Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day Two in Hawaii

Day 2:

It was the day of the famed Honolulu marathon and hence there were quite some detours and road closures in the Waikiki, Diamond Head area so we decided to head early towards the US Arizona Memorial aka Pearl Harbor. The one thing about Honolulu is that you can spend a couple of days there visiting all the top tourist spots without bothering to rent a car. We took " The Bus" public transit bus to Pearl Harbor. Another tip here, in google maps type your to and from addresses and then if you click on the take public transit button you can find out about bus schedules easily.

All tour books and Honolulu veterans suggest you be at the ticket line for Pearl Harbor the first thing in the morning at around 7.30. So we took the 6.40 am bus from Waikiki and were there by 7.40am. There were no lines and it was a breeze walking in. We also heard that it was the slowest day in Pearl Harbor and was attributed to the weather and marathon. There is no entry fee to visit the memorial but you need to watch 25 minute film before taking a boat to the memorial.

The whole area is maintained by the national park services and the facilities are quite good. The 25 minute black and white movie takes one back to the era of the WW2 and it raises some questions for which there are no answers. It was afterall war and the survival of the strongest. The skies cleared out by the time we were on the boat to the memorial. The memorial, white and stark is a tribute to the 1777 crew members on board the USS Arizona on Dec 7th 1941. It spans the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.

Our personal views about the memorial are mixed. It is small and built on top of the sunken USS Arizona. Architecturally, at times we feel it is great and there are times we wonder if it is a fitting memorial. So I guess you need to see the film and really feel the spirit before forming your own opinions about the memorial. But it is a sobering experience when you think of all the lives lost.

You can see the oil leaking from the sunken battleship (the survivors call it black tears. Around 2 quarts of oil leaks out daily), bouquets of flowers, a list of the lost lives ( there were 37 sets of siblings on board when the ship was hit) reminds us of the era of bloodshed and history lessons that are never forgotten.

After our visit to the Pearl Harbor we decided to walk to the nearby Aloha Stadium where there is a flea market every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday. It is a 10 minute walk from Pearl Harbor and we walked by the healing field. The healing field is a 2500 flag memorial for those who fell on Dec 7th 1941. It is quite a sight and we were glad to be in Honolulu when the flags were in display.

There is a nominal entry fee for the Aloha Swap Meet at the Aloha Stadium. We had picked up some free entry coupons at one of the coupons books found all around Waikiki. It is a good place to shop local style and enjoy some of the local favorites. The tender coconut juice sweet and refreshing on the hot day brought back childhood memories. The Aloha state's very own shave ice and Portuguese malassadas (kind of like doughnuts) yummy! Here you can pick up cheap gifts, tees and local breads and jam for half the price you can find in Waikiki area. We ended up with tee shirts for everyone in the family, local lilikoi, mango, guava, papaya jams.

The jetlag and heat was catching up on all of us and we caught the local bus and headed back to the hotel for a short nap. And we were ready to luau! Luau - the Hawaiian feast and a tourist staple! We had previously booked with Germaine's Luau - a commercial luau on the ocean's edge, under the palm trees. The tour bus was waiting and off we headed towards their private beach luau location. Our tour bus hostess, Georgie had a set of jokes to keep us all entertained and laughing getting into a relaxed mood.

The luau cost us each around $45 (we used a discount coupon from and yes it is a bit expensive but it is an evening of the Aloha spirit and fun. So we would highly recommend a luau if you are in Hawaii. A lei greeting, formal portrait and we were with 300+ others at the picnic area. We watched the kalua pig come out of the imu oven. With the sun setting on the yonder, the place lit with tiki lights was magical. The dancers were nimble and graceful. Depicting dances from different Polynesian countries it was like watching a pretty movie. Loved the fire dancer, the drum players and the dancers. The lady hosting the event was kind of irritating (a personal opinion) and asking the bus drivers to dance was dumb (another personal opinion). I also hated the most common and prevalent idea of picking someone from the audience and making the audience laugh at the scrapegoat's expense.

Nothing good to write about the food. It is really not the best or even mediocre. The imu roasted pork, the island coleslaw and island long rice (transparent rice noodles) were the only items remotely edible. Go for the dancers, go for the pretty setting, go to experience the aloha spirit, go for experiencing Hawaii! And yes you get 3 drink coupons with every ticket and a few mai tais and blue islands later, laughter flows more easily! There were a few drunk people on board the bus on our return journey and our magical day drew to an end!

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