Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Birthday Bangle: Weaving Heritage and History

The tale of this birthday bangle begins more than a century ago in the time when Kings and Queens ruled this tropical  Kingdom. . .


It was in 1887 during a visit to London by Hawaii’s Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani to help celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, that they were given gold bracelets on which their names were engraved in Old English lettering and filled with black enamel.

KoOlina2013 003(Another version of the story says King Kalakaua was the guest of Queen Victoria in 1883 and she sent the  bracelet with him for Princess Liliuokalani.) 

Whoever had the bracelet liked it so much that once they got back to the Hawaiian Palace they had other jewelry made in a similar style to give as gifts. Thus began the tradition of Hawaii Heritage Jewelry.

Just last year during our visit here I complimented a store clerk on the several Heritage bracelets she wore, saying I’d considered buying one at Costco but that it was stamped, “Kuuipo” (Sweetheart) - and I hadn't liked it.

She quickly cautioned, “Don’t buy one of those! You must put a name on it yourself.” Which made no sense to me at the time.

VegasHawaii2012 119In the year that passed since that conversation I’ve learned that Heritage jewelry has been given over the decades by many Hawaiians to commemorate a life milestone: births, deaths, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, birthdays. 

A name is imprinted on the jewelry which is believed to carry the ‘mana’, the supernatural power that resides in a person, animal or object.

Basically Heritage jewelry becomes more than just a piece of silver or gold because it carries the spirit of the name imprinted on it and the wearer keeps that spirit close to them by wearing the piece of jewelry.

The Birthday Bangle

KoOlina2013 036Readers of Travelnwrite know that this is one of those birthday milestone years for me.   It’s one significant enough to warrant a Heritage bangle. . .

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In Hawaii, it is believed that the spirit of a place
is carried in the spirit of its name.

The place we call our second ‘home’ is on the island of O’ahu and was once a fishing camp of Hawaiian aristocracy. It is said to have been a retreat for King Kamehameha. The area’s present day name was given it by a well-known religious leader, Rev. Abraham Akeka,of Honolulu’s Kawaiahoo Church, who called it:

Ko’olina ~ ‘fulfillment of joy’

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It seemed a two-fold appropriate name –or  mana - for my birthday bangle. After all, fulfillment of joy seems to sum up our travel lifestyle and I like the idea of  keeping the spirit of this special place with me all the time.

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KoOlina2013 035The bracelet’s Monarch pattern is a reminder of those Hawaiian ali’i who so long ago enjoyed these same lagoons along the island’s western coast as we do now (during at least a small portion of each year). 

The design I selected incorporates the ocean’s waves and our old friend “Honu” the sea turtle. 

As for its mana?  It’s there, that’s for sure. . . because when I look at the bracelet, this is what I see. . .


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If you were designing a bracelet to carry a special 'mana' what would it have on it?

Aloha from Hawaii. . .

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. For more armchair traveling check out Nancie’s Budget Travelers Sandbox!

About  Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry:  My bracelet was made by the Honolulu Jewelry Company. They have no retail outlets, their office/factory is in a light industrial area near the Honolulu Airport. Their website:, 888-889-6986, Twitter or Facebook/honolulujewelry.  (With this company, not only could I customize the bracelet, but I met the four artisans who actually created it. . . and that makes it even more special!)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

When the Diamonds and Daydreams Dance

Tropical daydreams were waltzing around my head the other day - gliding as smoothly as the clouds between the swaying palms -- and so caught up was I in their slow-step rhythm that I almost missed those enchanting dancing diamonds right in front of me . . .

. . . twirling and spinning; tossing and swooshing. . .

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As if on tiptoes they twinkled across the lagoon . . .

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Then teasing and tempting they raced up the sand. . .

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. . . and then those diamonds, mixed with daydreams, continued to dance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beyond Waikiki

Waikiki is that touristy hip, happening place on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii, where tourist buses parade through its streets, camera-toting tourists jam the sidewalks and sun-seekers fill the beaches.

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Think Waikiki, think Diamond Head. Think Waikiki and think Honolulu. . . 

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Honolulu, the skyscraper filled big city of some 374,600 people; the capital of the state of Hawaii. It's that big city image people often think of when we say we are heading to O’ahu.

We do enjoy the 'big city' for a few days and then we follow the advice of one of our favorite Hawaiian songs: we head out to O’ahu’s country:

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We drive along the Leeward Coast, the drier west side of the O’ahu where sweeping vistas up the Wai’anae Mountain range in the early morning sun can nearly take your breath away.

We follow the two-lane highway through the Wai’anae Valley Makua Valley and its Kai’ena Point, the furthest most point on the western tip of the island.

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It is literally the end of the road. . .the pavement ends and the hiking begins.  There is no way around this point other than on your own two feet.  Last year we’d thought about hiking but spent the morning instead  watching the waves at the nearly empty nearby Yokohama Beach, a place popular with the locals.

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On another day we found ourselves heading out through the central valley of  this 597-square-mile island toward its North Shore.  With the Wai’anae Mountains to the west and the Koolau Mountains on the east, we traveed through miles of sugar cane and pineapple fields.

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We must stop in Hale’wa, (Ha-lay-E-va) the laid-back historic surfing town filled with eateries and artsy-craftsy stores (we’d be  remiss to miss a rainbow colored shave ice cone from Matsumoto’s Store here – even though the lines are sometimes long).
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There are any number of places along the North Shore to watch enormous waves. . .again a popular place for the locals and experienced surfers. Waves of 30-feet are not unusual here in winter months.

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And no trip to the North Shore is complete without a stop at one of the many shrimp trucks that line the highway. (Take plenty of paper towels with you – you’ll need them for the delightfully messy meal)– sit at one of the roadside tables and dig into a pile of shrimp – cooked to the spicy heat level you’ve requested.  Prepare to wear some of the sauce home on your tee-shirt .

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Continuing along the two-lane highway we travel through the  Windward side of the island  -- the wetter, greener side – where the ocean nearly brushes the roadway to one side while meadows and pasture land stretch to the Koolau Mountains on the other side of the road.

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This is the O'ahu that keeps bringing us back each year. As the song says, “Take a walk in the country, there’s a place for you there…”

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That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos. And if these photos got your travel juices flowing, then  click this link  for a bit more Hawaiian country thanks to a You Tube version of the Makaha Sons song.

Map picture

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

E Komo Mai to Our Hale Moana Home

E Komo Mai, (Welcome), to Hale Moana, our home on O’ahu, Hawaii.

It’s not a permanent home, it’s temporary, just a month, 1/12th of a year . . . but far longer than either of us once ever anticipated ‘living’ in this tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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Over the decades we’ve gone to realtor open houses during visits to Hawaii and for decades have declared ownership of what we deemed ‘our kind of places’ to be beyond our budget. 

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That was, until we discovered the world of timeshare ownership.  That was five years ago and life hasn’t been the same since. . .

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Now, in the second week of our four week stay at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club; our ‘home’ is on O’ahu’s western shore about 30 minutes from the Honolulu Airport and light years away from the hustle and bustle of that big city.

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I’d worried – when we made our first purchase into this short-term ownership world – that we had been here only five days. What if we got bored after a week? Horrors! What if we got tired of returning to the same place year after year? (That part really isn’t a concern because you just trade your ‘home’ for one somewhere else).
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My initial fears were unfounded (as they usually are) and we spent the next three years acquiring additional bits of time here. . .

This year we live in Hale Moana, the same building as our previous stays and each year we’ve had a different address within the building but all units are identical.  So E Komo Mai, or welcome, to our Hawaiian home were the temperatures are in the 80’s with sun and blue skies as compared to 'back home' where temperatures are in 30’s and 40’s:

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KoOlina2013 011As for what we do. . . well, we live here (and work here, for as much as we work these days).  A typical weekday finds us exercising in the morning, lunching on our lanai and then heading out to the beach or walking, or sunning, or reading or playing in the lagoon, pool or hot tub until it is time to fix dinner.  A far cry from owning homes in Mexico and spending most of our time working on them or making trips to the local hardware store. . .

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Still there are those who don’t quite understand the allure of such an ownership. Ah, but those who’ve taken the plunge, all seem to be like us: having a ball at their second home ~ a home that requires no more work than writing an annual maintenance check and reserving our time.

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Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s visit – on Travel Photo Thursday I will show you a bit of the island. . .you might be surprised at what lies Beyond WaikikiAloha until then.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Plate of Hawaiian (Tourism) ‘Pupus’

Pupus, Hawaiian for appetizers – those small delicious tidbits that provide a sample of the flavors of the islands. 
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Since our arrival in O’ahu we’ve picked up quite a bit of pupu-sized bits of tourist news.  I’m serving up those up today to give you a taste of what’s happening here and what’s planned for the future:

Aqua Hotels and Resorts:

VegasHawaii2012 355Remember the Aqua Lotus hotel I said we’d planned to return to this year until its rate increase drove us elsewhere? 
It is among those properties that will be re-branded as Aqua Hotels and Resorts becomes  Aqua Hospitality, restructuring the 24 properties they manage into three distinct brands:  Monogram Hotel Collection which will move their best properties into  boutique, luxury experience places; Aqua Hotels and Resorts will be aimed at the mid-price-range traveler who wants style, service and value and their Lite Hotels will provide economy accommodations to the 'budget-minded visitor'. 

Waikiki in Focus:

Hilton Hawaiian Village plans to spend $700 million to add two towers with 550 timeshare units on its 22-acre site. There’ll also be new swimming pools, retail shops and parking.  The 37-story tower is to be completed in 2015 and a 25-story tower some five or six years later.

OahuKolina2013 011Kyo-ya Hotel and Resorts plans to replace an eight-story wing of the Moana Surfrider with a taller building and that is just part of a $1 billion planned renovation or replacement of each of its Waikiki properties (Sheraton Wailkiki, Royal Hawaiian Resort, Princess Kaiulani Hotel, Ainahau Tower and a new 34-story Pikake Tower).

Tourism is hitting record numbers again – evidence that the recessionary pullback by travelers in 2008 and 2009 may be over. We can tell you Waikiki sidewalks, beaches, bars and streets were packed with tourists during our brief stay there – we do wonder where those staying in the new timeshare and hotel rooms will find to sun on a beach or sip in a bar or the other limited common areas of this famous section of town. . .

VegasHawaii2012 366Perhaps some tourists will be steered from O’ahu when Hawaiian Airlines adds 25 new long-range airplanes between 2017 and 2020 which they will use for nonstop flights between neighbor islands and the 10 West Coast cities it already serves.
And speaking of other island’s and airlines. . .

Our final pupu is that billionaire Larry Elison (co-founder and CEO of Oracle) is rumored to be the undisclosed purchaser of Island Air, a small interisland airline.  Last year he purchased 97-percent of the island of Lanai (yes, that’s correct – nearly the whole island). Lanai is the state’s sixth largest island with a population of just over 3,000.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travel Realities: The Other Side of the Postcard

“Do you ever write about the bad stuff. . .or do you ever experience any bad stuff?”

The question has been asked more than once of us.

In reality, we  haven’t experienced any real ‘bad stuff’ –  lost luggage, small rooms, cranky people, schedule changes – are irritations, but not ‘bad stuff’ in our book. 

0005540-R1-035-16Yet, we probably are guilty of focusing on the  pretty side of the postcard when writing of our travels. We’ve not spent much time on the flip side, the one on which the human message is written. 

Our travels -- particularly in Europe --have given us a chance to see the other side of the post card; particularly the graffiti and the protests.

Those images on the flip side of the card aren’t the picture-pretty tourism shots, and we don't focus on them but realize  it’s important not to forget them either. Today we remember:

Madrid, Spain


DSCF0663In Madrid, Spain posters announced a manifestacion (a protest) that would ultimately fill the Plaza del Sol with such numbers of unhappy Spaniards during our stay that we ultimately quit going through the square but took back streets to avoid it. We weren’t particularly afraid of going through the gathering but just as we avoid emotionally-charged groups of protesters at home, we do so on our travels as well.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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From the top of the Old City wall’s of Dubrovnik, Croatia we had spectacular views like that to the right, but also far too many views of graffiti marred historic buildings like the photo above.

Bologna, Italy

Graffiti artists had struck nearly every building here – even those where owners had painted murals to decorate the metal security doors that are pulled down and locked each night.

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And while we loved this Italian city and hope to return one day soon, we’d be less than honest, if we didn’t mention the smell of urine that filled the air as we strolled through some of its famous arcades (and there weren’t that many dogs. . .let your imagination do the rest)

Naples, Italy

As we began our day-long explorations last fall the ‘welcome parade’ was a protest march – again by another unhappy group.

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SilhouettePt12012 034 In fact, it is always interesting when we see the notices and the signs being carried. . .prompting this basically monolingual pair to wonder what all the unhappiness is about?

Seville, Spain

One of the more interesting protests we encountered was a group of unhappy teachers who’d set up their protest camp inside the massive Cathedral:

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Venice, Italy

Even Venice was not immune to graffiti vandals who tagged walls where ever they saw fit:

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Lisbon, Portugal

Where the  tram was so graffiti covered that it almost appeared to be a mural. . .

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Madrid,  Spain

Where faux-blood, red paint was splattered near the sign of the Syrian Embassy when we went past one morning. . .and gone by the time we returned a  couple hours later.

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And  the protestors who lined the street near the Embassy the day before. (Just down the city street firefighters had set up a protest camp).

United States:

I wrote that first portion of this post prior to our arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii last week.  It would have ended there, but we’ve got a post script to that postcard now:  We spent three nights with this view of Waikiki – the postcard view, you might say:

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OahuKolina2013 053Saturday night as we walked back to our hotel, we sadly witnessed a fight between two street people; one who was using his leather belt to whip the bare upper body of the man who’d challenged him.  By the time we got past, they were grappling on the ground as sirens of the responding police cars could be heard. Three of the police cars were below our room for some time.  Just last night a police chase in Waikiki ended in officers killing a soldier, whom they were unable to otherwise restrain.

Yes, we’ve come to realize there are certainly two sides to the postcard. What have you learned from the other side of the postcard during your travels?

And that’s our contribution to Budget Travelers Sandbox’s Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over there for some additional armchair travel.  Hope you’ll visit our Facebook page as well. And come back again real soon.


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