Honolulu, like most big cities, gets up and roars from before dawn on through the day and late into the night. On the stretch of playground called Waikiki, the bus system is an arterial flow of people borne in large vessels to every reach of street and highway. It's all about pleasing tourists, moving them around, feeding them and seeing to their every need. In quieter parts of Waikiki, you can hear the rustle of palm leaves in the tradewinds, the soft swish of waves on the long beach, and small Hawaiian doves calling gently. You can also hear dozens of languages spoken among tourists and locals, a fabulous spicy mix of many cultures.
This morning, we went to Chinatown early to buy groceries for tomorrow. We parked at the Aloha Tower complex nearby and walked a few city blocks to the middle of Chinatown. This oldest part of town, nearly a separate nation, distinguished by its total replication of Chinese culture, started back in the 1840s or so.
The Chinese immigrants who were brought here as laborers more than 150 years ago gradually recreated China complete with all its delicacies, fabrics, art and customs, and the many city blocks that were the heart of the community are still in use today. All signs are written in Chinese as well as English, and you get a sense of both Disneyland and foreign territory as you walk around. The Disney aspect comes from the scaled-down size of things including many diminutively sized people bustling about their business. I felt very tall. A very long line of people was formed outside of the Lee Bakery on one street. We didn't want to stand there with them to find out what was so amazing, but found out later it was pork buns.
With several bags of produce in hand, we piled all of it into our car and drove a little way south to Ala Moana Park, a sprawling city park with a fine large lagoon where I swam for a half hour or so. It was fun to stroke along and see parasails on the western horizon, Diamond Head to the south and the Honolulu skyline to the east. There were few rainbows now and again and other folks out for runs or swims with me. Paddle board riders floated by talking story in pidgin.
Next, we drove across the road to Ala Moana Shopping Center, a shopping wonderland, where we bought Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Thai food back in Waikiki was pretty good, not the best, but satisfying, and then we napped back at the hotel.
On an impulse, we put our swim suits back on, walked over to Waikiki Beach - two blocks away - and shopped around for an outrigger canoe ride. Everyone shoves the canoe into the edge of the surf, gets in, gets a 20-second lesson on how to hold a paddle, and off you go to join the lineup of surfers, hundreds of them. The helmsman turns you around, tells you to paddle like the dickens and you catch a wave and go powering along to the swish of whitewater, keeping up with surfers standing on their boards next to you. We surprised one guy swimming back out. He saw our outrigger coming straight at him and ducked under water just in time to avoid a new buzz haircut.
To top off the day, we rounded up our two loved ones and found a wonderful Indian and Nepalese restaurant in Kaimuki, not far from their home, called Himalayan Kitchen. Kaimuki is an old community that could be called a suburb of Honolulu to the southeast a bit. It has always been home to blue-collar workers and students, and its main business district is definitely eclectic. In the one-block area where the restaurant was, we found nine other ethnic cultures represented in cuisine. Locals in the know flock to the hidden gems in Kaimuki. After a fine meal in a warm and hospitable setting, we walked home in a spritzing effervescence of rain, tired out, heads full of Thai, Chinese, Nepalese and Hawaiian culture.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way