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Nov-30-2012 13:29printcomments

It's Semi Whacky in Waikiki

Did you know that Hawaii contains the only royal palace on US soil?


(SALEM) - With our eye on Hawaii, we recently decided to visit the 49th of 50 states we hope to see before we pass on; only South Dakota remains. The warmer climate and mixture of Asian cultures were the main incentives to test out Honolulu.

Oahu's bus service is marvelous and covers most of the Island of Oahu. Bus operators are friendly and helpful in identifying where to transfer if needed. Each vehicle has an auditory message that tells you the coming bus stop and a flashboard reinforces this. The eight seats closest to the driver are reserved to the elderly and persons with disabilities. Most riders honor that local ordinance.

In addition, Hilo Hattie's runs a free trolley to take you to its main outlet store. Beachfront areas are abundant. Waikiki is the major tourist magnet with over 50 hotels in evidence, most running well over $100/night. Hostels run closer to $30-40 per person; some have semi-private rooms with shared bathrooms but the majority are dorm style and a common kitchen/dining area.

Waikiki is a thin tongue of land squeezed between the ocean and the Ala Wai Canal. The canal has its own beauty and supplies jogging paths and benches to rest or picnic. One street down is Kuhio Ave. with its array of hotels and shops of all kinds. It runs two ways and is used by a dozen bus routes, including one to Pearl Harbor and another to the Airport. The third street is Kalakaua Ave. on the beachfront. Upscale food and fashion outlets prevail.

Overpriced food shops called "ABC Stores" are omnipresent. We opted for the less cost Food Pantry grocery with its assorted take-out Japanese specialties running from $2.95-4.50. They have eat-in table space. Chinatown markets near Hotel St. also offer less expensive fare.

This area draws all kinds, from the wealthy in rented white limos to the rugged homeless folks who avail themselves of park benches for overnight sleep. Some even use inflated plastic floats as makeshift mattresses. It seldom rains so the outdoors is ok, unlike much of the mainland.

Our major reservation was motorcycle noise, certainly not user friendly. Researching the issue with Honolulu PD, I learned that Hawaii lacks a noise code and therefore police are not given an audiometer to record decibel level. The National Institute of Health in DC has determined thru research that any consistent noise over 95 decibels can impair hearing long-range and ultimately make for serious hearing loss. Consequently, I've asked Sen. Suzanne Chen Oakland, chair of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Human Services, to file a bill to address this public hazard in the Legislature's next session. It would test motorcycles for applicants and those who renew.

We cannot expect a resident to catch a cyclist license number at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m.

Did you know that Hawaii contains the only royal palace on US soil? It's the Iolani Palace in downtown where the Queen once ruled supreme until overthrown with American help around 1898, the same year we acquired Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Over on Paki Highway you can also tour Queen Emma's Summer Palace. The Honolulu Zoo on Waikiki's eastern end is more expensive at about $15. If you're budget is limited, try the less costly Honolulu Aquarium.

Finally, expect to find an array of very different Asian populations, many of them vendors. The international markets just off Kuhio and Noholani have countless booths and trinkets, with heavy competition among Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Korean merchants. It appears that the Japanese often operate the restaurants and fashion shops. You can definitely do bargaining to attain a lower price than that posted. And it's nice to bring home something to the neighbors who watched your place and took out the garbage on collection day.

You will likewise find that your collection of memories are irreplaceable.


NOTE: Lee Coyne has been to China, Hong Hong and The Philippines and speaks some basic Tagalog. His wife is a Filipino who taught college-level math and statistics. Lee is a lifelong writer with a fascination with foreign cultures who turned 71 in November. Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address:

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