I do not believe that most people traveling to Hawaii care very much for its history and culture. All they really care about is fun on the beach and copious amounts of booze (and coffee: I have seen lines of almost 100 tourists at Waikiki’s International Marketplace waiting for their morning brew from Kona).
Consequently, mention the Bishop Museum to most tourists, and all you’ll get in response is a look of noncomprehension. While we were there, we saw no tourist buses and no tour groups. In fact, there wasn’t even a free handout brochure with a map of the extensive facilities. In fact, I suspect that the Museum is experiencing hard times.
That is a pity because the Bishop Museum is the place to be if you want to understand Hawaii, the land and its people. To that, I would add all of Polynesia. Particularly imposing is the three story Hawaii Hall (illustrated above) with its outstanding exhibits.
One of the reasons for most tourists not knowing about the Bishop Museum is its 19th century Victorian campus, which make it look (shudder) outdated. And yet, its exhibits are anything but!
I think that if tourists should ever encounter a rainy day on the island, they make a beeline for the Bishop. They will very rapidly get a better idea of where they have landed on that long flight from the mainland. Even on a hot and humid day, such as on the Wednesday we were there, it is a worthy destination.
There it was, occupying its own gallery and lying on its side. A giant inflated pink and white bunny. We were at the Hawaii State Art Museum, right across the street from the Iolani Palace. Actually, we had come to eat at the museum’s much heralded cafe, Artizen by MW. Unaccountably, it was closed that day.
The museum itself is interesting. The budget for the State of Hawaii sets aside a percentage to be used for promoting the arts. One result is the Hawaii State Art Museum, which doesn’t charge admission. Included in its galleries were works of art protesting state projects such as the construction of the H3 limited access highway from west Honolulu to the windward side of O’ahu. I can just imagine the stink that public sponsorship of protest art would cause in California.
In any case, the giant bunny was friendly, and Martine looked happy to have her picture taken with him.
As I planned for our trip to Hawaii, I had a bad feeling about the cost of renting and parking a car during our trip. I know that Americans as a rule tend to avoid public transportation like the plague, but Martine and I do not subscribe to that feeling. I figured that it would cost us well over $100 a day to rent a car, especially with liability and collision insurance. Added to that, most hotels charged between $25 and $50 a day to park the car overnight. Then add more bucks for gas and daytime parking. In no time at all, the cost would exceed $1,000.
Martine and I adopted a solution that cost a grand total of $30 for our transportation on O’ahu for the entire vacation!
How was that possible? First of all, both of us are seniors. Secondly, to use a Hawaiian pidgin term, we decided to be akamai (smart) about saving money. On our first day in Honolulu, we took the #2 bus from Waikiki to the Kalihi Transit Center at the end of the line and got two senior HOLO cards. They were ready in a few minutes, and I forked over the $30 in cash. And that was that!
We would simply tap our HOLO card on a special reader as we boarded the the bus and take our seats. The buses were comfortable and air-conditioned. At the Transit center, we had picked up all the schedules we needed, and the rest was pure gravy.
Are you on the mainland now and doing research for a trip? Go to TheBus.Org for schedules and route maps as well as more information on the different kinds of HOLO cards.
In the southeast corner of the grounds at Iolani Palace is a low mound that bears the Hawaiian language warning “Kapu.” Because the Hawaiian language doesn’t have the sounds of the consonants “t” and “b,” it would not make any sense if the sign red “Tabu.” Yet that is what it means.
Similarly, foods made from the pounded taro root are everywhere. Yet in Hawaiian, the word is written “kalo.” (There is no “r” in the language.)
The forbidden mound contains the remains of many old Hawaiian chieftains, or ali’i. Before the Iolani Palace was built in the late 19th century, there was an earlier, less European-looking palace that housed the great of O’ahu and the outlying islands. The earlier kings of the Kamehameha dynasty were buried there before a mausoleum was built to house their remains a mile or so to the west.
After the bones of the kings were removed, the Hawaiians had trouble identifying the other remains; so they fenced in the mound and made access to it Tabu.
On our first full day in Honolulu, Martine and I visited the Iolani Palace, which was the seat of the Hawaiian monarchy that was dethroned in 1893 by a cabal of crooked American businessmen, diplomats, and naval officers. Even after they succeeded, it was only the sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 that led to Hawaii becoming a U.S. territory.
The story of the annexation of Hawaii is told in Stephen Dando-Collins’s Taking Hawaii: How Thirteen Honolulu Businessmen Overthrew the Queen of Hawaii in 1893, With a Bluff. The “founding fathers” of the annexation make Donald Trump look like a Boy Scout, what with their lies, braggadocio, and even cowardice. When the moment came to move, several of the members of the so-called Committee of Public Safety conveniently came down sick.
The Hawaiians of today revere their monarchy, especially Queen Lili’uokalani, who was an able ruler who failed only because she could not appease a cabal of American and European businessmen who did not even feel that Hawaiian natives should have the right to vote.
The Palace was built by the penultimate ruler of the monarchy, King Kalakaua, in 1882. It is tastefully designed, with verandas on all sides permitting the cool ocean breezes to circulate through the building. Nowadays, all the windows are closed so that the paintings on the wall don’t fade prematurely.
Martine and I returned late last night from Hawaii. I decided to begin my vacation posts with a tribute to a Hawaiian singer much loved by Martine. I am referring to Donald Tai Loy Ho, better known as Don Ho (1930-2007). His most famous songs are“Tiny Bubbles” and “Pearly Shells.”
In the weeks before our flight to Honolulu, Martine spent hours on YouTube playing some of Don Ho’s songs. So I made a point of taking pictures of the street sign for Do Ho Street, which runs between Lewers St, and Royal Hawaiian Ave. for one block just south of the main drag at Kalakaua Avenue.
At the International Marketplace Shopping Center, there is a statue of Don Ho next to one of the escalators. Below is a picture of Martine in her aloha shirt standing next to the statue:
For those of you who are interested, here are the lyrics for Don Ho’s most iconic song, “Tiny Bubbles.” As many times as I heard Martine play the song, I never really got tired of hearing it:
Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
In the wine (in the wine)
Make me happy (make me happy)
Make me feel fine (make me feel fine).
Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
Make me warm all over
With a feeling that I‘m gonna
Love you till the end of time'
So here‘s to the golden moon
And here‘s to the silver sea
And mostly here‘s a toast
To you and me.
So here’s to the ginger lei
I give to you today
And here’s a kiss
That will not fade away.
On our first full day in Hawaii, Martine and I plan to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu. We had been there before, in 1996, but I am more interested this time in reading up on Hawaii history before I go. The last time, I frankly thought I wouldn’t care for O’ahu, because it was so touristy. Now I begin to realize that it is touristy for good reason.
There are many stories about how the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 came to be. Some have even speculated that Franklin Roosevelt knew in advance about the attack, since we had already cracked the Japanese Navy secret code. According to this theory, FDR wanted the U.S. in the war, and he was tired of the Congress lollygagging about what to do about Germany and Japan. It is interesting that none of the aircraft carriers were in the harbor during the time of the attack; and the battleships there were pretty long in the tooth.
That’s not to take away from Japan’s accomplishment. We lost a lot of good men—but probably no more than we would have lost of Congress had delayed for another six months to a year.
I remember that the whole Pearl Harbor National Memorial was pretty impressive back then. I am sure that it is even more impressive now.
This afternoon, I did a bit of research on how to use the Honolulu bus system to travel between Waikiki and the Memorial. I suppose we could pay big bucks and take a shuttle, but we could get off by paying four dollars for the both of us, round trip. I used the website TheBus.Org to obtain route maps and schedules.
Today I made the final payment on our September vacation in Honolulu. We got a good price on a package deal including the flight, transfer to and from the airport, and the hotel. All that remains are meals, admission fees, shopping, and public transportation.
Notice, I do not include an automobile. When Martine and I stayed at the Pacific Beach Hotel in 1996, a rental car was included, with no parking fees at the hotel. Today, car rental fees have gone through the roof, and hotels charge anywhere from $35 to $45 a night just for parking on their grounds.
How much will Martine and I pay for public transportation on Honolulu’s bus system? For both of us, the total will come to a mere $12.00 total. Right after we check in at our hotel, we head to the nearby Ala Moana shopping center and pick up a HOLO card for seniors, free of charge, at the office of the Satellite City Hall there. Thereafter, once we have dished out $12.00 in fares (three round rips for two people at $2 each), the bus is free.
Americans hate taking public transportation. Neither Martine nor I mind it. In 1996, we drove all around the island; consequently, we don’t feel we have to repeat it.
In future posts, I will describe the places we plan to visit.
Honolulu’s Royal Mausoleum (or Mauna ‘Ala, “Fragrant Hills”) is the home of most of the two Hawaiian Royal Families of the Kamehameha and Kalakaua dynasties—with the sole exception of Kamehameha I “The Great,” who is buried in Maui.
As you can see from the fresh flower leis on the tomb, today’s Hawaiians revere the memory of their kings and regard the mausoleum as holy ground. Martine and I hope to visit it when we go to Hawaii in three months, perhaps visiting nearby Queen Emma’s Summer Palace the same day.
It was King Kamehameha IV and his consort Queen Emma who had the mausoleum built in 1862. Unfortunately, the first occupant was their four-year-old son Prince Albert.
In addition to all the Hawaiian kings after Kamehameha I, many of the retainers and chiefs are also interred nearby. For a list of the occupants, click here.
I include the above postage stamp image just to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Hawaii was a self-governing entity before being annexed by the United States in 1898. Queen Lili‘uokalani was the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.