Everyone who goes to Oahu tells you that you have to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We are quick to take advice from those who have gone before, so we signed up and spent a day and an evening discovering more about Polynesia.
Honestly, we didn't know too much about Polynesia. After the day we can say we know a lot more. That's gotta count for something! It was almost educational! It was also really fun.
We hopped on a tour bus in the morning that took us to the North Shore and right to the Center. We had an official guide on our bus, "Cousin Meesie". He was originally from Tonga. He called us "cousins" a lot because apparently everyone in Polynesia is like family. We like Cousin Meesie a lot, but we wished he would have stopped talking occasionally.
There were a lot of beautiful things to see on the way, and it was nice for Mike to just be the passenger and enjoy the scenery instead of looking where to go.
Here is the famous island "China Man's Hat". Is that even a politically correct term? No one seemed too concerned about it.
The water is turquoise and the sand white along the north shore. A lot of movies have been filmed in spots along this stretch.
As we neared the PCC, Cousin Meesie continued to implore us all to pay the upgrade so that we could have a tour guide with us all day. And guess what? Cousin Meesie could have been our guide! We felt pretty confident in our ability to navigate the grounds and all during the day the girls and I could be heard saying, "we don't need no Cousin Meesie". We did just fine by ourselves, thank you very much.
We did, however, continue to run in to Cousin Meesie many times during the day when we would least expect it. It was usually just as we'd finished saying we didn't need him, or just as we were about to say it. That added to the thrill of the day.
Interestingly, the Polynesian Cultural Center is the highest paid attraction on Oahu, and it's owned and run by the Mormon church. It's connected to Brigham Young University's Hawaii campus and its Polynesian students work at the center. We found this kind of curious. I guess that's why there was no alcohol served on the sight. The whole place is actually very authenticly Polynesian, and very beautiful. The "cheese factor" I was expecting really didn't exist. It was good to see people from the actual countries represented working at the site and doing the shows and explanations.
We began the day with a canoe ride down the river to Tonga, the land of our Cousin Meesie.
Here we learned the fine art of weaving grasses and leaves together.
I'm giving it everything I had.
Ellie had a pretty helper assisting her, but I had to go it on my own.
(The pretty helpers made Mike second guess his decision to document this part of
the day with the camera.)
I was feeling pretty proud of the fish I made.
So was Ellie.
Our fish even moved on a line that we wove into them.
Next up was the fine art of spear throwing.
Mike was a natural, getting very close to the target on his first try.
(Don't tell him I told you, but he's actually got Polynesian blood.) There, the secret is out.
There, I feel so much better.
We visited New Zealand next. They simulated a gathering between two tribes. The music and the dancing were awesome. We all agreed that we wouldn't want to fight any tribes from New Zealand. They looked pretty intense.
Fiji was a much more laid back visit.
Mid-afternoon, each of the Polynesian countries presents themselves on the river in a type of "water parade". There was lots of music and dancing....
.... and shirtless men.
During the course of the day we had lots of time to wander around and enjoy the beautiful landscape of Oahu. It really does feel a little like what we imagine paradise to be like.
The second last stop of the day was Hawaii. We learned a lot of great stuff - the most important being that ukelele is pronounced "ooo - koo - lay - lay". Say it with me. Good. Now try to do your part by not saying "Ewe-ka-lay-lee" ever again.
Our last show, and the best stop by far, was Samoa. The host of the show was a real character. He showed us how to make fire using only two sticks...
... and he taught us about the fine art of climbing coconut trees to get the best fruit.
Part of our package included dinner at the center. There are different "tiers" you can buy. We went for the most popular and also the most affordable one. Dinner was served buffet style in a huge banquet room. There were so many dishes to choose from, many traditional Polynesian ones. One thing that struck as we ate was the amount of food consumed in a place like this in one night, and also the amount of wasted food they produce. It was unbelievable.
After dinner we took a walk around the grounds before the evening show "Ha - Breath of Life" began.
There were no photography permitted in the show, but it was amazing. The quality of the dance, musicians and actors was so much better than we expected.
Finally, at around 9:30 we boarded the bus and began the trek home to Waikiki.
There was no commentary from Cousin Meesie to keep us awake on the way home - only the sound of Sasha snoring happily in my lap.