes). Driving further north we saw lots of small, uncrowded beaches along the northwest shore. We reached the northern end of the island about 1:30PM. This is Turtle Bay Resorts, where rooms go for about $500 per night. Our hotel is cheaper.
We passed the Polynesian Cultural Center soon after this. I had not realized just how far it was. We need to check if we can actually get a bus back that late and how long it will take. (See below--we found a very good solution.)
The eastern (windward) shore for the next hour was very scenic, with towering mountains to our right and the ocean coming right up to the road on our left. (I am assuming it was high tide, or during high tide the road would be under water!) There was a wall at the back of the beach and the road was on that, so the water was not lapping the asphalt. Unfortunately, it was also overcast for much of this time, that being more common windward than over Waikiki.
I had thought that if we passed some small quaint town with family-owned restaurants and such, we could stop and eat dinner, but any stop large enough to have more than one restaurant had all the usual chain restaurants. Maybe when we driving on the other islands we will have more opportunity. In a car, if you stop at a "singleton" and you do not like the looks/the menu/whatever, you do not have to wait a half hour for the next bus to continue.
We drove past the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, which gives a view of the eastern shore with the mountains and shoreline. Mark Twain called it the most beautiful in the world, but he saw it before the city of Kaneohe was built there. It is still a nice view, but the modern city plopped in the middle of it does detract somewhat.
We got back to the Ala Moana Center about 3:30PM and decided to see what sorts of restaurants they had, since we had not had anything since breakfast except the pineapple floats. There was a branch of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, which people on the Web recommended, so we tried that. We got the 3/4-pound Fisherman's Net Catch (peelable shrimp Cajun style) and Grandma's Firepot Fish (mahi-mahi and shrimp over rice in a somewhat spicy sauce). Not bad, and only about $35.
We went back to the room for about an hour, then out to Waikiki Beach to watch the sunset (6:54PM). The beaches here are very nice and have a major advantage over those of New Jersey in that they are free. (I am sure that people will say they have other advantages as well!) The only beach one has to pay for here, I believe, is Hanuma Bay on O`ahu, which is known for its reef for snorkeling.
April 29, 2006: We checked the rack of brochures and found that Roberts Hawaii (no glottal stop, apparently) had a motorcoach package to the Polynesian Cultural Center for $66 including admission. The admission alone would be $50, so this sounded like a real bargain, considering it was almost two hours away. An office was in the hotel next door, and when we went there we discovered they were discounting it to $59.40 each!
We then took the bus to the Bishop Museum, which claims to be the fifth largest natural history museums in the country. I find this hard to believe. Yes, we spent six hours there, but when I think of large natural history museums, I think of the scale of the American Museum of Natural History or the Field Museum.
We took a couple of brief tours, one of modern works honoring Hawaiian traditions, and one of the early parts of the Hawaiian Hall. The latter was about the arrival of the first settlers from other parts of Polynesia. They brought only five animals with them on their canoes: the pig, the chicken, the dog, and (unintentionally) the black rat. Elsewhere I learned that there were no mosquitoes until 1826, and that before humans arrived, there were no conifers, no ants, no reptiles, and only two mammals (the seal and the bat).
(I also learned that the Maori of New Zealand arrived from from the northeast--the Society Islands--not from the west from Australia.)
In 1778-1779 Cook journeyed through the Pacific and "discovered" Hawai`i (which he named the Sandwich Islands) on January 19, 1778. When he arrived, he estimated the population at 400,000 (the Hawai`i Maritime Center says 225,000 to 250,000); a century later it was below 100,000, with almost all of the deaths due to disease. In 1795, Kamehameha I united most of the islands under his rule; Kauai and Niihau joined in 1810. Cattle were brought to the islands by Captain Vancouver from 1792 to 1794.
When they had first arrived from Polynesia, the "government" was very loose. As the population grew, ruling chiefs were chosen from those who could trace their ancestry back to the Polynesian chiefs. These chiefs started "kapu" (or "taboo") rules, such as that ordinary people could not look at a chief, or that men and women could not eat together. In 1819 Kamehameha II abolished the kapu system by sitting down to eat with his mother and step-mother, and followed by ending all the kapu rules. There was also a burning spree against the old gods, which left Hawaii with no religion at all. The missionaries arrived later and did not realize that the old religion had already been abolished. The missionaries did create the alphabet used for the Hawaiian language, consisting of just twelve letters: A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. (The glottal stop and other diacritical marks came later, I guess.) By the late 19th century, according to the guide, 60% of Hawaiians were literate in English and Hawaiian.
(By the way, lots of people here say "mahalo" rather than "thank you". I suspect there was a government campaign at some point to get people to use more Hawaiian, although I think "aloha" was always popular. Similarly, labeling rest rooms in airports and such "Kane" or "Wahine" in addition to "Men" or "Women" seems more a cultural statement than an attempt to clarify the labels for non-English speakers.)
Another key period was 1839 to 1848. In 1839, a Bill of Rights was enacted, followed in 1840 by a constitution. In 1848 came the "Great Mahele" or land redistribution. In 1881 King Kalakaua became the first monarch of any country to circle the world. Queen Lili`uokalani, the last reigning Hawaiian monarch before the United States annexed Hawai`i in 1893, is also known for having written "Aloha `Oe". (The annexation was actually not finalized until the Spanish-American War of 1898.)
The Polynesian Hall covered "Polynesian chiefdoms, Melanesian bigmen, and Micronesian mariners" but was more a display of Polynesian items collected by the Bishops, with some explanation, rather than a coherently designed exhibit. (For example, there was nothing comparing the masks from differing regions, or otherwise trying to draw connections.)
Throughout the exhibits here and elsewhere were the "Lei Niho Palaoa"-- hook-shaped pendants made from a whale's tooth. They used to be a symbol of high status, because the material was rare; Hawaiians and Polynesians in general did not hunt whales, but did take advantage of any that washed up on shore. After whaling became popular, and Hawai`i became a whaling port, I imagine these ornaments became more popular.
The Science Adventure Center was aimed more at children, with some fairly basic interactive displays, though the volcano sections were informative. We went to the planetarium show about how the Polynesians navigated from Tahiti to Hawai`i and back, which was fairly interesting. (But why did some woman decide it was okay to let her child play with some light-up screen game during the show?!)
When we left it was raining, though only lightly. Still, we got fairly wet in the three-block walk to the bus stop. (Naturally, as soon as we got under cover there, the rain stopped.)
We took the bus as far as Chinatown, where we got off and went around the corner to the noodle shop we had almost eaten at the first day. We shared a Seafood Cake Noodle and a Minute Chicken Crispy Noodle. This came to $14 (including tip) and we ended up with leftovers we took back for a future breakfast.
We caught the bus back to Waikiki, but as we approached, traffic slowed to a crawl (or less). Kalakaua Boulevard (the main street along the beach) was closed for the Fourth Annual Spam Jam, and I think in this case the "Jam" referred to the traffic as much as the event. Since it was only about a half mile to the hotel when the bus got really bogged down, we got off and walked back through the Spam Jam. Considering how much it was advertised, and how much it disrupted traffic, I would have expected the Spam Jam to be more than a block or two of stands, many a third of which were selling anything connected with Spam. Even the Toms River (NJ) Chili Cook-Off is larger.
Spam became popular in Hawai`i during World War II, and is almost as much a state food as poi (and tastier). The ABC Stores sell ready-to-eat "Spam Musubi" (spam on rice, with a sauce on it, looking like a piece of sushi, but fist-sized).
Coincidentally, ABC was running PEARL HARBOR on television, so we watched the parts having to do with the attack. Of course, they were editing for television (both for language and scenes cut for time), and panned-and-scanned (though, oddly, not the attack itself, which was letter-boxed).
April 30, 2006: We took the bus to the Hawai`i Maritime Center. Luckily I knew where it was, because there was no announcement on the bus. We had a coupon for half off a second admission with a paid admission, so it was $11.25 for the two of us. (This coupon was out of one of the many free "magazines" one picks up at the airport or hotel. They are mostly ads, but some have some useful coupons, maps, and attraction listings.)
The Center said that the Hawaiian Islands is "the most isolated land on earth." I had always heard that Easter Island was, but maybe that does not count because it is closer to Pitcairn Island than Hawai`i is to any other island, even though Pitcairn Island is very small.
The Center starts with Captain James Cook's arrival (rather than the maritime history before Cook--the entire first floor is devoted to that aspect). The first European ships to arrive here were Resolution and Discovery, and one of the lithographs by the ship's artist on that trip shows a surfer--the first record of this sport.
On a later voyage, naturalist Joseph Banks ordered modifications of Resolution that were just for his comfort and made the ship top-heavy. Cook had them removed, Banks threw a tantrum and quit, and Reinhold Forster replaced him as naturalist.
Cook used John Harrison's chronometer, making it possible to measure longitude as well as latitude, so Cook provided the first accurate maps of the Pacific.
Hawai`i was briefly ceded to England in 1794, but England did not accept it. In 1843, Lord George Paulet tried to claim it for England for five months, but when word finally reached England, they rejected it again.
United States whalers first arrived in 1819, and a large part of the Center is devoted to whaling, including excerpts from a 1922 whaling film, "Down to the Sea in Ships". Also covered are liners (particularly the Matson Line), commercial boats, yachts, and communications. The first floor is dedicated to Polynesian maritime culture (though a video on the Hokule`a sailing to Tahiti in 1976 is shown on the second floor). The is also more on the Hokule`a on the first floor, and about how Nainoa Thompson learned ancient navigation techniques from Mau Pialug.
After the Center itself, we toured the Falls of Clyde, the last remaining four-masted ship. The Hokule`a is also usually docked here, but was currently in Maui, preparing to launch the next day for the thirtieth anniversary reaction of its voyage to Tahiti and back.
After this, we went to the Aloha Tower Marketplace, where we ate at Nabuto at the "Food Lanai" (that is Hawaiian for "Food Court"). Mark was going to eat at the place with the longest line, but that was a Subway--and they did not even offer Spam subs. Mark got a curry lunch special; I got a cold lunch of smoked fish, noodles, rice, and two small pieces of chicken. The total with soda came to $14.99.
We then walked about five blocks to catch the bus (because of the one-way streets). We got off at the U. S. Army Museum, which covers not just the United States Army in Hawai`i, but the history of warfare in general in Hawai`i. It started with ancient Hawaiian warfare and the Battle of Nu`uanu (where Kamehameha gained control of O`ahu), and continued through to Hawai`i during the Vietnam War. We spent about an hour and a half there and hated leaving when it closed, because we were in the middle of a great documentary on the Battle of Midway.
Then back to the hotel. We got twelve rides out of our four-day bus passes so we came out ahead, but even without the passes TheBus is a great deal, and given how bad traffic is, and how expensive parking is, I cannot imagine renting a car in the Honolulu area. (If you are going somewhere else on the island, that is another story.)
(The traffic situation is so bad in Waikiki because of parades and festivals closing the main street so often that the residents are starting to rise up against all the closures.)
May 1, 2006: We caught the bus for the Polynesian Cultural Center at 10:15AM at the Hyatt (pretty much across from our hotel). The center is run by Brigham Young University to help support the school and the students (who are the vast majority of the staff and entertainers in the Center). I do not know if the guide on the bus was employed by the Center, but he made the bus more like a camp bus, with sing-a-longs and such. It is that cheerful friendliness that the Mormons seem to be known for (as was noted in the "South Park" episode about the Mormons that re-ran this week). He was also a guide for many of the people at the Center, since they had purchased a guided tour. We did not. (We had not even purchased a particular meal option with the tickets.)
We were greeted with a shell lei and then they took our picture between the greeters, in their hopes that later we would spend a lot of money for the picture. I did not see how much, but at the Dole Plantation, when they take pictures of people by the train, they charge $15. Another "photo opportunity"--that is, an opportunity for someone to make money from a photo with you in it--is the "bird person" who walks around, puts a bird on your wrist, convinces your companion to take a picture of you with a bird on their wrist, and then asks for money. I have no idea how much, because when one person tried this with us, putting his bird on Mark's wrist and then saying to me, "Quick, get out your camera and take a picture of this!" I replied that I had no camera with me. He was amazed. I guess these days when everyone's cell phone is a camera, this is pretty rare.
Anyway, the Polynesian Cultural Center is composed primarily of seven "villages", representing Samoa, Fiji, Hawai`i, Aoreatoa, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga. Each one had a few typical structures with small displays inside, but is primarily noted for its show and its activities. Most of the shows involved music, but the Samoan show was more an explanation of the culture, along with a demonstration of using fire sticks, and of picking, opening, and using a coconut. The man giving this was quite a droll comedian, very understated, but also apparently very skilled, because he turned out to be the featured fire baton twirler at the evening show. It did seem, though, as if he spent too much time translating everything (e.g., rock, milk) into English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Tagalog, etc. Others stuck to just English and maybe Japanese.
One big problem at the Samoan presentation (and some of the others) was that they were held entirely outside and the dark brown benches had gotten very hot by noon. Luckily I had picked up a book from the hotel "swap library" to read and so used that to sit on. (Trust me--this book was in terrible shape to start with.)
I thought that the Fiji presentation was the best, consisting of more authentic war dances and hula-type dances and less humor. For part of the latter they had people from the audience come up, so I got to try to do the hula. If I had been able to hear the instructions from the lead dancer, I *might* have been able to do a better job.
Fiji (consisting of over 300 islands) was a British colony for almost a century, so English is its language. The announcer said that the missionaries eliminated the old religion, which had human sacrifice, so the Fijians were grateful for that.
The Hawai`i presentation was about all the different sorts of musical instruments used. (I hope I get all the spellings correct.) There was the ipu (a gourd which can be thumped or stuck), the ipu heke (two gourds together, which is both thumped and struck), la`amia (small gourds with seeds inside) which make a uliuli (maraca), the kulili (double spinning gourd), the kala`au (guava wood sticks), the ili`ili (flat pebbles, used as castanets, which the presenter held in each hand while revolving his arms around each other, saying this was the origin of the "Rolling Stones"), coconut shells, pu`ili (split bamboo), the nose flute, pua (conch shell), and the Hawaiian guitar (which is tuned differently than the usual guitar). In 1885, Joseph Kekuku invented the steel guitar, and in 1887 the Portuguese Madeiras Islanders brought the mandolin, which inspired the ukulele (pronounced "ookoolehleh", not "yookoolehleh"). Hollywood added bright feathers to the uliuli, but these are not authentic. The nose flute is indeed played with the nose, because the breath coming through the nose is considered to be purer than that of the mouth, and hence more suitable for creating music.
(As far as pronunciation, at least two people told the joke about someone asking where "Peepeeleenee Beach" was, only to be told it was "Pipeline Beach".)
The Marquesas are known as the place which does a full body tattoo of all first-born males. As a French colony, French is the language, though everyone at the Polynesian Cultural Center spoke English exclusively. The presentation here was a dance representing the killing of a pig and a marriage ceremony, in which all the audience members celebrating their honeymoons or anniversaries participated.
We (and everyone else) took a break to watch the "Canoe Pageant", though the canoe where really just double-hulled floats that served to provide a stage for yet more dancing. I had hoped we would get to see authentically carved canoes, but no such luck.
Tahiti is part of the Society Group of Islands in French Polynesia, and again has French as its official language. The dance that everyone thinks of as the hula is definitely more Tahitian than Hawaiian, especially with the fast hip movements. The accompaniment for the dancing here was from non-traditional (i.e., European) instruments.
Although sometimes the people seem like they are not necessarily from islands they are representing, but they really are (according to one volunteer).
We sampled poi at the Hawaiian village. I am not sure why people say it tastes terrible--it does not taste bad as all.
At the Tongan village, we heard another performance on the nose flute, but the performance was primarily drumming.
Aoreatoa (New Zealand) demonstrated various dances and the use of the poi balls, which create a thumping sound as well as being visually interesting. (They have nothing to do with the food "poi". The word "poi" meaning foor is Hawaiian, while the Aoreatoan "poi" means "juggling".)
The villages also had various activities, such as weaving leaves into ornaments or learning the stick-tossing game. However, by the time we went to all the presentations, we had hardly any time left. In any case, many of the activities were either aimed at children, so we did not feel too shorted. It is a pity that the Center does not open before 12:30PM, but with it taking well over an hour from Honolulu, I suspect they discovered that they did not get very many people before noon anyway. In any case we certainly did not spend any time on the tram tour of Brigham Young University and the Mormon Temple there. (I suspect only Mormons do this.)
The Samoan presentation was the only village presentation that was not musical, but there was also a presentation at the Migrations Museum (a.k.a. Museum of the Islands) about the possible migration routes. The Museum had the same sorts of things as the Bishop Museum. The presenter, a woman from New Zealand, said that one theory was that the settlers in Polynesia came from the Americas and that another was that they came from Asia. It seems as though the leading theory is the latter, but the woman seemed to believe the former saying that in school they learned that New Zealand (Aoreatoa) was settled from the northeast. But that would have been true either way, if the settlement of Polynesia spread out from Tahiti as a start. What I should have asked is how the Polynesians fit into the Mormon theological view that the Native Americans are actually some of the Lost Tribes.
Actually, looking at the map of island settlement, it seems even more clear that the Polynesians must have come from Asia and Indonesia. That line of settlement begins with short stretches of water, gradually increasing, and providing many opportunities of honing maritime navigational skills. On the other hand, coming from South America would mean leaving an essentially land-based culture to set out on a several-thousand-mile voyage across open ocean. Yes, the South Americans might have fished in the ocean, but even if they got out of sight of land, they knew that if they sailed more or less east they would absolutely hit land.
We decided to have the Gateway Buffet for dinner (at $15 each, it was the cheaper of the two buffets, and we did want more than a burger at the snack bar). It was okay, but nothing special. The one interesting detail is that all the soft drinks were caffeine-free, even the Coca-Cola. Well, it is run by the Mormons. But they did have regular coffee (along with decaffeinated coffee and tea). I guess there are just too many people who would be very negative if it were totally caffeine-free, especially since the evening show goes to 9PM, and then a lot of people have to drive back to Honolulu or elsewhere. Having people fall asleep on the road because they could not have a cup of regular coffee is not good publicity.
The evening show was a much more elaborate version of some of the dances, finishing up with some fire dances and fire-baton twirling. Had we not seen a lot of this before, it might have seemed really good, but the fact is that the earlier presentations were better in that we could see the dancers up close, see their facial expressions, and so on. For the evening show, we were sitting so far back that even with binoculars, we did not have as good a view. The evening performers also seemed not quite as good, with quite a few dropped batons.
Although they announced at the beginning that people should not use flash, and kept holding up signs saying that, people kept trying to take flash pictures. Are people getting ruder, or stupider, or what? If instead of just repeating their warnings, the ushers would throw people out, it might have some effect. In olden days, one could suggest removing the film from the camera, but with digital cameras, that is not feasible. (Because the camera can hold hundreds of pictures, one cannot reasonably say to erase all the pictures in the camera.)
May 2, 2006: We walked over to the Waikiki Aquarium. The walk along the beach has statues to various famous Hawaiians (and others, such as Mahatma Gandhi). One statue was to Duke Kahanamoku, who revived surfing as a sport in the early part of the twentieth century (after the missionaries had tried to suppress it). He holds the world's record for longest ride, riding a 35-foor wave one-and-a-quarter miles to shore.
The Aquarium is very good, with audio wands included in the $9 admission charge (discounted with AAA or coupons available in the free magazines). There are descriptions at just about every display, in addition to labels. I assume they have wands in Japanese as well as English, and the wands do make it more informative for younger children.
We spent a lot of time watching the octopus, which spent a lot of time hiding and using protective coloration to conceal itself. Octopuses (*not* "octopi"!) are fascinating. They are considered the most intelligent invertebrates, and the woman at the Aquarium said that they used to have one that would unscrew Mason jars! If they ever run a show on octopuses on PBS or the Discovery Channel, watch it.
We also saw seahorses and seadragons (both leafy and weedy) of the Order Syngnathiformes, which are among the strangest invertebrates. There were also echinoderms which all have five-part bodies (starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers). The docent demonstrated this with a very high-tech method: a starfish shape cut from a bath mat.
The State Fish is the humuhumunukunukuapoa`a.
We decided not to climb Diamond Head. First, the view *of* Diamond Head seems more scenic than the view *from* Diamond Head. And second, since one cannot see Diamond Head from much of Waikiki because of high-rise buildings on the east end of Waikiki, one would also be unable to see much of Waikiki from Diamond Head. (And third, it would be a long, strenuous hike.)
So we walked back to Waikiki and had lunch at Pho Old Saigon, where we had Hot Spicy BBQ Chicken, Peanut Curry Beef, and flan for dessert, coming to $38 total. We strolled through the International Marketplace and bought a small Polynesian mask for the den.
Then back to the hotel for the hot part of the day. We did a laundry and I sat by the pool and read.
We went back to the beach for the sunset, and then over to the stage at the end of our side street for a free Hawaiian show (which they apparently have every night). It is sponsored by the First Hawaiian Bank, and the performers asked that we encourage the Bank to include it in their next fiscal year, starting July 1, so I guess that it is possible it will not continue. The show closed with three versions of "Hawaiian War Chant", which we had not heard in a show up until this.
Afterwards we had a quick snack and then to bed.
May 3, 2006: We woke up this morning to a tsunami watch, after an 8.1 earthquake near Tonga. The (possible) arrival time was given as 11:30AM. Within an hour or so, it was downgraded to a tsunami advisory, but by then quite a few schools had announced that they would be closed.
Our Roberts shuttle picked us up about 7:30AM, then drove a space-filling curve around the east end of Waikiki with several stops, but ended up picking up only one more person. I do not know what the story was at the various stops where no one got on. Did these people just decide not to take the shuttle after scheduling it, or are there some big hotels where the shuttle always stops, just in case?
(Earlier, someone was recommending to a tourist any shuttle except Roberts. She said when she came back from the airport one time, Roberts drove past her (small) hotel several times, but stopped at all the major hotels first, regardless of location, and eventually dropped her a full block from her hotel. I had thought this might have been an exception, but this trip indicates otherwise.)
On the bus, the radio was playing and there was a radio psychic who, after the caller had given his name, had to ask, "Is it 'Dean' or 'Dane'?" Shouldn't she know?
(By the way, while one can take TheBus to the airport, baggage restrictions make it difficult, since you cannot take an extra seat for luggage.)
Our plane was about a half hour late, so we did not get out of the Kona Airport until about noon. (By the way, Dollar Rent-a-Car charges $6 a day for a second driver, while Enterprise does not, at least for a spousal equivalent.) Rather than try to check into the hotel this early, we drove down to Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park. This was a place of refuge in early Hawaiian times. It sounds a bit like the Western idea of "sanctuary", but unlike a "sanctuary" where you have to stay permanently, if someone fled here after breaking some kapu, the priests would purify him and then he could leave. All that is left are some stone walls and a stone altar, though the Park Service built a few thatched huts to fill in the representation of what it would have been like.
There were also green sea turtles swimming and basking in the sun.
We then drove south and saw the Captain Cook Monument across Kealakekua Bay where he landed in November 1778, and was killed on February 14, 1779. (It is not accessible except by sea, or possible strenuous hiking trail.) We then drove all the way to South Point, the southernmost point of the fifty states. This took quite a while (about an hour and a half total from Kailua-Kona), and the road was quite deserted, with only one town between the Kona area and South Point, and not much there.
(The town, by the way, seems to be "Kailua-Kona" or sometimes just "Kailua", while the area is "Kona".)
We returned to Kailua-Kona, and checked into the Royal Sea Cliff Resort. For $149/night it we get a sitting room the size of our living room at home with a glass dining table, two reading chairs, a sofa bed, TV, VCR, two coffee tables, and a wall table with dried flowers and sculpture. There is also a full kitchen (with dishwasher), a washer and dryer, a bedroom with two beds and another TV, and a lanai with chairs and a table and a partial view of the ocean. Not bad!
May 4, 2006: We drove back south past South Point, and stopped in Naalehu (a.k.a. Na`lehu, a.k.a. Na`alehu), which bills itself as "The Southernmost Town in the United States" (at 19 deg 3' 49" N, 155 deg 35' 21" W). There is also "The Southernmost Shopping Center in the United States", "The Southernmost Internet Cafe in the United States", and "The Southernmost Theater in the United States". The latter was why we stopped--it is now a museum as well as being used for live performances and occasional films. But the Southern Star Theater was built to provide entertainment to sugar cane workers (it was build by a sugar company), and now that the sugar companies have closed, there are not enough people to support a 700-seat theater. (The town's population is about 2100.) There are some display cases inside showing the history of movies and movie theaters in general, as well as items specifically pertaining to Naalehu. I talked a little bit to the woman at the snack bar associated with it. People in this area do not really go to the movies much. Many of those on solar power alone do not even have televisions, and the rest have satellite dishes, and now Netflix. (There are a couple of Blockbuster stores, one in Kailua-Kona and one in Hilo. The general store in Volcano City also has a small video rental section.)
Somewhere near here is the Mark Twain Monkeypod Tree, but since "near" can mean a ninety-minute drive, it did not seem worth seeking out. (Also, it is not the original tree, but one re-grown from a cutting of the original after it had been uprooted in a storm many years ago.)
We also stopped at the black sands beach at Punaluu Beach Park. The sand here is pulverized lava, and while it was somewhat warm, it was not as hot as I expected black sands to be. Here there was a plaque to the legend of Kauila (a turtle who could assume the form of a woman). I am not sure if she could be considered a wereturtle, or if a wereturtle is a being whose essence is human, but can change into a turtle. (Or is that too Platonic an interpretation of form?)
Driving along, I saw mongooses (*not* "mongeese"!) scurrying across the road a couple of times. Mongooses had been imported to kill the rats, but since rats are nocturnal and mongooses are diurnal, this did not work, and the mongooses ate the eggs of native birds instead.
We got to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park about 11:30AM, looked around the Visitors Center, and watched the introductory video at noon. On the map, they had various areas of the Park labeled as bad for people with respiratory or heart problems (because of the fumes). I do not recall seeing any such labels at Yellowstone, which had a lot more fumes that you got a lot closer to.
One of the things the video said was that the feral pigs root out the ferns, thereby creating depressions in which water collects, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Somehow, though, one does not hear the native Hawaiians berated because their ancestors brought pigs to Hawai`i.
We drove around the Crater Rim Drive, seeing steam vents, Halema`uma`u Crater, and the Jagger Museum (of geology). The latter was at an elevation of 4076 feet, the highest we got here. (We got much higher on Maui.) It was considerably cooler up there, or even around 3000 feet, than at sea level. We saw a lot of steam vents, not just at the "steam vent" lookout, but around the part. Some of the ones we were close to had a slight sulphur smell, but nothing as strong as at Yellowstone.
The day was cloudy, but I suspect that may be common over the park even when the west coastline is clear and sunny. We walked along Devastation Trail, which goes through a lava flow that happened in 1959. Parts of it were still barren, but other parts had ground plants, shrubs, and even trees growing on it, an example of the land recovering. (This is similar to the parts of Yellowstone burned in the big forest fire a while ago which were recovering even when we were there in 2002.)
We also walked through the Thurston lava tube. One thinks of lava tubes as relatively small, but this was from seven to ten feet in diameter. It was quite a descent to get to it, and we were dreading the hike back up, but it was so gradual that we did not really notice it.
We drove to Volcano Village (just outside the park) for lunch. We ate at the Lava Rock Cafe. Mark had Southern Fried Chicken and I had broiled fresh ona (fish). Mine was what is called a "Hawaiian Plate": two scoops of rice, salad, cole slaw, and meat or fish. This came to $23.70 for the two of us, not too bad.
We went back to the Park and drove down the Chain of Craters Road to where one can see the plume from where the lava from Kiluea enters the sea. Previously, it had been flowing above ground and one could see it easily. Now it flows through an underground tube (or tubes) and empties directly into the sea. Because of how it comes out, it has built up a "lava bench" that is very unsafe, so one cannot get very close at all.
What you can get close to all through the Park is lava--lots and lots of lava. One can see similar beds in New Maxico (Malpais, near Grants) but not nearly as extensive or varied as in Hawai`i. In fact, one sees lava beds through the island even outside the park.
We left the Park about 5:30PM and drove back to Kailua-Kona by way of the east coast and Hilo. At least one book and the ranger we talked to thought this was a better (faster) route than the way we had come (down the west coast), but it took us three-and-a-half hours rather than about two-and-a-half the other way. Admittedly it was at night, which meant somewhat slower driving. It is true that there are more towns along the Hilo route, but I still think the southern/western route is faster.
We got back about 9PM, and watched TRADER HORN on Turner Classic Movies. Turner Classic Movies is doing a month of movies showing images of Africans and Africans in the movies. (They may have come up with this as a justification to show THE BIRTH OF A NATION.) TRADER HORN is about a white hunter and trader in Africa and is incredibly condescending and racist. We watched it mostly because we figured we would not have many chances to see this film, for the same reason one does not have many chances to see THE BIRTH OF A NATION. According to Mark, the second unit crew that went to Africa to shoot the stock footage shot so much that it provided an enormous library for MGM, particularly the "Tarzan" films. However, they did not have rear-projection techniques down very well, so at one point a crocodile in the background appears to be the size of a small dinosaur, relative to the people in the foreground.
May 5, 2006: We had planned to see Akaka Falls, but the thought of spending two hours driving each way was not enormously appealing after spending six hours driving yesterday--not counting within the Park. So we went down to the pool at 9:30AM for their Friday morning Kona coffee, fresh fruit, and pastries, and sat for a couple of hours writing.
Oddly, though we are on the water's edge, we cannot get to the water from the hotel. There is no beach; there are very few sandy beaches on the Big Island. Most of the shoreline is rocky lava (think of the New England coastline). In fact, because of the sea wall we cannot even see the ocean from the pool area unless we stand at the wall itself.
About noon, we went out, filled the tank (at $3.599 per gallon, 9.028 gallons came to $32.49!), and did a little shopping. Then we ate lunch at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a local chain. We shared a barbecue plate and a fried fish plate. We also got some spam musubi (as I said earlier, spam on rice, with a sauce on it, looking like a piece of sushi, but fist-sized) which we took back to the room and had for dinner.
Then we walked around Kailua-Kona. We started at the King Kamehameha Kona Hotel, which had paintings of all the Hawaiian monarchs in its lobby. Behind the hotel is the site of King Kamehameha I's last residence, with the remains of a couple of temples, and a reconstructed hut on a platform. We walked past the pier (not much activity in mid-afternoon), and by the Hulihe`e Palace. (If this is described as a royal palace, why do the books say the the `Iolani Palace in O`ahu is the only royal palace in the United States?) Apparently the kings lived primarily on the Big Island until 1844. But since Honolulu was the major port and the point of contact with all the foreign countries, in 1844 the King moved his primary residence to O`ahu.
We went into Moka`aikaua Church, the oldest church on Hawai`i (though the current building dates back only to the later nineteenth century). The windows do open wide, unlike the churches James Michener describes in the novel HAWAII. (He talks about how the missionaries built churches suitable for the climate in New England, where they came from, but not for Hawai`i.) There was also a model of the Brig Thaddeus, the first missionary ship, which left Boston October 23, 1819, and arrived in Kona Bay April 4, 1820.
We tried to find Middle Earth Bookshoppe, but it had closed. The woman who told us this said it was mostly due to the opening of a Borders superstore in Kailua-Kona, but also that the owner had been running it for twenty-three years and was getting tired.
Finally, we drove down to the site of the Battle of Kuamo`o and the Lekeleke Burial Grounds. It was here in 1819 that Liholiho (Kamehameha II) fought Kekuaokalani, who has risen up in protest of Kamehameha's rejection of kapu and destruction of the old religion. Kekuaokalani lost, in a deadly battle (both sides having western muskets), and Kamehameha's rule was secured. There is only a marker to show the area of lava where the battle took place, but it is not clear what else there could be. I suppose they could make it a National Historic Site and build a visitors center, but in spite of its closeness to Kailua-Kona, it does not seem to generate a lot of interest. I guess that is because there is not much left to see.
We returned to the hotel, hoping to finally see a Big Island sunset (having been out driving the other two evenings), but although we saw the sun briefly, it set behind clouds, and what we got instead was rain. There was enough rain in parts of the island, in fact, to generate flash flood warnings.
(This was another reason we should have taken the clockwise route back from the volcanoes yesterday--we probably could have seen a sunset while we were driving.)
When people first created an alphabet for Hawaiian and starting writing Hawaiian words, they could have made it a lot easier by using hyphenation to some other division to emphasize the repetition. For example, it is too easy for someone unfamiliar with the name "Kamehameha" to try to read it as "Kame-hame-ha" rather than "Ka-meha-meha".
While on the Big Island, I looked up "Synagogues" in the Yellow Pages, curious what I would find. I found Daifujiki Mission, Hakalau Jodo Mission, Hawi Jodo Mission, Higashi Hongwanji Mission, Hilo Hooganji Mission, Hilo Meshoin, Honokaa Hondwanji Mission, Honomu Odaishisan, Kamuela Honwanji Mission, Kona Hongwanji Mission, Paauilo Hongwanji Mission, Pahala Hongwanji Mission, Papaikou Hongwanji Mission, Puna Hongwanji Mission, Soka Gakkai International-USA, Taisoji Soto Mission, Wood Valley Temple & Retreat Center, and, oh yes, Kona Beth Shalom Congregation. I had no idea if all those "Missions" are "Jews for Jesus" groups of what, but I somehow doubted they are really all Jewish congregations. (Later I checked the O`ahu and Aui phone books. All the "Missions" are apparently Buddhist temples, since similarly named groups are listed under "Churches--Buddhist" in O`ahu. I guess whoever did the Big Island Yellow Pages either had a sense of humor, or figured if they are called temples, they must be Jewish. Or they had just read THE JEW IN THE LOTUS and were confused.)
May 6, 2006: We stopped at a bookstore--Kona Bay Books, quite a large used bookstore. It has a sister store in Hilo, and the woman mentioned a warehouse with more stock in it. Someone claimed that Kohalo Books was the largest used bookstore in Hawai`i, but this seemed like it would be a contender.
We drove north to the Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, where Kamehameha built a huge temple to fulfill a prophecy that guaranteed him victory. There are the remains of his temple, an older, smaller temple, and a third temple dedicated to the shark god that used to be on land, and was still visible at low tide in the 1950s, but is now entirely underwater in the bay.
We continued on this scenic road for a while, but as it was getting late, we turned around and had lunch at Tres Hombres in Kawaihae. Kawaihae was where Captain Vancouver first landed cattle in Hawai`i, so we should have eaten beef, I suppose, but did not. My chicken and bean burrito was okay, but Mark's was not at all what he ordered (chicken rather than pork, no cheese, and not very spicy sauce). The selection was very much Anglicized, with tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, but no tamales or anything more exotic. I took this opportunity to ask one of the other customers (not a tourist) what second languages students took in school here. Most take Spanish or French. Hawaiian is not offered until college, and while a lot learn Japanese or Chinese, they are not popular second languages in high school.
We got back to Kailua-Kona, filled up the tank one last time, then drove back to the airport and dropped off the car. There does not appear to be a gas station on the road north of the airport for about thirty miles, and on the road south for almost ten miles.
The Kona Airport is very minimal. It almost looks like one of those villages in the Polynesian Cultural Center. There is a newsstand, a gift shop, a restaurant, and a few utility buildings that have walls, etc., but the check-in area, security screening, and waiting areas are all just areas below a roof with no walls or only partial walls provided primarily by the few full structures. You are sheltered from the rain, but if there is wind, there is not much protection. Of course, Kona is the leeward side of the island, so there is less chance of wind.
Our flight to Honolulu was almost empty (about twenty people on a 737). We hung around Honolulu for an hour for our flight to Kahului, Maui. According to someone, Aloha and Hawaiian now work on a hub system, with all flights having one end in Honolulu. There are supposedly some inter-island flights where one can go direct from, say, the Big Island to Maui, but they are small airlines with prop planes.
Our flight to Maui was delayed because they had a new plane and had problems with it. After about twenty minutes, they pulled out another plane and boarded us on that. On the one hand, that is a long delay for a thirty-minute flight. On the other hand, I wish other airlines would decide that quickly to use a different plane instead of continuing to work on the same plane for a long time.
We arrived at Maui, which has a real airport (jetways and everything). However, the rental car companies seem to have their offices in town rather than at the airport (at least ours did), so it was a fairly long drive there. We did the usual inspection for dings, though in the dark it is tricky. (The clerk said that they make a note of when inspections are done in the dark.) We then drove thirty miles to Lahaina, where we had to ask directions at a deli for our "hotel" (Noelani Condominium Resort, really). The road was unlit, but there was a constant stream of traffic and one could go fifty miles an hour the whole way, so it was not too bad. Had we continued we would have seen the street sign for our condo, but I was not sure we had not missed it. Anyway, we got there and the office was dark, but an envelope with our name on it was propped in front of the window. It had a key, some basic information, and an invitation to an introductory breakfast tomorrow. We eventually found our room (there were several buildings and it was dark).
The parking lot is *very* cramped--all it takes is one person parking too far to one side, and there is no longer enough room for everyone.
The room is better than that in Waikiki but not as nice as that in Kailua-Kona. It is a single large sitting room with a double bed at the end near the entrance and the lanai at the far end. There is a kitchenette (which unlike that in Waikiki does not block the entrance door, and actually has enough room for two people). The owners of this condo have stocked the kitchen with some basic spices as well as dishes and such, and there is also an herb garden by the barbecue area that we are encouraged to use! For entertainment there is a TV with cable, a VCR (and a complimentary video library in the office), and a CD/cassette player. (The car on the Big Island had a CD player, but the car here has a cassette player--a real rarity these days. I brought CDs, expecting both cars would play them, but we can play them in the room. Mark brought cassettes to listen to on a Walkman, so we can listen to those in the car.)
The one thing the room does not have is air conditioning. However, it has two ceiling fans and louvered windows on the ocean side and the street side, so we can get a good cross-draft. (Oh, the lanai has a great ocean view. And the surf is really loud at night when everything is quiet.)
We drove back to the Star Market and stocked up on yogurt, soda, juice, cheese, and crackers for breakfasts and snacks. It does not take much to end up with a grocery bill of almost $30.
May 7, 2006: We were up early--the curtains are not room-darkening, so even though we have a western exposure, it gets light as soon as day comes. We went out to walk along the beach. The resort has only rocky shoreline, but there is a beach about a block away, so we went down there to check out the ocean--pretty warm, although the air was somewhat cool and breezy. Along the way, we saw slugs on the sidewalk, and discussed whether the humidity here would be a problem for books.
We came back in time for the Aloha ("welcome") Breakfast at the pool. (The first morning, they provide coffee, juice, muffins and fruit, as well as advice.)
We got an enormous amount of information in an hour. There was some element of trying to sell you tours, but there also seemed to be a lot of other useful information. For example, Bruce suggested if you are going to drive the Hana Highway, you should either buy or borrow from the office the CD/cassette audio guide. He also gave figures for how long various drives take.
We had been planning to drive the Hana Highway Monday and go to Haleakala National Park Tuesday, but after his description, we decided to postpone Haleakala until Wednesday (so that we did not have to drive all the way back to Lahaina from it, but could return to the airport, thus saving about a half-hour's driving).
Then we decided that since it was foolish to scrimp on a trip like this, we would spring for the helicopter over Haleakala and Hana. (Afterwards we thought we might drive out to Hana as well, since the road is supposedly very scenic. However, it is also very difficult, with hundreds of sharp curves (617) and one-lane bridges (55), so we may also give up partway. One has to turn around at the end anyway, because a complete circuit of the island would require a four-wheel-drive vehicle for some of the roads.)
We also decided that we would take the "semi-submersible" (what used to be called a "glass-bottomed boat") on Tuesday to see the underwater life, since this island is known for it and we are not snorkelers.
After all this (which took another forty minutes in which Bruce gave us another dozen options for places to drive to and beaches to see), we went to the office to finally check in. We looked at the list of available videos--they were all "keep-the-folks-entertained"-type films, with nothing particularly Hawaiian. They did not even have JURASSIC PARK or other movies that were filmed here.
We started by driving to `Iao Valley. The geologic formation is also visible from the road from Lahaina down the coast, but only on the "mauka" (inland) side. It is the remains of a volcanic cone which has had very deep valleys eroded into it. This leads to very steep mountain slopes covered with lush greenery, and within a valley, you get the towering slopes on both sides. If you want some idea of what this looks like, see the beginning of JURASSIC PARK when they approach the island, or parts of the 1976 version of KING KONG.
We got there and the weather was a little overcast, misty, and windy. We got out and walked to the bridge to get a view of `Iao Needle, at which point it started to rain. So we walked the short distance back to the car to wait it out, because rain does not usually last very long. Sure enough, within about ten minutes the rain stopped. We got out again and walked to the bridge again, at which point it started to rain again. We decided to take a picture of the Needle in the rain and give up.
On the way back from the Valley (which is only a few miles off the main road), we stopped at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, which is not so much gardens as mini-tributes to the various immigrant groups in Hawai`i. Each of the major groups has built a small structure representative of their culture, often with some gardens or landscaping around it. So there is a Korean gate and garden, a New England-style house, a Japanese house and landscaping, a Chinese gazebo and fish pond, a Portuguese villa, and so on. (For the Puerto Rican immigrants, there is a monument, but no building. I guess there is no distinctive Puerto Rican building style.)
After this we drove down the coast to Wailea, which was not as interesting as Bruce had indicated. (And he mentioned lava fields, but we never saw any.) We ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. The most interesting thing we saw was something Mark spotted: a church constructed in the traditional church style, complete with steeple, but painted blue and white, and with a Star of David on top of the steeple! It was called "La Iglesia de La Luz del Mundo", so it did not seem to be a "Jews for Jesus" thing.
We tried to find some of the beaches Bruce had recommended, but we had gotten some much information from him that we could not keep it straight, and his notes on the maps were often cryptic ("What does an 'm' in a circle mean again?"). We eventually found Makena Landing, recommended for snorkeling, but it was a very small cove with a lot of kids (and adults) splashing and making a lot of noise, so we suspected there would not be a lot of tropical fish hanging around to be seen.
We decided to head back to the hotel and past it to the D. T. Fleming Beach (also recommended). (Actually, Bruce mentioned a couple of other beaches, but they were behind hotels and we could not see where to park even if we were willing to walk through the hotel grounds to get to them.) We did find the D. T. Fleming Beach (in spite of the incredibly bad signage), but as soon as we got there, it started to rain. I like going to the beach when it is nice and hot and sunny, sitting on the sand, maybe wading in the water a bit. I walked down to the water's edge, and realized that when it is chilly, windy, and raining, the beach loses its appeal. Mark went in for a little while, but then it started raining harder, and even he decided enough was enough.
We went back to the room and sat on our lanai to watch the sunset over the ocean through the palm trees. In spite of the overcast there was a clear strip along the horizon, so we did get to see the sunset.
Afterwards, we went out and shared a banana split.
May 8, 2006: We were up early to drive to the heliport for our 7:45AM check-in for our 8:15AM helicopter flight (with Blue Hawaiian). It was good we left early, because the directions Bruce gave us did not work--they were tearing up that road, and all the existing road signs pointed to the closed road. Luckily, we were able to use the map to find an alternate route, but it was good that we had extra time.
We did the weigh-in, had the safety video, and ended up on an Eco-Star Helicopter with another couple from New Jersey! Because it is not the high season, the helicopters were not full, so everyone had a window seat.
We took off to the theme music from "Hawaii 5-O"--a bit cheesy, but what the heck. (The show is apparently in syndication here, and we caught the tail end of one episode the other day.)
We commented on the good weather, and the pilot said that we had brought the "Luck of the Irish" with us. It took me a moment to realize what he meant. You see, "Leeper" is an Irish name that was "adopted" by Mark's great-grandfather to replace "Loebsker".
We passed over sugar cane fields--sugar cane was introduced during the Civil War by the Northerners to make up for the loss of Southern sugar, but now only one mill is left, and that probably not for very long. We got very good views of Haleakala Crater, which is sometimes iffy by car because of the cloud cover. (Actually, if the crater itself is filled with clouds, even the helicopter cannot do too much.) What you definitely cannot see except by helicopter are all the waterfalls on the southern face of the volcano, since the only road around that side is unpaved and requires four-wheel drive vehicles.
I will not try to describe this too much--if you want more detail, ask to see the video. Yes, not with advances in technology, they can easily produce a video (DVD) in practically real time. And it is of your trip, not a generic video--people can even see you in it. Given that photographs cannot capture everything, for $25 it is not a bad deal. After all, the flight itself cost about $220 each. The company we used--Blue Hawaiian--is highly recommended, but there are other companies, and some are undoubtedly cheaper. One also sees signs up offering discounts helicopter tours, discount luaus, and so on, all at about a quarter of the going rate. Many of them also say "no time-share required", but this may not be true. Apparently selling time-shares is a big industry here, and they offer all these great "deals" that end up making you listen to long spiels on time-shares. At any rate, in all the recommendations for Hawai`i I have seen, I have never seen one that says you can save a lot of money by booking through these stands.
We then filled up the tank in preparation for the "Highway to Hana" (a.k.a. "Road to Hana"). I really wish that automobile companies would standardize which side of the car the gas filler cap is on, or barring that, that gas stations would indicate which direction each lane should go so you do not end up with two cars facing each other and more cars lined up behind each of them!
We borrowed the audiocassette description for the Highway to Hana from the office at the condo. We had to convince them that, yes, the car really had a tape player and not a CD player. (Later, we went through the same thing, insisting that our room had a VCR but not a DVD player. We just naturally gravitate to old technology, I guess.) The tour starts its description at the K-Mart. In fact, a lot of things use the K-Mart as a landmark. It is at the intersection of two main roads and is visible from all directions, so I guess this makes sense.
As I said earlier, the Highway to Hana is 38 miles long with 617 turns and 55 one-way bridges. The real starting point is some sense is Pa`ia, the last town was gas, food, and so on. (There are some stands along the way, but nothing substantial. We drove the road, seeing one spectacular view after another: beaches, rocky coastlines, waterfalls, rain forest, and so on. We made brief stops at Ke`anae Arboretum (where we saw painted eucalyptus and a lot of other plants whose labels were much less readable), the Wailua Overlook, Nahiku, and Wai`anapanapa State Park (and its black sand beach). We got to Hana about four-and-a-half hours later and decided not to continue past it to `Ohe`o Gulch, which is also known as the "Seven Sacred Pools". Since there are more than seven pools and they were never sacred, the National Park Service (which now manages them as part of Haleakala National Park) is trying to get people to refer to the area by its proper name. The main reason for seeing pools seems to be to swim in them, but even had we brought swimming clothes, the weather was not conducive. Past the pools is the grave of Charles Lindbergh.
We had been snacking on food we bought in Pa`ia (salt-and-vinegar chicharonnes, fried squid crackers, and spicy dried cuttlefish), but wanted to get something to eat in Hana. There is one restaurant, fairly over-priced even though it is not very fancy, so we decided to split a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and eat a real meal when we got back.
The drive back was similar, but with no scenic stops. We got back about 6:30PM, before dark. (Although the last half-hour was normal road, not the twisty part, so that would have been okay at night. We stopped at a restaurant called Bangkok Cuisine mostly because it was there and it turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Hawai`i: Evil Jungle Prince Tofu and House Special Noodle. With brown rice and a Thai iced coffee for me, it came to only about $23 including tax and tip!
Then the easy half-hour drive back to the condo and sleep.
May 9, 2006: We got to sleep a little later this morning, as our semi-submersible cruise was not until 10AM, and was only fifteen minutes away instead of forty-five. We still got there early, so we walked through the small Lahaina Museum, devoted mostly to whaling. Lahaina was once a big whaling port. Now it is a tourist town whose main street consists of (in the words of one person we overheard) "expensive art galleries and T-shirt shops." One art gallery featured Picasso, Rembrandt, Tony Curtis, and Anthony Quinn--a motley assortment.
The curator of the museum (or at least the person there) was Barbara E. Sharp, who is the author of five mysteries set in Lahaina (present-day, I think). The latest is called THE FIFTH BOOK, but the others have less generic names: THE LAST SMYTHE, THE THIRD SPY, THE RIGHT TIME, and THE WIND MISTS.
I asked her a couple of the questions I had been storing up. Though she said she had done a fair amount of historical research, she was not sure when Hawaiian residents became citizens. (Someone on the plane returning thought it was when Hawai`i became a state. I know that although Puerto Rico was annexed in 1898, the people living there did not become citizens until the Immigration Act of 1917 (and 1924). However, it seems odd that Puerto Ricans would be citizens when Hawaiians were not. On the other hand, Puerto Rico was/is a "commonwealth", while Hawai`i was a territory, so who knows? I *will* look this up.)
[I looked this up and think the answer is that people who were citizens of the republic of Hawai`i at the time of annexation became citizens by the Hawaii Organic Act of 1900. Presumably this implies that all people born in Hawai`i after that time were citizens of the United States as well.]
I also asked her what Hawaiians think of James Michener's HAWAII. She said that most think it is very good fiction, but find that a lot of tourists think that characters are all real and ask (for example) to see Abner Hale's house.
There was a sign noting that the Hawaiian flag was the only flag to have flown over a kingdom, a republic, a territory, and a state. Texas boasts of "six flags", but Hawai`i boasts of only one flag.
There was a reconstructed section of the fort that had been built in Lahaina. In seems that in 1827, Lahaina passed a law forbidding the local women from going out to the whaling ships. The whalers blamed the Reverend William Richards for this, and fired on the town. So the town built a fort to protect itself. Later they decided the fort was not needed, but the coral blocks were, so they took it apart and used the blocks for other buildings.
The semi-submersible does not actually have a glass bottom, just very large windows. The most exciting thing we saw was a sea turtle--I gather they are not always seen on the shorter cruises. (And I was the person who first spotted it.) We also saw several different kinds of butterfly fish, black durgon triggerfish, Hawaiian sargent fish, and a variety of urchins: Sputnik, spiny, and collector urchins (the last are used for uni). I do not think the assortment of fish was quite as varied as that of the Great Barrier Reef, where we also took a semi-submersible.
One thing that bothered me was that there were two divers along with the boat, and they were pointing things out. Well, more than that, really. They would pick up the various urchins and bring them around the windows. I guess the urchins probably survived this, but I still wondered if this was recommended reef behavior, particularly since it would seem that they might be disturbing the coral to do this. At the aquarium in Honolulu, they were telling people not to feed the fish or stand on the reef. Well, the divers *were* feeding the fish, and while not exactly standing on the reef, were hitting it with their flippers occasionally. Presumably these companies have to follow certain environmental rules, but it seems as though sometimes they may ignore the rules.
After this we walked along the main street, which was not all that interesting (although there was the Old Lahaina Book Emporium). We then went back to the room, where we put all our valuables in the safe; put on our swim suits; collected our towels, beach mats, and so on; and walked a couple of blocks down to the beach to swim. The weather was greatly improved over that of a couple of days ago. The beach was sandy, but a few feet into the water turned very pebbly, and there was also a fairly quick drop-off. I only wade anyway, so this was not a big problem, although it made it hard to wade more than waist-deep. The water was nice, but not as warm as in Thailand (or even in Tampa, the time we were there).
After this, we rested for a while, as the day was fairly hot. Eventually we went out for an early dinner to Aloha Mixed Plate, where we had two mixed plates which included lau lau, kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, poi, Shoyu chicken, teriyaki beef, grilled mahi-mahi, macaroni salad, rice, and haupia. Lau lau is pork wrapped in taro leves and then banana leaves and steamed for eight hours. Kalua pig is shredded roast pork. Lomi lomi salmon is like pico de gallo with tiny bits of salmon in it. Haupia is coconut pudding.
We stopped at the store on the way back to buy a typically Hawaiian item as a souvenir--a can of Spam. Then we stopped in the condo office and borrowed UNDER THE VOLCANO to watch, though it seemed a fairly pointless movie. Then we watched an ABC made-for-television science fiction movie about an avian flu epidemic. We came into it about a minute after it started (they were still running the opening credits, but for the rest of the two hours, they never told the viewers the name of the movie. It was not until we got home and could look it up that we found out it was FATAL CONTACT--BIRD FLU IN AMERICA.
May 10, 2006: Our last day. We got up, finished packing, and checked out. We filled up the tank and headed up Haleakala. On the way up, we passed through several zones and differing plant life, including some very fragrant eucalyptus forests. There was also various cactus and evergreens, but these turn out to have been planted and were not native to Hawai`i. I asked the ranger how they got to Hawai`i, and got a lecture on "WWW": wind, waves, and wings. Then I said, "So that's how the cactus got here?" "Oh, no, those were planted by people."
It had taken us about an hour to get from sea level to 7000 feet, and another half hour the rest of the way to the top, at just about 10000 feet. All the way up I had to keep swallowing to equalize the air pressure.
Surprisingly we had good, clear weather going up and when we arrived at the crater rim, but as we drove around the rim, clouds were already rolling in, and pretty soon the crater was invisible. We had no difficulty walking around, even at that altitude (though we had had some in Cuzco when we were there). We could see Kipahulu Valley Scientific Research Reserve ("Science City") clearly, but it is closed to visitors. We drove back down through the clouds--they did not really impair visibility on the road any more than a fine mist, but they made seeing any panoramic views impossible.
We were back down by 1:45PM, but traffic was congested to Wailuku, and both restaurants recommended by Fodor's were closed, so we had time just to eat lunch at a Thai restaurant (good, but not as good as Bangkok Cuisine), fill the tank, and return the car.
The flight back to Oahu was not too bad, but the two-leg return flight from Hawai`i to Newark was about the worst we have had. It was cramped, and although the aisle seats gave us more room, these flights, the people in the window seats wanted to get up every hour or more!
Just as there is a fairly obvious list of reasons why people watch DVDs instead of going to theaters, there is a list of why people hate flying:
On the principle that one can solve a lot of water pollution by requiring that a plant's intake pipe be downstream from it outlet pipe, I would require that all airline executives fly coach, that all Congresspeople do their own taxes (calculators are allowed, but no computers), and that any President who says the new Medicare drug plan is simple be given a list of five medications and the name of a state, and told to figure out which plan in that state is best.
Anyway, enough of that. We got home without mishap and managed to get rid of our jet lag in only a few days.
Would I recommend Hawai`i? It is hard to say. If you are into water sports, you will probably love it, especially Maui. If you like scenery, the Big Island and Maui are good, but are they worth the trip? For general activities and such, Oahu has the most to offer. And if you are on the west coast, it is a much more appealing destination than if you are on the east coast.
Airfare $559 (inter-island flights, service charge for FF tickets) Food $519 Lodging $1440 Ground Transportation $730 Helicopter $445 Miscellaneous $357 (admission fees, film, etc.) Souvenirs $85 TOTAL $4135
General tips (and I am sure someone will disagree with everything I say):
T H E E N D