Tuesday, July 3, 2018

(Part 5) Hawaii Without the Beaches: Magic Island, Chinatown, and the Mission Houses!!

- May 23-25, 2018, Wednesday to Friday.

- After two back-to-back day trips to Pearl Harbor (click here) and the Polynesian Cultural Center (click here), it was nice to have time in my own hands again. Knowing me, however, this does not mean sleeping in. On my last day in Hawaii, I had an early start by going to the nearby "Magic Island;" my family wanted to go to other places so I was left to wander alone. Despite the name, it doesn't have anything to do with the supernatural. Magic Island is a man-made peninsular park right across Ala Moana Hotel and Ala Moana Center. This park, which was supposed to be a resort, is currently a good open space for jogging, having picnics, doing sports or just hanging around. Occasionally, there are some events held in the park, from concerts, performances, to fireworks displays. The most interesting part about this park is the lagoon. The lagoon is separated from the big ocean by a man-made barrier, and I think this is a good idea because the sea beyond the lagoon sometimes has big dangerous waves. Although I did not really want to swim (and I am actually not fond of going to beaches), I thought that having a photoshoot with Hawaii's shores and seas was a must-do; it was just a matter of choosing which particular sea or view. Speaking of views, the lagoon has a stunning view of the far-away Diamond Head.

Wearing a traditional Hawaiian outfit - or at least, the most authentic I can make it look. The only thing from Hawaii would be my kukui necklace.
See the lagoon's barricade at the back?
Diamond Head at the far back.
I love how the waves cooperated in this photo. I used my loin cloth above as a sash called a "kihe" in this photo. I am also wearing the fresh lei given to us at the PCC the day before.
- Although Hawaii is famous for its beaches, and naturally so since Hawaii is made up of many islands. However, Hawaiians will tell you that some beaches are actually man made or "engineered" - case in point, Waikiki. The Hawaiian islands are volcanic, and most of their land are formed from volcanic activities, so some shores are quite rocky. Another group of islands with a similar story is the Kiklades/Cyclades group of islands in Greece, to where Santorini and Mykonos belong (click here). In the 1900s - even as late as the 1960s or 70s, sand was occasionally sourced from different places like other natural beaches of Hawaii and to a certain extent, some sources claim, as far as Australia and California, and put onto these engineered beaches. Another reason for the government adding sand is because of the quick erosion of these beaches.

These rocks, however, are also man made.
Lei etiquette: when someone gives you a lei never remove the lei in the presence of the person. Also, since lei garlands are mostly made from fresh flowers and leaves, the only way to dispose them (not in the company of the giver,) is by giving it back to nature, such as hanging it on a tree, burying it, or letting it drift in the wide open ocean. These garlands were given to my family at the PCC the day before, and since we wouldn't be using the garlands anymore - and the flowers will eventually wither anyway - I hung them on a tree at the park.
- After my early morning photoshoot at Magic Island, I marched back to my hotel to change and leave my props behind so I'd have a lighter bag while exploring the city. When I was all set, I had an Uber drive me to Honolulu's Chinatown near the downtown area. Most of the time I don't like visiting Chinatowns abroad since my main goal to experience something different. Since I am Chinese and I do live in a Chinese community, I usually leave out Chinatown wherever I go. However, one interesting thing about Honolulu's Chinatown is that it's one of the oldest in the United States (but no Chinatown will be as old as Manila's Chinatown!!)

Chinatown's charm: plenty of preserved/repurposed old buildings.
Tsung Tsin Association (The United Chinese Society) - the association of associations of Hawaii's Chinese community. 
- Honolulu's Chinatown has been inhabited by the Chinese since the mid-1800s. This district has gained infamy because it was plagued by the Bubonic Plague in the late 1800s, which resulted in a big fire that almost ate the whole town; they were planning on eradicating the disease through fire and the fire spread uncontrollably due to the wind. Another significant fact about Honolulu's Chinatown is that China's "Father of the Nation," Dr. Sun Yat Sen, spent his early years in Hawaii. He was not educated in the classic Chinese way, unlike most of his peers at that time, and so he had a different perspective on things. Because of this, there are some parks, establishments across the Hawaiian Islands that are named after Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Today, Honolulu's Chinatown boasts different aspects of Chinese culture like food. Chinatown is also known for its lei stores, as well as its fresh fruits and vegetable markets. Living alongside the Chinese (and probably the Taiwanese,) are the Vietnamese, whose culture is related to the Chinese due to historical reasons.

The clock tower inside Maunakea Market.
It has Chinese numbers.
Guan Yin.
Maunakea Market has some souvenir stores, lei stores, museums, and a wet market. 
Had dimsum for lunch. My goodness it has hard to finish everything because dimsum in America are served in bigger portions.
Wo Fat Building, one of Chiantown's oldest and most iconic buildings which used to house a restaurant. The name of this building inspired the name of a villain in Hawaii Five-0.
- After having lunch at Chinatown, I walked several blocks back to the downtown, where I paid the Supreme Court (Ali'iolani Hale) another visit (went here the first time in Part 1 here). This time, its visitors' galleries were open. Before anything else, I'd just like to say that it was difficult to find a restroom in Chinatown - even the restaurant I ate in and some fastfood chains and cafes did not have a restroom!! - so much so that the nearest restroom I could find was inside the Supreme Court. It took me around a good uncomfortable 20-30 minutes to walk from Chinatown to the Supreme Court.

- As mentioned in Part 1 (click here), the Ali'iolani Hale or the Supreme Court was an 1800s-era building that was supposed to be made into another palace. However, due to Hawaii's lack of government office buildings, this building was turned into one instead of making it into another palace. This court was used from the 1800s until today, and visitors may peep into some of the court rooms in the building. (Best thing about visiting the Supreme Court - it's free!)

I am back!!
Gold-covered Kamehameha statue.
Old court room.
Bigger court room at the second floor.
- Beside the Supreme Court is the Kawaiaha'o Church, built in the mid-1800s, and one of the oldest churches in Hawaii. At one point it was the national church of Hawaii. In front of the church is the mausoleum of King William Charles Lunalilo, who wanted to be buried in a church cemetery rather than the Royal Mausoleum (click here to see the Royal Mausoleum.) The church is notable also for its use of coral rock, back when getting coral from the sea was not a problem.

Kawaiaha'o Church.
Main hall.
View of the back from the front.
King Lunalilo's mausoleum.

- If you go across the street from behind the Kawaiaha'o Church, you'll find the Mission Houses Museum. The Mission Houses Museum are some of the oldest houses in Hawaii. These wooden houses were built in the early 1800s when the Christian Missionaries came to Hawaii from New England (today, New England is an area that comprises 6 states northeast of New York.) They came to Hawaii and not only did they help some Hawaiians convert to Christianity (which is both good and bad, depending on your perspective,) but the missionaries also taught the Hawaiians western knowledge and they also standardized the written form of a before-only-oral Hawaiian language using the Latin alphabet. Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the houses, and are required to join a tour. Photography, however, is allowed outside the Mission Houses.

The Chamberlain House.
The only photo I got to take inside the museum: it's a diorama or what it could have looked like before - the Kawaiaha'o Church and the Mission Houses who had the church built.
- The Chamberlain House is where supplies were stored. It is the main exhibition building, and is where the tour starts.

In front of the Chamberlain House.
Pretending to get some water.
Finding shade at the Chamberlain's House.
- The other two houses in the area are the Oldest Frame House and the Print House. The Oldest Frame House was used mainly by the Chamberlain family as well as other missionaries. Sometimes, there would be daily visits by the royalty as the royal family have become good friends with the missionaries. It is also the oldest house in Hawaii that is located on its original location. The Print House, located beside the Oldest Frame House is the place where the missionaries would gather and discuss things that they could print to help educated the Hawaiian natives. Some of the things they printed were the first Hawaiian-language Christian Bible, dictionaries, and newspapers in the Hawaiian language.

In front of the Oldest Frame House (left) and the Print House (right).
The Mission Memorial auditorium right across the Mission Houses.
See how dark I am.
- After my visit to the Mission Houses, I had a long walk all the way to Ala Moana Hotel to meet my family. We had dinner at a Korean restaurant before packing our things for our flight back to Manila the day after. Although my stay in Hawaii was not that long, and unfortunately I wasn't able to explore the other islands of Hawaii especially due to the volcanic eruptions in the Big Island/Island of Hawai'i, I thought that I was able to maximize the little time that I had in Hawaii by learning as much as I can about the islands' history and culture. To be honest, it turned out better than I expected, since I am usually not drawn to coastal or island destinations. I appreciate the sea and all that, but I just don't like going to the sea, that's all. However, one of the things that I really love about Hawaii is how they were able to well integrate nature to their life, their art, and most especially, how they modernized these things without sacrificing authenticity. On top of everything I learned, I also think I was successful in my mission for this particular trip, that is, to prove to everyone that there are lots to see and experience in Hawaii that do not necessarily have to involve the sea (or the mountains), and that there are grand palaces to visit, rich museums to appreciate, and local people to interact with!

- Don't forget to read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here!!

(Part 4) Hawaii Without the Beaches: The Polynesian Cultural Center and the Morning Island Tour!!

- May 22, 2018, Tuesday.

- The Hawaiian Islands are part of the Polynesian geocultural area in the Pacific Ocean, together with the Melanesia and Micronesian geocultural areas. In the Polynesian geocultural area, which is the biggest among the three geocultural areas, multiple cultures thrive among these scattered islands. Fortunately, Hawaii has a place where visitors can appreciate, experience, and learn from these cultures. This is the Polynesian Cultural Center (will be henceforth referred to as the "PCC"), opened in the 1960s, and owned by the Church of the Latter Day Saints and the Brigham Young University - Hawaii. I think that after a day in Pearl Harbor (click here) - with all that stress and emotional baggage after learning and understanding World War 1 more - a trip to the PCC was a good idea, to at least see happier and more colorful things.

- Before going on to details about the PCC, let me show you some things around Oahu. After all, when I booked my day trip to the PCC with my hotel travel desk, my very awesome travel agent Malia told me that we could avail a morning tour around the island (this package is usually called "Circle Island Tour" in most travel agencies) to see some interesting spots in Oahu. Although people can actually book this morning trip and the entrance to the PCC on their own through the PCC website (click here), I thought of booking if through my agent to make sure that things will be smooth sailing. After all, my family's Hawaii trip was a bit last minute, and I was doing everything for this trip (as I always do when it comes to DIY trips with the family) while juggling my other responsibilities in life. (Yes, arranging things for a trip is actual HARD work, especially if you're meticulous like me. I like doing this kind of work, I really just hoped I had more time.) The reason why booking a day trip to the PCC is important is because it's located at the far end of the island, at the opposite side from where all the tourist stuff and hotels are. People go there either by booking a day trip, or renting a car. Do note that the PCC opens at noon, which is why combining it with a morning trip around the island is a good idea. All the spots are along the way to the PCC anyway. (IMPORTANT NOTE: THE PCC IS CLOSED ON SUNDAYS.)

- We first went to the Amelia Earhart Lookout, named after Amelia Earhart, the first person pilot to fly solo to (and crash in) Hawaii, and the Diamond Head Lookout, where an up close view of the Diamond Head can be seen. The Diamond Head is a collection of volcanic land forms. From there, we also had a short stop at Halona Blowhole. One of my favorite natural spots in Hawaii is the Halona Blowhole because I found it unusual. The waves crash to the shore, and the holes inside the rocks shoots water like a geyser. The bigger the wave, the higher it shoots!

Amelia Earhart was here!
Hawaiian seas.
A part of Diamond Head from the van.
Towers of rocks.
At Hanauma Bay.

Hello Hanauma Blowhole!!
- From the two lookouts and the blowhole, we were driven to see Rabbit Island from the shore, as well as the Makapu'u lighthouse, a guiding light for ships around the area since the 1800s. Around 30 minutes later, we arrived at Pali Lookout, which I already visited in Day 2 (click here). Our final stop before going to the PCC was the Dole Plantation. Although there are more things to be done in the Dole Plantation, such as a tour around the plantation, we were only given a limited time and it was mainly a stop to shop for Dole products. However, thanks to some tips from blogs and vlogs I've seen online, one of the things people run to when visiting the Dole Plantation is the pineapple ice cream. I know it sounds weird and too acidic for an ice cream, but trust me, it's delicious! It was perfect for a warm Hawaiian morning too! Just a tip, once you arrive at Dole Plantation, RUN TO THE BACK. If you don't hurry up, you might run out of time (unless you have all the time in the world) as there is always a long line there - and yes, the pineapple ice cream is not really a secret among tourists.

Makapu'u Lighthouse (that tiny thing, yes. It's just very far away.)
Rabbit Island, because, they say, it looks like a rabbit.
I'm back!!
Go back to Part 2 for a more detailed explanation about this place. 

The weird things you see at Pali Lookout
Yes, I am here.
- Right after our scenic morning tour of Oahu, at long last, we arrived at the PCC!! Visitors of PCC can avail tickets that have a guided tour of the different Polynesian "villages" in the PCC or just an entry ticket without the guided tour. Since I wanted more flexibility and liberty, I bought the one without the guided tour (it is the cheaper ticket too, of course).

You will be welcomed with two giant tikis.
- As mentioned earlier, the PCC opens at noon, and we got there just around the time that it opened. (REMINDER: THE PCC IS CLOSED ON SUNDAYS.)We had lunch at one of the food trucks present near the ticket booth and the big theater (named the Pacific Theater) where the evening performance is held every night. There are also some souvenir shops and some snack stalls around that area. One thing you'll immediately notice when going around the PCC is that it has a lot of young staff. This is mainly because most of the employees in the PCC are students of Brigham Young University (BYU), one of the owners of this theme park. Part of the profits of this park go to scholarship funds for BYU students; in turn, these scholars work a particular number of hours at the PCC. You will notice that they have flags pinned on their shirts, which show the country of origin and/or the language that they speak.

- Since my family bought the basic ticket, which did not have a guide, we had all the freedom to go around the park. This park has 6 villages: Samoa, Aoteroa (New Zealand/Maori), Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Tonga. Each village has people from the appropriate ethnic group who are ready to show their culture through performances, handicraft lessons, performance lessons, or just a plain chat about their culture. (Do note that these are just the main groups of people in the Polynesia, and there are actually more cultures and groups of people present in these islands.) The concept of the park is greatly similar to the Formosan Aboriginal Village near Sun Moon Lake in Central Taiwan (click here) and to some extent, Thailand's Siam Niramit (click here).

- We first visited the village of Samoa, Aoteroa (New Zealand), and Fiji. Most people know that New Zealand is off the southeastern coast of Hawaii, but what about Samoa and Fiji? Samoa is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, and is fairly close to both the Melanesian and Micronesian Islands. Samoa is known for its fire knife dance, locally known as "ailao afi" (note that "afi" is a cognate of the Filipino "apoy", the Malaysian/Indonesian "api" even some indigenous Taiwanese groups' "apuy.")

Tools used by Samoans and weapons.
Samoan dance headdress.
Boats are essential in all cultures of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.
Making fire, I think.
Fire dance.
- Aoteroa, the Maori name for New Zealand, is the southern frontier of the Polynesian group of islands. The Maori people of New Zealand are known for the intense haka performances. The haka is a mix of dance, poetry/speech, singing, and big facial expressions (which sometimes involves sticking out one's tongue), and is traditionally a war cry, and a proclamation of strength. Today, it is also sometimes performed as a way to welcome and give respect to distinguished guests. 

A marae, or a communal house. This kind of house is where people meet for celebrations, sort of like a village function hall and meeting room. The village chief is at the back.
Maori spears.
I should have done a fierce face. I look too happy here. (My shirt by the way has motifs of Polynesian tattoos. 
This is a very very long boat. It was probably around 15 feet long. 
No, it is not a sumo wrestler. No, I am not a sumo wrestler.
Trying to do a hula stance.
Maori dance.
- Fiji is a tiny island that is actually part of Melanesia, not Polynesia. Studies however show that the culture of Fiji is closer to Polynesian cultures as it is one of the island nations at the border of Melanesia and Polynesia. The Fijians are known for their fire walking ceremony. Traditionally, it is some kind of right of passage among men. Apart from that, Fiji is also known for having a sizable Hindu population due to forced migration of Indians in the 1800s. These Indians were indentured laborers and brought to Fiji by the British. Since then, many of these indentured laborers settled in Fiji with some marrying with the locals. Today, these Indo-Fijians still speak a localized variant of Hindi and even celebrate Hindu festivals like Diwali.

Fiji (Village)!!
Made from traditional fabrics.
Inside a chieftain's house.
Wow!! Coconut oil making!!
A traditional Fijian temple or "bure kalou." When many Fijians converted to Christianity "thanks to" the British, many bure kalous were either repurposed or just left alone. (Trivia: Although this bure kakou is just a replica, this is the only bure kakou outside Fiji.)
- Before we continued our visit of the villages, we sat down at one of the two spots where the daily Polynesian pageant happens. The pageant is a parade of floating platforms where the different ethnic groups perform. I think it happens only once a day (around 2:30pm), so it should not be missed!

- The floating parade lasted around 30 minutes, and fortunately, our next stop was in the village Hawaii, located just behind where we watched the parade. A small highlight of my visit to the PCC was that I got to do a 15-minute hula lesson while I was in the village of Hawaii. Before I left Manila for this trip, I actually just thought that I'd be able to watch some real hula and it was going to be enough for me. However, deep inside, I really wanted the chance to learn the hula because I found it interesting and meaningful. The hula dance is danced by both men and women - my teacher was actually a guy! Although most people know the graceful and feminine kind of hula, the hula is also danced by warriors-to-be and warriors alike. Each movement has a meaning, and is highly similar to dance dramas of other countries like India.

Hula lesson.
Another one of the times that I was mistaken for a staff of the park - I dressed like them. (The shirtless guy was my hula teacher.)
Inside a Hawaiian chieftain's house.
This would be a good "glamping" house.
With a coconut tree and a Hawaiian hut.
He's making fishing nets.
- From the village of Hawaii, we walked back, passing by the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) monuments, to the restaurant where we had an early dinner. It was a traditional Hawaiian dinner buffet with a cultural show which, of course, showcased rituals and dances from the different villages in the PCC. We had an early dinner because our dinner buffet ticket says that we should be at the restaurant around 4:30, so we had no choice. 

Rapa Nui (Easter Island) statues. These are memorials for the dead. The Easter Islands form the southeastern frontier of the Polynesian geocultural area. They're also the closest to South America. 
During (our very early) dinner. This shows the Hawaiian royalty and royal protocols on who stands beside whom.
Look at those little children dancing the hula!!
When you see dinner in the middle of the forest.
- We had to leave the restaurant without finishing the whole show since we wanted to see the other villages at the other side of the park: Tonga and Tahiti. Tonga is is a group of islands near Fiji, and is distinct particularly for the ta'ovala, or waist mats. Although weaving and basketry are done globally, the Tongans make it a point to use them as their fashion statement. These mats are used by both men and women, and the nicer ta'ovala are used as formal clothing.

Just bringing this photo from the pageant to show you a performer wearing a short ta'ovala underneath his fringed skirt.
Chieftain's house. The curtain at the left side is Tongan tapa cloth.
Chief's bed.
Another hut with photos of the prime ministers of Tonga.
- Tahiti is an island to the southeastern side of the Polynesian islands; it is part of French Polynesia, which is a group of islands administered by France. Tahiti is home to the French Polynesian capital of Papeete. The Tahitian culture is most known for the tamure (read as "ta-mu-reh"), which is iconic for its intense hip shaking.

Tahitian dance costume.
A simpler one.
Tahitians love their woven stuff!!
- After going around all the villages, we rested near the Pacific Theater until it was time for our evening show called "Ha: Breath of Life." "Ha: Breath of Life" is shown nightly in the arena-like Pacific Theater. This is a story about life and death and the circle of life (yes, it is sort of like The Lion King without the talking animals animals.) It follows the journey of a man from his birth until his kingship, with different eras of his life spent in the different Polynesian islands. It is a larger than life presentation of Polynesian cultures, and is the top-rated show in Hawaii. The show ends around 9-ish. (Photography and videography are not allowed inside, so I only got to take photos after the curtain call.)    

At the entrance, again.
Hawaii Five-0. (Playing around with the displays while waiting for our evening show to start.)
Inside Pacific Theater, right after the curtain call of "Ha: Breath of Life."
- We later whizzed through the roads of Oahu in the dark for an hour until we reached our hotel. Although I knew that I could now take it easier since our two day trips were finally day, I still had one more full day left to explore downtown Oahu and an early morning shoot at a "magical" island!!

- Don't forget to read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 5 here!!