Saturday, July 4, 2015

#1468 vacation recap day 3: Dole Plantation and the Polynesian Cultural Center

Hello again everyone! Hope you are having/have had an enjoyable Fourth of July (a holiday in the U.S., just another day elsewhere in the world). I'd like to tell you about the day we drove around Oahu. You ready? Let's go!

On the morning of Saturday June 13, we started out our day with breakfast at the McDonald's down the street from the hotel. It was just like McDonald's here on the mainland except they featured a couple of local breakfasts which included Spam and pineapple. I think I wrote about it in the Foodie Friday post a week or so ago, so I won't get back into it. The main reason for breakfast was that we were heading out exploring and wanted to make sure we had something in our tummies before we started driving around.

We had one place we had to be that day, and that was the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). We had tickets to the luau and the show, but that wasn't until 7PM, so we had time to drive around a little. We mapped out a route that would take us through the island, past the Dole Plantation, over the the North Shore and then to the PCC. Off we went.

Oahu is an island that seems to have a bit of everything. There are pretty mountains, rolling hills and of course, beaches. The Dole Plantation is kind of in the middle of the island among the rolling hills. It is very commercial - of course it is, it's the Dole Corporation! You don't have to pay anything to get into the plantation, but if you want to do anything, you pay for those activities.

It probably took us about half an hour to forty minutes to get to the plantation from our hotel. The parking lot was really full when we got there, but we were able to find a spot. MT was great about backing into tight parking spaces with the van. It had a back-up camera and he got really good at using it.

So we went into the gift shop and felt a bit overwhelmed by the large number of people that were in the shop. We walked out the back to the patio area and got a feel for the place. There was a maze and a train and the gardens. No one seemed to know what to do, so I decided to get some pineapple ice cream. I'll be damned if I was going to be at the Dole Plantation and not have the pineapple soft-serve. It's actually called Dole Whip and I think you can get it in Disneyland, too. And yes, the line was long, but it moved along pretty quickly and I was soon eating pineapple ice cream. I liked it. MT and T didn't love it. They like chocolate ice cream. Everyone else had some too.

T and MT decided to do the maze and the rest of us chose to ride the Pineapple Express train through the fields. I had never seen a field of pineapples, so I was curious. It looks like this:

Dole grows lots of stuff on the plantation like sugar cane and mangoes and cacoa beans. There are also some macadamia nut trees and other types of tress, too.

There is a reservoir on the plantation that provides the water for all the fields. I thought it made a pretty picture:

There are some interesting trees in Hawaii. I like the banyan trees and the monkeypod trees, and I really liked this tree that I saw at the plantation:

The sign says it's some kind of gum tree, but further research leads me to believe it is also called a Painted Eucalyptus tree. Pretty!

Pineapples grow from a bush on the ground, and there are something like 27 varieties of pineapples. I had no idea. Here is a cool pink one:

We spent a couple of hours or so at the Dole Plantation. MT and T had fun going through the maze. The train ride was fine. I kind of wish I'd done the maze or walked through the garden, but I didn't. One thing I didn't care for on the train ride was that before we boarded the train, we had to pose for a photo with a pineapple that they then tried to sell us at the end. We didn't buy the photo anyway.

From the plantation, we headed for the North Shore. MT was hoping to get in an hour or so of snorkeling before we went to the PCC. He had a place all picked out, Shark Cove. We put the info in the map program and we were on our way.  Here's a vista we saw going down the road:

We got to the Shark Cove area and there was absolutely no parking anywhere. It was Saturday, so many locals were out on the beaches, plus the usual tourists. We found a parking area and thought we saw a spot, but it was not meant to be and we just ending up leaving the area without even being able to stop and look at the beach. MT was kind of devastated. It was the one thing he wanted to do that day and we didn't make it happen. I was sad, too. I love the beach and was looking forward to spending just a little time with my toes in the sand. Instead, we stayed in the car and headed to Laie to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Brigham Young University - Hawaii is in Laie. Laie is a small town with not much employment opportunity for the students there, so the LDS Church built the PCC as a way to provide jobs for students and also as a way for the students to share their Polynesian heritage and culture with visitors. I applaud the church for doing that. It seems to work well. The place is divided up into areas for each of the Polynesian island nations: Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Marquesas and Aotearoa (New Zealand). You can go to the "villages" of these nations and see demonstrations and participate in activities if you like.

We went to Samoa first. We were sitting there in the hot hot sun watching the people make fire with sticks and open coconuts with a rock. The narrator was quite a comedian. The highlight was watching a dude climb up a tall coconut tree in his bare feet.

Next stop was Aotearoa. I was looking forward to this one because I am interested in the "haka" which is a traditional dance they do when preparing for battle. I only know of it because there are many Polynesian football players Utah and both Utah and BYU football teams do a haka before games. I thought it would be fun to see the real thing, and it was cool. There was a lot of singing and chanting and slapping of hands to chest and thighs.

Next was Tonga. They did some songs with traditional drums. Three people were invited up on the stage, a guy from Alaska, a guy from Hawaii and a guy from Korea. They had to follow along with the drum routine. It was good and fun, but kind of long.

Then we went to Tahiti. I think Tahitian dancing is the best. The girls wiggle their hips so fast and the guys knock their knees together in their dancing. What I learned is that the hip wiggle doesn't come from wiggling the hips. The knees are bent and then the weight is shifted and that's what causes the hips to wiggle so awesomely.

There are other things to do at the PCC, but by the time we finished the presentations at those four villages, it was time to go to the luau. We all got a lei (same color - that's how they knew we were the 7:00 feeding) and after a photo, we were herded into a large seating area. There had to be 1,000 people in there. It was a very well-organized buffet. There was plenty of food and it was tasty. Again, I think I might have talked about the food in my Foodie Friday Hawaiian Style post, so I won't get into too many details. While we were eating, there was a show going on with lots of dancing and music and some singing. It was all very nice.

We had an extra person sitting at our table. She was there alone, so of course MT, who was sitting next to her chatted her up. I didn't really hear her story. Something about being from Texax and taking a summer class at BYU maybe. She was kind enough to take a pic of our whole family:

There we all are, with our leis and the dancers in the background. T has a happy smile because his tummy was full and he felt good.

After the meal, we had tickets to the show Ha: Breath of Life. No photos or videos could be taken during the show. I was full and nodded off a few times.  It was nice and good, but felt a little long to me. There was lots of dancing and some singing and yelling and running around. By the end I was totally humming "Circle of Life" from The Lion King because basically that was the story.

When it was over, it was time to head back to Honolulu. Mileage-wise it's not very long, but because the road is a two-way street with a speed limit of 40 MPH or so and because there are no lights on the road and the road is windy and it was raining, it took forever to get back to the hotel it seemed like.

By the time we got back to the hotel, around 10:30 I think, everyone was tired and we needed some time apart. MT was cranky from not being able to get wet that day and honestly, the three of us were underwhelmed by the PCC. It was very passive to sit there and watch stuff plus it was pretty expensive.

This day was probably my least favorite day of the vacation. We were in the car for a long time and the places we stopped just weren't that great for me. It's not that I didn't have fun - I was in Hawaii, after all, and I do try to have a good time and get what I can out of any experience. I think for the three of us, at least, we would have preferred to just drive to the North Shore in the morning, find a spot to hang out and be at the beach, maybe look around one of the little beach towns in that area. I think it might have been fun to even stay at Waikiki and watch MT take a surfing lesson. But everyone we talked to said we should check out the PCC, that for many people it was a highlight of their trip to Hawaii, so we decided to do it. And we did get a lei.

I think T's facial expression and body language kind of sums it up.

PS - check out T's tattoo. It's an airbrush tattoo he got at the Dole Plantation.

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