2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Tour of Museum: Bishop Museum

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One hundred eighty-two years ago today, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, one of this century’s memorable women, and great-granddaughter of Hawai’i‘s greatest King, Kamehameha I, was born in Honolulu. Bernice Bishop‘s “herstory” is heartwarming. As a philanthropist, she founded the Kamehameha Schools for educating Hawaiian children. She followed her heart by marrying the man she herself had chosen, and not the one that had been chosen for her. She refused the throne offered her by a dying monarch, quietly sidestepping the pomp and circumstance that would have come with the title. But as the last in line to the illustrious crown, her refusal ended the royal reign of the House of Kamehameha.

My trip to the museum, which was preceded by two false stops onboard #2 Bus–one in Chinatown, (I was lured perhaps by the swine image of Lucky Belly), and too soon before the traffic lights in the corner of Kalapama–was quite the ride. The rest of the way to the museum is a block down from Kalihi to Bernice Street.

Built in 1889, the Bishop Museum was first used as a school ground for girls, which was eventually turned into a museum as repository for her papers and the artifacts she had collected during her travels. Inside the cool stone structure, guests are greeted at the foot of the impressive wooden staircase made entirely of koa, the gorgeous hardwood used everywhere in the museum, and which tree, we were told by its present curator, Ms Maly, grew in abundance in Hawaii. However, to turn the hardwood into fine specimens of wonderful carpentry, it had to be shipped to the mainland to be fashioned into doors, columns, cabinets, which are then brought back to the museum.



Feathered standards, called kahili are showcased in the Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kahili Room if one turns left at the entrance, before going up the stairs to the Hawaiian room. Feathered standards were used as emblems for the high chiefs, or ali’i nui of Hawaii any time they are in the vicinity. Kahili were also used in formal state ceremonies such as at the opening of the Legislature, during coronation rites and visits of dignitaries, and especially during royal funerals, where they were held aloft as a sign of respect


If one turns right at the entrance, one would find the Joseph Long Room.

Up the staircase is Hawaiian Hall, home to the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts, and at the center of it, suspended from the rafters, is a papier mache skeleton of a sperm whale.


Also found in the Bishop Museum grounds are the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center, which opened in November 2005, and which contains interactive volcanology and dinosaur learning exhibits, and the oldest planetarium in all of Polynesia, the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, an educational and research facility devoted to astronomy.



“Le’ahi”: Doing Diamond Head

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Visiting historic Pearl Harbor was the centerpiece of my 2009 trip to O’ahuhiking up the 1.1 km to the summit of Diamond Head to see the tuff cone crater, a natural landmark, was it on my 2013 return trip. Le’ahi, the Hawaiian word for the “brow of the ahi fish”, also “wreath of fire” to refer to the “navigational fires” lit to serve as seafarers’ guides, is a geological marvel that can only be fully appreciated from the top. Needless to say, you must first sweat and pant your way up. Another reward awaits the strong and the strong-willed: scenic Waikiki unfolds at your feet, a terrific backdrop for a “selfie”!

Not a selfie: Thanks to Azumi Niwa

According to the US Department of Land and Natural Resources, the name “Diamond Head” came from Western explorers who mistook the calcite crystals they found in the crater as diamonds. Before opening this natural landmark to tourism in 1976, Diamond Head was the first United States military reservation in Hawaii. Although some military facilities remain in the interior areas and are closed to traffic, Diamond Head nevertheless attracts millions of hiking enthusiasts annually, no doubt ticking it off a bucket list more important than the threat of a sunstroke.  A dollar gains you entry to this state park.

This inky tunnel amplifies the sounds of the fit and the fat! ;p

The best time to visit Diamond Head is very early in the morning, or in the afternoon–for catching some glorious sunsets too!–but mind that admissions close at 6pm. The best gear to bring is just your camera, which should be slung around your neck, or wrapped around your wrist. Don’t bring bags, and other paraphernalia that would require your hands, which you should expect to be busy with your water bottle, and for propelling yourself up. Sensible for stowing all your stuff in, a backpack when full could become deadweight and slow your ascent.

Expect grueling hiking trails of rocks, lumpy earth, concrete and metal steps, with the sun blazing hotly down your neck and back. Lather sunscreen copiously beforehand. A hat, preferably wide-brimmed, is going to be a godsend in these parts, as are oversized shades, just don’t let a wayward wind surprise you, and blow them away. Do not expect any shady part on the trail up—there isn’t any, unless you consider clouds passing overhead shade enough, or rest stations. If you think long sleeves won’t contribute to further raising your body temp, also save you from racking up a huge dermatology bill, by all means wear them; else, sleeveless tops are your best bet. Come in your most comfortable sneakers, and lightweight pants, pedal pushers or tokong.

Battle ready.

Pace yourself, paying no mind to people coming down, but be courteous of other hikers behind you as the trails were so designed as to accommodate only a two-way traffic. An octogenarian (maybe), commendable for braving Diamond Head, held a lot of people up with her slow and mincing steps. (She had been halfway up the summit by the time I was coming back down. Way to go, lola!) Passing a short stretch of tunnel that amplifies one’s breathing gives you a one-off realization who are in tip-top shape, or not. A good part of the morning spent up on the mountain is not a bad way of using up vacation time.



Nearing the summit.
Nearing the summit.

On the way down and out of the state park, make like a lost tourist and bum a ride from a private shuttle filled with kindly Japanese tourists on the way back to their Waikiki hotels, saving yourself the bother of coming down on foot. Don’t forget to apologize for the “mistake”, in your most convincing expression! ^_^

Tourist bus


Still want a certain altitude from where to view the beauty of Honolulu, but not prepared to toast in the sun? Then, go to Aloha Tower. Tourists are serviced by an elevator which take you up and out to the roof deck of the tower, for an amazing 360-degree view of downtown Honolulu and harbor, minus the panting and wheezing!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

I was trying to catch the setting sun, but I got the tree, instead.

Hey, I’m not complaining! ;)

Road Trip O’ahu

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Hawai’i is not just O’ahu; it is also Maui, the Big Island, Molokai, Kauai, etc. O’ahu is also not just Waikiki; it is a bunch of other excellent beaches like Waimea, Waimanalo, Kailua, Kualoa, Ka’a’awa (pronounced Ka-a-ava). If there’s a perfect place to get lost in, is in some beach with un-pronounce-able place names like Pupukea or Kaihalulu.

The ultimate road trip remains a car driven by you or by your partner. The next best thing is to get on TheBus, where your $60/month bus pass takes you anywhere in the quadrant that makes up the island of O’ahu—up the North Shore and the Windward Coast, to Leeward and all over Central O’ahu. Imagine spending only the equivalent of a little over a hundred pesos (at Php43 to $1) from downtown Honolulu up to the North Shore, and the excitement mounts. Assuming you do not get off Bus #55 you took at Ala Moana Center terminal to go to Kailua Beach, the trip will set you back only $2.50. And the savings increase if you have time on your hands, and get off at quaint towns along the way to check out Mililani and historic Hale’iwa towns, Whitmore Village and Waimea Valley, Dole and Helemano pineapple plantations, and back on the bus again. You flash your bus pass and you’re in for a scenic bus ride. Take bus #52 for a straight trip to the North Shore which takes the route of the highway; but take bus #55 for a more scenic ride, as it winds along the sides of mountains, past tunnels, and speeds past along sparkling stretches of ocean.


Have a skit ready for when some cheeky guy tries to chat you up, and the attention is not welcome. While waiting for Bus #52 (Wahiawa/Circle Island) up at Mililani Town Center to go to Waimea, a chunky 6-footer of an Asian-American man must have guessed, quite correctly, that I wasn’t from there, and tried this age-old tactic: “You’re not from around here, huh?!”

“No, no, no,” I said, shaking my head, and bringing my hand up, as if in defeat. “Vietnamiz, ha!” I lied, trying to suggest, with that inflection, that I did not know another word of English. Searching my eyes behind very dark glasses, not quite believing the sound and content of what he had heard, he slunk quietly away, handing me back my peace.

Traveling on your own can get a bit lonely, but try not to break down when the 30-minute wait between buses gets unnerving, sitting by your lonesome in a deserted bus stop at Waimea Valley at half past 6 pm on a drizzly Sunday—that’s when your Canon becomes all the company you need.

There is, on the other hand, the comfort provided by strangers. Kathryn, whom I felt to be Filipina, was an engaging bus companion. “I grew up here, and do not intend to leave,” she confided. “I’m an ocean person.” Up at Lanikai, she pointed out both the better vantage points from where to get the best shots, and the best beach to sink your toes in, if that’s all you’re prepared to do. Pack a bikini, at the very least. The knowledge affords you the freedom of being spontaneous. From the raised road in Lanikai, I saw her wave from inside TheBus, and I had felt less solitary.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

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Outside of Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is this beautiful, tree-lined walk that I could not stop capturing on camera. This was even before I had learned that the next weekly challenge is going to be this sort of thing—two shots of the same view. I don’t know why, but I just love this stretch of road. I’m thinking, this must be what Laurence Durrell had in mind when he talked about the “spirit of place“. Those trees that stand majestic are spirit-filled!

I have taken several shots of this walk way during the day and also during night time just to see how this place would look with soft lights coming from street lamps, because I was simply enamored of this place. But these two shots, one on a hot day, and the other, after the rain, are my favorites.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece(s)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece(s)

A masterpiece of urban planning, the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore shows us what can be achieved if humans plan and execute.


One of Salvador Dali‘s masterpieces, Persistence of Memory, which features a fluid watch draped on a tree (shown below)  is a personal favorite.  Imagine my surprise to see this idea re-created using a multitude of clocks reflected on a mirror at a Salvador Dali Exhibit at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore in October, 2011.


And isn’t this purple-and-silver dusk God’s many masterpieces?