The Hawaiian islands were first inhabited around 400 AD by Polynesian navigators who sailed their double hulled canoes more than 3000 kilometers from the Marquesas islands in the southeast. A second wave of Polynesian migrants arrived around 1000 AD from the even more remote Society Islands (Tahiti). Hawaii was named after the legendary original homeland of the Polynesian people which they called Havaiki. Early Hawaiian clans were strongly hierarchical under the authority of powerful nobles and priests. Frequent inter tribal warfare and occasional canibalism were the norm.
Captain Cook was the first European to land in Hawaii in 1779. Soon after, European firearms tilted the balance of power in favour of Kamehameha who unified the islands under his rule. The initial interest of whalers, traders and missionaries spread to their respective governments and England France and America were soon competing for influence at the court of King Kamehameha III. Japanese, Chinese and Filipino labourers were brought in to work the fields of sugar cane which was introduced around 1850. After endless intrigues, Kamehameha III was overthrown and a republic was formed with U.S. support in 1893. The island's annexation confirmed American domination in 1898.
The next events worthy of note are the Japanese surprise attack of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and the accession of Hawaii to full statehood in 1959. Today, Hawaii can be called the tourist state as plays host to 5.8 tourists for every resident man woman and child and it depends on tourism for a third of its GNP. That gives it a high score of almost 2 on the " Tourist Saturation Index".
In this travelogue, the pale blue lines show my road by air and the red by land. I had planned to visit the big island of Hawaii to see the volcano and the world renowned telescopes but a last-minute misunderstanding with a travel agent made it impossible and I ended up by seeing only the island of Oahu were Honolulu is located.
On Oahu, tourists and backpackers alike gravitate to Waikiki where the biggest hotels are concentrated, including the famous Ilikai (featured in the TV series "Hawaii Five O"), where I spent a weekend in March 1974 on the way back from a business trip to Japan.
Arriving from snow white Montreal on January 1st 2002, the juxtaposition of this geometrically perfect artificial Christmas tree next to natural palm trees in front of the royal Hawaiian shopping center on Kalakaua avenue, appeared incongruous enough to be worth a photo.
Here is another view of Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Waikiki. Only the name is Hawaiian, as for the rest, it could be anywhere in the US where palm trees also grow.
The same remark applies to Waikiki Beach. There are no more pure Polynesians left in the Hawaiian Islands. Roughly 25 percent of the population can be called Caucasian, 20 percent Japanese, 15 percent Filipino, 10 percent Chinese,10 percent African-American leaving only 20 percent mixed blood Hawaiian.
This row of high rise vacation hotels could be in Miami Beach, in Acapulco, in Rio de Janeiro, in Argentina's Mar de Plata, in Australia's Surfer's Paradise or in a number of other sea & sun resort towns.
Except for language and accent, these beach resort towns are strikingly similar. I think they try to copy each other.
I stayed at the Hawaiian Hostel on Seaside Avenue right in the center of Waikiki for only 15 $US in a 6 bed dorm.
It was a friendly place with a kitchen where we could cook and a dining area where we could sit and chat like this. Most of the other backpackers were young Americans. I was surprised to see that the subject of 9/11 was carefully avoided as if it had not happened. Later, two of them confided in me privately that they avoided talking about America's New War or about the Middle East because they were afraid of being ostracised and branded anti-semitic because they did not approve of their government's unconditional support of Israel.
O'ahu has many other fine beaches such as this one at Hanauma Bay.
I had a chat with the driver of a limo who told me that Honolulu have the highest ratio of limos to ordinary taxis in the U.S. (therefore in the world as well). I found that rather amusing and wondered whether it was the permanent residents or the tourists that had to strongest need to impress someone. Or themselves!
Here's another fine beach on the island's northeast coast
There are great views to be enjoyed from the slopes of the Ko'olau Mountains on the northeast side of the island.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre at La'ie in the North traces the evolution of the Polynesian culture from its roots in the Lapita culture to its later expressions here in Hawaii, in Easter Island and in Maori New Zealand.
Finally, here is Sunset Beach, the Mecca of all surfers which is said to have the highest waves in the world in the right season.
There were no surfers when I was there because the red flags warning of an impending storm were out. From here I took the inland road back to Waikiki via Pearl City.
A couple of days later, a group of us from the hostel went to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
The photos and exhibits in the Pearl Harbor Museum impressed all of us and made us think of where the presently fashionable saber rattling might take the world if our leaders continue to ignore and fail to address the real causes of terrorism.
The USS Arizona seemed indomitable when it was still afloat. Now it is resting on the bottom of Pearl Harbour with 1177 of its crewmen and its second turret is slowly rusting away under the gaze of tourists.
The flea market around Aloha Stadium was a good place to look at today's Hawaiian culture.
I went to the Bishop Museum to help me imagine what yesterday's was like.
The music and the dancing were there but somehow, my imagination did not soar...