Category Hawaii

This Didn’t Deserve Its Own Post: Oahu Edition

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Oahu.
leonards malasadas* I heard from a friend who used to live on Oahu that the place to get malasadas is Leonard’s bakery. Because I felt that it was foolish to buy only one malasada when there were three flavors I wanted to try, but also being completely unwilling to share, we bought six and were sadly only able to polish off the equivalent of two–no regrets about the number purchased, though. My brain was willing to eat three, it was my stomach that was weak. They were so damn good. Hot, crusted in sugar, and filled with flavored pastry cream. The mango one was my favorite. We put the leftovers in the trunk of the car and tried to eat them later that night and I wholeheartedly do not recommend that. Eat them when you buy them. Immediately, on the bench outside the store. Leftover malasadas are sad malasadas, a gross soggy shell of their former glory.

*While looking at bakeries, I found one much closer to where we were staying on the north shore, Paalaa Kai. They’re known for their snow puffies–puff pastry rectangles filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with chocolate and mounds of powdered sugar–and those are good (if super messy, you basically leave looking like this spider) but their pineapple turnovers are where it’s at. Flaky, buttery triangles of pastry are stuffed with dense, jammy pineapple. So good. We went back more than once.

il gelato

*We also visited this awesome gelateria in Hale’iwa more than once. (Why am I fat? It’s a mystery.) Creamy macadamia nut gelato in a warm waffle bowl is possibly one of the greatest food combinations since peanut butter met jelly.

shave ice sign

*Jason and I tried to eat a shave ice every single day we were on Oahu, but fell a little short of our goal. Despite all of the food talk, there were days that I actually didn’t eat much or feel like eating, because I was so miserably sick. Shave ice made me feel like a human for a few blessed minutes. Jason’s favorite place? Matsumotos in Haleiwa. Mine? Island Snow in Kailua.

haleiwa sunset

shark cove sunset

sharks cove sunset  ukulele music video

*I spent just about every night sunset-watching, and just about every night I was sunset-blocked by some bastard clouds right at the horizon. One night at Shark’s Cove, I did see a guy filming a music video at sunset, wailing on a ukelele the way Hendrix did on a guitar, the ocean crashing behind him. It was completely epic and automatically made it the best sunset of the trip.

botanical garden lake

mongoose

*We popped into the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden for a hot second since a hot second was about all they’d give us. They close super early, and are dead serious about locking your ass in if you aren’t out of the park promptly at 4pm. I did see two mongoose, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

lei day dog

queen kapiolani

whale tail tourist bus

*There were two festivals in Waikiki while I was visiting–Lei Day, and the Waikiki Spam Jam. I fully intended to go to both, but after dealing with traffic and trying to find a parking spot for Lei Day and all of the frustration that entailed, I didn’t much feel like doing it again the next day for the Spam Jam, which was supposed to be much more crowded. Hard pass. I’ll have to try spam some other time, and live with the regret that comes from missing an opportunity to wear a spam can hat.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to try spam ice cream to know it’s a vom, though. I’m sure it didn’t help that I discovered that I don’t much care for Waikiki after spending most of my time on the north shore–it’s too loud, too crowded, too expensive. I can see why the locals are fighting so hard to keep the country country. The best thing about Waikiki is the adorable Japanese tourist buses with the whale tails.

chicken and little peepers

*There were chickens and little peepers all over Oahu, free to roam and do their chicken business. I enjoyed watching these tiny dinosaurs do their airheaded chicken shenanigans–my favorite was one who was tenderly caring for a golf ball.kamehameha the great

*King Kamehameha the Great says “hello” “aloha”.

 

And now, this:

derp the sea turtle

beautiful mermaid

The Bishop Museum in Oahu

bishop museum

If you’re looking to learn about Hawaiian history and culture, the Bishop Museum may well be your jam. It absolutely was mine, and was in fact one of the most interesting and educational museums I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. The Bishop Museum contains the largest number of Polynesian artifacts in the world, from royal kahili (feather standards) and royal feather cloaks that are woven so tightly they appear to be made of cloth, to ceremonial artifacts and deity statues. Each section was beautifully displayed and evocatively described; you can appreciate the artifacts on their own, but the placards gave you the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more.

bishop museum hall

Look at all that luxe koa wood: those display cases are actually worth more than the original museum buildings! The Hawaiian hall covers everything from the gods of pre-contact Hawaii to Hawaiian daily life to Hawaiian history. There are a number of stations where you can learn Hawaiian storytelling, play with kala’au sticks, and more. Adjacent is the Pacific Hall, which teaches you about the distinct but connected cultures of Polynesia. They even had a small section on the aboriginal Taiwanese, which surprised me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t learn much about the aboriginal culture when I was actually in Taiwan.

drums

wooden sculpture

shark tooth weapon

The placard underneath this tiger shark tooth weapon said that it was used to kill tiger sharks, which is the most metal thing I’ve ever heard.

creepy statue

The placard with this statue of a shark deity said that its burial location was discovered in a dream where it had begged to be found, and they had to cement it into place in its current location, because despite their efforts to relocate it outside the Hawaiian Hall, it refused to be moved. Now look at its eyes again. Following you around? They haunted me that entire room.

hat display

There was an entire room dedicated to the craftsmanship of grass hats, and when you neared this camera, the monitor would plop a hat on your head. Fabulous, no?

protest signs    white people ruin everything

The Bishop Museum was very tasteful in their labeling of sheet music about America’s newfound interest in Hawaii, merely saying that the songwriters “created some absurd versions of the Hawaiian language.” My label would have been “Goddamn it, white people.”

bishop museum inside

bishop museum volcano

We moseyed over to the science hall to make sure we arrived in plenty of time for the lava pouring demonstration, the only place you can see melted lava in person on Oahu. Inside the science hall, they’ve got a wee volcano that wafts smoke from its top, and a sad slide that not even children can work up a good speed on, so it was extra sad when I tried it. I looked like a dog scooting his ass on the carpet, dragging myself down the slide with my feet. Echoes of the Kennedy Space Center and the ramp slide I made when they wouldn’t let me slide down their actual slide, except people were openly laughing at me this time.

To get to their hot shop under the volcano, you need to take a trip down the rainbow road, aka Stoner’s Paradise:

rainbow road

We were right on time, and the demonstrator taught us all about the different kinds of volcanic glass and passed around samples for us to touch and inspect. He also passed around a chunk of what will eventually be the new island in the Hawaiian chain, Lo’ihi, some 10,000-100,000 years from now, which means neither you nor I will vacation there in our lifetimes, barring vampiric immortality or robot bodies, neither of which would probably appreciate the salty sea air and blazing sun.

Then on to the good stuff: the lava pour. To get it into its liquid state, it has to be heated to over 1292°F, which is so hot that I’m assuming you can toast a marshmallow from 100 yards. No one has really invested in the marshmallow toasting sciences enough to tell me for certain. The lava solidified rapidly, and even though it was still incredibly hot, it could be picked up and manipulated.  At that level of heat, even in a protective suit the demonstrator couldn’t be near it for long, and he was out of the containment area before it cooled down enough to look like the rippled lava we more readily recognize.

lava flow demonstration

They also had dinosaurs. Poseable ones, rideable ones, and so many animatronic ones, and you know I’ll always take a hot second to gawk at some animatronic dinosaurs or maybe feed one an onion ring.

bishop t rex

trike rider

baby dinosaurs

The Bishop Museum was completely amazing, and even though every fiber of your body urges you to be outside every moment while you’re visiting Oahu, if you have any interest in Polynesian history or culture, I wholeheartedly recommend you carve out some time to visit.

Spotted on the Roadside: Duke Kahanamoku and the Shaman Stones

duke

shaman stones waikiki

Residing beside one another in Waikiki are two sites of note–the shaman stones (or “Stones of Life), and a statue of Duke Kahanamoku. As long as throngs of tourists aren’t blocking your view, you can literally turn from one and see the other!

The plaque on the Stones of Life reads “Legend says that these stones are the living legacy of four powerful Tahitian healers who once resided near this site at a place called Ulukou. From the court of the Tahitian chief, the names of the four were Kapaenahu, Kapuni, Kinohi and Kahaloa. They came from Moa’ulanuiakea on the island of Raiaiea long before the reign of Kakuhihewa, beloved O’ahu chief during the 1500’s. The fame of the healers spread as they traveled throughout the islands administering their miraculous cures. When it was time to return to Raiaiea, they asked that two stones be placed at their Ulukou residence and two at their favorite bathing place in the sea. Four huge stones were quarried from Kaimuki, and on the night of ‘Kane’ thousands transported the stones to Ulukou. Incantations, fasting and prayers lasted a full cycle of the moon. The healers then gave their names and mana (spiritual power) to the stones before departing to their homeland.”

In 1997, the stones were moved together in Waikiki, placed on an altar, and fenced in to protect them. The heaviest stone weighs almost 7.5 tons–no wonder it took thousands of people to transport them!

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku is by far the more popular tourist attraction–Duke was the father of international surfing, having introduced the sport to the eastern seaboard. He was also a multi-Olympic goldwinner, movie star, and even served as sheriff for a time, and was honored with this statue in 1990*.  Duke’s torches are lit with a special ceremony every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 6:30pm, followed by a hula performance. If you’re in need of a quick Hawaiian vacation, you can crank up the heat in your home, make a drink, and watch via webcam.

 

*Duke was also honored with a beachfront restaurant and bar that everyone says you should go to, but you really, really shouldn’t, unless super drunk cover bands singing “hotel california” are your thing.  Their lava flow drink is the bomb, though.

Spotted on Kalakaua Ave in Honolulu, HI

Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau Oahu

ancient hawaiian temple

hawaiian temple

puuo mahuka heiau

view of the ocean

wrapped rock

lava rock wrapped in leaf

pillbox

waimea bay

A surprisingly short distance from the tourist gear rental shops and the Pupukea grocery store is one of the most sacred sites on Oahu. If you drive up the twisting, one car-width road, you’ll find Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau (“Hill of Escape”)–what remains of a large temple. It’s remarkably well-preserved for a structure so old, and signs indicate the area that may have served as a central altar. It’s said that this place is one of two on Oahu where the wives of ancient chiefs gave birth, and the gods were also honored here with sacrifices and offerings for success in war.  What did not happen at this temple were burials: it was believed that bones contained great power which would be bestowed on the possessor. It’s for this reason that the ancient chiefs were buried in secret spots on the mountain.

Leading from the temple is a short, easy path that leads you to a beautiful view of Waimea Bay–so easy, it can be done in slippers. Along the path, you’ll see a number of lava rocks wrapped in ti leaves–resist the urge to do it yourself, and enjoy the scenery instead.

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The Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu

tiki

polynesian cultural center

statue

ice cream from a boat

tahitian dancers

polynesian cultural center phone

Man, I just don’t know about this place. I just don’t know. Every guidebook recommends visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, that their luau is the best and most traditional, that it’s the Disneyland of Hawaii, that it’s wholesome, educational, and delightful. And on some level, it is that place–you can buy ice cream from a boat, you can be quadruple lei’d and spend an afternoon in the sun sniffing the fragrant flowers festooned about your person, you can try poi and pork cooked in an imu, you can consume drinks out of both a pineapple and a coconut (and spend more than a few minutes playing Monty Python and annoying everyone around you), you can see traditional crafting techniques, there’s a pretty high-production value show, and everyone who works there is almost creepily nice and calls you “family”.

But on the other hand, the Polynesian Cultural Center is like a weird human zoo, where you just have to be sort of vaguely brown to play at being a villager showing off “your” traditions (I saw one guy play a member of at least three cultures). It gets even more squicky when you consider that this place is run by the mormons–not only do you get a “look how savage these people were before we civilized them” vibe, but also, it’s the fault of missionaries that hula dancing was driven underground and almost lost altogether, so it’s pretty damn ironic that now they have the “most authentic” dances. None of this is more clear than in the after-dinner show “Ha: Breath of Life” which tells the story of one man’s life, birth to death, but switches what Pacific island he’s from throughout the show: even if it wasn’t intentional, the message is clear that they believe all of these cultures and peoples are interchangeable.

Ultimately, I have been waffling back and forth about how I feel about this place for more than a month. I really enjoyed seeing all of the different dances and outfits and trying a bunch of different Hawaiian food (‘enjoy’ might be a bit of a stretch when it comes to poi) and clipclopping around with a coconut like an asshole in public was fun, but at the same time, giving money to this place is fostering the same community that’s been helping to erase these cultures from history, and I can’t help but think that in that sense, the price of my enjoyment here was too steep.

Spotted on the Roadside: Mmmm, macamadamias

“Free macadamias? I’m going to eat macadamia nuts until I barf!” I announced to my long-suffering husband. Or at least I was going to do my damndest to try. Look, they had an entire bin of free raw macadamias and the only rule was that you couldn’t fill a bag to take home. As it turns out, eating macadamia nuts until you hurl macadamia marzipan is a lot more difficult when you have to crack them open yourself, owing to each nut having not one, but two shells that have to be removed. My hands went numb from the impact of smashing them with the provided rock after only opening a few nuts.

The only other request was that guests not feed the chickens and other birds that were milling around the stumps, looking for macadamia scraps, which was almost impossible to avoid since occasionally we’d underestimate our own strength, Hulk out, and send bits of macadamia flying everywhere. And there was that one time that my rock failed to smash the nut, instead sending it flying off the stump to strike a nearby chicken in the neck. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you…nuts.

 

 

Spotted on Kamehameha Hwy in Kaneohe, HI

Waialua Sugar Mill Oahu

Before we arrived, our airbnb host thoughtfully provided us with a huge list of things to see, do, and eat in the area, right down to what we should order (his off-menu “Andy salad”, for example). One of the things he said we absolutely should not miss is the old Waialua sugar mill because their shave ice is made with natural fruit syrups instead of artificial flavorings, which he said makes it “the best on the island”. Having just delighted in the garlicky burn of Giovanni’s shrimp, we were in need of some cool refreshment, and so we set out on our shave ice journey. “Let’s get some deliciousness!” I announced as we neared the parking lot. “…From this dump!”

old sugar mill waialua

Because, let’s be real, this rusty warehouse doesn’t scream culinary delight. You’d not guess it to look at the building, but Island X/Waialua Coffee and Cacao Mill is actually owned by Dole, which I suppose makes sense–they get all of the people who are like “Fuck yeah, Dole!” with the Dole Plantation, and all of the people who are like “Fuck giant agribuisnesses!” with the more nondescript Island X. Their method of gift shop stuffing is the same, however, as you can buy nearly any tourist tchotchke you can dream of inside, with the possible exception of a tiny monkey in an aloha shirt. I say possible exception because it may well have been there, I just missed it.

As we walked in, the staff announced they’d be doing a coffee and chocolate tour momentarily out back, so I dutifully made my way outside. In this short tour, the staffer explained a bit how chocolate is grown (which is something you may remember from Chocolate Week last year). Hawaii is just barely inside the cacao belt which makes it a viable place to grow the crop commercially, unlike the sad indoor Charlie Brown Theo cacao tree. It was cool to see a mature tree in bloom, as well as growing pods, and before the tour was over, we had another opportunity to try a piece of horrible alien worm baby. Basically no one in the tour group was down with putting a piece of cacao fruit in their mouth until I cajoled them into it–it’s not that the fruit is delightful, but I do think tasting it gives you a better perspective on how much work it actually takes to turn this seed into chocolate, and there aren’t many places you can try the fruit otherwise.

cacao flowers small pods

cacao pods tree

discarded cacao pods

drying cacao beans

Afterward, we got to try as many coffee and chocolate samples as we wanted, though the chocolate was doled out by the molecule. The coffee was self-serve, and while it was too warm out for me to want much coffee, I did try a few and settled on the Waialua peaberry, as I promised my favorite baristas that I’d bring them back some coffee. Just a small bag each, as I was concerned things would get weird between us if I brought back something larger, like I was trying to buy their friendship or hoping for some kind of under the counter payback.

waialua coffee

waialua coffee bags

natural shave ice

After the coffee tasting, it was time for the hyped natural shave ice. I already knew the joy that came from eating brightly colored ice cold artificially flavored sugar water, so my body was ready for what was sure to be the transcendent natural shave ice experience. I got mango with coconut sauce, Jason got taro, and we were both equally disappointed. Each one took a damn year to make and between the length of time it took to make them and the year it took to pay for them (they have a sign saying that they accept cards but you have to go wait in a different line and then she only charged us for one so we had to wait more), they were like crusted-over shitty flavorless slushies. I’ll take a still-frozen artificially flavored and colored shave ice any day over this natural business.

  paint gum statue thing   But we did get to see this thing. Whatever it is.

The Dole Plantation: Home of the World’s Largest Permanent Hedge Maze

The Dole Plantation is one of those sorts of glorious tourist traps that can only exist when a ubiquitous brand decides to further trade on that brand recognition and help families make each other miserable on vacation. Located in Wahiawa, Oahu, The Dole Plantation has roots all the way back to the fruit stand James Dole opened in this location in 1950. A friend who had visited before described the experience as “worse than hell,” but I was not deterred, and was in fact so eager to begin my pineapple experience that I managed to arrive half an hour before they opened for business. A solitary employee eyeballed our group suspiciously, no doubt wondering how sheltered our lives had been that we were frothing at the mouth to learn about pineapples, and she was right to do so.

The Pineapple Express

pineapple express

Before you can board The Pineapple Express, a helpful employee photographs your group holding a pineapple (a rare opportunity, and something you certainly could not do for free at any grocery store in the nation).  With our group of three, it looked like nothing so much as a family outing with our au pair and our pineappley baby. While we were waiting to embark on our journey through time, space, and pineapples, I realized I had seen this train before, over 2500 miles away.  Finally, we were here, at an orchard owned by Dole.

standee horse dole plantation

plantation workers

tanada reservoir

The Pineapple Express takes you on a two mile loop through the property, and lasts just long enough to print off your pineapple photos in multiple sizes and formats–about twenty minutes. As it turns out, twenty minutes is a lot of time to fill talking abut pineapples alone, so they took frequent breaks to play music, some pineapple related, some not.

The Pineapple Express

The Pineapple Express

The ride so nice

You’ll ride it twice

The Pineapple Express

 I’ve fudged the lyrics somewhat because between the frankly godawful static-y speakers that buzzed in and out and the high pitched squeal of the train on the tracks, I can’t be certain of anything I heard on this journey to the center of pineapples. Here are some facts that I may have heard or may have thought I heard or may have made up:

*Pineapples do not grow on trees, but on bushes

*Pineapple plants are all planted and harvested by hand, and the plants are so covered with sharp spikes and a straight “I will fuck your shit up” attitude that harvesters need to wear special goggles and gloves to keep from also harvesting an eye and/or a lot of blood

*After a pineapple has tasted blood, it will never be satisfied with regular iron fertilizers. However, those who are routinely fertilized with blood are also the juiciest, so it’s a trade-off

*The soil in the area is so red because of volcanic ash, and not because of routine blood fertilizing…or so they want us to believe

*It is the pineapple’s urge to kill that leads many top scientists to believe that the pineapple originated in Australia

 

The Hedge Maze

pineapple hedge maze

The Dole Plantation is the current record holder for the world’s largest permanent hedge maze, which means that The Berry Barn‘s claim to the same title is straight full of crap. After we paid, we were given maps and admitted to the maze, passing by another rare opportunity to be photographed holding a pineapple. The maze is in the shape of an aloha shirt (again, much larger than the world’s largest), and as the intrepid leader,  I immediately set off for the armpit region.

map

After taking a few turns in the maze, I finally paused to wonder what exactly our purpose was considering the entrance and the exit were the same. Why wouldn’t we just turn around and walk out? What was there to solve? What are those red dots, anyway? Restrooms? Opportunities to be photographed with pineapples? Places they’ve found corpses? Jason proffered the tickets from his pocket, and all was made clear–it wasn’t about finding your way out, but finding your way to specific points in the maze. Whoops.

timestamp

abandoned card

secret path

Sheer force of will got us through that maze. All around us was evidence that others had just given up, thrown down their tickets and left, but not us. It was hot. So hot. So much hotter than it was outside of the maze. We sweated, and swore, and took advantage of routes that may or may not have been official pathways, but damn it, we did it. Exactly one hour later, we emerged from the maze, triumphant and desperately thirsty. The fastest time on record for the maze is seven minutes, and I can only assume that not only did that person take advantage of a shortcut or two, but also went at a time where they’d have to dodge fewer double-wide strollers and basic bitches splashing around their starbucks drinks.

The Gift Shop That May Be Larger Than All Of The Other Activities Combined

Holy hell. It’s hard to describe this vast sea of pineapple products, from pineapple coffee to pineapple chocolate macadamia nuts to pineapple shirts and lip balms and cookies and dog treats and stuffed animals and everything else you never realized existed and still don’t want. There were approximately twelve different pressed penny machines inside the building; I kept turning around and finding new ones. There were like four “pick an oyster” stands on the grounds which is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was that I somehow got sucked in to one, and let me tell you, if I thought the vendor at the one in Las Vegas was giving me the stink eye for choosing a cheap pearl setting, that was nothing compared to how much they straight to-your-face hate you for buying the pearl and no setting. I’m thinking that the “cheapass crumbum death glare” must be part of their training. All I’m saying is, when you chum the water with coupons, you shouldn’t be surprised when you attract cheapasses.

I expected that this would be the one place in Hawaii where I was practically guaranteed to be able to eat or drink something out of a pineapple. I’d mandated before I left for Hawaii that I would eat or drink nothing that didn’t come served in a pineapple or a coconut, but recanted early in the trip when I realized that meant I’d probably die of thirst on day three. The restaurant did offer one option served in a pineapple–a thirty dollar ice cream split. For thirty dollars for one dessert, I’d better get enough ice cream to fill a kiddy pool and/or it ought to be covered in gold flakes and come with a pony ride.

And Now, This

dole whip stand

dole whip  There’s always money in the pineapple stand, Mellzah.painted barkRainbow eucalyptus      sorbet ombre flowers   water in a plant

dole plantation The pineapple garden pineapple centipedeThe pineapple centipede red pineappleA pineapple that’s been enriched with blood baby pineappleBaby pineapple! fat little pineappleFat baby pineapple! one big fat pineappleOne big fat pineapple! hula monoboob

jason hula

jason pineapple

jason plumeria

plumeria face

 Hotter than hell? Yes. Overpriced as hell? Certainly. Worse than hell? Hell no.

 

Up and Atom! Flying with Paradise Air

paradise air hanger

early morning kitty

powered hang gliders

powered hang glider sunrise

sunrise north shore

all suited up

good morning over oahu with paradise air

sunrise paradise air

backlit over oahu

fountain birds

over the water powered hanglider

shoreline north shore oahu

I have always wanted to fly. Whenever someone asks that “what superpower would you choose if you could have any superpower” question, my answer is always flight. Hands down. Immediately. No question. Keep your invisibility, keep your laser eyes, keep your ability to spontaneously generate a puppy from thin air (but stay close, because sharing is caring, especially when it comes to puppies). I want to fly. I don’t care that I’d probably get sucked into a jet engine or shot down by the military, I want to fly. I don’t know if it’s a short person thing or a can’t-even-jump-that-high fat person thing, but breaking the bonds of the earth to go soaring in the sky is the dream. Sadly, due to the lack of wings and hollow bones and, you know, not being an actual freaking bird, my options are mostly limited to gimmicky rollercoasters and closing my eyes in front of a really large fan. So when I heard about Paradise Air‘s powered hanglider flight lessons, it was a foregone conclusion that I absolutely, positively must try it.

Just like going for a worm, you have to be an early bird to fly a powered hanglider. Tom and Denise, the owners and operators, like to get the first flight in the air just prior to sunrise. Not only is there less air traffic, but the skies are calmer as well, which makes for a better overall flight experience. After you arrive at the tiny airstrip on Oahu’s north shore in the black of night and sign a waiver  (all the best activities start with waivers), they outfit you with a flight suit, a helmet, and gloves, and it’s off to the races. When you’re comfortable in the air, you’re taught how to steer, as well as how the whole shebang works and the various safety features, including that it’s a hang glider and you could glide your ass to land if you really got into trouble. Having last flown a plane with a rocket parachute safety feature, I was not at all worried. I don’t think I would have been worried, regardless–I’m not afraid of flying, what with it being The Dream and all. Sure, it’s unnatural for humans to fly, and yes, gravity would probably like to rip us all from the clouds in an equal-but-opposite-reaction death hug, but for whatever reason, that knowledge doesn’t bug me. Put my face in the water and it’s heart pounding panic attack time, but strap me to whatever sky contraption you want and I’ll be fine. Unless you somehow manage to put my face in water while I’m in the air. You monster.

 I think flying in a powered hanglider is as close as I’ll ever come to achieving The Dream. Not only can you twist and turn in the air like a bird, but you can feel the wind whipping at your cheeks, the sun on your face, and you can see the wide sky all around you. We saw a geyser of water erupting from the ground with a cloud of birds wheeling around it and we did the same. The sun blazed forth over the horizon, illuminating the water and setting the clouds alight. The water was so clear, I could see the reefs snarling toward the shore. And we four occupants of the hang gliders were the only ones to see any of it from the skies. They belonged to us alone. The wind may not have been the only thing I felt on my cheek that morning.

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Iolani Palace: The Only Royal Palace in the United States

iolani palace

jason iolani palace

iolani palace seal

koa staircase

iolani palace the blue room

iolani dining room

silver from france

music room

iolani throne room

iolani ballroom

shaming the kingHow dare these people spelling-shame the king like that?

Iolani Palace is gorgeous, full of history, and its restoration is a testament to the dedication and artisanship of the people who devoted their time to the project.  Unfortunately, the tour experience is less well-designed.

When I arrived, I parked on the street outside; this turns out to be the wrong place as you’re supposed to park inside the gates. The parking lot signs inside the gates indicate that you need to have a government pass or pay or you’ll be towed–the woman working at the gift shop insisted that it was free to park for everyone. The hours for self-guided and docent-led tours vary wildly from day to day which means that if you specifically want to take one type of tour or the other, you need to plan your day around your visit. As it turned out, on the date and time of my visit, they were only having the more expensive docent-led tours. After I ponied up, I was directed to go watch a video about the history of the palace and its royalty, but the video was timed as such that I had to leave before it was over in order to make my tour time, which would be such an easy thing to fix considering they know exactly how long the film is and exactly when each tour group leaves. And then there was the docent.

The quality of every docent tour is dependent on the quality of the docent and in a deeply unfortunate turn of events, I hated mine almost immediately, which is rare for me. If someone wants to talk about something they know and are passionate about, I want to hear it. I always want to hear it. I’ll stand there and listen and suck it all in like a sponge. I loathed this woman. Deeply. And the feeling appeared to be mutual. She talked down to the people in the tour group. She yelled at Jason when the back of his shirt brushed against the wall for “leaning on the wall”. She yelled at me for walking out of a room in front of her when she’d just asked us to proceed back out into the hallway. Wildly inconsistent, sometimes she did have us leave the room before her, toying with us like the world’s pettiest tyrant.  She talked about the bus system on Oahu and how her job pays for her bus pass. She talked about current politics. She talked about personal interactions she’d had with other tour groups. When we chanced to happen by another tour group, I was incensed to discover that group was actually getting to learn something rather than being scolded like puppies who piddled on the rug.

So much happened here: It had electricity and telephones before the White House! The monarchy was crippled and later overthrown in a massive betrayal by the Queen’s foreign advisers! The Queen was imprisoned in one of its rooms! It was turned into a government building, all of its exquisite and rare koa wood was completely painted over, the place got riddled with termites, and it was almost razed! The furnishings were all sold and had to be reacquired piecemeal and restored to its original condition! So tell people about that, because if they’re visiting this site, they should know what’s been done to Iolani Palace, what’s been done to the monarchs who resided there, what’s been done to Hawaii. This is the site to impress upon people those weighty histories. As it stands, I learned more from five minutes of video than I did in the entirety of my tour, which is a sad shame. So maybe save the bus pass talk for bunko night.