Country number: 32
Territory number: 34
When? August 1991. Returning from New Zealand. Going on to San Francisco
How? Small plane, bus, taxi, on foot
Who? With friend Raye
‘Hawaii’s the 50th state? I thought it was a suburb of Guam.’
When? July 2017. First leg of journey, coming from the UK, going on to the Marshall Islands.
How? Taxi, on foot
American airports don’t get any better. There’s a new international terminal at Los Angeles airport- very Frank Gehry but the queues are the same and so are the security men on a power trip. O good, machines to check your passport electronically I think, forgetting that I was fooled by these last time. And just like the last visit I queue up for the machine and it checks my info and takes my fingerprints and prints me out a receipt and then I have to go and queue to see an immigration man (who is abusive to me as I have the temerity to go to the counter before he has called me) who does the same thing all over again.
And my connecting flight is delayed once and then again. There seems to be problem in Honolulu. I hope it’s not the weather. I’ve read there’s a hurricane brewing in the East Pacific. I’m already utterly confused by the time. Honolulu is eleven hours behind the UK so it’s going to be a long day.
At least my transfer representative is waiting. It’s a shame that the car isn’t. It’s a bigger shame that when he does arrive half an hour alter he takes me to the wrong hotel twice before I direct him to the right one. A very long day indeed.
My hotel is situated right where it’s all happening, in the centre of famous Waikiki Beach and my corner room overlooks the bay. The sand is golden and the clear blue sea is swarming with surfers, paddles and boards. I don’t know how they manage to manoeuvre the boards at all. Surely you must get taken out as soon as you set off it’s so crowded out there. I could sit on my balcony and watch it all going on, I have a grand stand seat, but I resolve to walk round Honolulu and see what I remember. I might even climb the landmark volcano, Diamond Head, at the head of the bay for the view. Its nine o clock in the morning and already incredibly humid. (The surfers have been out since dawn). The soft sand is hard work. The Chariots of Fire Runners were in better shape than me when they took on the beach (and don’t have jet lag) and I notice that no-one else is walking along it. My good resolutions quickly dissipate, even though it’s an interesting and scenic walk, though I do at least reach the headland.
A nail bar is much more inviting, though I have forgotten that this is the land of expectation. ‘Shall I add the tip madam?’ the girl says as she brings the tab for me to sign. I’ve already added the mandatory 20% or you get black listed amount to my welcome fry up breakfast. Honolulu is as built up and crowded as I remember but there are more high-end shops now. The avenue is teeming with shoppers diving in and out of the glitzy malls and gallerias. It’s Vegas by the sea. They seem to me to be making all the diverse parts of the USA as similar as possible. Same buildings, same shops: The Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin Doughnuts, Tony Roma’s Ribs and so on. All the tropical hotels, though equipped with every possible comfort seem to have the same depressing décor, dark wood with beige tiles.
Jet lag is closing in and I’m thinking of a relaxing sunbed on the beach, admiring the view as a cool sea breeze wafts by. Reality is the last space in a sardine can. There’s no shade, although there are casuarina trees blocking the view, and keeping out the wind. The swimming pool and concrete strip in front are crammed. So is the bar directly behind. The beach, though lovely sand (I’m wondering if this bit is imported- it’s softer and more yellow than the lower stretches) is a narrow strip and this is full of umbrellas that you have to pay extra for. They’ve already had my extortionate resort fee. Back to the balcony I think.
14 July Honolulu International
Up at four to catch the plane to the Marshall Islands. At least the bus turns up. Aloha the driver’s sign says. Don’t forget to tip me. The queue at security is long. They open a new channel just as I get to the scanning machines. I’m not sorry to leave Honolulu. Too many people and too much tipping.
When? August 2017. Coming from American Samoa. Going on to San Francisco
How? Taxi, on foot
It’s amazing how much more comfortable Honolulu feels after a month in the South Pacific. It doesn’t feel nearly as humid and hot. I have taken my camera to hospital, (the sensor needs cleaning and is showering my images with small blips its becoming increasingly difficult to crop out) and done my laundry. Now I’m enjoying all the amenities and am indulging myself in a bout of retail therapy and pampering. The retail therapy is about re-stocking up rather than unnecessary fripperies but I’m enjoying wandering and window shopping after so long in countries where most of these commodities are just not available. And I’ve had my hair done and revisited the nail parlour. The tip demand has gone up by 3%. No time for the beach, which isn’t looking any more inviting, even though it’s a beautiful day.
A cab to the airport. The Vietnamese driver talks all the way, but I haven’t a clue what he’s saying. I’m hoping I laugh in the right places. The queue for security is interminable. You can pay for fast track security in the USA, so the cynical part of me suspects it’s not in their interest to speed up the process. They even want extra payment for an ‘entertainment package’ on the plane.
This is the end of my Pacific Odyssey 2017. Now I’m flying to San Francisco to complete my mission of seeing all fifty states and view the solar eclipse.