Tuesday, February 22, 2011

O'ahu Do's and Don'ts

1. Stay in a vacation rental.
2. Do go to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Canoe pageant

I didn’t book until the last minute because I wasn’t certain that this was something I wanted to do. But I’m glad I did it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have realized how rich the Polynesian culture is, which includes Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Fiji. It’s best to get a guide to take you around ($15/pax) and provide background information and insight about the different cultures. It’s a particularly fun outing for kids because they can take part in all sorts of activities like dancing and stringing a lei. We opted to take the 12-noon transportation (pick up at the Hawaiian Hilton), which was ideal for us because we liked to jog and take it easy in the mornings. There’s a 10 am pickup as well if you want to make the most of your trip.

I thought the itinerary designed by our guide, Germaine, worked well. Here’s how it went:

  1. Canoe ride – We did this first thing upon arrival (somewhere between 1:30pm and 2pm). It gave us an overview of the villages.

  2. Canoe pageant – At 2:30 p.m., visitors gathered around the man-made lagoon to watch the different tribes showcase their colorful costumes and unique dances.

    Tongan performance

  3. Tonga performance – As soon as Tahiti came in to start their performance, we met up with Germaine and made our way to Tonga to get good seats for the show. Germaine told us not to worry about missing the Tahitian performance because we will be seeing more of it in the evening show. I enjoyed the Tongan performance because it was very interactive. The drummers picked out three participants from the crowd who were more than willing to try their hand at drumming. The performers were really good at eliciting a reaction from the crowd throughout the performance.

    Chieftain’s house

  4. Fijian chieftain’s house – Before moving to the next performance, our guide brought us here. The house was special because it wasn’t a replica; It was once the home of a real Fijian chieftain. There was a huge elevated portion that served as bed, which was for the exclusive use of the chieftain. The favorite wife stayed in the same house (the other wives lived in the same compound/ village) but she had to sleep on the mat-covered floor. I loved the printed textiles covering the floor, bed and walls. The colors were muted earth colors and the prints were intricate but understated.Very elegant indeed.

    Grating a coconut

    Climbing a coconut tree

  5. Samoan performance – This was the funniest of the bunch. The performer did a stand-up act, talking mostly about Samoan culture. According to him, in Samoa, men did everything. They hunted. They cooked. They cleaned the dishes. And that is why there are no men left in Samoa. Hahaha. He demonstrated how to split a coconut using a rock, how to grate the meat (using a traditional wooden “rabbit” grater) and how to squeeze out the milk using the coconut husk. If there is one performance you shouldn’t miss, it is this.

    Warrior dance

  6. Aotearoa performance – Aotearoa is the old name of New Zealand. The performance consisted mostly of warrior dances and Maori stick games.

Ha! The Breath of Life

After this, we parted from the group and had our dinner at Gateway Buffet Restaurant (so-so). Because we had enough time before the evening show started, we took the free tram tour around the Laie district. Our last stop was at the Church of Latter-Day Saints Temple.We were back at PCC in time for the evening show.

Ha! The Breath of Life was colorful and entertaining but we were too tired and jetlagged to really enjoy it. We dozed off during the show and were asleep through most of the ride back to Waikiki.

Note: We booked our tour via Aloha Top Ten. The package I booked was for Admission and Show at $85/pax, which, according to the website, includes dinner. But the ticket given to us didn’t include a dinner stub so I had to go to the counter and pay an additional $15/pax for the dinner buffet. I realize now that perhaps my purchase in fact included dinner but not the buffet package (which I did not really care for). If you happen to book the same package, make sure to check with the restaurant if dinner is included.

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