Friday, May 29, 2009

Hawaii Maui

We spent 3 full days in the island of Maui. If you look at the map, it looks like a torso. So generally guides or locals call out “look at the head,” “look at the neck” etc. Most of the activities are concentrated in the head part.

We started our tour from Iao park. This park’s main attraction is 2,250 ft stone pillar, Iao needle. It has basalt core and is standing tall without erosion. The setting is very nice. This park is surrounded by a volcanic crater. You can see native species of plants. You reach at the visitor centre through lush green mountains. Many battles took place in this area. A nice fresh water stream flows in the park. This park is not very big but the area is lush green and hills give picture perfect setting for photography.
We stayed on Kanaapali beach in Royal Lahaina resort. This hotel has a beautiful beach on the backside. The garden cottages are not in good condition but the renovated part is good. My best place in this hotel was the breakfast table facing the beach. You can take a walk, swim, snorkel or just relax on the beach. Morning (before 10) was a better time. Snorkeling was good, but you have to find a proper place (Look for the rocks. They are very sharp). The black rock side is good for snorkeling. It is better to buy snorkeling equipment at an ABC store. They are not costly. You can see two small hills, some anchored boats and calm blue water on the beach. This part of the beach was really relaxing. I took early morning walk on the beach twice, soaking my feet in the water. The beach was clean and calm. Another interesting part of the hotel was golf courses. There were two courses on the property.
Hawaii offers many beautiful golf courses. It was difficult to take out some time from our schedule for golf. We gave priority to water sports and other tours. This golf course was on the property of our hotel.
Lahaina is the market place. Lahaina means “hot” or “warm”. This town was really hot. It is full of shops and art galleries. Many boat tours start from here. Tour prices vary according to size and comfort of the boat. We saw a big Banyan tree there. It is the second largest in the world and from INDIA. The largest tree is near Calcutta. This tree captures almost ½ an acre of land. I could see 16 big “parambya,” which formed new trees again. It was impossible to take complete pictures of this tree. I took 2-3 pictures. Our tour guide showed us the bus route to this place from our hotel and different shops. We had group lunch in the harbor side restaurant.
In the evening we went to Maui theatre to watch Ulelana. This is a theatre production in Maui Theatre. I read both positive and negative reviews about this, but finally decided to take the risk. This program shows the history of Hawaiian Islands with different dance forms and live music. It was a good program. Stage effects were good. This show told a story about the life of the Hawaiian people in olden days, their everyday life, Capt cook’s visit, sugar plantation, Chinese and Japanese workers and Madam Pele (Volcano goddess). I thought we should have such films or programs on Maharashtra for school kids. Statewise and all India level films on history should be produced. Pictures make a greater impact. We only have lokdhara type programs. Why not such films?

Next day, Prasanna went for the morning snorkel tour on Molokini Island. This is a horse shoe shape island in the middle of the sea. Due to its shape, you get to see fish and green turtles here. You cannot get down on this island. Only commercial tours can take you there. He swam with the green turtles. You are not supposed to touch them. You have to pay a fine for this. Snorkeling was good but nothing beats what we saw in Andaman. I think this space is more popular due to the island’s shape and position.

I did whale watching. This was a good tour. Tour people explained many things about whales in the beginning. Winter months are better for whale watching, but we were lucky to see some good action. I also saw dolphins on the way back. Generally, the captain would spot the whale (you can see turquoise blue color of water on the whale as the light reflects) and they stop the boat. Once the Whale comes out, we can move further. A whale is almost 40 tons, the size of a school bus, but you don’t feel this size in the water. We saw one mother whale teaching jumps to a baby whale. We were following them for 15 minutes. That was wonderful. Generally you cannot take good pictures as the action is unpredictable and fast. It is better to keep your cameras away and enjoy the show.

Evening time was Luau time. Luau means feast in Hawaiian. Many hotels host Luau with food and Hula. We attended Hula in Royal Lahaina. Seating was on the beach side. The crowd was big. We got good places as we were hotel guests. There were around 700-800 people. Mai Tai and other drinks were served on the table. 6 lines were open for dinner. We could taste some local food here like poi, coconut pudding, salmon fish and mahi mahi fish. Dinner from drinks to dessert was done in 50 minutes (all 800 people), what a speed!!! Food was good. I did not like poye (purple color paste made by taro roots.) It seems like this is used in the Gerber baby food. It is healthy. Coffee and dessert was open till the end. I was comparing in my mind how much time we spend in marriages on lunch. We spend minimum four hours.

After dinner they invited interested people on the stage and showed few Hula steps. This dance form or art form was started to worship gods in ancient times. Initially only men used to do this. Then slowly ladies joined as well. Gradually it became a form of entertainment. This was banned when missionaries were on the islands, but the king at that time saved this form. There are special schools teaching Hula, and Big Island organizes competitions yearly (Hula Olympics). There are many places where you can have free hula performances.
We saw 2-3 such programs. At one place, Prasanna got a chance to show his dancing skills. He got appreciation from the crowd. In Hula, each action has some meaning. Generally, they tell stories about islands in the song. The music is always live. Drums and some Hawaiian instruments are used. They play English songs most of the times as people understand. This music is similar to our goanese or Portuguese music. Now a days, it has become commercial. Good dancers attract more crowds; simple equation. These dancers shake so fast, remarkable. In general, the crowd was in a good mood. Everybody was in Hawaiian attire. Hibiscus prints or Hawaii shirts. Shell leis were given as tickets. They recognized people celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and newly wed couples. The couple next to us celebrated their 62nd anniversary!!!!!!!! It was a full moon night with a nice breeze on the beachside. This took us 25 years back …same full moon night nice breeze…in Mahabaleshwar. There was no beach but there was a nice lake.

Third day morning drive to HANA (20 miles) evening helicopter ride to Maui and volcano. We saw other side of Maui. It was too hot. I took some tips from internet about the spots on the way. They have given mile by mile stops. It helps.
We rented a car and drove to HANA highway through central Maui. We drove 20 miles and sampled the road. This road is a real testing road, winding and narrow with single lane bridges. It has beautiful rainforests on one side and the blue pacific on the other. It was raining and the sun was shining with short intervals. Trees are lush green. We saw painted eucalyptus trees on the way.

We also visited the Garden of Eden, where the famous opening shot of Jurassic park was taken. On the way, we tasted sugarcane juice and shahale. In the afternoon, again we saw this area from a small plane. We stopped at Hookipa beach and saw windsurfers surfing. There are many waterfalls on the way but they are not that great. The road has twists and turns and turns and twists. The weather is tropical. There are many points on this route where you can watch water on one side and trees on the other side.

Hawaiian language

Missionaries reached Hawaiian Islands and gave them a script. This is an English like language but not English. There are only 12 letters in it. A E I O U and W L K N P H Y.
The tour guides give you so much information. They speak Hawaiian words and familiarize you with the language.
We learned some words
Alii – Hawaiian royalty
Hale – a house
Hula – Hawaiian dance
Luau – Hawaiian feast
Lua – restroom
Imu – a clay oven
Keiki – child
Lanai – warhanda
Lei – flower strand
Makai – towards sea
Mauka – towards mountains
Mauna – mountain
muumuu – a loose gown
nani – beautiful
Pali – a cliff
Pahu – drum
Aloha – welcome
Mahalo - welcome
Capoo – taboo
Wahini – lady
Kane – man
Mauna – mountain

Polynesian triangle is a group of islands in mid pacific defined by Hawaii, Easter islands and New Zealand. Main seven Polynesian cultures come from Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island and Marquises. All these cultures have similar (with some difference) languages, greetings, customs and dance forms. You can experience this on Oahu at Polynesian cultural center. . We did not take the Polynesian tour on Oahu, but we could sample these dances in Luau. They have one or two Polynesian island dances. Hawaiian are mixtures of people from Polynesian islands as they came to Hawaii long back. You can see mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Americans as they came here for sugarcane plantation. I can not define features of a Hawaiian. You can say this person is Hawaiian but you cannot specify the features.
Polynesians were good astronomers. They could navigate the sea due to their navigational skills as well as canoeing skills. They used to craft canoes and travel with the help of stars in the night. If you think of those days, how these people traveled without compass or telescope or maps, it’s amazing.
About 100 years ago Hawaii was number one in sugar production in the world. Many Chinese and Japanese people moved here for jobs. This made impact on the food. You get all type of food here. Now they produce pineapples in large quantities. The land is very fertile here.
In general this place is a good blend of many nationalities and cultures.
Last day while coming back I was thinking about the Hawaii trip. This was totally different than Switzerland. I experienced many wonders in our trip. I saw different face of nature here. These eight days have given me many wonderful moments.

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