The colorful (and close) grounds of the Heritage Gardens at Kepaniwai Park have always afforded me adventure away from a hot day’s work. Typically, work at MauiTime is too engaging to escape to the valley very often, but in my former incarnation as a Wailuku legal secretary, the excursion was damned-near mandatory. Lunchtime at the law office offered timely reprieve from the skin and nostril burn of air conditioning, fluorescent lights, and hot printer toner (which, though annoying, were mere trappings whipped by a tornado workload of incomparable pace and pressure).
To combat that, I drew up a list of Wailuku/Waiehu haunts at which to spend my break times (should I have them), and was first drawn to the place my grandfather would take my brother and I to play as kids–the mouth of the mountains we sit in the shadows of, the valley of the Valley Isle. Quickly, I discovered that nothing beats munching on a cheeseburger from Mike’s Hong Kong Bistro ($3.25) while strolling along on the root rutted asphalt pathways, topped off with a stream-side cigarette [the Hawaii Nature Center’s Nature Cafe also makes a great spot to grab a delishandwich during a daytime date… the eggplant with goat cheese (and the right company) will inspire you to hum tongue-happy ditties].
Last week Friday, however, my ‘Iao outing was related to work, not to repress work. This coming Thursday (bridging from last week’s News & Views article titled “Opium and the Overthrow”), I will begin a three-part series exploring the Chinese society houses on Maui. The first installment will feature Wailuku’s Chee Kung Tong Society house–or, to clarify, what remains of it–the second, the Wo Hing Temple museum, and finally, in the February 11th edition (just prior to Chinese New Year, on the 14th), Kula’s Ket Hing.
As an adopted Oki and student of samurai swordsmanship, I usually hang around the Japanese section of the gardens (not pictured), drawn to the steely aesthetic. Neighboring it (in bright contrast) is the Chinese section, and I knew from my strolls that there existed a statue off Sun Yat Sen and a few plaques that must contain pertinent information.
Not only did I discover pertinent information (read about it in the coming weeks), but for the first time really stopped to appreciate the ornate styling of this section of the gardens. Bold primary colors star on a palette of stark whites and jade greens, making for a august rainbow; and the teal tiled bridge would be an ideal place for keiki to lay belly-down and watch for passing fish.
Though, in truth, I’m selfish. There are quiet times where the park is virtually empty, and the monastery calm is nothing short of surreal. My heart does hold small, secret hopes for those moments. Yet still, I rejoice in the (more often than not) days when the park is alive with local families and camera wielding tourists, the sound of music and laughing keiki, the smell of grilled food, river water, rain and smoke.
Because, for all my selfishness or for seeking adventure, or for the valley’s beauty or for its heritage, my real draw to the valley is to enjoy seeing people enjoying it. And hopefully, my humble selection of offering of iPhone photos might encourage you to visit and enjoy it yourself.