Monday, April 30, 2012

Things to do at Chinatown Cultural Plaza

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This multi-storey commercial complex houses an assortment of Asian shops and restaurants and even an air-conditioned marketplace.

A strong and fragrant scent of incense filled the air as I walked into the courtyard of the plaza; and behold, I was greeted with a bright yellow altar housing the Goddess of Mercy; Kuan Yin, a symbol of compassion and kindness in the beliefs of Buddhism.

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Tiny flag buntings strewn across in a fashionable criss cross style in the center of the courtyard displayed the various Asian countries calling this place home.


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There are just many things, one could do in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza.

1. The most interesting thing to do while one is here, is perhaps, to watch a scene of tai chi and dancing in the center before an elevated Moongate Stage
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2. Enjoy a bit of window shopping and ogling into the various shops lined around the plaza.

3. Check out the indoor marketplace within the plaza; but do be early.

4. Have breakfast or lunch in one of the Chinese restaurants which serve one quality dim sum and Chinese cuisines.
Most of the restaurants would be crowded at peak hours, so make sure you are there early.
Do not worry about the language barriers, although the servers are mostly Chinese, they can speak and understand English perfectly well and the menus are in English as well.

A good place to drop by and enjoy fine authentic Chinese tastes when one is in Chinatown :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oriental touches in Chinatown

If you think that the western markets are confined to that of  large supermarkets or grocery retail chains, then think again because the Oahu market located in the heart of Chinatown offers just the perspective of the unmistakable market style shopping.

Think rowdy scenes, slippery floors, and excessive overlays of smells and colors; a typical scene at a usual morning market which may seem just so familiar and close to home to any Asian when taking a stroll in the marketplace.

O'ahu Marketplace

Even if you are not interested in buying fresh fruits, vegetables, meat or fish for home (since you might be a traveler here), the sights and scenes of the locals bargaining with the vendors or even of the women pushing their trolley carts and baskets through the crowd can prove to be quite a visual treat as it unfolds in the events of the market's atmosphere.

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Besides the marketplace, the many shops and restaurants offering varieties of services from flowers, souvenirs, food, and even hair salons portray a vivid picture; in what seem like a reproduction of Asia on the streets of Hawaii.
One can easily find Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean influences in the shops and restaurants making their abodes here and if you are from Asia, you could almost feel at home with the obvious scene before your eyes.
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There are also many tongs; or meeting places belonging to the various denominations and associations here.
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Perhaps some may say that Chinatown can be found almost everywhere around the world, and they all look the same.
However, Chinatown never fails to draw tourist attention with its vibrant mix of colors and scenes and not to mention shopping options for the avid shoppers and bargain hunters.

If you are looking for an eclectic mix of souvenirs and trinkets to bring home, you just might find something here.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Aloha Tower Marketplace - waterfront shopping and dining

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The Aloha Tower Marketplace is a place for shoppers as shops greet visitors with a big smile and offers souvenirs, clothes, beach wear, swim/diving gear, gifts and even bridal wear!

Cafes and restaurants are also part of the residents of the waterfront shopping mall; and if you are on the hunt for the famous Kona coffee (a local product), there is a cafe which serves just the coffee you are looking for along with many other selections.

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The shopping mall is built in the open style concept, offering shoppers a glimpse of the sun as they browse through the windows of the shops lining the mall and towards the end, the mall opens out to the scenic waterfront overlooking the ships at the harbor.
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The tenant shops in the marketplace
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After a round of shopping and dining in the mall, take a walk along the waterfront to enjoy the sea breeze and also the view of the harbor
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Parking may be a little of an issue though, but there is a paid parking area right across the street and if you are lucky, there may be still vacant lots in the peak hours of the afternoon.
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Aloha Tower Marketplace and the harbor front area is a lovely way to spend the afternoon in downtown Honolulu.
With so many things to look forward to, what better way to spend a few hours of the day at the state's tallest structure which offers almost everything under its roof?


Enjoy the view at Aloha Tower

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Built in 1926, the tower is the second most famous landmark in the state of Hawaii, if not the tallest as well.
The Aloha Tower is a 10-storey building and stands at 184 feet(56 metres) high; overlooking the Honolulu Harbor and its surrounding areas.

At its height, it is also the traffic control center for the Harbor Master of Honolulu as it provides a strategic view over the piers and docking harbors as it beckons ships and greets visitors with a warm welcome as the gigantic ships approach the harbor in its heydays.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing A symbol of the Aloha spirit, which was probably the reason behind the name given to the tower, the tower stands at a staggering height of pride and joy of Hawaii at the harbor, and receives the incoming ships and its visitors into the state.

The tower is also a lighthouse in its own way, as it guides the incoming vessels with its traffic control functions and its height.
The tower played its role in the famous Pearl Harbor attack, as it was ordered to be protected from occupation on that fateful day and was even painted to 'disappear' into the darkness of the night; as it is a vulnerable landmark due to it being a tall building in the city of Honolulu where it was all surrounded by the sea.

Besides its functions, the Aloha Tower is also a popular tourist attraction to enjoy the scenic view of the city and the harbor and from the top floor (10th floor).

Enjoy the spectacular views of the harbor and the city from all the four balconies/corners; which offer a different view respectively.
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Earlier views from the tower in the past
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Originally attached to three buildings on its side, the Aloha Tower underwent extensive renovation in the year 1994 to include the marketplace and also the esplanade area; giving the good old tower a major and contemporary facelift.
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Aloha Tower Marketplace, as it is known today, is one of the most popular destinations for shopping and leisure in downtown Honolulu and one of the must go, for the spectacular views from the top floor of the tower, the charming history of the place and also for souvenir/window shopping and even grab a bite as you go.
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To find out more about the marketplace, stay tune for the next post....

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

King Kamehameha I Statue

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 The most respected and remembered ruler and native chief in Hawaii is definitely Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha The Great.

One of the earliest rulers and also the first to unite all the warring tribes and islands of Hawaii into one kingdom, the king has indeed made what seemed impossible happen.
The Kingdom of Hawai'i, was then established in 1810, following the powerful chieftain's conquest of the all the other islands.

Back then there were various native tribes existing on the small islands around the Big Island (these islands made up Hawaii today); on which the chief himself was born. The tribes were all governed by their own chiefs who set their own laws and taboos; or Ka'pu, as it was referred to in their native language.
There were not much communication between the tribes; let alone alliances for each focused on the interests of their own tribe. The unspoken rule was to stay within one's tribe and not provoke that of others; drawing the boundaries clear as each tribe marks its own territory.
However, when the question of power and wealth comes into the picture, there are tribes which grew significantly and struggling to survive, there was then a need for more resources to expand their community and thus, some tribes even take it to conquer other tribes to establish their own influence.
It was not definitely unpleasant as suspicions grew among the different tribes and harmony has seemingly diminished in the midst of power and political struggle, and Kamehameha of Big Island, seeking the help and alliance of the British and American whom he dealt with in weapons, set forth to conquer the islands of Hawaii.

His success set the path of the Kingdom of Hawai'i and his might and splendor remains talked about until this day. Statues were made in the image of the powerful ruler; and there were a few of them, all created by famous sculptor T.R. Gould, in Paris, France.
There was one statue which originally stands here, but was lost at the sea; however, was later salvaged and now placed in Big Island; the birthplace of Kamehameha the Great.
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The statue stands there in all its might in downtown Honolulu for visitors to admire and the local Hawaiians to remember the great ruler for his works.
Kamehameha I was best remembered for the Kanawai Mamalahoe (translated as Law of the Splintered Paddle); a constitution which protects the rights of those who were not directly involved in war but were participating in areas such as medicine, service, wounded and also the sick.

The great King was himself a subject of many mythical and mystical stories relating to his origin where he was an object of prophecy and was seen to be born with great powers and also the one to unite the islands, even before he was born. In fact, it was said that his birth would be signified or proclaimed with the appearance of a comet; signifying his great and divine powers. As it so happens, the Halley's Comet was said to have appeared at about the same time when the great king was born.
His birthplace was on the Big Island of Hawaii, where the original statue erected in his honor now stands after being salvaged from the shipwreck where it was reported to have been almost lost.
Every year on June 11, in conjunction with the ruler's birthday, there would be grand celebrations on the street and the statue would be decked with the traditional Lei while processions take place on the road, showing the great deal of respect the Hawaiians have for their wonderful chief.

It is almost impossible to miss this statue if you are in downtown Honolulu, as it is located quite near to the Iolani Palace.
For the great name of the majestic ruler, and his glorious past, do stop by and pay respects to this chief; who made Hawaii today exist.

It would be interesting to note the full and actual Hawaiian name of Kamehameha I;
Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea
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Read more about the great King here

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The days of monarchy in Iolani Palace

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Standing in memory of its glorious heyday in downtown Honolulu is the former royal residence of monarchs King Kalakaua and Queen Lili' uokalani, his sister and successor; Iolani Palace.

Many events have taken place behind the windows and doors of the palace; creating histories again and again from its glory as the royal residence to the imprisonment of the queen and now respectfully restored as a museum; even earning its place as a National Historic Landmark in the United States.

Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing The palace was actually the second to take its place on this grounds where a wooden one-storey building called Hanailoia once stand in 1844; when the royal governor of Oahu built it for his daughter at that time.
The place was then bought over by King Kamehameha III when he moved his capital of reign to Honolulu; and named it Ho'iho'ikea which became his own residence. The palace went through another change of name; Hale Ali'i before it was finally named Iolani Palace during the reign of King Kamehameha V.

The Iolani Palace then was reconstructed following King Kalakaua's vision after his many visits around the world and was remodeled after the inspiring castle designs around Europe, and the grandeur of the palace following its construction pleased the king which he deemed as befitting for his image as a monarch and thus became the official royal residence. This continued for the rest of the Hawaiian monarchy; as his own sister, Queen Lili' uokalani ascended the throne following his death.

The majestic appearance of the palace from the outside leads to more splendor and opulence within the grand halls inside the palace. It is hard to imagine that so much had happened inside this place; and while it maintained its glory as a royal residence, it also holds a sad past as a place of imprisonment for its owner; Queen Lili'uokalani who was falsely accused of treason and forced to yield to all requests to give up her authority as a monarch at that time.
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To read more about the glory and histories behind the palace, please refer to the following links:
Wikipedia
Official Website

The ticketing office and gift shop is now housed in what was the former Iolani Barracks Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

The palace is a unique building standing in the middle of downtown Honolulu; but is a reminder of the glory and also turning point in Hawaiian history and ranks high as one of the must-visit places in Oahu.

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Address:
364 South King Street  Honolulu, HI 96804, United States