A full day of culture

Laie Travel Blog

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Polynesia

As I mentioned, the other day I had made a few arrangements for the rest of the week. Today I arranged for us to visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre.

I had heard the Luau at the centre is the best on Oahu, and all the times I have visited Hawaii in the past I had never been to a Luau. Therefore, off to the Polynesian Cultural Centre it was.

Located just over an hour’s scenic drive from Waikiki, The Polynesian Cultural Centre is a 42-acre oasis of Polynesian Culture. Here you have the chance to immerse yourself in the lifestyles, habitats, entertainment and hospitality of seven Pacific cultures.

Here's the lovely island girl ticking more names off her list.
As a guest you get to meet, learn about and interact with the people of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti, the Marquesas and Tonga. Polynesia is a triangular area in the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii at the northern tip, New Zealand in the southwest and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the southeast. Although Fiji is a part of Melanesia and not within Polynesia, it has significant Polynesian influences in its culture and is part of the Polynesian Cultural Centre.


Our first introduction to the Cultural Centre was meeting a beautiful island girl at our pickup point for the bus, who ticked our name off her list with a beautiful big smile on her face and a beautiful big flower in her hair. Our tour guide on the bus was a big funny Samoan student; I think I remember his name was Sami, but I am surprised I’m not sure because he did drum it into our heads and I remembered it for the rest of the day.

It was a shame about the streaky windows, but the view was lovely.
Most of the employees of the Cultural Centre are students attending the adjacent university, and most of these students are from one of the seven cultures represented, although there are other nationalities present.


The bus we were on to the centre was a large bus holding about 50 or so people, so a fair size. Our bus guide (the large Samoan) made the ride entertaining and informative, pointing out places of interest along the way, including where some of the scenes from one of my favourite movies, ’50 First Dates’ were filmed. Once at the centre he told us where we would need to meet to get back on the bus at the end of the evening, as there would be many buses taking many, many people back to their prospective hotels.


As we entered the main gates, the bus group was divided into smaller groups and Mel and I found ourselves in a group of about 10.

Oh look, more streaky windows and a gorgeous view beyond.
We were shown where the ‘Rainbows of Paradise canoe pageant’ would start and invited to take a seat to watch the show. We found a couple of seats with a little bit of shade under a tree, as it was the 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was beating down. Island girls came through the crowd offering delicious cold drinks for sale for USD4.00 and then the show began.


The pageant certainly was colourful, and lovely to watch. People form each of the islands entertained us with their colourful, traditional costumes and treated us to exciting dance and music of their cultures all the while floating on the peaceful lagoon that meanders through the Cultural Centre atop twin-hulled canoes. The Samoans were funny and entertaining with our bus tour guide one of the dancers; as their canoe was leaving, the male dancers started rocking the canoe from side to side enough to have their ‘gondolier’ falling into the lagoon.

Waiting for the canoe pageant
 Luckily, the girls were seated on the canoe and were safe from falling in.


After the canoe pageant, we met our guide for the rest of the day, a lovely young lady from Russia, and another of the students from the neighbouring uni. Our first stop on our tour was Tonga where we were treated to a fun drumming demonstration, where a few unsuspecting audience members were recruited to help entertain the crowd with some dancing, drumming and singing, all be it not very well. :) After the embarrassment - I mean entertainment, the audience members and Tongan drummer provided us; it was off to learn how to toss a spear. It was great getting hands on lessons and not just standing back to watch. We were given one practice toss and then the competition was on, we were aiming for a circle about 10-metres away, but of all the people I watched toss the spears, not one of us managed to hit the circle.

Yummy cool drink
So no winners today.


Next, it was off to Fiji where we tried one of their native foods, Taro, they can keep that; I suppose it might be an acquired taste, but I don’t wish to acquire it.


Ok, from Fiji, it was off to New Zealand, or as the Maori people call it, Aotearoa. Here we had time to talk with a traditional wood carver whose father taught him his trade and who has been applying his trade at the cultural centre for over 30 years; honestly, he didn’t look a day over 30, so I think he must have started chiselling on the way out of the womb. Then it was time to enter the traditional Maori meeting house where we had a traditional welcome and watched a demonstration of some of the Maori dancing, games and the Haka all the while listening to tales of land.

Still waiting for the canoe pageant
Once the show was over, it was back outside to have a look at the Waka Taua war canoe and have a play with the Tititorea (Stick game) where Mel and I partnered up to throw sticks at each other. We learn a few different moves; it was a bit like a dance, in that you kneeled on the floor, tapped the sticks together, threw right handed only, then right first, left second, then both at the same time, tapping the floor in-between tossing the sticks and trying to catch them. It was such fun, but as with all the activities we did today, there was not time to really get the knack of it before moving on to the next ‘Island’.


Samoa was next, the fun island, well at least that’s what Mel and I christened it. Each time we met a Samoan or watched any of their ‘performances’, they were so much fun and showed us they all have a wonderful sense of humour.

... and it begins with a scattering of flower petals in the water.
Within the Samoan village, we had the chance to try our hand at fire starting using a little stick and rubbing it along the length of a longer stick to try to create a flame. Not all of us wanted to try this because it took a bit of effort, but I was willing. There were a few of us sitting on our long stick to stop it from moving and rubbing the shorter stick backwards and forwards quickly enough to make smoke, and you know the saying, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Well I am very proud to say, I was the only one in the group who even managed to get smoke, but none of us managed to make fire - so I guess the saying isn’t quite true after all. After our dismal efforts, the pro came along and showed us how to do it properly. He started by sharpening his tool (the shorter of the two sticks) and cutting a strip off the longer stick to reveal a strip of fresh wood for him to work with, and within 3 minutes he had fire.
Hawaii
I was amazed; I had been trying to get a spark for about five minutes before he came along and all I was able to do was make a bit of smoke. He was going to show us their way of putting fire out, but wanted to save the surprise for the Horizons show after dinner tonight.


Well, after all these fun and games we were starting to get a little peckish and lucky for us it was nearly dinnertime. Mel and I made our way to the Hale Ohana restaurant, which was more like an auditorium, where they had been preparing the traditional Luau for our dinner. We were shown to a table where two other couples who we had shared the day with were already seated. Throughout dinner, traditional singers and dancers entertained us. However the reason we were there was to eat, and oh my goodness, what a delicious meal.

My heart dances with joy to the rhythm of the pounding Nafa, the splash of the laughing Sea. Tangaloa is pointing the way, to my frindly Island Kingdom Tonga.
The meal was a buffet where we could serve ourselves and choose from the many different salads, vegetables and meat. I was there for a luau, so I only tried the pork and boy what a great choice. Mel tried both the fish and chicken as well, but didn’t enjoy the fish at all and the chicken was teriyaki chicken, which I could eat anywhere, but it’s not every day you have the choice of pork slowly cooked in a pit in the ground, or ‘imu’, that’s why it was my only choice. After the delicious dinner, we had a choice of yummy traditional deserts including Haupia (coconut milk-based Hawaiian dessert) and Guava Cake. I love things like this and am always game to try new foods. Mel was a little more unadventurous and only tried things with which she was familiar. I have to say; I did enjoy everything I ate.
The fragrance of tiare on the night air, the soft glow of a Black Pearl. Pulsating drums to the rhythm of the tamure; the magic of a Polynesian moon, will whisper,... Tahiti


After dinner I had a little time to wander through the market place, (you should know me by now :)) where I bought a couple of little things to bring home. I must say, the products sold here were top notch, and I didn’t find any other place where I could buy such quality at the reasonable prices offered here.


The finale of the day was Horizons, “the spectacular night show with a cast of 100”. As we had paid extra (we paid for the Ambassador Package) we had preferred seating at the show, so from a few rows back from the stage, we enjoyed dancing, singing, storytelling and firewalkers. The Samoans were the firewalkers and I finally learnt how they put out their fires. They throw themselves in their grass skirts on the fire in a sitting position and out the fire goes.

Maori flutes that cry Haere Mai, welcome to the land of the long white cloud, where mountains touch the sky. The first to greet the sun on each new day in enchanted, Aotearoa, you know it as, New Zealand
The grand finale was a dazzling performance by the fire knife dancers. All performers dressed in authentic costume, and I have to say it was definitely a spectacular.


We met the bus at the allocated spot, unfortunately, our tour guide did not join us for the ride home as he lived near the Uni, but on the ride home, as everyone was tired from a full day, we didn’t need any entertaining.


Today was a fantastic day, and I learnt a lot about Polynesia, even though I have travelled to both New Zealand and Hawaii numerous times, and I try to learn as much as I can about the cultures of the countries I visit, there was still quite a bit for me to learn. The Polynesian Cultural Centre has also given me good reason to travel to some of the other Polynesian islands and experience more of these wonderful cultures in the future.

The laughter of children as they listen to Tina-Matua, Grandma the teller of tales and the keeper of culture with gems of tradition to be passed on to children; even when they don't want to hear. Come and meet the happy people of fabulous, exciting Samoa

hummingbird50 says:
Wow what fun. Not much of a meat eater but I would be all over the vegys. It is nice to be able to learn about the different cultures, thanks for the great story. You forgot the Hula lessons, grass skirts, darn....:) It always handy to learn how to make a fire:):)
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
Sunflower300 says:
Thanks for reading Rudolph. It was a very full day, I'm glad you make it through. :) I realised afterwards I forgot the mention the Hula lessons in the Hawaiian village as well.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
Sweetski says:
Quite a day, quite a story. I am a little exhausted of all the entertainment and impressions :) Thanks for making the time to write it Elke, it is wonderful to learn so much about Polynesia.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
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Polynesia
Polynesia
Heres the lovely island girl tick…
Here's the lovely island girl tic…
It was a shame about the streaky w…
It was a shame about the streaky …
Oh look, more streaky windows and …
Oh look, more streaky windows and…
Waiting for the canoe pageant
Waiting for the canoe pageant
Yummy cool drink
Yummy cool drink
Still waiting for the canoe pageant
Still waiting for the canoe pageant
... and it begins with a scatterin…
... and it begins with a scatteri…
Hawaii
Hawaii
My heart dances with joy to the rh…
My heart dances with joy to the r…
The fragrance of tiare on the nigh…
The fragrance of tiare on the nig…
Maori flutes that cry Haere Mai, w…
Maori flutes that cry Haere Mai, …
The laughter of children as they l…
The laughter of children as they …
Anyone for a swim? Yes, but not by…
Anyone for a swim? Yes, but not b…
Sand and surf the shimmering of bl…
Sand and surf the shimmering of b…
Royal Procession
Royal Procession
Walking through the villages
Walking through the villages
Nose flute
Nose flute
Conch shell
Conch shell
Beware - audience participation
Beware - audience participation
Look, they even left the coconuts …
Look, they even left the coconuts…
Oooo, bamboo :)
Oooo, bamboo :)
Watching other spear tossers
Watching other spear tossers
Ah, nuts
Ah, nuts
Oh to be a bee
Oh to be a bee
Canoe in Fiji
Canoe in Fiji
Lovely Island girl
Lovely Island girl
New Zealand
New Zealand
Aotearoa wood carver
Aotearoa wood carver
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe with our Rus…
Waka Taua - war canoe with our Ru…
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Waka Taua - war canoe
Polynesian palm trees
Polynesian palm trees
Entering the Meeting House
Entering the Meeting House
Decorative ceiling in the Maori Me…
Decorative ceiling in the Maori M…
Poi dance
Poi dance
Stick tossing
Stick tossing
Stick tossing
Stick tossing
Maori Meeting House
Maori Meeting House
Poi dancers
Poi dancers
New Zealand
New Zealand
Samoan fire starter
Samoan fire starter
We already have smoke
We already have smoke
...lots of smoke
...lots of smoke
... some sparks
... some sparks
... just a little air
... just a little air
... a bit more air
... a bit more air
... and ta daaa! We have fire with…
... and ta daaa! We have fire wit…
My what a lovely bunch of coconuts
My what a lovely bunch of coconuts
High Hibiscus
High Hibiscus
Pretty scenery at the Culture Cent…
Pretty scenery at the Culture Cen…
Pretty waterfall
Pretty waterfall
The entertainment at the Luau
The entertainment at the Luau
The restaurant for the Luau
The 'restaurant' for the Luau
The Polynesian market place
The Polynesian market place
Horizons 
Where the sea meets the…
Horizons Where the sea meets th…
Come set your course to Makalii t…
Come set your course to Makali'i …
Come feel the ebb and flow of the …
Come feel the ebb and flow of the…
Wedding ceremony
Wedding ceremony
Cast of 100 in traditional dress
Cast of 100 in traditional dress
Samoan fire starters
Samoan fire starters
The Samoans having fun with their …
The Samoans having fun with their…
Fire knife dancers
Fire knife dancers
Fire knife dancers
Fire knife dancers
Laie
photo by: Sunflower300