Scenes from Hawaii

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Just back from seven days R&R in Hawaii—my first visit. The shot above is the afternoon view from our room in the Hilton Rainbow Tower on Waikiki beach.

 Twilight on Waikiki Beach.

The somewhat amateurish papier-mache sperm whale at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu is one of the museum's first acquisitions, and covers half of a genuine skeleton. I quite liked this museum—elegant and dignified, in the old tradition, with lots of interesting information about the history of Hawaii and Polynesian migration (besides the other stuff that I didn't see).

I hadn't considered this before visiting Hawaii, but as best I can tell Hawaii and Texas are the two states that were formerly independent nations. In both cases this history seems to be manifested in a particular independent streak. One example in Hawaii is the ubiquitous use of the Hawaiian language, including in announcements on the airplane. I half hoped the plane would go down in the ocean just so I could see the passengers' reaction to the evacuation instructions in Hawaiian.

If you visit Hawaii and never leave Waikiki beach (which I suspect many tourists of doing), you might as well save yourself an extra five to seven hours' plane flight and go to Disney. This hamburger joint was on the less-traveled (but still quite popular) and somewhat funkier north side of the island.

The Polynesian Cultural Center on the northwest corner of Oahu is a Disneyfied presentation of Polynesian culture—not with roller coasters, but with small "villages" representing various islands with well-produced and interesting culture shows at each one. It's all fake—but it's also all real. Most of the performers are students from the islands they represent, working in order to finance their education at the local branch of Brigham Young University.

On Kauai, we visited Waiamea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Small compared to the Arizona version, but very impressive nonetheless.

This nice little boat took us upstream to visit the Fern Grotto on Kauai.

And here is the Fern Grotto. Lush and impressive, but I've seen a better spot in Oklahoma (no kidding). I tactfully did not inform the spectators of this.

The river boat had commentary on the upstream leg, and then music on the downstream leg. We were told that this venerable ukelele player had appeared in Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley (and I see no reason this should not be true). I managed to catch a shot of him here at his most mirthful.

Chickens everywhere on Kauai. I assume they thrive due to a combination of climate and an absence of predators. We were told also that flocks of escaped parakeets and such also thrive.

Rugged mountains appear to be the backdrop for everything that goes on in Hawaii.

At one time the Coco Palms Hotel was the spot to stay on Kauai. After a storm in 1992 (?) it shut down and has been gradually falling apart since.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach is the grand lady of tourist hotels. dating from the time when tourism to Hawaii was a radical new idea, but still going strong.

Many, many Japanese tourists visit Hawaii. Many signs are bilingual in English and Japanese, and many services are offered in Japanese. On this little boat on which we took a snorkeling trip, the English version of the safety lecture was given in the cabin while the Japanese version was given on deck. The English lecture was short and sweet: here's the life vest, here's where to buckle it, here's the arm sign for "OK", lasting under three minutes. Ten minutes later I glanced up on deck and saw the Japanese lecture still going on.

A minor adventure was eating breadfruit. Rather like a sweet potato, not as sweet, and with a doughier texture. I could see how one could eat a lot of it.

A nice surprise (starting at the airport terminal) was to find these elegant monkeypod trees, which look like something out of Dr. Seuss, all over the place.

On my first attempt at surfing, I totally dominated this six-inch wave.

And yet sometimes, the waves are just too slow. You feel the urge to leap forward.

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