A full day of culture
Laie Travel Blog› entry 7 of 22 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.