Here I am, in Waikiki, staying in a modest hotel across from Kapiolani Park, a block from the beach. Waikiki is, of course, overrun with tourists from all over the world who’ve come to explore the most isolated archipelago on Earth.
They’re — we’re — always out walking around. Seriously, always. Heavy pedestrian traffic had started, or never ceased, by the time we went for a run at 8:30 a.m. It was happening at 5 a.m. when we awoke, still on West Coast time. Returning from dinner, I remarked that Waikiki’s sidewalks appeared more crowded than New York City’s. My sister (my week No. 1 traveling companion) said, no, New York is busier. I told her it’s exactly the same.
We’ve been here two days and already had enough sun exposure, and burns, to personally insult a dermatologist. Today, we swam with fishes, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed when I managed to stop freaking out about the possibility of stepping on corral and killing a precious living creature long enough to watch as tang and butterfly fish passed by, or stopped for a nibble.
It’s fitting I’m based in Waikiki for this little 15-day adventure — the tourist trap where culture comes to die. Or live? I’m not quite sure. There are, after all, plenty of free hula performances, ukulele playing and “mahalo” floating around. We must surely take something away from this cultural exposure, right? Oh, yes, traditionally speaking, Native Hawaiians pass down stories through hula song and dance. Ah, “mahalo” means thank you in their native language.
But there’s also the Gucci, Cheesecake Factory, Victoria Secret, Forever 21, street performers, club-goers, teenager runaways, honeymooners, tweakers, Japanese women in high heels. As a 20-year resident described Waikiki this afternoon: “It’s like driving through a mall.” Just with more interesting, and diverse, characters.
I get the impression Waikiki isn’t exactly a place locals appreciate. But many of them work here, behind the counters of ABC shops, as waitresses in perpetually busy restaurants, as instructors giving surf lessons on the beach.
In a few days, I finally get to meet with some of my interviewees for the article. I expect about seven of them. But that’s all I’ll say for now. I don’t want to show my whole hand! (or whatever that saying is. I’m bad idioms.)