Notes from a traveller: part nine

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Kaye’s itchy feet have taken her to Hawaii. Read the latest instalment of her ‘Notes from a traveller series’, only on Just About Travel

Continued from last time

LA was fun but after a fortnight of star spotting in the City of Angels, I decided to quit Hollywood for Hawaii in search of a hot summer (May and June are not, it transpires, the optimum months to embrace my inner ‘Californian girl’) and a more laid back lifestyle.

I’d waited years to visit the Aloha state and it didn’t disappoint. Reader: it’s taken me 34 years but I have found my happy place. I got, upon landing at Honolulu airport where I was adorned with purple leis (popular garlands of plumeria flowers), a warm and happy feeling, in a troubled world. Make no mistake: this unfiltered paradise is a magical place.

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Hawaii was declared the 50th US state back in 1959  but, compared to the mainland, it may as well be another country (and indeed some natives are seeking sovereignty). The difference is largely down to the tropical shirt and rubber flip flop clad Hawaiians themselves  – and their love of the three Fs: food, family and fun. Unlike UK or US citizens, Hawaiians don’t ask for more from life than it can give and, as such, smiling faces are evident everywhere from the taxi driver who starts crooning his favourite Bruno Mars track (the music maestro was born in Hawaii) to the supermarket assistant who greets each and every customer with a heart felt “alo-ha!”

Speaking of which most tourists tend to think that aloha means hello or goodbye and  to a degree it does, but the most important word in the Hawaiian dictionary also refers to a state of mind. The A in aloha stands for aquaria (kindness), L is for Lokahi (unity), O is for Olu’olu (agreeable), H is for Ha’aha’a (humility) and the final A stands for Ahonui (patience). Put together, aloha forms the guidelines of how to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

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The state of Hawaii compromises 136 islands but visitors largely look to Lania (the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands)  Maui (aka the valley island), Molokai (the most tourist shy), Kauai (known as the Garden island), Hawaii (the biggest island that attracts adventure seekers owing to the annual Ironman World Championships) and O’ahu. The latter is the ali – chief – of the islands (the others are referred to as mere  ‘neighbours’) and the island I opted to base myself on. I decided to do so partly because O’ahu is easy and affordable to get around by bus compared to its cousins.  And partly because Maui et al are said to be  ideal if you’re travelling to lose yourself. Me? I’m travelling to find myself.

Narrow minded people say that O’ahu is all about leis and luaus (a big feast with singing, dancing and other festivities) and that it’s the least exotic of the Hawaiian islands. It’s true that it is the most populated island but after 10 days on the third largest of Hawaii’s islands,whose name means gathering place,  I hold a different image of Oahu and it’s one that I would like to share with you.

For while the white sands of Waikiki – aka Hawaii’s most famous beach – are packed with sun burned tourists in flowered shirts sipping Mai Tais (Hawaii’s favourite drink),  locals are keen to make sure that cultural traditions aren’t forgotten either. Subsequently Waikiki is the site of complimentary arts and craft, hula, ukulele and lomi lomi (indigenous Hawaiian healing massage) classes plus a stage for performances by O’ahu storytellers and musicians who are keen to share with visitors, the history and heritage of their homeland.

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For further Hawaiian historical insights, head into the heart of Honolulu where you’ll find Iolani Palace – the only official state residence of royalty in the whole of the United States. Close by lies the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, so called in honour of the great granddaughter and last descendant of King Kamehameha unifier of the Hawaiian islands. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artefacts but it was Pacific Hall that appealed the most to me. This newly renovated two story gallery celebrates the cultures and people of the Pacific and explores the early settlement of Hawaii.

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And a trip to Pearl Harbour  – the target of a Japanese attack  that thrust Hawaii into America’s history –  is a rite of passage for any visitor to O’ahu. After sailing undetected for 4,000 miles, including difficult at sea refuelling, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941 pushing America into WW11. Destruction was massive – five battleships were sunk and 2,500 American lives were lost but could have been worse. The Japanese failed to damage the harbour’s submarine base, huge stocks of oil, naval piers and dry docks. More importantly none of the Pacific fleets and three aircraft carriers were in port on that fateful day, leaving the US with its most potent weapon in the Pacific.

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To be continued tomorrow

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To read part two click here and here

To read part three, click here

To read part four, click here

To read part five, click here and here

To read part six, click here and here

To read part seven, click here and here

To read part eight, click here and here

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