Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on planet earth. I have just returned from a one week vacation on the island with my family. The vacation has given me a chance to step away from blogging and put a pause on every day life. You might begin to wonder how this post is going to relate to China. While on Kauai, a number of thoughts did occur to me. Before getting into that, I’d first like to share with you the wonders of this incredible place.
(You may click on any images on this post for an enlarged view.)
Above is a traveler meditating to sunset at Poipu Beach at the southern coast of Kauai. It is easy to imagine why such landscape or seascape draw all sorts of inspiration; romance, artistry, and, apparently spirituality. By the way, the woman in the picture is really beautiful. A thought to interrupt her to get a portraiture did cross my mind, but I decided otherwise.
Here is another view of sunset at Poipu. To the right side of the image, near the horizon, you will notice a surfer still in the waters. To the left is the silhouette of another photographer at the scene. His wife was there too. Inspired, they both hope to turn photography into a full time profession.
With their presence, I was happy to know I have found the right spot.
Sun rise is equally magnificent on Kauai. The picture to the right was taken at Shipwreck Beach, right next to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Once the sun emerges on the horizon, the yellow glow gives an immediate feeling of warmth.
I also begin to see little fishes swimming in the tide pool near where I was standing. The little fishes’ silver bodies seem to reflect the golden sun as they race through the shallow waters. Some of them even leap out of the water as if trying to get ahead of others.
I really enjoyed seeing the smooth sand on the beach; all the foot prints from the previous day have been wiped completely clean by wave after waves of water pushed ashore.
By the way, not all waves are created equal in size. I had my tripod set pretty low. There were couple of occasions I thought my camera was going to be soaked!
The black rocks are remainders of once red hot lava that have since cooled and are being carved away by waves over the ages. If anything, they are the anchor of permanence in this scene.
Here is the same Shipwreck Beach during full daylight from another vantage point.
Since the Hawaiian islands are near the equator, there is aways an abundance of sun. And, rain, for that matter. Water in the Pacific Ocean around the islands heat up. Clouds form and are blown towards the islands. The mountains on the islands stop the clouds causing them to compress, and rain pours down. In fact, a spot on Kauai is the rainy-est spot on this planet. Vegetation on the Hawaiian islands are lush and abundant, particularly Kauai (hence it is also known as the “Garden Island”).
Flowers are abound. It is customary for the Hawaiians to greet guests with leis or decorate with various kinds of floral arrangements at celebrations.
Rain water also produce spectacular water falls on the island. This is Wailua Falls near the town of Lihue. The water level was actually low when I took the shot. The fall splits into two streams at the mouth. During heavy rain, it is one massive fall that pours few hundred feet below.
When not raining, the sky is always blue. There is no manufacturing industries on the Hawaiian islands. Population density is not very high. On Kauai, it is about 60,000 residents. This allows the island to maintain a very pristine environment.
It was also the abundance of water that during the 1800’s, sugar cane plantations and sugar production flourished in Hawaii. It was during the height of Western colonial power that sought cheap labors from around the world. Through the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, waves of immigrants, especially from East Asia moved to Hawaii to work on the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. The melting pot that is of Hawaii today owe a great deal to the plantations – or to the U.S. where annexation occurred in 1898.
As of today, large scale sugar cane production is no longer profitable on Kauai or on any of the Hawaiian islands due to high U.S. labor costs. Some small scale production still exists, however.
When were the first wave of settlers to have arrived in Hawaii? Unfortunately, the Hawaiians did not have a written language. Part of their history and legends are passed down through generations via hula. Some archaeologists believe the first settlers arrived in the 3rd century. Early settlement history of Hawaii is still not settled. The Polynesian Triangle (which includes Hawaii) languages are similar to a language used in South East Asia 5000 years ago. (Wikipedia.org)
Taro has been a stable diet for the Hawaiians until immigrants of the last couple of centuries introduced food of other variety. (See image of taro field at Hanalei above.) Maybe kalua pork was at the beginning too. It is easily my favorite at luau’s. On this trip, the best meal I had was grilled Ono with capers and lemon sauce, with servings of steamed vegetables and rice, at Brenneckes, right next to Poipu Beach.
Among the 50 states, Hawaii has the highest percentage of inter-racial marriages. The people and the cuisine are all melting pots.
Coming back to the question of the origins of native Hawaiians, I think it is fair to say they are closest to the South East Asians due to language similarities.
The above picture was taken at the Grand Hyatt where a group of local Hawaiians enacted a Hawaiian Court ritual.
I was struck most by their costume. If we drop them all in Tibet, they’d fit right in! The chief’s outfit look like that of a lama’s, doesn’t it? Obviously I am not going anywhere with this line of thinking. Feature wise, I do think Hawaiians look Asian.
Kauai and the other Hawaiian islands are truly unique. The Big Island has an active volcano and the landmass there continues to grow. Kauai has so many other incredible features and would take many trips to see them all. Here is a final picture I would like to share. It is some times known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
You may recall at the top of this post, I promised to share some thoughts on how I think this post is related to China.
While on this trip, it struck me that Hawaii and Tibet have many parallels.
The Himalaya’s and Tibet are natural wonders just like the Hawaiian islands are. In that sense, tourism will likely be the main economic engines of these places. Therefore I imagine Tibet continue to evolve and develop in much the same way Hawaii has in the last century.
On the politics side, I think it would be unimaginable for Hawaii to separate from the U.S.. Sure, there is an independence movement. Hawaii has a segment of population resentful of the U.S. annexation still to this day. Some of these voices are heard too by tourists when talking to some local tour guides about Hawaii’s modern history.
Of course, if the U.S. federal government severely weakens, then everything is possible. But that’s not likely in our life time. Likewise for Tibet, only when the Chinese government severely weakens could the Dalai Lama’s TGIE have a chance at separatism. Meanwhile, as Tibet continues to develop and hum along with the rest of China, it becomes increasingly difficult to un-sow the fabric of society that continues to take shape there. Eventually, it would become just as unimaginable as in Hawaii seceding from the U.S. today.
I think Hawaii deserves credit for embracing the melting pot that they are. I think it would be destabilizing for people to call for racial segregation in Hawaii. Likewise, I think it is absurd for Western Tibetan separatists to call for something similar in Tibet.