Monday, November 17, 2014

The Aloha Spirit-Part 2

We returned last week from our most recent vacation in Hawaii. This time, we went back to Waikiki, a place I’ve always loved.
We flew Hawaiian Air Lines, and thoroughly enjoyed the flight. Just like in the old days, the upholstery reflects a Hawaiian aesthetic, as did the flight attendants’ uniforms. Hawaiian music filled the cabin while videos of the islands played on the personal TV screens.

On the trip over, we were served lunch. (Unfortunately, I was unable to enjoy any of it since everything contained either cabbage or nuts, neither of which I can eat. Fortunately, I took a protein bar with me, so I had something I could enjoy.) This is one of the few airlines which still serves a meal. On the trip home, I enjoyed the meal.

Once we arrived in Honolulu, we picked up our rental van and then drove into town where we checked into the timeshare our friends had arranged for.

This place had a very strange layout and seemed a bit cramped for four adults. They advertised the maximum capacity as six. We couldn’t begin to figure out how that many would fit!

We slept on the Murphy bed, which dropped down from the wall after much of the furniture was moved out of the way. It was actually quite comfortable—surely much more so than the sofa bed. We’ve slept on those many times and have never found any to accommodate the human body.

However, we never worry too much about space in our room as we spend little time there.

Waikiki itself was a surprise.

Since our last visit, the International Marketplace and all the funky little shops I used to love are gone. Instead, Kalakaua now resembles a Polynesian version of Rodeo Drive loaded chockablock with high-end stores only the Asian tourists seem to be able to afford.
Chanel, Gucci, Coach, Prada, Tiffany, Harry Winston, and virtually every other upscale retailer can be found here. But nearly all of the quirky and uniquely Hawaiian shops and stores are gone.

The large banyan tree, which formed the centerpiece of the International Marketplace, is all that remains. The architectural renderings of the new construction indicate more of the same style stores which already dominate the area.

Visitors to most of these establishments are met with sales people dressed formally in dark suits. They all but ignore American tourists in our shorts and t-shirts.

“Aloha” and “Mahalo” nearly disappeared from the local vocabulary as soon as we deplaned. The warm greetings we used to enjoy—as well as Hawaiian faces—are mostly memories.

Fortunately, the first floor of the building in which we stayed contained a Denny’s restaurant with a terrific local staff. Their selections also reflected the locality with fresh papaya and pineapple on the menu. Another of our favorite locales, the Shorebird Broiler in the Outrigger Hotel, continues to serve a great buffet accompanied by spectacular ocean views. And our favorite special occasion restaurant, Duke’s, still prepares terrific seafood accompanied by a great salad bar.

Each time we plan a trip, we select places we’ve never visited before. This time, we decided to finally visit the Honolulu Art Museum as well as the State of Hawaii Art Museum. Excellent choices.

The highlight of the trip was the special exhibit of Hawaiian Deco at the Honolulu Museum. The show included artwork created between the world wars, including the iconic menu covers from the Matson Line steamships. Several groups of large paintings by specific individual artists were united for the first time. One set had been commissioned for the ships, but when completed, were too large. They were sold to private collectors and corporations. All were loaned to the museum for this show.

We discovered a fabulous Armenian artist, born in Turkey, who studied art in New York and then moved to Hawaii—Arman Manookian.  His vivid images, reminiscent of Gaugin, are striking. He committed suicide at the age of twenty-seven. Only thirty-one of his paintings are known to exist, so being able to see a number of these in one show was a real treat.
We visited several familiar places, including the North Shore, and some continue to be a joy. But the overall feeling of Waikiki has changed drastically.

Would we return? Probably. We still love those few old landmarks which remain as well as the ocean. Are we likely to return to Honolulu soon? Probably not. Much of Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, and Molokai are more reminiscent of the Hawaii we first saw and remember so fondly.

Have you visited Hawaii? What did you like best? What least? How has it changed since your first memories?


  1. Lorna, I spent my first honeymoon in Waikiki, and it's the setting for the first chapter of my memoir Only You that OTP published in April. It was oh so different then, in January 1960. I haven't been back to visit and it makes me sad to learn of all the changes.

    1. It's still Hawaii and the beaches are still lovely. But it is very different. And sadly, the old Aloha Spirit is sadly lacking. So glad we have great memories.

  2. Thanks for taking us to Hawaii--now I won't have to suffer the jet lag myself. Love the art!

    1. No jet lag either coming or going to Hawaii. It's a short trip. Now commuting to Japan was another story!