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When people think about Hawaii, most envision a place filled with unspeakable beauty, shopping, and delicious food. However, what most fail to realize is that this publicized representation of paradise has a dark secret, one of poverty, filled with adventure and struggle. Waikiki, on the southern beaches of Oahu, may be home to a sprawling utopia of shopping and huge resorts; however, the farther one travels into the heart of Honolulu, one will soon discover their envy of the local populace for living on the sun-kissed island soon filled with surprise after seeing the living condition of most native Hawaiians.
I’ve travelled to the capital island about fourteen times, that is, about twice a year, as a byproduct of my father’s occupation travelling the country for technical services. And, out of all these times that I’ve experienced the glamour of “Hawaiian life”, I’ve always been shocked by the sudden shift of income rates by the abrupt shift from the wealthy Waikiki Beach to the poverty stricken Honolulu. Until recently, I was never allowed to enter the Honolulu city limits by myself, but this last trip, I had the opportunity of renting a moped and exploring the entirety of Honolulu. This trip will never leave my memory, as it was one of the most enlightening experiences of my relatively short life.
Upon crossing the bridge over the canal that separates Waikiki from Honolulu, one can tell the income drops steadily as one heads deeper into the city. Granted, the places which tourists drive are kept clean, but once one finds oneself off the main trail, so to speak, the roads start to become rough, the lawns start becoming unkempt, and before one knows it, they are in what’s referred to as the “Ghetto”.
This collection of unkempt and run down homes are the property of those who are responsible for catering to the mass tourism that hits Oahu every year, given neither the time, nor the salary to attend to their own needs. These houses, apartment complexes, and other places of residence are typically located next to the highway, or in the valley that is essentially downtown Honolulu, being overlooked by the residence of the wealthy and well-off. These manors create an exaggerated sense of the old aristocracy which existed in the old days.
As far as the local businesses go, there are plenty of shops which clearly cater to the locals, with no attempt to capture the glamour that Waikiki tries so desperately to emulate. They are often fitted with bars covering doors and windows, giving the impression that crime must be an issue in this specific area. However, even if one happens to be a tourist, the Hawaiian culture’s hospitality really shows, as the service is still top notch, offering comfort as if one was a family friend. Such as when we were invited to our waiter’s wedding. Perhaps an adverse effect of the numerous customer service workers residing in Honolulu, or perhaps just old traditions affect the way some act. One thing’s for sure, looks can be deceiving.
All in all, the day trip through Honolulu was definitely an enlightening one. The trip itself gave an exciting way to get a taste of the real local life, as well as help contribute to the local economy by purchasing jewelry and plate lunch from roadside shacks. This being said, one shouldn’t avoid travelling into the heart of the city, but instead should plan a day around it. There are numerous gems hidden inside Honolulu, and the people are some of the kindest one will find in any tourist area.