Hawaii Two-0

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January 4th 2019
Published: March 1st 2019
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We used the HOHO trolleys to get us out and about in Hawaii. So many Japanese visitors came to the island that they were provided with dedicated trolleys in their own language so we had to ensure we got the right one! The Japanese may not have won the island during the war but they seem to have occupied it by stealth now, as there were very many of them on the island. Again, our online voucher had to be exchanged for proper tickets but it was a very pleasant and relatively short walk to T-Galleria, an upmarket shopping mall, where we were able to do this. One counter assistant was trying very hard to help a gentleman with limited English and a rather loud Hawaiian shirt who was clearly entering into the holiday spirit.

Several different coloured HOHO lines were offered and we did just about all of them over our time there, though we decided to pass on the dedicated shopping experience! The Green Line (Scenic Diamond Head route) took us out to see the film studios where Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum are filmed, and we saw a lighthouse, a dog park (not a sight of the route but it was interesting for me!), Waikiki beach and BBQ area, and the Duke Kahanamoku statue (a famous surfer, so famous I’d never heard of him). We also saw the zoo and aquarium, the Diamond Head Surf Lookout and we went into the Diamond Head State Monument area (complete with dormant volcanic crater) where we almost left Steve behind (much to the amusement of the limited English/Hawaiian shirt man who had clearly succeeded in getting his ticket), the Kahala shopping mall, Monsarrat Avenue, the canal where many rowers raced in traditional boats and a cemetery(!), so this route tried to cover all tastes. We saw all the fantastic houses, costing millions of dollars, many of them owned by celebrities who bought them as investments.

We used the Purple Line to travel out to Pearl Harbour one day. We weren’t sure if this would be open, given the government shutdown, but it was and was very popular. Our bags had to be checked in to security but, other than that, it was a very relaxed visit. We saw a memorial for every ship and submarine lost during the war, complete with a list of its personnel. One was sunk just two days before the end of the war, which seemed especially poignant. We saw various rockets and torpedoes, the anchor from the USS Arizona and its memorial, the Tree of Life, the Remembrance Circle, the USS Bowfin Submarine, Ford Island and the Pacific Aviation Museum together with other sights of interest that I’ve forgotten. On this HOHO trolley we were once again joined by Chapwithlimitedenglishandhawaiianshirt. Turns out his English was much better than he let on as he asked us to take a photo of him and his wife. He was on holiday from Korea, was really, really chatty, still thought it inordinately funny that we had nearly left Steve behind on an earlier trip, was having a fabulous time and was the happiest, friendliest Korean I met on all our travels! On the return journey we saw the housing for the huge military presence on the island, including some very popular properties immediately adjacent to the pretty golf course. The waiting list was so long that many soldiers completed their posting to Hawaii without reaching the top of the list! We visited Pier 38 and stopped to feed turtles and all the wonderfully coloured fish swimming in the clear blue waters nearby.

The Red Line was the Cultural/Downtown Tour and was really interesting. We saw many, many churches, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Hawaii State Capitol/Iolani Palace, the Punchbowl Cemetery/National Memorial of the Pacific (which was really impressive), the Aloha Stadium, the Foster Botanical Gardens, Chinatown (which was disappointing) the Izuma Taishakyo Shrine and a film crew out on the streets for either Magnum or Hawaii 5-0 which I had last seen on telly in the 1980s but these are the resurrected versions, apparently.

We did our final HOHO trip on our last day, to fill the time between hotel check-out and our pick-up. This was the Blue Line and was the Coastal Scenic route which took us out into the lovely countryside and showed us a completely different aspect of Oahu. We saw all the stunning coastline we had flown over on arrival, with craggy cliff faces covered in tropical foliage and waterfalls. We saw the Hanauma Bay lookout, the Halona Cove and Blow Hole, the ‘From Here to Eternity’ lookout where the famous scene was filmed, Sandy Beach, the Koko Marina Centre and the Hawaii Kai lookout. The weather was wonderful, the seas were blue and the skies were so clear we could see across to another island over 20 miles away. I think I saw some mongoose-type creatures in the shrubbery. We saw lots of colourful cockerels and chickens which had been set free when there was a real crack-down on cock-fighting gambling, and they were thriving in many parts of the island. It was all really beautiful.

Elvis Presley had made a couple of films in Hawaii in the 1960s and this had greatly contributed to its popularity. The islands have produced notable people throughout the ages including Hiram Bingham, Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Bruno Mars, Nicole Scherzinger, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa and Barack Obama. We were shown where the ex-POTUS used to surf on the much bigger waves out of the built-up area.

In between our HOHO trips we had enough time to relax and do absolutely nothing and time to spend exploring a lot of our local area on foot. As well as being a popular tourist area, there was also a large surfer community and surf boards being taken through the streets to the beaches by people of all ages were a common sight. The marina was full of expensive-looking yachts. Streets were lined with restaurants, bars and designer shops side-by-side with souvenir and fast-food outlets. Amidst all the consumer excess there was also a significant homeless population who were reduced to sleeping on the pavement after being discouraged from loitering by signs prohibiting sitting on seats at bus-stops or on the grass in the parks, with penalties attached for doing so. All very sad.

We tried to walk along the beach if we were around that area at sunset. Waikiki beach is man-made (or at least enhanced by shipping in tons of sand) and is firm underfoot and not very deep. The sunsets were stunning and many people sat on the beach to enjoy them. We strolled through the Hilton one evening, just to have a look-see. I thought it a little under-whelming, though it did have many ponds filled with very colourful fish. We were accosted there by a group of American Coastguards after one of them heard our accents and declared that he was British too! Er – how can a Brit be working as an American Coastguard? Apparently he had come to America when his parents divorced and his mother married an American and relocated there. He had joined the Coastguards in his youth and had worked as such for several years before they realised that, as a foreign national, he wasn’t eligible to do so and he had to quickly apply for American citizenship in order to keep his job! He now had dual nationality, an American home, wife and family, and he and the rest of his crew were currently working for nothing due to the government shutdown. The group was really good fun, very entertaining and informative and tried extremely hard to persuade us to join them in a local bar. They were due to set sail in the morning, heading north, and were absolutely sure that a night on the town wouldn’t hamper them the next day – ‘Hey, we’re sailors, after all!’ Yeah, well, we’re not, so we politely left them to it but I think, with hindsight, we probably missed out on a really good night!

After repeatedly asking Steve where we were – ‘We’re in the USA, in the state of Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, in the county of Honolulu, in an area called Waikiki’ ... ‘OK, got it. No, just tell me again ...’ - I’d more or less got it down pat when it was time to leave. The New Zealand couple were back with us in the transport to the airport, and they seemed to have spent their time shopping! She told us that she had been so inspired by our travels she had persuaded her husband to dig out their backpacks when they got home to do more of it themselves. Thankfully, getting out of Hawaii was easier than getting in and at 11.30 pm on 9.1.19 we were waiting to board our American Airlines flight to the mainland. I was hoping that the experience wouldn’t be as bad as many of the cabin crews I had spoken with (who didn’t, and never would, work for American Airlines!) had warned me it would be!

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