“T” is For Temple-Our Oahu, Hawaii Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our cruise stopped at the island of Oahu.   We spent the day at the top rated Polynesian Cultural Center, located in the tiny town of  La’ie.  With a population of just under 6,000, the area attracts over 700,000 people a year.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, a project of the Mormon church is La’ie’s main attraction.  This is particularly famous for its authentic luau, however located a short distance from the center,  the  La’ie Hawaiian Temple should also be high on every travelers list.

The Laie Hawaii Temple stands adjacent to Church-owned Brigham Young University–Hawaii.  Many of the students work at the Cultural Center, as a way to offset their tuition, most are native to the surrounding islands.

In 1864, the land was acquired by Mormon missionaries and settled by a colony of Hawaiian Mormons.  The Laie Hawaii Temple sits on the Church’s original landholdings in Hawaii,  known as La’ie Plantation. The 6,000-acre parcel was purchased in 1865 for $14,000.

The impressive white La’ie Temple, where “the highest rites of the Mormon church can be performed”, was built in 1919 on the site of an ancient Hawaiian “city of refuge” (puuhonua: “a sanctuary for the pursued”), now known as La’ie.

Surrounded by lush Hawaiian flora,on a gently rising hill that features cascading pools and a large fountain, the La’ie Hawaii Temple graces the north shore of Oahu, just a half mile from the Pacific Ocean.

At just 10,500 square feet, the La’ie Hawaii Temple was the smallest temple the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) had ever constructed, though it has since been enlarged to over 40,000 square feet.

Often called the “Taj Mahal of the Pacific,” the La’ie Hawaii Temple was the first temple built in the Pacific islands (and in the state of Hawaii).  It was also the first to be built outside of the continental US.  The temple is also the oldest to operate outside Utah (where the Church Headquarters are located), and is the fifth-oldest LDS temple still in operation.

Travelers along Kamehameha Highway can’t miss the striking Hale Laa Boulevard that leads the short distance from the highway to the temple. The exquisite boulevard features a tropical garden on one end and palm trees and decorative lights on the other.

The concrete exterior of the temple was created using crushed rock and coral.

Carved friezes, created by sculptor Avard Fairbanks, decorate each side of the top of the temple, depicting four dispensations of time: Old Testament Dispensation (west), New Testament Dispensation (south), Book of Mormon Dispensation (north), and Latter-day Dispensation (east).

Before construction of the Laie Hawaii Temple could begin, the existing 30-by-90-foot chapel had to be relocated over a period of days using jacks, tackle, ropes, horses, steel pipe, and timbers to pull and push the nine-ton building down the hill. The building was later lost to fire on July 11, 1940, during a renovation project.

Construction of the temple came to a standstill when the supply of lumber ran out. Prayers were uttered, and two days later, a freighter was discovered stranded on a nearby coral reef. The captain offered his entire cargo to the saints if they would unload it for him. His cargo? Lumber—enough to complete the temple.

This beautiful structure is definitely worth a couple hours of your time.

Address

55-600 Naniloa Loop
Laie, Hawaii  96762-1299
United States
Telephone:  (+1) 808-293-2427

Schedule:

Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

More info:

Admission is free to the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.  Grounds to the temple are open to the public but you must be a member of the church to enter the temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R is for Royalty-Our Oahu, Honolulu Adventure

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at 9am.  We would be in port from 9am-11pm.  Our first tour wasn’t scheduled until noon.  We had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we had a couple hours we could still explore.  A scout around at the internet gave me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. Hand in hand we set off from the dock, our goal was to see the Capitol Building, the Eternal Flame, the church, the King Kameamea Statue and the beautiful Iolani Palace.  We stepped up our pace.

“P” is for Polynesian Cultural Center-Our Hawaiian Adventures

The fully immersive Polynesian Cultural Center can best be described as part education, part museum,  part Disney Theme Park and part Broadway.   Wear your walking shoes, this full day of activity spans a full 42 acres!

Founded in 1865, this area was originally desolate and uninhabitable. Prior to the building of this amazing location, the lovely town of Laie hosted weekly hukilaus, a community fish fry meant to entertain, instruct and support the community to raise money for the constuction.  Through tender loving care and tenacity the area, also known as ‘The Gathering Place’,  grew into a beautiful center of spirituality, education and ethnic harmony. The Polynesian Cultural Center first opened its doors in 1963 as a way for students at the adjacent Church College of Hawaii (now Brigham Young University-Hawaii) to earn money for their education, while preserving and portraying the cultures, arts and crafts of the people of Polynesia.   We’ve come a long way since 1963.

Entrance

Upon entering the park you may assigned a guide or left to explore the park on your own.  Everything is dependent upon the type of ticket you have purchased and the inclusions they have.

Villages

The park is divided into various Polynesian villages: Aoteareo (New Zealand), Figi, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.  Personally we chose this adventure specifically to get an overview of the various areas we would be seeing during the course of our 45 day Pacific Adventure.

Each village contains replicas of statues and buildings indicative of the actual location.    Each village also offers cultural activities such as dances, foods, games, stories, music and more.  The costumed “villagers” are mostly    students from the nearby Brigham Young University. With another nod to the authenticity,  these students often come from the islands they are representing.  Demonstrations take place at each village throughout the afternoon and visitors are invited to get hands on and participate in many of them.

Living Museum

Tucked away among the villages of the Polynesian Cultural Center is a halau (a place of learning) which holds an almost 60 foot long double-hulled canoe made of Fijian dakua wood.  Twice a day there is a presentation about how the Iosepa is used by BYU – Hawaii as a sailing classroom, where students learn about now the ancient Polynesians navigated across the Pacific Ocean.  When the Iosepa is not being used during the spring and summer months it is stored at the Center.  Visitors to the exhibit will also learn about how a celestial navigation compass is used, how the canoe is prepared and the activities the “crew” will perform during an ocean voyage.  This is just a single example of the many museum pieces scattered among the grounds.

Lagoon

Just as they are in real life, the villages positioned along a waterway.   A long river connects them and eventually leads to a lagoon.  Along the waterway is where you can paddle your own outrigger canoe, take a gentle float trip around the entire park or spend time in the afternoon watching the Parade of Long Canoes as it floats by with representative dancers and musicians from each village.

All tickets allow you to partake in each of the villages.  For an additional fee you may add one of two dining options.

Buffet

The Buffet at both lunch and dinner time.  Many traditional foods are served.  This is held in the

Evening Luau

A Traditional Luau is, complete with the lifting of the roasted pig from the imu (in ground oven), a buffet style feast and more entertainment including a royal procession, dancers and musicians.  The luau is held in the .

Following the meal all guests will make their way to the

Evening Show

Ha-The Breath of Life is a spectacular Broadway style story with over 100 performers.  There is no photography allowed at this venue, which leaves us limited only to the photos available online.  Trust me when I say this is a show you won’t want to miss.  In fact, many of the performers have been awarded the top awards for their dance skills.

This tour has earned the distinction of the  “Peoples Choice Award” and draws over 1 million visitors a year.

 

“O” is for Oahu-Our Hawaii Adventure

Oahu, also called Honolulu, is one of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, it is situated just below the Tropic of Cancer, 2,390 miles west of San Francisco, California. The island stretches for just 44 miles in length and 30 miles in width.

With a population of 905,266 in 2011, it contains one of the largest population densities.

The island offers spectacular beaches, lush vegetation, exotic plant life, stunning landscapes, world-class surfin and awe-inspiring history. With so much to offer it is easy to understand why 4.5 million people visit each year.

“M”is For Mai Tai-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Not normally drinkers, we had committed to trying traditional drinks in each new location along our World Cruise. So of course while we were in Hawaii, that meant we would be taste testing Mai Tai’s.

Although Mai Tai’s were first introduced in California by Victor Bergeron (owner of Trader Vic’s restaurants) when he brought the recipe to Hawaii in 1953where he created a cocktail menu for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Moana Hotels. The cocktail became an instant hit and was called the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. In the years thereafter, pineapple juice, orange juice, and a dark rum float became commonly used in Mai Tais produced in Hawaii.

The name was allegedly taken from maita?i, the Tahitian word for “good” or “excellence”, although the drink is usually spelled as two words, sometimes hyphenated or capitalized.

The Mai Tai was also prominently featured in the 1961 Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii.

Following our taste test we concluded we really enjoyed the sweet rum punch.

If you want to make the sunny drink for yourself, here is the traditional recipe:

TypeCocktail
Base spiritRum
Servedshaved or crushed ice
Standard garnishpineapple spear, mint leaves, and lime peel
Standard drinkware Old fashioned glass
IBA specified
ingredientsdagger
30 ml amber Jamaican rum
30 ml Martinique molasses rhum
15 ml orange curaçao
15 ml orgeat syrup (almond)
30 ml fresh lime juice
7.5 ml simple syrup
PreparationAdd all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a double rocks glass or a highball glass.
NotesThe Martinique molasses rum used by Trader Vic was not an Agricole rum but a type of “rummy” from molasses.
dagger Mai Tai recipe at International Bartenders Association

“M” is For Malama aina-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Take care of the land

Whilst every US state is different from the next, Hawaii is special. The culture is rooted in ancient Polynesian traditions, and thankfully over the past decades there has been a resurgence of interest and enthusiasm for these. Luaus, hula, malama aina (taking care of the land, and the land taking care of you in return), are all uniquely Hawaiian traditions and rituals which have returned to society. And finally in the 1980s, the ban on teaching the Hawaiian language was lifted.

“L” is For Lei-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, we visited several Hawaiian islands.  As we came off of our cruise ship, on our first island of Oahu,  we ported near the Aloha Tower, the same place visitors use to arrive by boat as they immigrated to these islands.  We were greeted with a lei.

The wearing of Lei in ancient Hawaii symbolized riches, monarchy, and status.

The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who took an incredible journey from Tahiti, navigating by the stars in sailing canoes. With these early settlers, the lei tradition in Hawaii was born.

Leis were constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and even bone and teeth of various animals. In Hawaiian tradition, these garlands were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others. The Maile lei was perhaps the most significant. Among other sacred uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs. In a Heiau (temple), the chiefs would symbolically intertwine the green Maile vine, and its completion officially established peace between the two groups.

A Hawaiian Lei is a decorative garland worn around the neck or on the head. Lei comes in various lengths and materials.

The materials (flowers, leaves, nuts, ribbons, candy, money, etc) used to manufacture the colorful neck adornments, are gathered with great care.

The mana (or spirit) of the Lei’s maker is believed to be sewn or weaved into it as this is done. As a result, when you offer a Lei, you are really donating a piece of yourself. Similarly, you acquire a part of Lei’s creator when you receive one.

In Hawaiian culture, Lei was traditionally offered to symbolize love, affection, peace,  friendship, honor, celebration, and greetings.

With the advent of tourism in the islands, the lei quickly became the symbol of Hawaii to millions of visitors worldwide.

Today, the Hawaiian Lei is regarded as the universal emblem of aloha, whose term is used to define a “force that holds together existence”.

Hawaii is a state made up of eight major islands. Each island has its unique Lei, reflecting a harmonious combination of texture and color. Due to rigorous agricultural rules, most of these Lei cannot be shipped to the mainland.

  • Hawaii (Big Island) – Red or the Ohia Lehua flower
  • Oahu – Yellow with the gold ‘Ilima
  • Maui – Pink and the Lokelani rose
  • Kauiai – purple with the Mokihaa
  • Molokai – Green with Kukui
  • Lanai – Orange with Kauna’oa
  • Niihau – White with Pupu o Ni’ihau (shells)
  • Kaho’olawe – Hinahina

Many elderly Hawaiians reminisce about their “boat days” of the early 1900’s with fondness. This was before the familiar hum of airline jets,when tourists and visitors came to Hawaii by boat.  As the boat arrived at the pier near the Aloha Tower to welcome malihini (visitors) and kama’aina (locals) back home, it was a social party with lei greeters, hula dancers, music, and photographers.

Legend says that departing visitors and locals would throw their lei into the sea as they sailed passed Diamond Head, in the hopes that, like the lei, they too would return to the islands again someday.

There are very few “rules” when it comes to wearing a Hawaiian lei. Anyone can wear one, anytime – there need not be an occasion. It is perfectly fine for one to purchase or make a lei for themselves. In fact, it is common for locals to have a nut, seed or shell lei on hand ready to wear on special occasions.

Lei giving is a regular part of any special occasion such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and graduations. It is not uncommon for a graduating senior to have so many leis around their neck that they can no longer see!

There are, a couple of “unspoken” rules one should know when receiving a lei for the first time. A lei should be a welcomed celebration of one person’s affection to another. Therefore, always accept a lei, never refuse.

If you are allergic to the flowers, you must tell the person presenting the lei, then drape it over your significant other.

The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders, hanging down both in front and in back. It is considered rude to remove a lei from your neck in the presence of the person who gave it to you, so if you must, be discreet.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Fearing that Hawaii’s rich tradition of lei making was wilting, poet and writer Don Blanding conceived the idea of creating Lei Day.  Each year on May 1(the same day May Day is celebrated on the mainland), Hawaii celebrates “Lei Day.”  Lei Day became an official holiday in the territory of Hawaii in 1929 and continues today.

Many celebrations take place across the island on this date, but in Oahu, Lei Day festivities are centered at Queen Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, where people of all ages compete, State Fair style, to see who can make the best lei.  This day is also filled with pageantry, dances and other customs celebrating Hawaiian heritage.

“K” is for Kawaiaha’o Church-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at 9am.  We would be in port from 9am-11pm.  Our “official” tour wasn’t scheduled until noon.  We had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we had a couple hours which we could still explore.  A scout around at the internet gave me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. Hand in hand we set off from the dock, our goal was to see the Capitol Building, the Eternal Flame, the church, the King Kameamea Statue and the beautiful Iolani Palace.  We stepped up our pace.

We set out on our Historical tour of Honolulu.

Our first stop took us to the Kawaiaha’o Church.  The name means the sacred water of Ha’o who was a high ranking female cheiftess who frequented the springs in the area.  Today, the church is referred to as Hawaii’s Westminster Abby.  It has been the location of royal weddings, christenings, innaugurations and funerals.  The church was built in 1820 and was the first church to be erected on the island of Oahu.  Perhaps the only one of its kind, it has been created from giant slabs of coral, harvested by local labor.  The coral was hand chiseled from the nearby reefs from depths of 10-20 feet, before being carried to shore.  Nearly 1000 people assembled to dig the foundation which needed to be set in bedrock to support the weight.  At a cost of about $30,000, it would take nearly 6 years to construct. Today the church is registered on both the national and state rolls as a historic landmark.

“F” is For Fern Grotto-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Today marks the 8th day of our 55 days of world exploration. Since leaving home on January 17, 2023, we have already played in Los Angeles and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Alan and I would begin the day early again, so we started the morning with a breakfast on our balcony. The sunrise was beautiful as we arrived in our second port of Hawaii, the island of Kauai. We were Malahini, or newcomers to these lands and we were once again refreshed and ready to explore.

Kauai is a small island at just 33 miles wide by 55 miles long. There is only a single road which only accesses about 1/3 of the small island. After much studying I had learned that the best ways to view this island was by boat or plane, so I had booked tours for us to do both. Our first stop would be the Fern Grotto.

A grotto is a cave which occurs naturally or is man-made. The pictures which I had seen of the Fern Grotto were spectacular and I was very excited to see it. The tour was touted as a visit to a geological wonder of Kauai promising an ampitheater, where ferns grow upside down from the roof of a grotto, which had formed millions of years ago.

There is only one way to get to the Grotto and that is via boat! In fact, The Wailua River is known as “the only navigable river” in all Hawaii, which would make the adventure even more exciting. I felt as if we were discovering hidden places.

There are a couple companies which offer tours on the 22.5 mile long river. We would be traveling with the Smith family for just two of those miles. This family has been navigating the river since 1946. Our boat for the day was called the Whitney K. She was one of several on the river that day.

Besides the few boat companies, the only other way to get to the grotto (which is owned by the Smith family) is by kayak. These could be rented or one could take the half hour journey up the river in their own kayak. Except for the rain which was falling off and on, I think we would have preferred this mode of travel.

Instead we had chosen what I affectionately refer to as a cruise ship “Granny tour”. These are the kinds of trips which are sedate and slow. perfect for the elderly, which we are not yet quite there. This was a float trip down a winding river, while relaxing, it was boring. Don’t get me wrong, the river is pretty enough but the view doesn’t vary much and powering under our own efforts would have at least given us something to do.

The saving grace to our boredom was that we were treated to a pretty spectacular rainbow, which spread across the river as the sun peaked out for a moment after one of the many showers on this day. It was a short lived reprieve from the gloomy day and we soon found ourselves back in our soggy conditions. Thankfully we could remain under cover on our boat while being regaled with the history of the river, as we made our way to the Fern Grotto.

We learned that the water which feeds the river comes from Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, one of the wettest spots on the planet receiving about 465″ of rain a year! Kauai is the forth oldest of the Hawaiian islands. I was interested to learn that lands along the river were the sacred capital of ancient Kauai and the birthplace of the island’s ali‘i, or royalty.

After about half an hour we reached the dock to disembark for the short walk to the grotto. Normally there would be a performance of The Wedding Song and a hula dancer at the Fern Grotto where they would perform The Wedding Song at the amphitheater, but the rains were preventing it on this day, so the musicians performed on the boat, as we waited out yet another shower.

I had seen spectacular images of the Fern Grotto, so it was disappointing once we finally arrived. There was a lot of greenery but I was very disappointed to realize much of the old grotto had collapsed leaving only a fraction of the original glory. A little creative photography and I was able to capture a piece of the former glory.

In fact, the decline of the Fern Grotto’s began when it was hit by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. It was then nearly destroyed as Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Most of the ferns hanging from the grotto were torn from the rocks, With nothing to hold the ground together, the roof of the spectacular amphitheater began collapsing. In 2006 a woman sued the Smith family after being injured by falling rocks. The grotto is no longer accessible by foot and may only be viewed from a distant wooden platform. Although much of the plant life has rebounded, the grotto has had a difficult time recovering as new plant life has sprung up with increased light which now floods the gully.

All was not lost on this tour. After viewing the gully we were able to return to the boat via a flower lined walking path. My camera clicked from one flower to the other, as I attempted to capture the beauty of the native Hawaiian plants which surrounded us. Walking among the colorful exotic tropical plants sproting from the floor of this rain forest I realize I am in my most perfect element of serene peace. It was in this way that I would come to continue recommending this tour for others to enjoy. Perhaps the float trip had been more fabulous than even I had imagined it could be. Perhaps “Granny trips” are exactly what my soul needs as I learn to relax into this sixth decade of my life.

“E” is for Eternal Flame-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop after departing Los Angeles was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at Pier 2.  We would be in port until 11pm.  Our first tour wasn’t scheduled until noon, where we had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we still had a couple of hours available to explore the capital city of Waikiki, before the tour began.

A scout around the internet had given me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. After being at sea for four days, we were more than ready to explore.  Waving over our shoulders to the ships camera, with the hope of our family seeing us, Alan and I were off the ship by 9am.  With the time changes, we had already been up for several hours as we had watched the ship pull in.

Hand in hand we began walking, our goal was to see any of the 8  historical landmarks in Hawaii.  Many of these are Heritage Sites. These locations provide cultural explanations and the history behind them.  Today we had a goal of seeing the Kawaiahao church, the Capitol Building, the beautiful Iolani Palace, the Parliament building and the King Kamehameha Statue and finally the Eternal Flame monument. This is how the Eternal Flame Memorial became our letter “E”.  It was a 30 minute walk and we had a lot to see before getting there, so we stepped up our pace.  The flame is located directly across from the Capitol Building at 420 So. Beretania St.

The original Eternal flame has burned since 1944, in memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this sculpture was re-dedicated in 1972 to all the men and women of Hawaii who have bravely served.  A palm lined path gently guides the visitor past the homeless population which often hangs out in the area.  It makes sense that they find the area inviting as this area overlooks the beautiful land which is Hawaii.  With the capitol of Waikiki behind us, the Eternal Flame lends a quiet, contemplative air in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

The flame is protected from the elements by an interesting metal sculpture which shields it from the wind, ensuring that it burns non-stop.  Perhaps this is the same embrace we should offer to all our vets.

Many of the homeless here are former vets.   As they huddle beneath the statue, I can’t help but be honored to be in the presence of those who have protected us.  After all, isn’t awareness the real reason that this flame burns endlessly?

 

 

“D” is for the Do’s and Don’t of Visiting Dubai-Our Middle East Adventure

Our cruise came to an end in the city of Dubai.  As we left the ship, we were happy to have completed two of the five legs along the 2023 Island Princess World Cruise. After 55 days on board, this was actually the halfway point of the 110 day cruise and nearly double the length of time we had originally planned on being on board.

It was before 7am as our ship pulled into the port.  The day began with a spectacular orange sunrise.  Normally a red sky in the morning would be a warning for rain or stormy weather ahead, but Dubai sits in the middle of the Arabian Desert. With an annual rainfall of just 4 inches a year, there was little chance of seeing any moisture on this day.  The sunrise was more likely being affected from the permanent haze caused by the blowing sands.

As we sailed past the “Atlantis Dubai”, an all inclusive resort and waterpark reflecting the “Lost City of Atlantis”, it quickly became apparent that we had arrived in a country of opulence.  It is difficult to imagine that this city started as little more than a fishing village.  It has now grown to be the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates Republic (UAE).

Most would assume that Dubai’s wealth was the result of oil.  In fact oil and gas only account for about 2% of all exports!  Real estate and construction are the largest contributors to the economic growth of the country. When 85% of the population is made from expats, it is easy to see why this is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous about visiting this city.  This is a country with deep traditions and customs, many of which are quite different from our Western way of life.  Mostly my concerns stemmed from my own ignorance about what to expect.  A little research solved that problem.  Perhaps by sharing our observations, we can help to dispel any concerns about visiting this amazing location.

1. The majority of the population is Muslim.  This is a deeply rooted religion with different rules than those of Christianity.  The most important “do” is to respect this.  Part of being a world traveler is to immerse yourself in new cultures.  Each new location presents an opportunity to learn, embrace it.

2. Muslims pause to pray 5 times a day. Prayers are before dawn (Fajr), afternoon (Dhuhr), late afternoon (Asr), after sunset (Maghrib) and evening (Isha).  There are loud speakers throughout the city which call worshippers to prayer at regular intervals throughout the day. Don’t be alarmed when you hear the calls. Unlike in Christianity Holy day is Friday.  This means many businesses offer limited hours on Fridays, if they open at all.  Do plan accordingly.

3. Do take public transportation or use a taxi.  We rented a car to explore the city and stressed ourselves out completely.  Traffic on the seven lane highways is fast and a bit difficult.  Our GPS had trouble distinguishing from when we were on a highway verses a frontage road, meaning we were often off course, which cost us precious time.  Since we were only in the city for a little over 24 hours, we couldn’t spare any.  The city is beautiful and there is much to see.  Traffic is so busy you will not want to take your eyes off the road which means you will miss some of these spectacular sights.  Take a taxi or take the Metro.  If you choose to ride the train, it will be busy during rush hour.  There are a few cars for women only.  if you are male, don’t ride in these female only cars or you will be fined.  Speaking of fines, do not eat or drink on the Metro, it is prohibited.

4. Dubai is spread out with several distinct districts.  Some are more difficult to access without transportation.  Do know the district your hotel and/or desired activities are in.

5.  With the exception of smoking cessation gum, you will not find gum for sale in Dubai so do bring your own if you need it. Don’t spit or throw your gum on the sidewalk, both are punishable crimes.

6. You are going to be hot, so do dress accordingly.  Dubai is warm year around.  The most comfortable time to visit is during “winter” months of December, January and February.  You can still expect temperatures to be in the high 70’s (25C).  At the opposite end of this spectrum it is up to 113F (45C) during the summer months!   Light, loose clothing will keep you comfortable. Speaking about clothing, do remember you are a guest in these lands.  Different from the western world it is expected that men and women both dress modestly to observe Islamic traditions,  Knees and shoulders should be covered by both sexes.  Don’t forget your sunscreen!

7. Do exchange some money.  When using cash, only local currency (Emirati durham) will be accepted.

8. The best don’t is don’t worry about your safety (within reason of course).  Dubai has an incredibly low crime rate.

9. Do not miss visiting the popular tourist spots!  Be sure to see the Burj Khalifa,  The tallest building in the world is an architectural wonder.  The views from the 124th floor are slightly nauseating and completely awe inspiring. Do expect the lines to be long.  If time is limited most of the tourist hot spots offer a “skip the line pass”.  As an added bonus, the Burj is attached to the Dubai Mall which is another one of the must see locations in Dubai.  We also suggest a visit to the Gold and Spice Souks, Old Dubai and the Miracle Gardens (which we completed all in one day).

10. Alan and I are very affectionate with each other,  There is rarely a time when we aren’t holding hands.  Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Dubai.  In fact, if you are not married, even holding hands is frowned upon. It was a tough don’t for Alan and I to remember.   Along these same lines, unmarried couples should not plan on staying in the same hotel room.  Doing so, could lead to fines and/or deportation.

11. As a traveler it is fun to photograph different cultures.  People can be so different but do be polite and ask permission before taking someones photo.  Alternately you could take photos of other things and just happen yo capture the environment.

12. Don’t take pictures of Government Buildings.  As we were cruising down the above waterway, there was a cool bridge just before our boat turned around to return us to our starting point.  Shortly after taking this picture there were also numerous signs warning no photography beyond a certain point. I am not sure what lay beyond that bridge but if the Emirates might consider your photo an issue of national security, you really don’t want to be in trouble with the law in foreign lands. Do follow the rules, punishments may be strict for seemingly minor (and perhaps innocent) infractions.

13.  Speaking about laws, Alcohol is available in most hotels, licensed restaurants and clubs. One thing is certain, the U.A,E does not tolerate public inebriation. Do not ever drink and drive, the legal limit is zero.

14.  Finally, do not try to carry prohibited items.  It is especially important to remember that you packed a pen knife in your carry on luggage before you pass through security at the airport.   Failing to do so might bring a search of your bags and a very serious security agent to your side!  Thankfully I wasn’t carted off to any back rooms.  Do expect that you will be questioned and asked to surrender your “weapons”, if you forget.

Dubai is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East.  With the large expat community there is a tolerance for most differences.  With these few simple guidelines you should have enough familiarity to feel comfortable in this amazing country.

“K” is For Korean Friendship Bell-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

Arriving two days before we would set sail on our partial World Cruise Adventure, afforded us the opportunity to explore the Los Angeles area. With an eye toward nature, scenery, history and culture in all of our research, I had feared we would have to spend the day by the hotel pool. How very wrong I had been! My sleuthing had uncovered a plethora of activities which would meet our desires and keep us busy from morning until night. Our first stop on Day 2 of our trip, would be the Korean Friendship Bell.

We were momentarily lost as we looked for the entrance to the bell. Indeed, we soon discovered that many locals have never even been to this beautiful location. The GPS had given us the location only as far as old military barracks. As we looked out over the San Pedro harbor, we realized that the Korean Friendship Bell was actually the next entrance over and up a steep roadway which lead to the most beautiful open park and stunning views of any area that I have seen.

A plaque at the entrance describes how the US had acquired such a gift. The pavilion took ten months to be built by Korean craftsmen “to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. independence, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to consolidate traditional friendship between the two countries”. From the tree which had been planted by the Korean President himself, to the carefully curated landscaping, and the concrete circles which once held cannons, I wanted to explore everything.

I also felt the spiritual connection of this special place and the friendships which had been born between two nations. This seemed to be a location for quiet contemplation. I witnessed a quiet reverence as many approached the bell.

Build atop old bunkers and resting peacefully on a high knoll, overlooking the sea gate from which U.S. troops once sailed into the Pacific, the bell site affords an unsurpassed view of the Los Angeles harbor, the Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro hill.

The 17 ton bell sits inside a beautifully painted pavilion.

Also known as an Emille Bell, the bell is patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok, which was cast in 771 A.D. and is still on view in South Korea today. This bell remains among the largest of its kind in the world.

With a height of twelve feet and a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, the bell is made of copper and tin, with gold, nickel, lead and phosphorous added for tone quality.

Four pairs of figures, each pair consisting of the Goddess of Liberty holding a torch, and a Korean spirit , are engraved in relief on the body of the bell. Each of the Korean spirits holds up a different symbol: a symbolic design of the Korean flag; a branch of the rose of Sharon, Korea’s national flower; a branch of laurel, symbol of victory; and a dove of peace.

The bell is rung each year on: Independence day, July 4, National Liberation Day of Korea, August 15, 9:00a.m.-12 Noon and New Year’s Eve, September 17 to coincide with bell ringings around the country to celebrate Constitution week, also on January 13 for Korean-American Day. The Bell is also rung 13 times on the 1st Saturday of the month at 11:30 a.m. There is no clapper inside the giant bell, instead a large wooden log is pulled back and allowed to strike the bell’s side.

The bell is set in a magnificent pagoda-like structure which was constructed on the site by thirty craftsmen flown in from Korea. It took them ten months and costs $569,680. Everything about the pavilion is symbolic. There are twelve columns representing the twelve designs of the Oriental zodiac. Animals stand guard at the base of each set of stairs leading to the pavilion.

Bring a picnic, revel in the beauty of the open ocean and plan to spend some time exploring the walking paths which surround the pavilion. Be warned though, it is always windy at this location.

Korean Bell of Friendship and Bell Pavilion
Angels Gate Park
3601 S Gaffey Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 548-7705

“C” is For Crown Plaza-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

We originally booked a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport in preparation for our cruise departure. After reading extensive reviews, I switched our hotel booking to the Crown Plaza,

Once I realized that we were due to sail out of San Pedro, about 30 minutes south of the airport, it seemed easier to get ourselves there for our two night stay.

We arrived later in the evening on the first of a two night stay, too tired to explore the amenities but a fresh room awaited our exhausted bodies.  Forgive the photo of our room, I forgot to take the picture when it was all put together.

We wouldn’t realize how very close to the cruise terminal we were, until the light of the next morning. Many of the upcoming World Cruise passengers were also staying there.  It was a great way to meet them before setting sail.

We chose to rent a car so we could do some sightseeing on the way to the hotel. There was a drop off point just outside the hotel, which made it easy for us to have a one way car rental.  It is also possible to get an Uber or Lyft from the airport for about $35 USD.

The main draw of this hotel is the approximation to the cruise terminal.  We could walk a mile to get there if we chose,  but handling 6 pieces of luggage across several roads might have been a challenge.

Even though the cruise terminal is within view and walking distance, it is far easier to take the shuttle. I knew that we ourselves had 6 suitcases to handle for the trip, so I imagined how challenging luggage was going to be for the many passengers who were doing the entire world tour!

When cruises are in, it is highly recommended to book your time slot the evening before or as soon as you check in.  You will be given a departure time if the shuttles are very busy. The cost of the shuttle is $5 a person and runs every 15 minutes.

When I asked about handling all of the luggage, I was told the 35 passenger busses had had 10 seats taken out to accommodate the extra bags.  There was plenty of room for all of us and since the cruise terminal is only 1 mile away, the shuttles make quick delivery of passengers to the terminal.

There are many amenities within walking distance, including a great restaurant called the Green Onion.  How could I say no to some of the best Mexican food ever?  Especially when it was only 350 feet from the door of the hotel! The area appears safe both day and night. Of course for those guests who don’t want to venture out, there is also on-site dining in the elegant hotel restaurant if you so choose.

All in all, this was an adequate hotel for our needs for the couple nights before we set sail.

If you are interested in this location, I would suggest booking through booking.com.  We were able to get our room for under $200/night (including taxes).