Hawaii No Ka Oi
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by Laramie Boyd
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In 1979 my wife and I began visiting Hawaii. Now we travel to the islands almost
every year We have been to Oahu, The Big Island Hawaii, Kauai and Maui. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to visit Lanai and Molokai before
too long. What an experience it was when we first flew across the Pacific to those little specks of land in that great ocean. On the
plane ride over, beautiful young ladies were clad in sarongs, a plumeria on one ear, and a lei necklace that quickly made you feel
you were going to a very special place. Hawaiian music would play in the background and deliciously refreshing tropical drinks and
snacks were served. On occasion a contest was held for passengers, often to guess arrival time, sometimes trivia questions about the
islands were asked, and winners were given interesting prizes, like a lei, or a free drink, or something else as a remembrance of
the flight. You could watch a movie on several screens located on the ceiling of the cabin, using the plug-in ear phones provided.
And when a successful landing was made, the passengers would erupt in a loud round of applause for the pilot, thanking him for a safe,
comfortable flight into Honolulu. The airline it seemed to me was trying to make the flight as enjoyable as such a long five hour
flight could be made. And then on shore, everywhere you went you were greeted with a friendly "aloha", along with a genuine smile.
A few small shops dotted the islands back then where you could purchase mementos of your trip. Luaus could be found providing huge
buffets and a laid back night of entertainment, featuring grass-skirted girls doing the hula dance, and young Hawaiian men in a fire-dance.
A visit to Hawaii back then was truly a tropical paradise experience, compared with the rush and hustle of the mainland left behind.
In many ways things are different now. On the plane, gone are the girls in
sarongs, the Hawaiian music, and movie screens on the ceilings. If you want to watch a movie now, for $10 you are offered a hand held
device with a 6 inch screen. No pillows or blankets for comfort and warmth are passed out, while saran-wrapped containers offering
ready-made meals are available for purchase, and they're not cheap. (On the plus side, however, there no longer is that thick, choking
cigarette cloud of smoke in the last row of seats in the back of the plane.)
Traveling around most of the islands, you now find time-share presentations, attempts by sales agents to get you to buy a guaranteed
one week visit every year in a designated hotel chain, hopefully in Hawaii. Some of these sales pitches ask you to pay from $25,000
to $75,000, plus fees, for that one week. Also, at one of the shopping malls, you might find young Israeli girls selling Dead Sea
salt, a creamy Dead Sea body lotion, and a chunk of lava rock, all three for a "sale price" of $99. Much of what you can get on the
mainland can now be bought in Hawaii. Shopping malls look to be on every corner, at prices that seem to me gouging.
During your stay, from the beach or a condo window you see cruise ships from far off ports, bringing in shoppers and sightseers by
the thousands. Crowds of sunbathers lounge around the pools provided at every hotel while poolside bars and restaurants, and water
sports equipment rental shops flourish. I find that the mosquitoes that once gathered on the islands and made my night time beach
strolls miserable have apparently packed up and left for other quieter spots.
The clean air of the trade winds, the swaying palms, the out of this world sunsets witnessed by camera-toting tourists gathered every
night on the western shores, the sound of the gentle surf, these luxuries somehow help to compensate for the influx of tourists, which
includes me I guess, that have been instrumental in most of the changes to the once pristine islands. Still, Hawaii remains a place
where, if you know where to go, and what to do, you can unwind and have a vacation experience matched by few places in the world.
And, I assure you, I shall return to that beautiful part of America as soon as the opportunity arises, and I hope that it's sooner
and not later. Aloha.