I went to Hawaii with a friend from university. For the sake of the her privacy, I will call her Cinnamon.
We arrived at Pearson airport bright and early at 5:30am for our 8am flight. We were tired but wired for our trip. Our flight included a 1.5 hour layover, and it was 13 hours in total.
Pearson was as much a nightmare as I expected. Long lines, grumpy people, etc. The man who was x-raying the bags asked me to take out the umbrella from my luggage bag. I reached into my stuffed-to-the-limit bag and took it out. He felt the umbrella for a bit, nodded his head, and handed it back to me. I still don’t know what he expected to be in my umbrella.
The people at customs, and even the other flyers were very rude. Was it because no one got any proper sleep?
Cinnamon and I bought a breakfast bagel at the Great Canadian Bagel near the gate. It honestly tasted like heated plastic. We couldn’t stop laughing as we munched on our melted plastic sandwich. We couldn’t believe how terrible it was. I bought milk because I don’t like coffee. I was expecting a paper carton but all they had was “Milk2Go” in a plastic bottle. It looked, smelled and tasted exactly like white plastic powder dissolved in water. Wow. I had two gulps and I threw it out because it tasted like cancer cells. Thankfully, the trip was uphill from there.
After 13 hours later, we arrived at the Waikiki airport at 5pm with bloated legs that were in need of blood flow. Hawaiian air was much different from the chilly wind in Toronto. Cinnamon was excited from the change in scenery. Right out of the airport were mountains and palm trees, the two things you never see in Toronto. Cinnamon started taking pictures, but I was anxious to get on the bus to our hotel because all I really wanted was a hot shower.
We had only had liquids and dried snack packs in the plane. When we saw a Burger King, we ran inside. Thankfully, the Whopper set tasted so much better than the melted plastic that we had 13 hours ago.
We dissolved our whoppers and went to get a bus to our hotel. After asking several duty-free shop employees for directions, we got to a run-down-looking bus stop. We had expected the Honolulu airport to be painted in gold, and half-expected a hula-dancer to adorn our necks with leis, but the roads, bus stop and street signs all looked ghetto and 80’s-ish (this is only my personal opinion). I just felt like they haven’t invested much money into these things in a while. Possibly because all their attention is on southern areas of the island, near the beaches.
Cinnamon waiting at the airport bus stop. I didn’t take this picture to capture anything special, but it has all the elements of a Hawaiian background; blue open sky, palm trees and mountains.
You can take bus #19 or #20 to get “To Waikiki Beach and Hotels”, as the bus will say. $2.50 USD for a one-hour ride; not bad. The bus came and I expected it to be at least half-full with other tourists like myself, but I was surprised to see it filled with locals. It stopped at many of the major points of Waikiki (like Chinatown, and Ala Moana Shopping Centre), so it was a popular bus among the Hawaiians. It was nice to see people other than travelers and flight attendants, whom we had been seeing for the last 13 hours.
Cinnamon and I carried our un-showered bodies and heavy luggage bags on to the bus. Two middle-aged Hawaiian local men immediately got up and gave us their seats. We were very surprised that they were so ready to offer their seats to young, able-bodied tourists. I am not trying to insult my own city, but I have seen many healthy-looking Torontonians who do not give up their seats for the injured or the elderly. Yet here I was, a young traveler, getting to sit down for my one hour bus ride with my luggage bag comfortably stowed under my seat. All the other Hawaiian locals we got to brush elbows with during this trip were very pleasant and I developed a fondness for the people of the island.
It was easy to distinguish locals vs. outsiders, because the skin told all. The moment you see a face that has seen the sun for 365 days a year, you’ll instantly recognize it.
The bus went onto a major street out of the airport, and there was a long row of tents on the wide pedestrian road. I wasn’t sure what this was at first, but when I strained my eyes for focus, I saw that the tents were weathered down, like they have been out here for a while. It then dawned on me that these were the homes of the homeless. This is possible in a place where it is summer 365 days a year.
The bus kept going and so did the row of tents. I could see T-shirts and shorts hung on clotheslines, and a toothless resident smiling and talking to another resident in their front yard (i.e. the pedestrian road). The tents were all of different colors and sizes, and I seriously wondered to myself whether the residents with the bigger tents were considered the upper-class of this neighborhood. There was a whole community here.
I couldn’t help but feel extremely vapid in that moment. Sitting on the bus on my way to my hotel, my bag filled with different outfits for each day of the trip, while feeling grumpy because I hadn’t had a proper lunch. Nobody had forced me to come here. I came here on my own accord because I wanted to hang out at a beach. I was just another tourist, spending my money in the same restaurants, bars and shops like all the others, and leaving the island when I had my fill.
I can’t pinpoint the reason why, but I saw these tents projected from the back of my head sporadically throughout the trip. I thought I could see them hiding just behind the ostentatious shopping malls and the glistening hotels. Almost as if I reached out my hand and peeled off the glitzy layer of tall buildings, I could see the tents in their place, clear as day. And this must be the case everywhere in the world, not just here. I had known for a while, in a textbook-regurgitated kind of way, that there is always shabbiness in the shadow of luxury, but seeing this with my own eyes left a lasting impression on me and to this day, I still think of these tents.
During the bus ride, we saw a few tourists get on, but it was mostly the locals. Around 40 minutes into the ride, we started to approach the cluster of hotels. We relied on a screenshot of Google Maps to navigate to our hotel.
Thankfully, the hotel was at a great location and our room had strong wifi. The best part about the room was the balcony view.
The view from the balcony. An even more beautiful view was waiting for us when we woke up the next morning.
We finally took a hot shower, celebrated our arrival, and looked for a place to eat. We found a “Sam’s Kitchen” that was nearby on Yelp. In our tired state, proximity was the most important factor. But of course, with the wifi cut off the moment we exited the hotel, we got lost, and ended up asking for directions to a nearby foodcourt. At this point, we needed food; any food. I settled for an Orange Chicken combo at Panda Express, the US-equivalent of Manchu Wok. It tasted really terrible and I was surprised to find myself yearning for Manchu Wok instead. Yes, it was that bad.
We stopped at one of the many ABC Stores (a Hawaiian chain of convenience stores) to buy some chips, beers and small necessities and headed back to the hotel to sleep.