Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Honolulu: Memories and Present-day Madness

Back – ahem – decades ago, Honolulu, Hawaii was our tropical dream destination.

DSCF3131Both young and single back then, (didn’t even know each other). . . carefree. . .and ready for Waikiki. 

Swaying palm trees. . .golden sand. . .picture-perfect blue skies and sea. . .

. . .yep, that’s the way it was back then.

And that is still the way it is now, sort of.





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Waikiki's legendary 'Pink Palace' ~ The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
So drawn were we to Waikiki that after we met and married, we made it a mandatory add-on to any trip to any island in Hawaii. In recent years the vog (big city smog mixed with blowing ash from the neighbor island volcano) and vagrancy (homeless camping in parks and on sidewalks) became more and more noticeable even during those brief stays.

One evening three years ago we happened upon a street fight between two homeless men not far from our hotel; a block later the sidewalk was blocked by a group of chanting, tambourine-thumping 1960’s hippie-type throwbacks who competed with the emergency vehicle sirens for noise-making.

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Royal Hawaiian pink umbrellas and striped beach towels frame Diamond Head
It was during that visit that we decided then that even the warmest memories can cool when confronted with present-day reality.

We skipped Honolulu and its tourist-magnet Waikiki last year even though our interval home at KoOlina is about 30 minutes (on a ‘good traffic’ day) away. This year, though, for old times sake we trekked into town for a Sunday afternoon visit.

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Royal Hawaiian beach Waikiki on the left, KoOlina on the right

We concluded that an afternoon was long enough in Waikiki these days, but still it was nice to visit some of our favorite spots, like. . .

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Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend
The statue erected in the heart of Waikiki to honor hometown boy, surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who was born here in the late 1800’s. This Olympic medalist is considered ‘the father of modern surfing’ and you’ll never see this tribute without his arms laden with flower leis that have been left in his honor.

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Window to Kalakaua Avenue's street 'show'
One of the best people-watching places in Waikiki is the Honolulu Coffee Company at the historic Moana Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. A constant parade of tour buses disgorge passengers while a steady stream of limousines pull under the Porte-cochere to drop off brides and grooms. For the price of a cup of coffee we can enjoy the ‘show’ through the shop’s large open windows.

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Moana Hotel's Banyon Tree Beach Bar
Then we must stroll through the lobby of this historic Moana hotel (with a quick trip up the wooden stairway to look at historic memorabilia displayed on its second floor) and then head to the Banyon Tree Beach bar; a beach-front gathering place since the 1950’s. (It’s another great people-watching spot, but difficult to find a seat come sunset time).

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Honolulu scenes from Nimitz Highway
We drove into Honolulu taking the older Nimitz Highway after leaving the H-1 freeway for reasons I will show you in the next mosaic.  But that loopy old route gave us a chance to admire some of the newest high rise buildings in town, to see the Holland American cruise ship that was in town and of course, take a photo of the iconic Aloha Clock Tower at the cruise terminal.

Part of Honolulu’s madness these days is its traffic. Like metropolitan areas everywhere with nearly a million people (Honolulu metro area is about 950,000 people)  the place is jammed with too many automobiles. The photos below were not taken during rush hour when the roads really come to a standstill, these were taken at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon and a Sunday morning on H-1, the main freeway on the island.
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Sunday morning on the left; Tuesday afternoon on the right
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Train track construction - Honolulu

The island’s governing bodies are trying to address the problem with an elevated link train – still billions of dollars underfunded and not yet constructed – but at least they have made a start at laying the foundation for the line that will run west to Kapolei, the island’s second largest city.






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Halewai on the island's North Shore is served by bus 52 from Honolulu

Traveler’s Tip: One way to get around in the traffic is to use the island’s incredible transit, The Bus.  Its user-friendly web site caters to tourists with a link “Visitors” that explains how to get to tourist destinations and how to buy passes. We parked at the city’s sprawling Ala Moana Shopping Center (with a visit there, of coure) then hopped the bus to and from Waikiki.

How about your travels? Ever found that you prefer the memories of past visits to a present-day ‘reality’ visit? Are you a country-person or prefer the more ‘happening’ city beat?

Thanks for joining us in Honolulu and for all the time you spend with us. Hope you’ll tell your friends to drop by and join in on the travel tales and tips!

This coming week, you’ll find us joining in the fun at:
 
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery

46 comments:

  1. oh....things just don't stay the same do they.... I guess this is the reason that one of our most favourite holiday destinations we have never gone back to. The first time we had no expectations and it was perfect in every way. We don't want to spoil the memory. Happy travels and thanks for stopping by my blog.

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    1. Hi Jill, You are correct, time changes all things - including us and our perspectives. But the magic of those memories. . .that's what really makes travel special.

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  2. Unfortunately, those who travel and have the opportunity to return in some places are faced with changes and alterations often unpleasant. I noticed exactly the same situation in Paris this year. It's a pity...Anyway, in my eyes, Hawai remains an exotic destination, elusive for ever!
    Have fun Jackie and Joel!
    Olympia

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    1. It is interesting to return to a place with a different perspective that comes with the passing of time and to really take a look at it, seeing changes both good and bad. Hawaii is still enchanting even with all of Honolulu's big city issues. Kind of like Athens, right? :-) Thanks for visiting Olympia. Hugs, Jackie

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  3. We fell in love with the Caribbean island of Nevis in the late 1980s and visited 3 times before family and work responsibilities took priority. The island was small, rural, quiet and felt eons away from the rest of the world. Three years ago we returned after a 25 year absence. We noticed a lot of changes. With cell phones, technology, more tourism (mostly upscale), the place no longer seemed disconnected from the rest of the world. Yet a lot of the charm remained - the natural beauty, the pace of life, and especially the people. It did not mar the memories of the past.

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    1. Oh Donna it is so nice to read of a place that retained its charm in spite of its changes. Thanks for visiting today. Always like to see you here. Jackie

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  4. I am always amazed to think that people judge Hawaii on the basis of a visit to Honolulu and Waikiki. You just can't help but be disappointed because of the circumstances (progress? not all positive!) you mention. But, our memories of wherever we've been are always clouded in nostalgia, too. It's difficult, if not impossible, to replicate the romance of an initial visit, fresh and exciting in its newness. We move on to other experiences and expect things to be frozen in the magic moment we had. Most recently, the iconic International Marketplace in Waikiki was demolished. A very sad day.

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    1. Betsy, I guess going to Honolulu was like our trip on Kaua'i to the Tahiti Nui last fall. The memories remain warm but the present-day doesn't call out as the locale once did. Thanks for mentioning the International Marketplace as I had planned to do that and forgot! I just got an email from another reader who asked if it was still there. Glad I saw only the leveled site and didn't watch the wrecking crew at work.

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  5. I remember reading years ago a John Irving novel where he wrote words to the effect -- It's not the place, it's the time. That can be so true about many experiences. I guess we just have to have expectations set and try to find some of the original spark or create new memories. I spent three days in Honolulu last year and really saw the best of it --- staying at the Hilton, walking tours of downtown with locals, great restaurants. Interesting to get your perspective of the bigger picture.

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    1. A perfect quote, Cathy. I love that and think it is so correct. I remember reading your snapshots from Honolulu last year and it did sound like you were shown the best of the place. Another blogger was in Honolulu this year and was posting similar updates to yours -- turned out we were at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the same day. Goes to show how subjective travel experiences - and travel blogging -- can be. Thanks for the visit. Loved your post on Aix!

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  6. Guess the only thing we can count on is that things will change. Still it's sad when a favorite place like Waikiki that holds so many good memories has grown so much and become a victim of "progress."

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    1. Waikiki has lost some of its charm but still manages to draw and enchant thousands of visitors each year, so its developers are doing something right. I do think our perspectives change the more we travel. A long-time traveler once told me that 'the more you travel, the more it takes to impress you' and I do believe she was right! Thanks for the visit, Anita.

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  7. Loved this post, having just been in Waikiki for the first time in December (you got a much better picture of "Duke" than I did! We stayed at the Moana Surfrider -it was amazing! After leaving Waikiki, we went to Maui, after not having been there for almost 20 years. It didn't live up to the memory, and I'm still trying to figure out why. A little more built up, yet still the same...sometimes memories take on a life of their own, and going back just can't compare.

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    1. Amy, thanks for the observations. We visited Maui last year and were blown away by the traffic that jams its little two-lane roads and the hordes of people on Kaanapali Beach. But having not been there in a couple of decades, we'd forgotten how close we could be to the whales and listening to the whale songs at sunset was amazing. I like your comment, 'sometimes memories take on a life of their own"

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  8. We would love to visit Hawaii but am thinking we will stay well away from Honolulu! This doesn't really seem like our kind of place. I am sure there are lots of places outside of the city and on the other islands that will interest us more.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. There are still great 'get-away-from-the-crowds places' on all the islands, Ruth. So hope you get to find them one day. I'll be looking forward to your reports on them~ Thanks for the visit!

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  9. at least you have beautiful and romantic memories and actually because I don't know it, it may be kind of fun to visit and to walk around some of the places that we have heard so much of.

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    1. Oh Paula, you should definitely visit Waikiki - it is one of those places that every traveler should experience before they die - just don't expect it to be a quiet tropical beach. . .it is one 'happening' place!! Thanks for your visit here today - come back soon!

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  10. I loved visiting Oahu but haven't been back for ten years, so I'm not sure today if I would feel the same. Back then we did enjoy venturing out to the north part of the island and other areas beyond Waikiki. But your post still brought back memories.

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    1. Glad it brought back memories - sometimes that is the best part of travel! Thanks for visiting and commenting, Shelley!

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  11. My parents stopped over in Waikiki on their way from the Philippines to LA when they permanently immigrated to the USA. It was the first time my mom had ever been on American soil, and she practically wanted to kiss the ground. Their first meal was at a drugstore. When we visited Waikiki when I was a teen, my mom told me this story, and it was almost as if images from the past were overlaid on top of what she was seeing in the present day -- as if the past and the present were all running together.

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    1. Oh Michele - this would make for a great blog post. . .do you still have photos of that trip? I would love to read more about your parents' first trip and then overlay it with your trip as a teen. Wow! Simply wow!

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  12. I've been to Honolulu many times and love my memories. In fact, I am a big fan of Hawaii Five-O on TV because of the island scenery. I even enjoyed this dose of reality and do look forward to returning again. :)

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    1. Carole, funny you should mention Hawaii 5-0 as I am also a big fan and was so happy when the production crew headed to KoOlina and set up camp (think Barnum and Bailey's circus coming to town) to film out at this development while we were there. Honolulu will always have a spark of magic to it - no matter how much madness surrounds it. Thanks for the visit.

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  13. Jackie, I love Hawaii, although not Honolulu as much as the North Shore or other islands, but maybe it's time to go back!

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    1. We did prefer our trip to the Northshore Corinne, although Haleiwa is beginning to show signs of 'tourism bulge' far too many people to be supported by the tiny town's infrastructure. Maui's traffic last year on its two-lane roads made the traffic in Honolulu look like child's play. . .perhaps the tourism folks may need to ponder the 'too much of a good thing' concept. Thanks for the visit - 'see you' Sunday!

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  14. We went to Oahu 30 years for an anniversary and we put 1000 miles on our rental car. We stayed at a hotel on the end of the strip, right across from the park where we could hear the lions in the zoo each morning. Every day we headed to Makaha or the North Shore for Steve to surf. He took his board with him and the only car we could afford was a compact so the board sat in the front seat with him and I rode behind him for all of those 1000 miles. We haven't been back to Oahu, but have visited Kauai 3 times. Last July the kids came with us and brought their boyfriend/girlfriend and we had a great time.

    I had to laugh when you mentioned the Moana. Not too long ago my daughter and I laughed our way through Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Michael Callan's character was dancing at the Moana.

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    1. We all seem to have those special warm memories of Honolulu, don't we? And no amount of modernizing and madness can dim them! Loved your memory and may just have to watch that Gidget movie myself! Thanks for visiting -

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  15. I'm always a little afraid of going back somewhere incase it doesn't live up to the memories. You're lucky to have memories from a quieter time in Waikiki and know where to go to avoid the crowds. I've never been to Hawai so was interested to read this. I didn't realise there was so much traffic - it's certainly not the image the tourist board likes to portray! That's for commenting on my blog and telling me about Mosaic Mondays, I didn't know about it but will happily be linking up today.

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    1. Oh Phoebe, glad to get you acquainted with Judith and the beautiful blogs she features on Mosaic Monday linkups! Yes, I doubt I'll be getting those invites from the tourism association that some of my fellow bloggers do after posting this one. (Traffic is a very real problem they are addressing!)

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  16. I think it's interesting to look at one place so often that you can see all the changes that have taken place over the years, some good some bad. I don't often have that type of relationship with a place!

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    1. Hawaii, specifically Honolulu, is among a half dozen places that we have visited somewhat 'regularly' in the last 34 years. . .it has given us a chance to monitor 'decades of change' and how old does THAT make us feel???

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  17. Hi Jackie,

    Well, if anyone's an expert on travel tips, it's you and the Skipper! Your detailed account of the traffic situation in Hawaii was surprising; never imagined it to be so congested! But, at least there are beautiful beaches everywhere, where one can escape these bumper to bumper bothers!

    Hugs,
    Poppy

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    1. Yes, Poppy, you are so right. There are beautiful beaches and if you start getting frustrated in traffic all you have to do is think about the beach you are heading to and somehow it makes it all worthwhile! hugs to you!! Jackie

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  18. Your post brings back many memories of my trips to Hawaii. The Pink Palace is a gorgeous hotel, we stayed in the Hilton Hawaiian Village the first time I went.. I think the traffic was bad when I went maybe not as bad as now.. Wonderful photos and post.

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    1. Thanks so much Eileen! Glad the post brought back memories of your travels. That Pink Palace is surrounded by giant hotels these days but still is the Grand Dame of Waikiki and no trip there is complete without a stroll through that historic lobby and hallway.

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  19. It always makes one sad when places or things they enjoyed so much at one time now are totally different. Still beautiful, tho. :)
    Here from Lavender Cottage

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    1. I suppose there are those who would argue that it is better - not just different but the hordes of tourists, coupled with the increased population has filled this city and its surrounding areas to the brim in a manner of speaking - that is for sure. Thanks much, BJ, for stopping by - hope you'll be back again.

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  20. My hubby and I wanted to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon back in 1972 but our finances didn't allow for it. I think then it would have been nicer to see for according to friends it has become so commercialized over the years. Sad how progress is not always enticing.
    Thank you for linking to Mosaic Monday.

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    1. There are still places that have the old Hawaii feel and charm to them Judith - they are just getting fewer and further between. O'ahu's North end is completely different from the Honolulu/Waikiki area. You should try it if you get a chance!

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  21. I'm really sorry to heat Waikiki isn't as much fun nor as peaceful anymore.Traffic has a way of ruining a lot of cities. I haven't been there in ..ahem...over three decades so I imagine I'd be shocked at the changes.

    How many months do you now live in Washington??

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    1. Sounds like you were going to Waikiki about the same time we were - ahem - some time ago. Isn't it crazy how fast those decades have gone by? As for Washington - we still are here a greater part of the year than we are gone. . .but we are working on shifting that into a bit more balanced position. Hope you are considering some hiking in the Peloponnese and coming for a visit there sometime!

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  22. Hi Jackie. I was in Honolulu in 1980, and have always wanted to go back. Since my visit was only a few short days, I doubt I would remember how it used to be...haha. But things do change, don't they. I've been spending time in Chiang Mai for a long time now, and the changes there are incredible. Three huge malls (thankfully on the out skirts) in three years. Traffic seems to be a big problem everywhere!

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  23. I love the beach behind the "Duke" statue and the statue itself. I find it very beautiful and touching to see the flower leis honouring him.

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