Hawai’i Part Three: Historical Hawai’i

Warning you all now – this post will probably bore you if you’re not that into history but I’m not sorry, I had a great few days!

Once I’d had a weekend to recover from jet lag and settle into island life it was time to start checking things off my to-do list. Since I was intruding on Theresa’s life for such a long time she had to work some of the days, mainly in the first week. I took this time to do things easily reachable by public transport (helpfully called ‘The Bus’) and managed to gain a pretty good understanding of the history of Hawaii in 3 very full days.

Monday was the day of the Bishop Museum. As most things, it was located on the other side of the island but it wasn’t too hard to get to, especially because Theresa’s mum came too and she understood the bus system! This museum was so good and definitely worth the entrance fee. We started off with the natural history of the islands which was definitely aimed more towards kids but it was still interesting looking at the impact the settlers had on the flora and fauna. After this we sat through a presentation in the planetarium and learnt about the constellations in the sky, specifically over Oahu on that particular night. Fun fact: Hawaii is the only place in the northern hemisphere where you can see the Southern Cross constellation. Then it was time for a tour around the main building. I’m not usually one for tours but this one was really good and gave you an introduction without demanding too much of your time. It meant that I could then explore the rest of the main building which centered on the development of the native Hawaiian population and Polynesia as a whole. I genuinely could have happily spent all day in the building but it was getting late and we had to leave to catch the express bus home. Definitely a fun day, but very very tiring!

Tuesday was my first (and only) completely solo day. I’d planned various options for my day since the weather forecast was unpredictable and kept changing. It ended up raining heavily so when I got off the bus in Honolulu I immediately ran for cover in a doorway with a couple of other people. Whenever there was a break in the rain I’d venture a little closer to my destination and eventually arrived at Iolani Palace – the only Royal Palace on American soil. With obvious European influences, the building itself was beautiful but I had to buy my ticket in the barracks next door. They made me do an audio tour for crowd control but honestly by this point I was just happy to be inside – the booties to protect to carpet stopped my flip-flops from getting my legs dirty. Did I mention I was in shorts in this torrential rain? Luckily it was warm, and like I said, the palace tour is an inside one. I had relatively low expectations of the palace, but it was actually really interesting. I spent longer than planned walking around and listening to the guide. The guide tried to set the scene for what life was like which was a different take than I was expecting and really fun. Some facts I learnt: the palace had electric lights before Buckingham Palace did, and they were controlled by a guy offsite. When they locked up the Queen after she was deposed one of her ladies followed her and they embroidered a quilt together. Also it turns out the government officials who used the building sold all the furniture so people are still looking for it! I love history! After juice and food it was time to head back – the weather hadn’t improved and I wanted to just relax a bit.

Wednesday was a day of two halves. Theresa was only working in the morning so in the afternoon we did a hike (to be documented in the next post) but in the morning her mum took me to Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour is a fascinating place, they’ve really made a point of the memorial aspect of the place and people take it very seriously. I didn’t realise how close to the surface the Arizona is and seeing the names on the wall reminded me of the cenotaphs at home but on a bigger scale. Before you are taken to the ship you have to watch a 20 minute video about the event which goes into detail about the events leading up to the attack and a little bit about it afterwards. They did a good job of putting the attack in the context of both American and Japanese perspectives, both in the video and in the gallery attached. What was cool as well is that outside the gift shops they had book stands manned by the authors who were talking to interested people and telling them about their books. War history usually bores me honestly, but this was handled well and managed to get me interested in the event.

All in all it was a very educational 2 and a half days and I definitely know more about the history of Hawaii than I did before going!