My Airbnb hostess kindly picked up me up from Honolulu airport . It quickly became clear that she was unwell and had emotional and family problems. Over the weekend there were a few tears along with the chat. She was obviously going through a difficult time and I felt very sorry for her. Hopefully she can get the help she needs. I spent most of my time out and about.
The first afternoon I climbed to the top of Diamond Head where I enjoyed a 360o view over the crater, Waikiki, Downtown and the suburbs in the opposite direction. It was not an easy walk up on a very hot afternoon and there were many steps towards the top but it was worth it.
The following day began with a walking tour of Chinatown. This left from the Hawaii Heritage Centre. They run on Wednesdays and Fridays and, fortunately, for once, I had done my research the previous evening. There was only one couple on the tour apart from me so it was very exclusive. Julia led us and pointed out not only historic buildings but also popular restaurants. Along the way, she bought samples of delicacies for us to try. On the menu that morning was manapua, a Hawaiian Chinese pork bun which is steamed or fried, peanut and sesame cracker, fried banana, which was like a toffee apple except banana, and pork filled noodle from the noodle factory. I didn’t need lunch! We also visited a lei shop, which was doing a roaring trade because of Mother’s Day, a fascinating Chinese grocery store and a busy food hall. A peek into a Chinese herb shop and Shinto and Dao temples completed the morning.
Most of the buildings in Chinatown were constructed after 1900. In that year a big fire, which had been deliberately lit in an attempt to rid the area of bubonic plague, burned out of control and destroyed the district. Japanese and Chinese immigrants and, to my surprise, the Portuguese influenced architectural styles. Verandas and shop signs had to be wooden and many still are today.
Next on the agenda for that day was a visit to the Iolani Palace, home of the deposed Kings and Queen of Hawaii. Here, Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned following the overthrow of the monarchy. The number of visitors permitted entry at any one time are limited so I had to wait for the next available slot. I was then given slippers to cover my shoes and a headset and audio machine and allowed to wander at my leisure. It is a small palace that has been beautifully restored and is well worth visiting.
My last stop of the day was the Museum of Art where there was a triennial botanical competition in progress. The floral displays were magnificent and I wondered how anybody could create such arrangements. I read the judges’ comments and agreed with some of them (not knowing anything at all about flower arranging)! I also fitted in a limited viewing of the museum itself but by that time it was late in the afternoon and my feet were telling me it was time for a rest.
I had booked a tour online to Pearl Harbour for the following day as I could not go to Honolulu without visiting it. I didn’t enjoy it. The guide was excellent but the atmosphere made me uncomfortable. On the way, we drove through the Punchbowl Military Cemetery but didn’t stop. At Pearl Harbour Centre, we relinquished any bag big enough to conceal a weapon as Pearl Harbour is still an active military base. They charged us $5 for the privilege. We couldn’t leave anything on the bus as it was searched prior to going to Ford Island and the USS Missouri. Consequently, any food, snacks or drinks other than water had to be purchased from the on-site vendors.
On board the USS Missouri, a member of the Military gave an informative tour after which wandered on our own. This was the ship, now out of commission, on which the Japanese signed the Surrender document in September 1945 in Tokyo Bay. Following our visit, we returned by bus to the main centre and waited for our time allocation for the audio visual viewing. Next was a short boat trip to see the USS Arizona Memorial. Normally, visitors can disembark here but this had stopped the previous day as it required maintenance. The Arizona was one of the ships destroyed in the bombing with over 1,000 lives lost. It is still submerged at the bottom of the sea below the Memorial.
At the Pearl Harbour centre, it is possible to visit a submarine and two large rooms of historical displays. We had time for further exploring before re-boarding the bus for our trip back to town. I was glad to leave.
My next day was much more enjoyable. I headed out of the city and intended to spend the day on the beach at Lanakai. It was Mother’s Day so a bit of R & R was allowed! The trip required two buses if I went the long way round, which, of course, I did. The buses on Oahu are reasonable and I purchased a day pass for $5.50. We drove through the suburbs and along the coast, past Sea World, and I alighted near Kailua. The walk from there to Lanakai beach took half an hour. I stopped for coffee on the way and the cafe was so appealing I resolved to return for lunch. Alas, I left it too late. They had stopped serving. It was too full even to sit for a snack and a much-needed beer.
The beach was everything I expect from a tropical beach; blue, warm water and fine white sand. It was also full! It was, of course, Sunday, Mother’s Day and perfect beach weather. However, I espied a ridge upon which people were walking. I hadn’t planned a hike, but it tempted me. Should I? I hadn’t got my boots and wondered if my sandals could cope. They could. The trail was called Pill Box for obvious reasons and it wasn’t as difficult as it looked from below. The view from the top was magnificent. I was glad I had made the effort and the swim, when I descended once again to the beach, was extra rewarding.
After being thwarted by the cafe, I walked the mile into Kailua town where I found a restaurant that offered the requisite beer and was also prepared to serve me food at that odd hour of the day, which is neither lunch nor dinner time. I devoured a delicious warm beetroot, kale and blue cheese salad. It should also have contained walnuts, but they had run out and someone had gone to buy them. Maybe they went to Honolulu as they hadn’t returned by the time I had finished! I paid up and caught the bus with perfect timing just as it started to rain. The direct bus returned me to the city in half the time of the outward journey.
On my last day, I visited Waikiki, it being another ‘must do’ sight of Honolulu. I walked from my accommodation, past Diamond Head, missed the Zoo which should have been there according to my map, and then all the way along the waterfront as far as the Hilton’s swimming pool/lagoon. I stopped twice to read my book for a while and finished my walk in the Ala Moana food court. Here I had my last Ahi Poki for lunch. This is a Hawaiian specialty of raw fish prepared with a variety of other ingredients. My preference is with sesame.
Back at the house and ready to leave for the airport, my anticipated ride did not eventuate. My hostess frantically phoned round her friends for help. A taxi appeared and I almost had enough change to pay the fare. So ended my trip to Hawaii!