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Where ALOHA sounds even more BEAUTIFUL
Hawaii is actually a group of islands collectively known as The Hawaiian Islands. Of the 6 main islands, Oahu is Hawaii’s biggest city and capital, Honolulu and home to the international airport. It is also the entry point to Hawaiian islands by air.
My destination, Honolulu, has long been on my travel bucket list for many years. Though I have visited Honolulu a few times over the years but only for an over-night stay on my way to mainland U.S.A. This time I wanted to experience and explore this island that I read so much about on magazines and seen on televisions. Hawaii is a great holiday destination. Millions of tourists flood the island each year because of its diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches, oceanic surroundings and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists and volcanologists. Hawaiian islands are renowned for their rugged landscapes of cliffs, waterfalls, tropical foliage and beaches with gold, red, black and even green sands. It is home to crescent Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbour’s WW11 memorials. Many tourists come here either for shopping or simply relaxing at the beaches. It is a very popular destination for honeymooners.
Like any other major capital cities in the world, Honolulu without a doubt has no shortages of high-rise buildings. The location of my accommodation at Waikiki Marriott hotel had it all. It was located on the south shore of Honolulu, on the island of O’ahu and was just a step away from World-famous Waikiki Beach. Luckily, it was located in the heart of Waikiki on premier Kalakaua Avenue which is well-known for its waterside bars, fine dining, shopping centres and the newly-revitalised International Market Place. Best of all, it was only half an hour away from O’ahu’s main attractions including Pearl Harbour, Lolani Palacem Nuuanu Pali Lookout and Hanauma Bay.
I was fortunate to be allocated to an ensuite on 70th floor with a walk-in wardrobe. What a treat it was. The room was very spacious for a single person. The most stunning appreciation took my attention was the 180 degrees view of the beach and the surrounding city area. Every-turn on that balcony were just jaw-dropping and breath-taking views. To me, it was more like a 360 degrees panoramic view that capture the best view of the city and beyond.
The following day, my day begun with a private limousine guided tour to Pearl Harbour and Missouri Memorial site. Whenever am visiting big cities with tourist populated areas, I tend to go on private limousine guided tours. I find it very convenient, personal and with less people on tours. There waiting at the hotel foyer for my guide to arrive, I noticed a mature man, well presented and groomed, dressed in conservative tropical aloha style outfit approached me and asked for my name, which I promptly replied “yes” with a assertive nod. As we headed outside to the waiting limousine, I made myself very comfortable on the front seat. Inside the back seat were a couple from Seattle, Washington State. Our tour guide a local Hawaiian, spent most of his entire life on the island. He was very well spoken, highly educated and came from a prominent family background within their own Hawaiian society. He was very knowledgeable about the area. Certainly, we were having an authentic Hawaiian experience from the past, present and future from their own cultural perspective.
About a 30-minute drive from the hotel was Pearl Harbour Historical Site. Visit to Pearl Harbour was one of the top of my Hawaii’s to-do lists. Pearl Harbour in brief is one of the defining moments in US and world history. The attack on Pearl Harbour came as a complete surprise to those in the water and on the ground. Japanese weapons were launched to wipe out American battleships and cause devastation to thousands of families. The aim of the attack was to stop the US Pacific Fleet from getting in the way of Japan’s plans in other areas of Southeast Asia. It came as a complete shock to everyone at Pearl Harbour and around the world. For me, this was the opportunity to pay respects to the fallen sailors and brave heroes of December 7, 1941. This historical site is strictly ‘no bag zone’ because it is still an active military base. Taking photographs in some sensitive areas are strictly prohibited. If your one of the unlucky ones, your camera can be confiscated if misused in the area.
As we continued along all of the Pearl Harbour tours, visitors watch a brief video chronicling the morning of December 7, 1941 attack before embarking on a US Navy shuttle boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. It truly brings you back in time of what happened years back and imagine the experience of that tragic day. One of the most poignant experiences of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument, is the wreckage of the Arizona which can be seen from the serene white structure from above. From the broken hull of the mighty vessel, drops of oil continue to trickle to the surface. Known as the “Black Tears of the Arizona” the oil symbolises the ship’s grief over the 1,177 sailors lost as she sank to the bottom of the harbour. Stepping onto that place, you could feel the shivers running down your spine, knowing that below is the graveyard for thousands of dead bodies which haven’t been touched since the day it sunk, until today and will never be recovered.
While feeling the first-hand, the emotions of the Pearl Harbour attacks is something that all visitors to Hawaii should experience. This tour truly gives visitors a clear look into the history of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour. This place certainly not only defines the dark history but it is very significant and sensitive to American people and probably the world. It is a very cruel reminder of what happened in the past but it can be felt in that moment as you step onto the site and learn about the history. This unique experience will stay with you after you’ve left.
About a 10-minute ride from Pearl Harbour was Missouri Battleship Memorial Site which was our second part of Pearl Harbour Tour experience. This part of the tour had more softer side of history. In brief history, Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States. It is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. After serving a total of 16 years of active service, it remained on the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in January 1995. In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbour.
As we headed to the base of the ship, we were greeted by our private tour guide at the entrance. She was a smart young looking girl, doing her internship as a volunteer. As we traverse the 5 decks, the young guide tells about the captivating stories of life aboard the last battle ship ever built by the United States. Over-looking the massive gun turrets, we had a spectacular view of the Arizona Memorial. While on the Surrender Deck, I could imagine the USS Missouri docked in Tokyo Bay as General Douglas MacArthur and the Japanese delegates signed the treaty that ended WWII. The guided tour lasted about an hour or so. After the tour, we were able to explore various part of the ship at our leisure.
Exploring this battleship, I began to imagine how it must been tough for many sailors battling it out. The cabin rooms are so tiny and everything was all in enclosed environment. It is a reminder how they have lived in this conditions.
As re-board our limousine after the battleship tour, we rehydrate with bottled water service, and relaxed in air conditioning before chauffeured to the military cemetery built in the crater of an extinct volcano, Hawaii State Capitol Building, Kawaiaha’o Church, Lolani Palace, King Kamehameha Statue. Taking advantage of the 360 panoramic viewing windows in the mini-coach, it gave me more chances to take photographs of many interesting buildings and sites.
After a long hectic day of touring, it was about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I was dropped back at the hotel. It took me a little time to relax before been picked up from my Waikiki Marriott hotel to experience the Hawaiian traditional performance show, known as Luau. We drove along this beautiful and breath-taking coastline to a secluded beachside located in Kapolei, to see The Chief’s Luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast. Upon arrival at Chief’s Luau, we were greeted by very friendly staff as we received a puka shell lei and a refreshing mai tai and any other drink using our drink ticket. The evening started off with authentic interactive cultural demonstrations of traditional headband weaving and other traditional craft activities before witnessing first part of the show. I purchased the royal seating which was directly in front of the stage, so I could see the performers up close. Straight after the first segment of the show, we indulge ourselves with Polynesian specialities buffet including poi and lomi-lomi salmon. For pig lovers – a barbecued pig is cooked to perfection in the traditional Hawaiian underground over. This was very similar style of cooking to where I come from where we called it mumu and Maori’s call it tangi.
The food was truly a traditional Hawaiian feast. While enjoying my meal as I experienced a tropical part like no other, including thrilling and vibrant Hawaiian and Polynesian dances from all over the Pacific and fire-knife dancing. As I brace myself for the spectacular as I partake in an experience that has touched my heart, spark romances and exceeded my expectations. My time at Chief’s Luau has been and will be one to remember long after I leave this beautiful island and with Hawaii’s stunning scenery provides the backdrop of my unforgettable experience.
At the conclusion of my 4.5-hour evening of traditional South Pacific food and entertainment, I was dropped-off back at your Waikiki hotel. It was time to unwind from the whole day experience.
Honolulu is a place that you have to adjust to the hive of activity. The energy is palpable and entertainment is aplenty. But for the shopping… shop your life away
The joy of travelling is to gain experience of other cultures, their way of life whether it is in modern form or tradition lifestyle, it is always a learning curve for me. Also, one of the key factor in my travels is learning about the history of what has happened in the past. Whether we take it in or not depends on our own instinct.