Ted’s Bakery at Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore

Chocolate Haupia Pie Ted's Bakery

The North Shore of Oahu is known mostly for surfing but there are those who head there just for the Chocolate Haupia Pie from Ted’s Bakery too. While the North Shore’s 7-mile-miracle of surf breaks draws crowds, dont’ be surprised to find crowds also lining up at Ted’s. It’s easy to whiz past it when you drive up the Windward Side, pass the Turtle Bay Resort, and are tantalizingly close to Sunset Beach. Ted’s doesn’t look like much – it’s a little plantation style complex with an awning and some tables in front.

Ted’s serves up breakfast and plate lunches as well as the famous Haupia Chocolate Cream Pie – and yes, they are a full bakery so you can buy other types of pie, donuts, breads, and more – but if you are like most people – one bite of the signature pie will convert you for life.

Ted's Bakery hawaii oahu sunset beach

For those unfamiliar, haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut milk desert – almost like coconut jello. Ted’s brilliant innovation was to put it between layers of chocolate, whipped cream, and a perfect flaky crust. If there is a dessert in heaven, this is probably it.

Ted's Bakery

The bakery started (like most things on Oahu) with the sugar cane industry. Ted’s grandfather worked on the North Shore in the sugar industry and eventually bought land from the Kuhuku Sugar Plantation that was too rocky for cultivation. A couple of decades later, his son, Takemitsu Nakumura opened the Sunset Beach Store in 1956. In 1987, Takemitsu’s son, Ted, opened Ted’s Bakery and the rest is history. His pies were a hit all over Oahu. Today Ted’s sells pies to restaurants and stores all over the island of Oahu. So, you can get the pies anywhere – but they always taste best at Ted’s.

Ted's Bakery

My recommendation is that you buy the pie by the slice unless you have at least six people to help you eat a whole one – because otherwise, you will be tempted to eat it yourself!

Top Five Paintings from the The Art Institute of Chicago + Saturday Slideshow

Back in 2008, I took Amtrak trains across the United States of America. I started in Portland, Oregon and ended in New York City. Along the way, one stop was in Chicago where I visited the glorious Art Institute of Chicago – one of the top art museums in the world. Below there is a slideshow of the pictures I took there but before showing you that, I’d love to show you the five pieces that hit me with the most power.

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and most respected art museums in the United States. It is the second largest art museum in the United States (the largest is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City which I visited a few days later). With more than 300,000 paintings in it’s collection and thirty wings – the Art Institute isn’t a one day stop – but I did the best I could with the time I had. Here are five paintings that brought out a vivid sensory feeling in me….but these are just five…the collections at the Art Institute of Chicago are mind bending – Hopper’s Nighthawks, Picasso, Miro, Rembrandt, Andy Warhol, and so much more….take my word for it, you simply must go!

American Gothic Grant Wood

American Gothic by Grant Wood – 1930
I really didn’t expect this to have an impact on me. Of course, I’d seen it in books and film and I’d seen lots of parodies of it. Standing in front of it, however, I was quite taken with it. The allusion between the farmer’s face and the gothic window in the clapboard farmhouse behind him. The pitchfork also seemed to echo both elements and then there is the absurd, almost constipated look on the woman’s face. Interestingly, it’s not suppossed to be his wife but his daughter or sister. Looking at this painting, I could feel exactly where I don’t want to be and who I don’t want to spend time with.

Art Institute of Chicago

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-1895

The woman’s blue face and the energy in the drinking hall behind her captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go. All of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work captures my imagination with his modern art deco style and compelling figures. This one, however actually made noise in my head. I could smell the smoke and hear the chatter. There is a depressed somberness to this painting – like something that you want but know that you can never have.

 

Nightlife by Archibald John Motley Jr

Nightlife by Archibald John Motley, Jr. 1943

While there was something almost opiate about Toulouse-Latrec’s work – Nightlife just made me want to have a drink and go dancing, do the jitterbug and swing to some serious frenetic jazz. Again, I could hear the music in this one. The complete opposite of the Moulin Rouge but better and more fun.

 

Art Institute of Chicago

The Drinkers by Vincent Van Gogh – 1890

On a totally different drinking level are these guys sharing a drink (with the child as well) on a cloudy afternoon. It’s not starry night, but there is the same sort of dreamlike fluffiness to this painting that is real enough to take you there, but dreamy enough to make the entire world seem suffused in magical realism.

 

Resting by Antonio Mancini 1882-1892

She is so beautiful. Looking at this painting, I had the urge to call in sick and climb in bed with her. Could there be anything better than this moment?  The soft beauty of this painting is a major contrast to the nearly inch thick impasto of the work. The paint on this is so thick and hard and jagged and yet – the subject is so soft in the light. It’s no wonder this took ten years for Mancini to complete – no doubt it took him that long to buy enough paint! This impressionist painting captured all of the longing I’ve ever felt for love…

 

These pictures were taken with my old 8 megapixel Pentax back in 2008 – it’s amazing how much better my iphone takes pictures now – but these are what I have for the moment. I hope you enjoy the slideshow.

 

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Exploring China and Making Friends with Terracotta Warriors and Panda Bears – Xian, Chengdu, Kunming – Flashback Friday

After I had climbed the heavenly mountain in Shangxi, I left from Tai Shan a changed man. Looking back, I can see that there was something different about me – before I had been lost, but now I was simply wandering. My next destination was to be Xi’an – I wanted to see the famous Terra Cotta Army. It was a long trip and midway through – I saw a white guy getting on the train. He was quite obviously another backpacker and so we smiled and nodded at one another, sat near each other and struck up a conversation. Where I had just come from climbing Tai Shan, he had just come from climbing Tian Shan (I think). In any event we’d just both climbed up separate holy mountains and had come from different directions to the same crossroads heading to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. We were instant best mates.

Xian China Taxi Ride

Johnny was English and I was American – he came from a wealthy life of privilege and I was a homeless guy – it didn’t matter. We were fellow backpackers on a steam train in China drinking cheap Chinese whiskey. In Xi’an we checked into a hostel and met two lovely English girls who also wanted to go see the Terra Cotta Army. We all went to get a meal in the cafe next door ‘Genghis Kane’s Cafe’ and met up with another English backpacker, Keith (who had just sold his house and was traveling around the world) and a burned out German English teacher named Sasha. We all set off as a group and seeing the organized tour groups all wearing similar hats or armbands, we decided to make fun of them by all buying identical yellow Chinese hats – moving forward we were the yellow hat gang.

Xian China Sasha, Jane, Vago, Sasha, Johnny, Keith, and ?

I was glad to have the company as Xi’an was a tourist zoo even back in 2001. After the clean air and natural beauty of Shandong, it was a totally different environment. At the time, I remember thinking ‘This place feels evil and grey’. Even so, the company was very good and the terracotta warriors were astounding to behold.

Terracotta Warriors in Xian China

From Xi’an, Sasha was going back to work at a school in Northern China where he claimed to be a virtual slave and the girls and Johnny were heading to Tibet. Keith and I were more interested in seeing the pandas in Chengdu and eating true Szechuen hot pot. We discussed taking a boat trip down the 7-rivers gorge to see it before it was flooded and would disappear forever – but for some reason didn’t. It’s a decision I regret (as was not goint to Tibet) but which at the time made sense because I didn’t want to run out of money and was trying to be careful with my planning.

Panda Bears Chengdu China

From Chengdu, Keith and I were going to meet up with Johnny again in Kunming, get visas that would allow us to enter Laos from the land crossing, and then move onward to new adventures in a new country. Our designated meeting spot was an astoundingly cool hostel called ‘The Hump Over the Himalayas” where I made friends with a wide variety of Chinese, Israeli, European, and Australian backpackers, punk rockers, rappers, and more. I’ll save that for another flashback.

China Chengdu Canals

And, as you can see in this photo sequence (above) …by the time I reached Chengdu, I was no longer a homeless guy wandering around China – I’d more or less turned into a 20-something backpacker from the Pacific Northwest. Looking at the transition now – nearly twenty years later – it’s an astonishing transformation and I can’t help wondering what might have happened if I would have stayed in the USA and never gone to see the world.

China German English Teacher Sasha

Xian China Motorcycle Taxi Driver

Park in Kunming China

View from room in Chengdu China

China Red Panda Chengdu

Chengdu China Panda Bears

Hanauma Bay – Oahu’s #1 Snorkel Spot – See Hawaii Underwater

Hanauma Bay Oahu HawaiiNo trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to Hanauma Bay on the south shore of this beautiful Hawaiian Island. Whether you are going to snorkel or simply look down at one of nature’s wonders from the lookout point above – this is a definite must see natural attraction in Hawaii.

To get there, head south from Honolulu and Waikiki. You will go around Diamond Head, through the neighborhood of Kahala, and on through the neighborhoods of Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai before reaching the turn just as you are passing Koko Head. Hanauma means ‘curved bay’ in Hawaiian languange and this is a beautiful coral filled bay in the remains of a tuff cone volcano. Not your average snorkel spot.

Hanauma Bay is a Nature Preserve and Marine Life Conservation District. It is open to the public six days per week with the seventh day reserved for park maintenance – or as we say in Hawaii – to let the fish rest. To enter the bay, you will need to attend a short environmental presentation that teaches you how to respect and appreciate the beauty of nature in the bay. Visitors are not allowed to touch fish, marine life, or walk on the corals in Hanauma.

Hanauma Bay Oahu Hawaii

Hanauma Bay is home to Hawaiian green sea turtles and over 400 species of fish including parrotfish, rasses, and even the famous humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Global warming has exacted a terrible cost on the bay and nearly half of the corals in it have died as a result.

Hanauma Bay itself was born about 32,000 years ago. It was one of the last eruptions on this island. A crater was formed and eventually waves broke through and flooded it creating the perfect environment for corals and fish. Hawaiian Kings and Queens frequented the bay and one possible interpretation of the name is that there were a variety of sporting and wrestling events held there each year at makahiki. The bay belonged to the Bishop Estate until the 1930s when it was purchased by the City and County of Honolulu. It became a protected area in 1967. In the 1970s white sand was brought in from the North Shore to create the beach you see there today.

The area was overused and suffering greatly up until the early 2000’s when the city enacted an entrance fee, closed the park on Tuesdays, and began requiring visitors to attend the educational presentation. The city has also restricted how many vehicles and how visitors can come to the bay. Commercial vehicles are strictly regulated.

Hanauma Bay Oahu Hawaii

Hanauma Bay can still  be crowded with nearly 3000 visitors each day. If you are going, bring reef friendly sunscreen, water, and it is recommeneded that you bring your own snorkel gear as the rentals on site will cost you almost as much as buying a new set of gear.

The Shrimp Ponds and Food Trucks of Kuhuku on Oahu, Hawaii

Shrimp Trucks OahuIn ancient times, Hawaiians harvested more than 2-million pounds of fish and shellfish each year – much of that came from fishponds. It’s estimated that there were more than 750 major fishponds in the islands at the time of Captain Cook’s arrival here. Hawaiians were one of a handful of civilizations who had mastered aquaculture. So, it’s great that aquaculture continues to this day – one of the best places to see and taste that is near the North Shore of Oahu in the little town of Kuhuku. Kuhuku was a sugar town until 1971 when sugar left.

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

In 1975, the State of Hawaii directed funding and research to develop oyster, fish, and shrimp farming in what had been taro patches, rice paddies, and small fish ponds. Today, the terms shrimp pond and shrimp trucks are almost synonyms for Kuhuku (which doesn’t mean shrimp or prawn, it means point).

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

Back in 1993, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck was among the first to start selling the now famous garlic shrimp near Kuhuku and within a couple of years it was so popular that imitators had followed. Today there are literally dozens of shrimp trucks on Oahu. Some good, some bad, and some with bizarre stories. I will focus on the most popular ones here – Fumi’s, Giovanni’s, and Romy’s. There are others but you are taking your chances with them. Some of the names are Korean, Famous, Big Wave, Blue Wave, Garlic Shrimp, etc.

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

 

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

 

Shrimp Trucks OahuFumi’s is my favorite – hands down. On a busy day they serve up to 2000 pounds of fresh shrimp caught from their ponds. Their menu has a wide variety of options, the best of which (in my opinion) are the butter garlic, spicy garlic, breaded coconut, boiled, and salt and pepper fried. There are actually two Fumi’s trucks – I prefer the blue building over the truck – rumor has it that there was a schism in the family and they parted ways – which is why there are two locations with two different menus on two different sides of the family shrimp ponds. Expect to wait in line 10-15 minutes and another 10-15 minutes for your food to cook. They have a lot of people working and they are incredibly efficient without sacrificing taste. 5-8 large shrimp with two scoops of rice, a scoop of cold canned corn (wierd), and a slice of pineapple.

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

Romy’s is also delicious but the wait is much longer and the prices are higher than Fumi’s. Expect a minimum of 20 minutes wait in line and 20 minutes or more for your food on an average day.Personally, I find their shrimp harder to peel and not as delicious as Fumi’s. They are also owners of the ponds behind them so the shrimp are guaranteed fresh.

Giovanni’s is the wierd one. Even though they started the whole thing – I almost never go there. Their prices are higher and the shrimp are not cooked to order – personally, I’m not a fan of the quality. The original owner’s Giovanni and his now ex-wife – sold the business in 1997 – and then split up. Apparently, the ex-wife wasn’t happy with the sale and tried to buy it back from the new owner who didn’t want to sell – so she hired a couple of thugs who kidnapped him and forced him to sell at gunpoint! She was arrested and the sale was nullified. At some point people began signing the truck and finally in 2006, the current owners bought the land the truck sits on.  Since that time, the whole area around Govanni’s has become a sort of food truck mecca with everything from Fijian Indian curry to funnel cakes, Hawaiian BBQ, Da Bald Guy, Cheesus Crust Pizza, and more. Giovanni’s has built a pavillion and continue to sell buttery garlic scampi just like in the old days but without the kidnapping and extortion. If shrimp just isn’t your thing and you don’t like the vibe in Kuhuku, just keep heading down the coast until you reach Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken

Shrimp Trucks Oahu

The Polynesian Hostel Beach Club in Waikiki – Slideshow Saturday

In 2001, I came to Hawaii with $100 and no plan. Through good fortune and good luck, I somehow became the manager of the most rocking backpacker hostel in Waikiki. The Polynesian Hostel Beach Club in Waikiki. It was a terrible time for my liver, but the rest of me enjoyed it immensely as I made friends from all over the world, fell in love with Hawaii and beautiful people from everywhere on the planet, and somehow managed to survive it all over the course of the next two years. These are some of the pictures I took during that time. I will leave it to facial recognition and people who know to identify those in the pictures. I am grateful to the former manager who stole a bunch of money and left the owner in the lurch needing a manager, I’m grateful to the owner who trusted me to become that manager, and I’m grateful to the people who came as strangers sometimes became staff and with a few glaring exceptions left as friends.

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Climbing Tai Shan / Mt. Tai in Shandong China – Friday Flashback

Tai Shan China ShandongOne of the young artists I met in Beijing had told me that there was a legend that anyone who climbed the Great Wall of China would be a hero. I’d been planning on climbing it anyway – but that just made it better. After that I spent three days exploring Beijing but then I actually had something that I had come to China wanting to do…

Temple of Heaven 2001 Tai Shan Bottom

I don’t remember how I heard about Tai Shan (Mt. Tai) but back when I had been freezing in my VW Van in Seattle’s winter – I had somehow got it into my head that I was going to go to China and climb the Sacred Taoist mountain, Tai Shan. And so I found a train and set out.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Shandong Province, where Mt. Tai and the city of Taishan are is Southeast of Beijing. Traditionally, the province is known for being the place where the Yellow River empties into the sea and as the birth place of Confucius. It is also famous for Tai Shan which is one of the ‘Great Five’ mountains of China – the others being Heng Shan, Song Shan, Heng Shan, and Hua Shan. Each of them represent a direction – Tai Shan is East.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Tai Shan is also the holiest. It was climbed by every emporor, Mao, Confucius and famous writers. The legend I was told was that if you climb Tai Shan, then you will live to be 101 years old. Over 6 million people per year go to the peak of Tai Shan, but the majority of them take cable cars. There were no cable cars when I visited – and I wouldn’t have taken one anyway. Tai Shan is sacred to Buddhists and Taoists both.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Over thousands of years the 4,630 foot peak (1545 meters) has been scaled so many times that today there are 6660 steps which lead to the summit. At the bottom there are temples in the village of Tianwei, where one should pay respects to the gods before beginning. I prayed with many older people at the Dai Temple.

Mt Tai Shan Shandong Province

My fellow pilgrims included many older people, and amazing group of nurses, an army officer with a lame foot on crutches,  and many others. We were all there to climb Tai Shan. There was a comaraderie among us – I felt it even as I wondered how some of them would possibly make it to the top.

Tai Shan China Shandong

I had take the train to Taishan from Beijing. On board I met a young student who offered to let me stay at his house. I declined because I wanted to get an early start and had already figured out that if I were a guest, it probably involved some obligatory drinking. Instead, I had taken a hotel room for two nights so I would have a safe place to leave my rucksack. There was lodging available at the top of Taishan in the monastary, which I wish I had taken advantage of – but my plan was to make it a day trip.

Tai Shan China Shandong

The path up the mountain is not a wild path. Huge characters had been carved into the mountain at every turn. Each natural feature had been sculpted for thousands of years. I moved up the mountain quickly, but not as quickly as the vendors who carried heavy burdens even balanced on the ends of poles that rested on their shoulders. At each resting point, vendors were selling water, snacks, trinkets, souvenirs. At the midpoint, the Midway Gate to the  Temple of Heaven, there was a veritable bazaar.

Tai Shan China Shandong

I was the only white person I saw that day. At that time, Americans were still a rarity in China and for many of the Chinese I encountered, I was the first white person they had ever seen. I heard the term ‘laowei’ many times and was greeted and smiled at by nearly everyone. When I reached the top, I rested before crossing under the Gate to Heaven. The Chinese who came after me all smiled, shook my hand, congratulated me, and I could tell they felt proud of me – I was their ‘laowei’ by virtue of the journey we had made together. Laowei means white ghost and was a term I heard used for me over and over again during my time in China.

Taishan China 2001

On the top, I found what can only be described as a village. I ate noodles, I prayed in a Taoist temple, I drank a beer. After several hours, I was resting near the top of the stairs and watched with pride as the crippled Army soldier hobbled through the gate of the Temple of Heaven. We acknowledged our shared accomplishment with a smile and a salute.

Tai Shan China Shandong

The journey down was fast but more exhausting. I really wish I would have stayed on top – but there is no going backwards. At the bottom, I bought some trinkets as souvenirs from vendors selling old things – a belt of turtles carved of stone, a box made of bone, and three silver Chinese coins.

Tai Shan China Shandong

In the village, I ate a meal that I didn’t know the name of and drank a Tsingtao (also from the same province). I would live to be 101 and would become a hero. I was no longer feeling like a homeless guy from Seattle in China– I decided to cleam myself up a little. Something changed in me on that day and I’ve never been the same since. I am fully confident that I actually will live to be 101 years old. I have also carried a strange certainty that the crippled soldier and I will someday cross paths again.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Kaneohe Town, Kaneohe Bay, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii at K-Bay

KaneoheOne of the prettiest places in the Hawaiian Islands – and thus anywhere in the world – is Kaneohe Bay on the Windward Side of Oahu – oppossite Honolulu. I’m sorry to tell you that you can’t experience the best parts of it unless you are in the U.S. Military in Hawaii or have base access.  One more piece of paradise seized by the U.S. after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. The base itself houses about 12,000 Marines, their families, and contractors. In 1918 it was a U.S. Army Base, then a naval base, finally the home of the 2nd Marine Division. It was bombed nine minutes before Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Today it is connected to Pearl Harbor by the H-3 Freeway.

What was once a scenic fishing village in a perfect sheltered bay is now a Marine Corps Base which covers an entire city sized peninsula and a town that mostly serves to take care of the servicemen and women who live there. The word kane means man and the word ohe means bamboo – so one might argue this is a ‘straw man’ – but the local story says that an ancient woman who lived there suffered from her husband’s cruelty and compared him to a sharp piece of bamboo.

Kaneohe

There are about 40,000 non-military residents with no tourist infrastructure except for a hotel on the base. Also on the base are several beautiful beaches, one of the island’s best windward surf spots, and the ancient Mokapu volcano. Off the base you will find car dealerships, fast food, a pretty decent mall, a couple of golf courses, cemetaries, and a number of strip malls. There is an enjoyable miniature golf course, a small boat harbor, and a couple of mud or rock beaches which locals use for fishing.

Kaneohe

In ancient times this was very productive farmland due to the sunlight, fertile soil, and heavy rainfall – today there are some banana patches in the area but not much more. To get an idea of how the Hawaiians saw this area it is essential to visit Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens where specific Hawaiian sections, walking trails and more show you a bit of Kaneohe as it was. Also a visit to He’eia Fishpond is recommended to see why the Hawaiians only had to work 4 hours a day and lived for a thousand years while importing nothing.  (Hint, they effectively used the land to provide for themselves).

Kaneohe

 

 

The Kings and Queens of the Hawaiian Kingdom

Honolulu Historic District

Hawaii has a rich history of conquest, betrayal, love, adventure and romance. That history doesn’t start with the coming of Europeans or even with the uniting of the Hawaiian Islands under the first King Kamehameha – it goes much further back and it is those ancient times when you find the excitement, romance, and adventure. The later kings and queens of Hawaii were fairly boring (with the exceptions of King Kalakaua and King Kamehameha). I realize that will upset people because Queen Lilioukalani was beloved as she wrote her sonnets and made quilts after the overthrow of her kingdom – but the early Kings and Queens – it was they who truly represent who the Hawaiian people really are – and of course, King Kamehameha I (below) represents all of them incredibly well.

King KamehamehaFierce, loyal, independent, and ambitious….The history of Hawaiian Kings and Queens was transmitted by oral history so in some cases we know almost nothing and in others we have celebrated deeds. Written language didn’t come to the Hawaiian Islands until the 1800’s – at which point most of these monarchs were long gone. I’ve tried to piece together some of the lineages from online sources and Ross Cordy’s excellent Rise and Fall of the Oahu Kingdom – but have certainly made a few errors as there are differing accounts – none of which are backed by written history.

First of all – understand that there were four main islands which all had ali’i nui (monarchs) – Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii. Lanai and Kahoolawe were typically under Maui control and Molokai was often under Oahu control though sometimes under Maui and sometimes independent.

The first known King of Oahu was a man named La’akona in about 1400 A.D. His line ruled from ‘Ewa until the 1600s when Queen Kala’imanuia came into power. She was a productive and peaceful Queen who focused on building fishponds and expanding wetland agriculture. Her three sons split the island and some chaos reigned until her grandson Kakuhihewa reunified the island. He was a renowned ruler and ruled from Kailua on the windward side. Four generations after him, the greatest Oahu King came to power. Kuali’i conquered Kauai, Molokai, parts of the Big Island, and attempted to gain control (unsuccessfully) over Maui, Kahoolawe, and Lanai. His eldest son Kumuhonua inherited the Oahu Kingdom. His younger son Moiheka was the King of Kauai. It is possible that his daughter became the kahina nui of Molokai. King Kumuhonua’s descendent Kiing Kahahana, was conquered in 1783 by King Kahekili II of Maui who King Kamehameha acknownledged as his biological father. The legitimate heir of Kahekili II was Kalanikapule – the same who was thrown from the cliffs of Nu’uanu Pali by the conquering King Kamehameha (his half brother) in 1795.

King Kahekili IIKahekili II had one side of his body tattooed black so that he would resemble his namesake the Hawaiian God of Thunder (Kane Hekili). Kahekili II was the first great conqueror of Hawaii – he controlled all of the Hawaiian Islands except the Big Island of Hawaii. His conquest of King Kahahana of Oahu was a bloody affair where most of the Oahu royals were executed and their history erased. He had a house constructed of their bones!

When Kahekili II died his brother and son went to war for control. Eventually Kalanikapule was victorious but it left him weakened and his kingdom was conquered by King Kamehameha less than a year later.  Kamehameha himself was said to be a descendent of Umi-a-Liloa, the first monarch to conquer the entire island of Hawaii. He was the son of a beautiful commoner and the high king Liloa. The king had left royal insignia that only those of high birth could possess…the boy was born and his mother hid his identity until the man who thought he was Umi’s father (her husband) was beating the boy, at which point she demanded he stop since the boy was actually his king! From here, Umi traveled to the Waipio Valley where the king lived and presented himself. He found great favor but was regarded jealously by his half-brother who he eventually overcame and made serve him. He married many high ranking women and through diplomacy and war eventually united nearly every district of the Big Island. His descendent Keawe’ikekahiali’iokamoku was the great-grandfather of King Kamehameha. For typing sake, we will refer to him as KIng Keawe.

King Keawe built alliances with all of the Kingdoms on all eight islands and built strong alliances based on marriage to high ranking chiefs and royals. His main problem during his reign was controlling the chiefs of Hilo but through war and diplomacy he managed to keep them from declaring independence. He was the common ancestor of both the Kamehameha and Kalakaua dynasties.

Queen Kaahumanu.jpgOne of the most powerful monarchs in Hawaiian history was also one of the wives of King Kamehameha the great. Queen Regent Ka’ahumanu of Maui was the favorite wife of Kamehameha (he had many) and when he died, she was co-ruler of the kingdom over the next two reigns. It can be argued that not only did she conquer Kauai for him, but she also overthrew the entire religion of the Hawaiian people, and ruled longer than any other monarch. It is said that in private, the kings were forced to bow to her.

She was born in a sacred cave on Maui and died in the Manoa Valley on Oahu.  When Kamehameha I died, she married King Kaumuali’i of Kauai to prevent the kingdom from splintering. She was the mother of Kamehameha II and ruled his kingdom and that of Kamehameha III with an iron fist.  Her lineage was said to be one of the highest in the islands. She was the child of a fugitive prince of Hawaii and a princess of Maui. She married Kamehameha when she was thirteen and from that point pushed her husband to unify the Hawaiian Islands. At his death, she announced that he had wanted her to be co-ruler with the new Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and no one was willing to argue with her.

When Kamehameha II died, she retained power as her step-son Kauikeaouili became Kamehameha III. She was a fierce advocate of women’s rights. She was also a notoriously large woman who broke the kapu (rules) about what women could and could not eat. She singlehandedly overthrew the ancient Hawaiian religion and invited missionaries to teach a new religion in Hawaii.

Her second husband was the King of Kauai. Kaumuali’i.

King Kaumuali'iKaumuali’i and his island of Kauai were never conquered by Kamehameha but instead were conquered by Queen Ka’ahumanu and her intelligent diplomacy (and the threat of a bloody invasion by King Kamehameha’s vast armada). He offered a bloodless surrender and reigned as a vassal until 1821 when he was kidnapped by Ka’ahumanu and married to her. When he died, she forced his son into marriage with her as well.

Kaumuali’i’s first wife was the Queen Regent of Oahu – thus when the royals of Oahu were exterminated by Kahekili II,  the Kauai royals were the last of the Oahu nobles. 

Now – a quick look at the monarchs of the Unified Hawaiian Kingdom. We’ve already discussed Kamehameha I. He died in 1819 and was succeeded by his son, Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and his widow Ka’ahumanu. Kamehameha II ruled for only five years and died at the age of 24. He was an extravagent spender and a drunk. Ka’ahumanu was the actuall ruler. He died in London on his first trip abroad. He was married to his half-sister, Kamamalu, who stood over six feet tall. The two contracted measles in London and died.

Kamehameha III (Keaikeaouili) was the third king of the unified kingdom. He had the longest reign unless you consider Ka’ahumanu’s time as ruler. He changed the form of government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. He also created the division of land which allowed private ownership – both moves paved the way for the wealth and control of the descendents of American missionaries and settlers which eventually led to the overthrow of the kingdom.

Kamehameha
Kam II
Kamehameha III
Kam III
Kamehameha IV
Kam IV
Kamehameha V
Kam V

 

He was succeeded by his nephew Alexander Liholiho who became Kamehameha IV. He was a good and beloved king who focused on the health and education of his people. He and his wife Queen Emma (granddaughter to John Young, English advisor to Kamehameha I) were loved by the people. He sought to protect Hawaii from growing American influence. He only ruled foer eight years. Disease was the great killer of the Hawaiian monarchs.

King Kalakaua
Kalakaua I
King Lunalilo
Lunalilo I

His brother Lot became Kamehameha V. Lot ruled for nine years. He had no heir. He continued the policies of his brother but with little success limiting the influence of missionaries and American migrants.  His sister, Bernice Pauahi Bishop refused the throne on his deathbed which led to a constitutional crisis where a new line of monarchs had to be elected. The main candidates were the step-son of Kamehameha I, William Lunalilo, Queen Emma, widow of Kamehameha iV and David Kalakaua – descendent of King Keawe – common ancestor of both he and Kamehameha the Great.

The first elected King of Hawai’i was William Lunalilo. He was popular and known as ‘The People’s King’ but only ruled for a year and left no heirs. Once again there was an election.

The winner of that election was King David Kalakaua .He was a remarkable man who excelled in Queen Liloukalaniwriting, architecture, music, design, and more. He was an adventurer and had grand aspirations for building a Pacific Kingdom with Hawaii in the center and all of the other islands of the Pacific in liege. Sadly, he died with his ambitions unfulfilled – a victim of the weak Hawaiian immune system (a result of 1000 years in isolation from the diseases of mankind).  His wife Queen Kapiolani (left side), was the grand-daughter of King Kaumuali’i of Kauai. She was evicted from Iolani Palace after the overthrow of the kingdom and lived out her days in Waikiki. She bequeathed lands and hospitals to the people of Hawai’i.

King Kalakaua’s sister, Queen Lilioukalani (right side) inherited the throne after his death and was overthrown by sugar planters, missionaries, and American treachery. She fought peacefully and valiantly with politics and diplomacy to restore her kingdom but she was the last of the Hawaiian monarchs.

The last true heirs to the Hawaiian Throne were Princess Victoria Kaiulani – daughter of Kalakaua’s sister, David Kawananakoa, son of Queen Kapiolani’s sister,  and Prince Jonah Kuhio, the adopted son of Queen Kapiolani and King Kalakaua. Since the kingdom was overthrown, none of them ever ascended. Today, there are descendents of David Kawanakoa who are considered the true heirs to the now non-existant Hawaiian throne. It should be noted, however, that some Native Hawaiian people reject such claims and point to the extended family of Kamehameha the Great as the true heirs. Through the years, there have been several attempts at re-establishing a Hawaiian monarchy – Honolulu Magazine has detailed those attemps in a series of excellent articles.

A Homeless Guy on the Great Wall, in the Forbidden City, and more – Slideshow Saturday

In 2001, I was a homeless guy but I decided to go to China. In my first days, I climbed the Great Wall of China, visited the Temple of Heaven, and walked through Tiannaman Square. These are some of the pictures I took in those first days in China. I’m happy to finally share them.

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I was a Homeless Guy in China – Flashback Friday

American Vagabond in China

Back in 2000, just when the dot-com crash was happening – I quit my job at a company called Tech Planet, bought a VW van for $150, moved out of my house, and decided to write a book about how to live without being a wage slave. Eventually, that book turned into Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond. The Portland Mercury wrote my favorite review of it in which they actually compared me to one of my literary heroes – Jack Keroac. All of that however, came later. By the end of 2000, I was growing increasingly tired of living in a van in Seattle rain and was looking at options of either driving south to Mexico or finding some other way to stay warm without being a wage slave. My brother, trying to explain why I should be grateful to live in the USA, said something like “You should see how people in China live…” which I took completely the wrong way. I decided to go to China.  There was one problem – I was a homeless guy without any money…so I took my last $100 and went to one of the Native American casinos along I-5 – I knew I would win. I put my money in a slot machine and won closet to $1500. Next I bought a ticket to Beijing. Then I went back to the casino and won another $2000 on the same slot machine! That’s how my international travel started.

I parked my VW van in my mom’s backyard and then hitch hiked back to Seattle. My friends dropped me off. I went through customs and was on my way. There was a connecting flight in Vancouver, British Columbia. When we landed, I had to run through the Vancouver airport to make my flight – as I ran, I saw TV’s playing footage of the huge Nisqually earthquake that had hit Seattle Tacoma International Airport – the same airport I’d just left. These were early days in the internet – I didn’t have a smart phone (no one did) and I didn’t have a laptop or access to the web. It would be days before I found out the details of the quake because I would have to get to China, find an internet cafe or English language newspaper, and frankly, I had more pressing concerns. I hadn’t made any arrangements for where I would stay or what I would be doing in China.

Beijing kids 2001
These were the first Chinese people to speak to me in English “Hey Mister, Take Picture” I wonder where they are now..

 

I didn’t have any credit cards, hotel reservations, or anything else. I’d bought a Lonely Planet China Guidebook the day before in Seattle. Essentially, I was a scrungy 29-year-old homeless guy who arrived in the Beijing Airport without a clue. It was awesome. I had astounding culture shock. I had about $1500 in US currency – I changed $500 over to Chinese Yuan, figured out how to get on and pay for a bus and decided I would get off at the twelfth stop. No reason.

View from my beijing hotel room
This is the view from my first Beijing Hotel Room

 

Very few Chinese seemed to speak English and I didn’t speak any Mandarin. I got off at the 12th stop and with the help of a friendly Chinese workman who spoke no English managed to figure out where I was using street signs and the Lonely Planet maps. There was a hotel nearby and I managed to find it, paid two nights rent, and locked myself in my room with the snacks I’d bought along the way. For two days I crammed Mandarin learning some basic phrases, directions, etc – I used the Lonely Planet to figure out what I wanted to do in China, and I slept off my jetlag.

American Vagabond in China
There was heavy smog and a sand storm in Beijing when I arrived

 

When I emerged two days later, I was ready to climb the Great Wall of China, visit Tiannamen Square, and visit the Forbidden City. I had also located a fun sounding backpacker’s hostel and some internet cafes. I was ready for China. I had one month before my return flight to Seattle and my visa expiration date – but I already knew that I was going to burn that flight and stay in Asia for a while.

Tomorrow for Slideshow Saturday – I’ll share some of the pictures I took of those first days in China – climbing the wall at Badaling, the Forbidden City, and Tiannaman Square. These were film days – so I don’t have hundreds of shots – still, it’s fun to finally share them.

The Downtown Honolulu Historic District

Honolulu Historic DistrictStarting in Chinatown and then heading towards Waikiki on King Street from Honolulu Will bring you through our financial district (just a couple of blocks, but we’re still proud of our clean and interesting downtown) and then you will suddenly find yourself with  Iolani Palace on the left and the fictional Hawaii 5-0 Headquarters on the right. For the next two blocks, you have an intense amount of the history of Hawaii.

Honolulu Historic District

First on the left side you will have Iolani Palace, the palace built by King Kalakaua for the monarchs of Hawaii to live in. Oppossite that you have Ali’iolani Palace and the statue of King Kamehameha – popularly known as Hawaii 5-0 HQ – though in truth, Hawaii 5-0 is a fictional crime fighting unit.

Honolulu Historic District

Next on the left you come to the Hawaii State Library and the statue garden dedicated to Patsy Mink. Opposite this you have the Territorial Legislature Building.

Honolulu Historic District

You will pass an intersection and on the left you will see Honolulu City Hall (Honolulu Hale) – the government headquarters for the City and County of Honolulu – notable for it’s Moorish design and architecture. Directly across from Honolulu Hale – you will seethe Kawai’ihao Church – a magnificent building made of coral bricks and the first church in Hawai’i – the cemetary connected to it has the tomb of one of Hawaii’s King Lunaliho. Next to the Kawa’ihao Church are the Mission Houses – the homes of the first missionaries to come to Hawai’i and first western structures built in the Hawaiian Islands.

Honolulu Historic District

Oppossite the Mission Houses you will see a building that looks like it belongs on the campus of Harvard – this was a memorial building built to honor those first missionaries. Finally you will find the lovely Fasi Park where many Honolulu events and festivals are held and next to it the beautiful concrete monstrosity that is the Frank Fasi Federal Building – a stark Le Corbusier style concrete block building that looks like it could be a prison.

Honolulu Historic District

Finally, you will come to a lovely sculpture of a Hawaiian Fisherman cleaning his nets next to a full scale waterfall. Each of the architectural attractions is rich in history and can occupy Anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours.

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