Friday, March 6, 2015

Old Time O’ahu

L to R: Tantalus Drive, Tantalus Park, Song bird
Granted, winter in Texas generally isn’t too bad, but the forecasters were calling for freezing rain, sleet, and ice. We wanted to go where it was warm, so it was off to Hawai’i! The most inexpensive place to land is ‘The Gathering Place’, O’ahu; so three Near-Normal Travelers (along with another 100 thousand or so tourists) arrived to visit about 900,000 of our closest friends. Locals (any resident of Hawai’i) don’t use directions when navigating this rhomboid-shaped island; ‘ewa’ is toward the western tip of the island, ‘Diamond Head’ is to the eastern tip, ‘mauka’ is in the direction of the mountains and ‘makai’ is headed for the sea. The island is divided into five or six sections, depending on who you are talking to: ‘Town side’ (roughly Halawa to just below Diamond Head), ‘West Oʻahu’ (Pearl Harbor to Kapolei and Ewa),  ‘North Shore’ (all of the northwestern coast), ‘Windward Side’ (all the northeastern coast); ‘East Side’ (the eastern part of the island, overlapping ‘Windward Side’ and east Diamond Head), and ‘The Valley’ (Pearl Harbor northwest to Haleiwa). One of the drives we try to take early on to get oriented to the island is the road up and around Tantalus crater. This is a wonderfully scenic drive that immerses you into ferns, palm trees, giant philodendrons and other Hawaiian plants you’re expecting to see. Stopping along the way let us look out on different parts of O’ahu and begin to make our plans for what we want to see and in what order. Of course, plans change as opportunities arise. This time we were determined to see some areas we had not visited before.


One of our new stops was Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site. Located on the North Shore, it is the largest Hawaiian temple and place of worship on O’ahu. According to
Clockwise L to R: Heiau, Small offerings,
Larger offering, Waimea Bay
legends Pele, the Goddess of the Volcano, jumped from Puʻu o Mahuka ('Hill of Escape') to Molokai. Historically, the site was used by sentries to watch the northern shoreline and look for signal fires from the Wailua Complex of Heiaus on Kauaʻi. The three enclosures at the top of the hill appear to date from the 17th century with later additions built in the 18th century. Still visible is the sacrificial temple, an upper platform, from which was supplicants petitioned the gods for success in battle. This area was in use until the kapu system was abolished in the early 1800s. The woods surrounding the site are home to song birds and feral chickens, along with lizards and a plethora of insects. As we walked along the paths, we could see the spectacular Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley; we also got a good view of the incessant traffic. We were surprised to see several areas set aside by the locals for offerings to the gods.


Hawaiian culture supports a variety of religious beliefs. One of the most peaceful locations
Top: Stained glass tiger, Temple
Bottom: Lotus Buddha, Temple bell
on the island is the Bydo-In Temple. The Byodo-In Temple is a non-denominational shrine in the Valley of the Temples. Dedicated by Governor John A. Burns in 1968 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants, it is a reproduction of a 900-year-old Buddhist temple at Uji in Kyoto, Japan. As visitors enter, they are invited to ring the three-ton, brass peace bell. The tone of the bell helps put the soul at peace and prepare one to enter the grounds. Inhabiting the ponds that surround the temple are koi of such bright colors and flowing fins that it’s no wonder they are sometimes called butterflies. Ducks, dove, sparrows, peacocks and a couple of black swans also make the temple grounds their home. Visitors are requested to remove their shoes if they go inside the temple; this is a sign of respect and I’ve never seen people ignore this request. Inside is a large statue of the Lotus Buddha covered in gold and lacquer. There is a place in front of the Buddha for offerings from the faithful. Covered walkways lead away from the temple and the day we visited two artists were showing their creations in one of these areas. Of course, I had to have a drawing of a rabbit with the word for ‘rabbit’ in Japanese script.  The temple, with its backdrop of towering cliffs of the Ko'olau mountains, is a lovely locale in which to spend some quiet time. As we entered and left the area, we passed through a cemetery with separate sectors for specific beliefs. In the Buddhist area was a wonderful stained glass image of a tiger, one of the twelve icons of the Asian zodiac; farther down the hill was a lovely Madonna statue in the Catholic section.


Catholicism came late to the Hawaiian Islands (Protestant missionaries arrived from Boston on March 30, 1820 aboard the Thaddeus along with four Hawaiian boys who had already
Saints Peter and Paul Mission
converted to Christianity). The first Catholic mission to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was established in about 1827, well after Protestant missionary work began. Because the Protestants were well established and had the ear of King Kamehameha, Catholic missionary work and belief was discouraged to the point of generating a Catholic underground. However, the arrival and ordination of Father Damien opened a new chapter in Catholic religious practice on the islands. As often happens when foreigners are introduced to indigenous people, diseases to which the natives had no immunity ran rampant. Thousands died of influenza and syphilis while many contracted Hansen's disease (leprosy). The "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy" quarantined the lepers of Hawaii to the colonies of Kalaupapa and Kalawao on the island of Molokaʻi. Once in quarantine, it became obvious that the colonists were too ill to support themselves by building shelters and raising their own food. However, no help was forthcoming from the government. Once the Bishop of the Honolulu diocese heard of this situation, he believed that the lepers needed at least a Catholic priest to help them. But the Bishop knew that sending a priest to this area could be a ‘death sentence’ if that person contracted leprosy. Four priests volunteered to take turns visiting the lepers and to help them build houses and raise crops. As it turned out, Father Damien was the first to go and once there chose not to leave. Although he built a church and established a parish, he also helped construct a reservoir, erect homes, craft furniture, make coffins, dig graves and dress ulcers. From 1866 through 1969 approximately 8,000 Hawaiians were sent to the leper colonies. Now there are several Catholic churches on O’ahu with Saints Peter and Paul Mission located on one of the prettiest places on the north shore. If you want to go surfing at Three Tables Beach or swimming in Waimea Bay you can participate in one of their fundraising activities. Parking is a premium in this area so they sell parking places to beach goers who want to access these nearby areas.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had a large impact on the
Top to Bottom: Temple grounds, Hibiscus, Temple
Hawaiian culture. The first LDS Church congregation in Hawai'i was established on the island of Maui in 1851, on Lānaʻi in 1854, and in Lāʻie, Oʻahu in 1865. The Lāʻie Hawai’i Temple was the first temple built outside of the continental United States and is the oldest to operate outside of Utah. When Native Hawaiian converts (and other Polynesians) living in Iosepa, Utah heard of this new temple, many decided to emigrate back to Hawai’i even though they had been living in the town since 1889; by 1917 Iosepa had become a ghost town. Lāʻie, a small town about 35 miles (56 km) from Honolulu, also hosts Brigham Young University–Hawaii the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the Hukilau Cafe where it is said that Joseph Kekuku invented the steel guitar. The temple does look a bit like the one in Salt Lake City, but the grounds are quite different with the tropical plants lining walkways and palm trees providing shaded seating areas. The yellow hibiscuses were as large as dinner plates and presented a colorful promenade up to the temple gates.


Tourists started arriving in Hawai’i not long after the missionaries. To accommodate these folks, hotels were built and two of these grand dames are still in existence. The Moana
L to R: Moana lobby, Surf boards, Lānai
Hotel
 (moana means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian), also known as the First Lady of Waikīkī, was built in the 1896 and opened for business in 1901; it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The architecture is rather European, with Ionic columns, elaborate woodwork and plaster detailing. A grand porte cochere defines the street side entry and wide lānais provide ocean viewing areas. One of its most unusual features in 1901 was an electric-powered elevator; it is still in use today. As the Moana grew, two floors were added and Italian Renaissance-styled concrete wings were built onto each side of the hotel creating its current H-shape. The second floor of the hotel has been turned into a small museum with pictures and items dating back to its first opening.


About 20 years after the opening of the Moana, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel opened its doors.
L to R: Hotel, Orchid, Garden area 
It is still considered one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Hawaii tourism. ‘The Pink Palace of the Pacific’ cost of over five million dollars to build in the 1920s. At one time it was surrounded by a fifteen-acre landscaped garden; this area has been reduced to a large courtyard with several huge trees and a small tropical garden. During World War II only members of the armed services were allowed to use the hotel as a place for rest and relaxation; the gardens remained but there were rolls of barbed wire embedded in the sand. The barbed wire is gone and the hotel is still a tranquil place. Interestingly the hotel buildings are associated with Sheraton Hotels, but the land it sits on belongs to Kamehameha Schools.


Perhaps one of the most recognized hotels on Waikiki Beach is The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa. Much newer than the Moana and the Royal Hawaiian, the resort
Top: Boy sculpture, Hula, Hotel
Bottom: Penguins, Hibiscus, Dancers
opened in 1957 and has become the largest in the Hilton chain. It was built on the former village of Kalia, the childhood home of Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary surfer and Olympic swimmer. The things I like best about this hotel are the gardens, the statues and the wildlife. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it is a branch of Bishop Museum. In the central part of the Village is an enclosure that is home to a group of penguins. These are fed each day and the keeper spends some time talking to visitors about ecology as well as the care a feeding of the birds. After we visited with these critters, we did take a look at the flamingos, koi (and the egrets that have discovered this food source), and the foliage. I could have spent hours looking for, finding and photographing the sculpture that is within this lovely place, but the other travelers were anxious to move on to other adventures.


Reviews of the hotel, restaurants, car rental and activities will be in the March 20th blog ~ be sure to take a look! 

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