Travel to Shop

luxuryrow-header-tmb  The main street in Waikiki is known more for its shops than for its obscured view of the beach and ocean.  Japanese tourists have long been the mainstay of the economy as they flit in their stilettos from Chanel and Tiffany to Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, carrying bags of luxury along the sidewalk.  According to author Dave Sedaris, Japan is his preferred place to shop.   In Tokyo, shopping is not an art – it’s a sport.

In the New York Times travel section, “In Transit,” Nell McShane Wulfhart interviews David Sedaris for a list of places to stay (the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara – “everyone there looks like Mitt and Ann Romney”) to his dream trip (to India – “I want to go to India for three hours.  So I can leave when I get thirsty, and then I can get back on the plane without any risk of getting a stomach bug.”).  But his favorite travel activity is shopping; forget the monuments and art.

As a seasoned traveler, Sedaris offers a list of must-haves for every trip, including:

  • Vicks VapoRub  (Use on your upper lip to diffuse cloying perfume of fellow travelers.)
  • An extendable backscratcher (to relieve the itchiness brought on by dry air in planes).
  • A wooden hanger that folds in half to dry shirts (because “in a crummy hotel you can’t disconnect the hangers.”)
  • Set Editions’ Stop Talking Cards (useful to give at appropriate times).Set-Editions-Stop-Talking-Cards

Related Review:  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Shangri La and The Heiress

Modeled after her vision of  James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, the Shangri La estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke sits on five secluded acres oceanside in Hawaii with a view of Diamond Head.  Built as an escape from New York City society, Duke’s Hawaii estate became a repository for her collection of Islamic art and her retreat in old age.

Now administered by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the house with its collection of tiles, furniture, silks, gardens, and replicas of Persian ceilings  has some of the most spectacular views in Hawaii.  The neighborhood is exclusive, but Jim Nabors lives next door,  local children jump off the seawall by the house, and locals fish off the old yacht pier nearby.

Aside from her money, travels, estates, and art collections, Doris Duke was notorious in her day.  When she left billions to her butler, relatives appeared from everywhere to challenge her will. Her trysts with Duke Kahanamoku, the  Olympic medals winner whose god-like statue looms over Waikiki beach, were legend, and he frequently swam in the olympic size pool on her estate.

The museum docents are careful to focus on the beauty of Duke’s art collection, her continuing philanthropic legacy, and her house and gardens as her living memorial – Duke’s ashes were scattered in the ocean by her estate. Doris Duke’s Shangri La is sold in the museum shop and carefully avoids any negative comments.  The photographs and illustrations include the house and its treasures, along with pictures of the heiress.

For an insider’s tale of Duke’s raunchy escapades, assorted lovers, and scandals as well as her mysterious death, try Too Rich: the Family Secrets of Doris Duke, written by her cousin and godson, Pony Duke.

Theroux on Why We Travel

Paul Theroux is not my favorite person, but I like his books. Theroux lives on the North Shore of Oahu, when he’s not traveling the world, and thrives as the brash, irreverent, articulate personality that gives his books a rebellious yet true quality.

On the long plane ride to relocate to Hawaii from the East Coast ten years ago, I read Hotel Honolulu – a great preview to the seedier side of Waikiki – with characters I later saw and avoided when I rode TheBus. In 2009, to celebrate Hawaii’s 50th anniversary of statehood, he wrote an essay for the New York Times on Hawaii’s idiosyncracies of island culture (Happily a State, Forever an Island) that I had also learned by then to tolerate.

Theroux often writes travel essays, so his recent article in the New York Times travel section – Why We Travel – seemed to be from an appropriate source.  His advice?  Don’t stay home; don’t be afraid to vacation in tyrannical countries or places in conflict. Go for the experiences – “shocking though they may seem at the time…the experience of being a bystander to sudden political or social change can be alarming {but also} an enrichment…one of the life-altering trophies of the road.

He draws the line: “I wouldn’t go to present-day Somalia or Afghanistan…nor Pakistan,” but “only the other day the Libyan tourist board was encouraging visitors with promises of Roman ruins,” and not all of Japan is in disaster. My guess is that he wrote the article before the no-fly zone air strikes and the radioactive meltdowns – but maybe not.

Theroux goes for the adventure, for the location that is not only “out of fashion” but also places the traveler may “dare to try.”  The article seems to be a preview for his new book, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments From Lives on the Road, due out in May.

I look forward to vicariously traveling with him to all those dangerous yet “enlightening” places through reading, but I’m not sure I’m ready to actually go yet.

Honolulu Marathon

The annual 26+ mile trek around the island will close off streets while 22,000 marathoners jog, walk, or crawl to the finish line in Waikiki along the ocean.  One year I saw someone come hobbling down the street, with friendly supporters cheering him on, as he slowly made his way to his finish – at 7 p.m.

The race starts at 5 a.m. and does not end until the last person crosses the finish line.  Locals who live on the course know to stay in and have enough supplies for the day – good day to read a book, watch football, bake cookies, watch the racers…

Reminds me of one of my favorite books about racing – car racing and not a marathon, but great story – The Art of Racing in the Rain.