Date Archives June 2015

The Bishop Museum in Oahu

bishop museum

If you’re looking to learn about Hawaiian history and culture, the Bishop Museum may well be your jam. It absolutely was mine, and was in fact one of the most interesting and educational museums I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. The Bishop Museum contains the largest number of Polynesian artifacts in the world, from royal kahili (feather standards) and royal feather cloaks that are woven so tightly they appear to be made of cloth, to ceremonial artifacts and deity statues. Each section was beautifully displayed and evocatively described; you can appreciate the artifacts on their own, but the placards gave you the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more.

bishop museum hall

Look at all that luxe koa wood: those display cases are actually worth more than the original museum buildings! The Hawaiian hall covers everything from the gods of pre-contact Hawaii to Hawaiian daily life to Hawaiian history. There are a number of stations where you can learn Hawaiian storytelling, play with kala’au sticks, and more. Adjacent is the Pacific Hall, which teaches you about the distinct but connected cultures of Polynesia. They even had a small section on the aboriginal Taiwanese, which surprised me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t learn much about the aboriginal culture when I was actually in Taiwan.


wooden sculpture

shark tooth weapon

The placard underneath this tiger shark tooth weapon said that it was used to kill tiger sharks, which is the most metal thing I’ve ever heard.

creepy statue

The placard with this statue of a shark deity said that its burial location was discovered in a dream where it had begged to be found, and they had to cement it into place in its current location, because despite their efforts to relocate it outside the Hawaiian Hall, it refused to be moved. Now look at its eyes again. Following you around? They haunted me that entire room.

hat display

There was an entire room dedicated to the craftsmanship of grass hats, and when you neared this camera, the monitor would plop a hat on your head. Fabulous, no?

protest signs    white people ruin everything

The Bishop Museum was very tasteful in their labeling of sheet music about America’s newfound interest in Hawaii, merely saying that the songwriters “created some absurd versions of the Hawaiian language.” My label would have been “Goddamn it, white people.”

bishop museum inside

bishop museum volcano

We moseyed over to the science hall to make sure we arrived in plenty of time for the lava pouring demonstration, the only place you can see melted lava in person on Oahu. Inside the science hall, they’ve got a wee volcano that wafts smoke from its top, and a sad slide that not even children can work up a good speed on, so it was extra sad when I tried it. I looked like a dog scooting his ass on the carpet, dragging myself down the slide with my feet. Echoes of the Kennedy Space Center and the ramp slide I made when they wouldn’t let me slide down their actual slide, except people were openly laughing at me this time.

To get to their hot shop under the volcano, you need to take a trip down the rainbow road, aka Stoner’s Paradise:

rainbow road

We were right on time, and the demonstrator taught us all about the different kinds of volcanic glass and passed around samples for us to touch and inspect. He also passed around a chunk of what will eventually be the new island in the Hawaiian chain, Lo’ihi, some 10,000-100,000 years from now, which means neither you nor I will vacation there in our lifetimes, barring vampiric immortality or robot bodies, neither of which would probably appreciate the salty sea air and blazing sun.

Then on to the good stuff: the lava pour. To get it into its liquid state, it has to be heated to over 1292°F, which is so hot that I’m assuming you can toast a marshmallow from 100 yards. No one has really invested in the marshmallow toasting sciences enough to tell me for certain. The lava solidified rapidly, and even though it was still incredibly hot, it could be picked up and manipulated.  At that level of heat, even in a protective suit the demonstrator couldn’t be near it for long, and he was out of the containment area before it cooled down enough to look like the rippled lava we more readily recognize.

lava flow demonstration

They also had dinosaurs. Poseable ones, rideable ones, and so many animatronic ones, and you know I’ll always take a hot second to gawk at some animatronic dinosaurs or maybe feed one an onion ring.

bishop t rex

trike rider

baby dinosaurs

The Bishop Museum was completely amazing, and even though every fiber of your body urges you to be outside every moment while you’re visiting Oahu, if you have any interest in Polynesian history or culture, I wholeheartedly recommend you carve out some time to visit.

Spotted on the Roadside: Duke Kahanamoku and the Shaman Stones


shaman stones waikiki

Residing beside one another in Waikiki are two sites of note–the shaman stones (or “Stones of Life), and a statue of Duke Kahanamoku. As long as throngs of tourists aren’t blocking your view, you can literally turn from one and see the other!

The plaque on the Stones of Life reads “Legend says that these stones are the living legacy of four powerful Tahitian healers who once resided near this site at a place called Ulukou. From the court of the Tahitian chief, the names of the four were Kapaenahu, Kapuni, Kinohi and Kahaloa. They came from Moa’ulanuiakea on the island of Raiaiea long before the reign of Kakuhihewa, beloved O’ahu chief during the 1500’s. The fame of the healers spread as they traveled throughout the islands administering their miraculous cures. When it was time to return to Raiaiea, they asked that two stones be placed at their Ulukou residence and two at their favorite bathing place in the sea. Four huge stones were quarried from Kaimuki, and on the night of ‘Kane’ thousands transported the stones to Ulukou. Incantations, fasting and prayers lasted a full cycle of the moon. The healers then gave their names and mana (spiritual power) to the stones before departing to their homeland.”

In 1997, the stones were moved together in Waikiki, placed on an altar, and fenced in to protect them. The heaviest stone weighs almost 7.5 tons–no wonder it took thousands of people to transport them!

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku is by far the more popular tourist attraction–Duke was the father of international surfing, having introduced the sport to the eastern seaboard. He was also a multi-Olympic goldwinner, movie star, and even served as sheriff for a time, and was honored with this statue in 1990*.  Duke’s torches are lit with a special ceremony every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 6:30pm, followed by a hula performance. If you’re in need of a quick Hawaiian vacation, you can crank up the heat in your home, make a drink, and watch via webcam.


*Duke was also honored with a beachfront restaurant and bar that everyone says you should go to, but you really, really shouldn’t, unless super drunk cover bands singing “hotel california” are your thing.  Their lava flow drink is the bomb, though.

Spotted on Kalakaua Ave in Honolulu, HI

Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau Oahu

ancient hawaiian temple

hawaiian temple

puuo mahuka heiau

view of the ocean

wrapped rock

lava rock wrapped in leaf


waimea bay

A surprisingly short distance from the tourist gear rental shops and the Pupukea grocery store is one of the most sacred sites on Oahu. If you drive up the twisting, one car-width road, you’ll find Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau (“Hill of Escape”)–what remains of a large temple. It’s remarkably well-preserved for a structure so old, and signs indicate the area that may have served as a central altar. It’s said that this place is one of two on Oahu where the wives of ancient chiefs gave birth, and the gods were also honored here with sacrifices and offerings for success in war.  What did not happen at this temple were burials: it was believed that bones contained great power which would be bestowed on the possessor. It’s for this reason that the ancient chiefs were buried in secret spots on the mountain.

Leading from the temple is a short, easy path that leads you to a beautiful view of Waimea Bay–so easy, it can be done in slippers. Along the path, you’ll see a number of lava rocks wrapped in ti leaves–resist the urge to do it yourself, and enjoy the scenery instead.