Thursday, August 21, 2008

Afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Halfway up the North Shore is the town of La'ie, which is a town owned by the Mormon church (and one of the largest communities of the Latter Day Saints [LDS]). Last year when we were staying in Punalu'u, near La'ie, a newish family arrived at the condo we were staying on the day we left. Mike was giving them advice about the area, and he told them about the two nearby supermarkets. He very kindly pointed out that the market in La'ie didn't carry "booze," only to be told that they wouldn't be caring about that because they were LDS! When he shared his embarassment, I said thank goodness he didn't say anything insulting about the Mormons! (Not that he would...)

The centerpiece of La'ie is Brigham Young University's main campus, which runs the famous Polynesian Cultural Center, which is Hawaii's top visitor attraction. It's supposedly "nonprofit," and the students who work there earn money to pay for their education. However, it's quite the money-making venture. For the basic admission plus show package, it's a pricey $58 adult, $43 child...and $5 for parking. Fortunately, we had "kids play free" badges from our hotel in Waikiki for the admission package (value $33), so we just had to pay $20 total for the kids. It always fascinates me to see how many people choose the more expensive packages, which include a tour guide. I can understand why non-English speakers might choose to do this, but plenty of Americans opt for it too...even though a tour guide is entirely unnecessary! One can pay up to $215 adult, $165 for the super ambassador package, which in addition to a tour guide includes a luau, the best seating at the show, and a pineapple dessert during the intermission. We skip the luau (no mai tais!) and grab dinner at the snack bar instead.

They are very friendly at the PCC, but they are constantly trying to sell you more...did we want an upgrade on our seats for the evening show? As it turned out, the admissions woman desk must have liked us because she gave us really good seats anyway...even though we were getting in on a bargain compared to other suckers! If we had elected the super ambassador package, it would have cost us $760!!! And that doesn't include Nicholas (free under 3)!!! Amazing.

The center consists of several polynesian villages--Tongo, Tahiti, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Samoa, etc.--and each of the villages features shows, games or activities, or something of the sort. Each afternoon at 2:30 they have a canoe pageant in the middle of the center, with people on various boats representing the villages and dancing. I remember the last time we were at PCC, when I was pregnant with Nicholas, and I was so hot during the canoe pageant that I thought I was going to faint. I had to retreat somewhere inside! This time we scouted out a position that was somewhat in the shade.

It's the third time we've visited the PCC over the years we've come to Hawaii, and it's always entertaining (but predictable!). We all enjoy the Polynesian singing, dancing, and culture, and the evening show is nothing short of spectacular. Our drama-obsessed children always have a blast.

The PCC opened in the 60s, and Elvis apparently filmed a movie there...see photo and song excerpt below...

It's hokey, it's touristy, and it's incredibly hot!! Why do we do it? We're suckers for entertainment, I suppose...anything to entertain our kids! ;)

Waiting for the canoe pageant to start

Dancers from Aoteraroa (New Zealand)

The New Zealand students were my favorite--they had GORGEOUS harmonies and a fun performance, too. The video below gives you a small taste--I couldn't get that tune out of my head all day!!

Samoan boat

Nicholas loved the canoe pageant...each time a new boat came in, he would shout "ANOTHER BOAT!"

This is Kieran sulking because we wouldn't buy him a $5 pineapple delight--
isn't he adorable? ;)

Tahitian dancers

Stick games in Aotearoa

Fierce warriors in Fiji--
we were sitting in the front row and
Nicholas was a bit freaked at first!

Chris got hauled up on stage because he has an August birthday--
he was secretly thrilled of course!

Doing a Fijian dance with other celebrants of August events

This was the boys' favorite--Samoa

The Samoan guy is quite a comedian--he creates fire from wood, cracks open a coconut, makes coconut milk, and speaks several languages. (Later in the evening show, he's a spectacularly talented fire dancer!) At the end of the Samoan demonstration, a young man climbs a coconut tree.

Nicholas loved the waterfall (featured in the Elvis video above!)
He can say "waterfall" now!

Oops! (Notice that cheeky grin!)

My favorite time at the PCC is when the HORDES are in the luau, it's cooled down considerably, and the villages are relatively quiet. We took the opportunity to take a round-trip canoe ride up and down the canal. We had the whole boat to ourselves, along with our canoeman.

View of the waterfalls from the canal

Garrett, our canoeman
(Nicholas said "Daniel" as soon as he heard this,
because his cousins are named Daniel and Garrett)

Chris on the canoe

The Fijians serenading us as we rowed past

Garrett got this poor woman (on her break) to dance for us as we rowed past!

Views from the canoe

Easter Island statues from the back

Easter Island statues from the front

In the evening we went to the spectacular Horizons show...amazing!

The music and dancing is highly entertaining, but the highlight are the fire dances. First, three grass-skirted men clown around with fire, trying to extinguish the fire with their grass skirts. Then, the Samoan fire knife dancer puts on a spectacular show juggling fire.

Kieran and Nicholas were very tired during the show, and Kieran was on the verge of sleep during the first half, but he came to life after the intermission. They both fell asleep in the car on the way back to the condo.

Chris and Kieran with one of the dancers after the show

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