Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010: Oahu - Valley of the Temples, Byodo Temple

Lessons learned today:
- Google Transit can't be relied on for accurate estimates of walking time or conditions
- TheBus can't be relied on for adhering to schedules in any real way
- black swans are not a myth 
- I must buy mosquito repellent before heading into the trees again
- Hawaii is the closest I've come yet to visiting Japan

I wanted to get out of the Honolulu area to see another part of the island, so I chose the Valley of the Temples, based on a beautiful photograph in a guidebook of Byodo Temple. Google Transit made it sound relatively manageable by transit - one bus, and then a 19 minute walk, half on a city street, and half along a highway. Turns out it was a 45 minute walk - ten minutes on the city street, and then 35 on the fairly narrow shoulder of a busy highway. Pretty dismal - felt like an endurance test. Actually started to doubt whether I was on the right route since I had been walking for so much longer than the estimate, but just as I was about to give up I crested a hill and saw my destination ahead.

Byodo Temple is a scale replica of a temple in Japan, and it's set in the Valley of the Temples, a large cemetery complex. It's a beautiful, quiet landscape, set against tall green mountains. At the temple itself were numerous koi fish (huge and eager to be fed from the coin vending machines), black swans (which I've never seen before - bright red beaks!), a nine-foot buddha (the largest outside Japan; his gold leaf was a bit worse for wear), and a large bell that visitors could ring. I was so tired and hot from my journey to get there that almost anything would have thrilled me, but it really was lovely. I sat down under the trees by the pond to eat the sandwich I had packed - by the time I finished I realized that I'd been mosquito-bitten on all of my exposed parts. I really need to find mosquito spray.

Not only was the temple Japanese, but so were many of the gravesites in the cemetery - I hadn't realized what an extensive history there was of the Japanese living in Hawaii. Couple this with the fact that Waikiki is a major Japanese tourist destination (signage everywhere is in both English and Japanese, and all the top restaurants are high-end sushi) and I'm as close as I've ever gotten to visiting Japan. It really doesn't feel like America anymore.

On the way home I endure the dreaded walk along the highway and get to my bus stop in time. Another fellow waiting there, who is a local, says that the last schedule bus (40 minutes earlier) never showed up. But luck is on my side, and the bus comes only a few minutes later. I get back to our hotel and jump into the pool to wipe away the grime of my hot, dusty trek.

Mark gave his talk at the conference today, so we met up after to relax with drinks with friends  (my first ever mai tai - strong, not so fabulous), then dinner at the Hula Grill - nice beachside location, good food, and improved meat to vegetable ratios.

Photos: the valley, the temple, the pond, a waterfall, some fish, a black swan, a bird (looks like a cardinal but the colouring is different), the buddha statue

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