Pearl Harbour and Polynesian culture

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hawaiian adventures

I arrived in O'ahu (pronounced Owahoo and meaning 'The Gathering Place') but felt a bit tired the first I day after a lack of food and sleep on the plane! I checked in to the Waikiki Beach Hostel and sat on Waikiki beach which was lovely and relaxing, with surfers (waiting for waves most of the time), music and hula dancing on the beach front.

The next day I went on a tour to Pearl Harbour, which was very moving, especially after my other tours to see the graves, monuments and museums dedicated to the first and second world wars (mostly the second) - in Thailand and Australia. The movie they showed first was extremely moving and described the events that lead up to the bombing of Pear Harbour (US perspective) - very interesting! There were also personal accounts on film from survivors of the Pearl Harbour bombing. The spoke of their comrades diving into the sea from their burning ships, but being burnt alive, or had their skin dropping from them when they were picked up due to the burning oil on the surface! Anyway, I had to wipe away a tear after the movie. We were then shepherded onto a boat to take us to the USS Arizona Memorial. The sailors on the USS Arizona had won a competition and were able to sleep in on the boat that fateful Sunday morning of 7th December 1941 and so the USS Arizona suffered the worst losses - 1,177 bodies are entombed in the watery grave under the memorial. The US Army/navy still does not want to float the ship to retrieve the bodies as they will be so badly burnt the bodies will most likely be unidentifiable. The other moving fact is that all of the shipmen who survived and are still living are cremated when they die and their ashes are entombed with their shipmates by divers.

The next day I attended what was supposed to be the ultimate day and show at the Polynesian Culture Centre. The show was great, but the afternoon and food were not so good - not really the standard I expected for $165 for the day. However, there were a couple of impressive demonstrations of things such as climbing coconut trees, and preparing the coconuts to remove the milk. The entertaining man who showed us this provided a really impressive demonstration and also 'made fire'. Eat your heart out Ray Meers! The PCC gave a basic insight into traditional Polynesian culture from all of the islands (including Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand,Fiji, Cook Islands). The show was great, and our live orchid Lei was beautiful (unfortunately now wilting). It was a lovely day out, but perhaps a bit over-priced. I could have visited again to take part in some of the activities I missed, but did not have the time to do this. The show was quite spectacular and how the girls move their hips so much without moving their feet or appearing to move the rest of their bodies to hula, is just amazing! They also had a rather scary and amazing act involving fire! I have a DVD of the show, so anyone wanting to take a look can let me know.

I met a few really nice girls at the backpackers in Waikiki, one of whom is spending a month in a retreat community near the volcano on The Big Island (Hawaii). Sounded interesting, but since the volcano has become more active recently, perhaps not that safe at the moment. The wonderful term they use for the vapour coming off the volcano and drifting over the islands is 'vog' (volcano smog).



A few days later I boarded a plane for Maui (The Valley Island). It was a very short (20 mins) but rocky flight over there. I stayed at the Banana Bungalow, which was at the poor end of a small town. The reason for staying here was to catch free tours they hosted around the island, as although the bus service on the islands is very cheap, it takes time and working out where to change buses to find your own way around the islands. You really need a car, but the tours were quite good and no hassle when taken at the Banana bungalow. The first tour I attended took us along the Hana Highway, a scenic coastal route with winding roads for around 40 miles (each way). One travel sickness table later, I was fine, but once poor lad in the back of the bus puked and only just got out of the van in time. Ugh.

Maui was fairly pretty but very windy and I have to say, no better than any of the other places I have visited, such as Malaysia and NZ. The Hawaiian islands are all volcanic, so have black sand beaches and (strangely) white sand beaches which may have been imported sand. The east side is wet with introduced bamboo everywhere and the West is warmer and sunnier, with white sand beaches and expensive hotels. The weather gets very windy in Maui (and the other islands), so one day we were almost sand blasted on the beach and the sea was too rough to snorkle (on our turtle snorkling day) - shame. Still, one afternoon I was at the beach the weather was hot and calm and I SWAM WITH A TURTLE! It was great and the turtle was pretty large. Later it came right up near the beach, where around 20 people crowded around and touched it (a no no because of the germs passed on). Luckily it was able to swim away. I guess this was the nicest day and experience while on Maui. On the tours, we stopped at local supermarkets, shops, local sellers and local beaches and tourist places, all of which were very interesting and the places we stopped, pretty, with waving palm and banana trees.

However,my general feeling in Hawaii was that this was the first place since leaving home that I began to feel unsafe. There is (as in many countries) a great divide between rich and poor and this could be seen in Waikiki, with all of the affluent shops such as Prada, Gucci etc lit up along the main shopping drag, but with people selling tat by night on the pavements and vagrants sleeping. There were snakes and parots posing for picutres as well as a guinea pig in a bonnet! It knew the drill as the man lifted it down, offered it water and a snack and then put it back on the stand, combed its hair and put its bonnet back on. The hamster seemed quite happy about this and knew what it had to do. Amazing but not something most of us would find acceptable! I later heard that Lemon Road where the Waikiki Beach Hostel was located had experienced stabbings quite recently and the Banana Bungalow on Maui had experienced drive by shootings a while ago. Welcome to America! However, I don't think this was a common occurrence, but had been a tit for tat drug related violence by the family of someone who had been shot. This did however result in bullet holes in four hostel cars! The first time I left the hostel to wait for a bus, I was approached by a white American asking only for the $2 for the bus and sporting a bad black eye, saying he had been mugged by youths and advising me not to leave the hostel after late afternoon. Not sure if he was genuine but I know there was a drug issue among some youths, so I played it safe and did not venture out after dark... Roll on going to the mainland to meet Marc in San Francisco! That said, luckily I did not experience any violence during my stay and all the staff at the Banana Bungalow were lovely, as well as meeting some really nice people staying there.
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