Honolulu literally translates from Hawaiian to English to mean sheltered bay. Located on the South side of the Island of Oahu, Honolulu first became a town when King Kamehameha I conquered the island of Oahu in the battle of Nu'uanu at the Pali, and afterward they made Waikiki a royal compound. In 1809 they relocated to what is now downtown Honolulu and in 1845 it became the official Capital of Hawaii under King Kamehameha III.
Over the next hundred years Honolulu became both on land and water, influenced by the outside world no matter how unwanted the advances were. The kingdom was influenced greatly by the British and it reflects itself in the architecture all throughout Honolulu. The Hawaiian flag itself looks similar to the flag of Britain, and the Hawaiian women took to wearing big gowns and coifed hair, and the men suits.
When Europeans first reached Hawaii they killed a large amount of the population with disease, and then laid in with convincing them that they were heathens. Missionaries took it upon themselves to outlaw Hawaiian traditions and cultures, and Queen Liliuo'kalani the last monarch of Hawaii was held prisoner in her own Palace for years, just to be overthrown and Hawaii officially robbed away from the Hawaiian people. Greed, power and isolation aided the "U.S." or "plantation owners" (however you look at history) to obtain Hawaii officially for the first time in 1894. It became the Republic of Hawaii then and stayed so until 1898. The status changed to Territory of Hawaii in 1898 and became a State in 1959.
Through all of these passing hands, and different agendas, emerges the Hawaii that stands today. Honolulu in particular is still that beautiful sheltered bay. Of course now it is covered from mauka (mountain) to makai (sea) with high rises and shopping centers. Traffic is absolutely absurd. And the average rent for a decent two-bedroom apartment is about $1500.00. But past all of that, people still come here and I believe it is what first attracted King Kamehameha I to settle here. After the Battle of Nu'uanu at the Pali the Islands were to be "United". I can imagine the Hawaiian warriors here in Honolulu celebrating that they could work towards a common goal. I think the mana (spirit/power) that was first felt in this sheltered bay can be found on a daily basis in this modern city.
People from every culture imaginable now live, work, and make thier lives here in Honolulu. You have Hawaiian, Japanese, Okinawan, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, Micronesian, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Australian, New Zealanders, Maori, African, African-American, European, White, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexican, Canadian and Alaskan. If I have forgotten one or two I'm sure it's more like three or four. There is also a big military presence here which seems to produce mixed feelings in the community. But it is all of these people combined that are trying to find a common goal.
When you mix all of these cultures and beliefs and shoot it with a daily injection of aloha (love), it is amazing to watch the results. Passing through the city of Honolulu you can start at one end and experience the world by the time you reach the other. The different neighborhoods can be distinguished by income, and from homeless to billionaire it all exists in this small stretch of city.
To me, the fancy digs on top of Diamond Head are pretty to look at, but I benefit more from stroll through Chinatown. One of the roughest after dark. Chinatown is full of everything. Languages, foods, clothes, jewelry, people. Culture. I'm not sure if it's the smell of produce or urine or a combination of the two (Chinatown is heavily populated by chronic homeless) but I love that smell. The markets are open every morning and you can find delicacies next to fresh fish. Star fruit next jack fruit. Me next to you.
There is a bakery there called Annies Bakery and when you walk in it's not anything to be impressed with, the building could have used a facelift 50 years ago but the buns that they make are divine. A cross between Chinese and Hawaiian they are baked to golden perfection and filled with a variety of savory and sweet fillings. My personal favorite is ham and cheese. I know right? Hoale(white person) ham and cheese in a Chinese/Hawaiian bun? What the hell is that?
That my friends is the magic of Honolulu. No matter where you go here we are all intercrossed. Through food, music, traditions. Everything. It is not the perfect Honolulu that should have been. But it is the best Honolulu that it is.