Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.
Rather than a letter to my parents this week.. I am sharing the article that I wrote to send to our friends and family.. Part one can be found here: Hawaii Bound and Mai Tais
Hawaii Part Two – Molakai Mules, Hanauma Bay and Knitted bathing suits
The Island of Oahu is a strange geographical mixture, volcanic and bare on the east side and lushly tropical on through the middle. We actually drove about 950 miles during our stay, but a great deal of that was driving to and fro to Waikiki where we had dinner several nights. Most of our holiday however, was spent relaxing, playing tennis, swimming and sampling the sunsets and cocktails. It was a change for David to be in one place for 15 days in a row and it was lovely to have some time together, more or less alone.
I say more or less alone, as our hotel and it seemed everywhere we visited was hugely popular with Japanese tourists. They never seemed to be on their own or even in couples, but usually in groups of 20 or 30. The group was usually enveloped in the constant glow of camera flashbulbs, and I know we were often in the line of sight when at the tourist attractions. We did wonder what their friends and families might think of two very tall and slightly bemused occidentals, who kept popping up in their holiday snaps. They were always smiling and very polite, but perhaps they felt more comfortable in a larger group on this Island so shattered by wartime events.
We did find it somewhat ironic, that all the coaches booked to go to Pearl Harbour were full of Japanese tourists. We paid our respects to those who gave their lives that Sunday away from the monument, quietly just the two of us. As the daughter of a Royal Naval officer who served at sea through the war in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, it felt more respectful.
However, our interactions did cause some interesting moments including one by the swimming pool at the hotel. David had gone for a late afternoon run in the grounds when it was cooler, and I stayed by the pool. After an hour of swimming, I decided to reward myself with a cocktail when the charming waitress made her rounds. I opted for a Molakai Mule which was one I had acquired a taste for.
One is usually quite sufficient, as it had a kick of the same velocity as a mule! There was a large group of Japanese gentlemen at the bar were enjoying the start of cocktail hour and seemed the same concoction.
I had just enjoyed quenching my thirst and placed the empty ceramic bowl back down on the table beside my lounger when the waitress arrived with another. I obviously said that I had not ordered a second drink but she informed me it was courtesy of the gentlemen at the bar. I did not wish to be ungracious and nodded my thanks little realising that this would lead to a rather surreal experience. Immediately the six guys stripped off to bathing trunks and came around to my side of the pool and proceeded to conduct some form of calisthenics I assumed. There was quite a bit of bowing, smiling and stretching and then as one they raced the deep end of the pool and jumped in.
It was at this point that David returned from his run and asked me if I wanted another drink before he went for his swim! The entertaining gentlemen in question got out of the shallow end of the pool and shouted across and waved to me as they collected their clothing and departed. My husband turned to me and asked..”What was all that about!” The telling of which was accompanied by two more Molakai Mules and a lot of hilarity.
We decided very early on that we were happy not to be staying in Waikiki. It was teeming with tourists and busy streets with shops selling souvenirs. We loved our isolation at the Makaha, but did enjoy taking advantage of the restaurants and iconic hotels such as the Royal Hawaiian (all pink stucco) and lovely.
We had some very memorable dinners in town, choosing restaurants that had been recommended in our excellent guidebook. The Willows was Hawaiian, all the tables set out in a glorious tropical garden, and was one of the most famous in the state.The menu was spectacular and we really enjoyed all the locally caught fish dishes. Wonderful fresh flavours and cooked to perfection. The Willows also had a shop full of designer mu mu dresses which are traditional ladies wear, and I ended up with a pre-anniversary gift. I wore it a couple of times during our holiday as it was cotton and very cool. And it certainly was a wow when we returned to Houston and I wore for parties.
The only disappointing restaurant unfortunately was the Benahani Japanese Steak house, which was very expensive and the food was not great. I certainly didn’t mind sitting around the large table with six strangers, as that is part of the experience, and it was amazing to watch the chef with his lightening speed knife skills. Unfortunately, the others around the table were already quite intoxicated before they sat down, and were not interesting in interacting with anyone else. It meant that we couldn’t even hear ourselves talk and it was disappointing not to get the full and famed Benahani treatment. Thankfully that was remedied elsewhere some months later.
The hotel restaurant, The Kaala Room, was excellent at the hotel and several nights we decided that we would stay in and have a couple of cocktails and dinner, rather than one of us having to be the designated driver.
David enjoys scuba diving and snorkeling but he would have needed to recertify in Hawaii to be able to scuba.. So we headed out to the fabulous Hanauma Bay which is noted for its snorkeling. I swam in the shallows and sunbathed whilst David left with a rented underwater camera and explored around the edges of the bay.
The photographs are not great quality, but they give an idea of some of the marine life that was enjoying the reef and rocky outcrops. I had my own encounter on the beach which has never left me. Two nuns appeared in full habits carrying towels and small carrier bags. They popped themselves down in front of my spot and nodded and smiled hello.. We exchanged niceties, and they then took it in turns to divest themselves of their habits, whilst each held a large towel around the other to preserve modesty. All was revealed, as the towel dropped and both were attired in 1930s or 40s knitted bathing costumes, and white rubber swimming caps. Bless their hearts, their bodies had not seen the light of day for years, and with no inner fixings in the bathing costumes and being wool, they could not have been more exposed.
I could only smile politely and try not to look horrified. They took this as permission to ask me to watch their habits and their bags whilst they took a dip. I nodded my agreement and off they went holding hands and skipping almost down to the water. I was wondering what these ancient knitted swimming costumes might look like after a good soaking in seawater, and the vision that I saw on their return still remains with me today.
They really were totally unaware of their dilemma, and thankfully there was nobody close enough to us to have noticed. I suggested that they might like to wrap themselves in their towels to dry off, and they admitted they had to get back to their retreat as they were not supposed to be there. They giggled and held the towels for each other, and within ten minutes were back into their habits and brushing off the sand. They blessed me and left like two naughty schoolgirls, and it made me appreciate the fact I could enjoy these simple pleasures freely.
As to Tom Selleck… I was a fan of Magnum PI and David often teased me about my crush on its lead actor…it was his acting I admired, honestly.. On one of our drives up the coast towards Diamond Head, we were stopped at a four way junction when a fancy silver sports convertible pulled to the stop across from us… and it was himself.. or a very close lookalike… David was driving and as we passed the other car he turned to me and said ‘don’t do anything stupid like throw yourself over his bonnet’…. as if!
We returned to Houston with an even deeper appreciation of this vast nation both from a geographic perspective and for its diverse population. It was a privilege to visit these beautiful Islands and it we intend to visit again one day.
©Sally Cronin 2018.
I hope you have enjoyed our trip to Hawaii. We have visited the Islands three times since then and fell in love with the place and the people… a little difficult to retire there but never say never…
Thanks for dropping in today and see you again next week with another adventure in America.. Sally.