Our day started at the Honolulu Museum of Art, the orientation center for Shangri La tours. Shangri La is an estate own by Doris Duke, who at 12 inherited about $100 million dollars. In the 1930s, during her around the world honeymoon, she purchased the five acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head now known as Shangri La. We drove the 15 minute trip from the Museum to the house, entered the gates, went down the long, sloping driveway into a simple courtyard with a huge banyan tree.
The front door weighing 64 pounds, made in Egypt in 1900, was our first close look of Islamic art. Its geometric patterns, scrolling arabesques and calligraphy exemplified the type of art preserved the house.
Although the decor in most of the rooms of the house sticks to one country of origin, the foyer was the only room that combined many different styles. The sun filters through 84 Spanish style windows with coral, apple green, blue and gold glass over walls line with 600 Turkish ceramic tiles from the 17the century. A painted and gilded Moroccan ceiling creates a warm canopy overhead.
The next room we entered was the 1,600 square foot living room. The room’s west wall is a glass panel that descends fully into the ground. The idea of the glass was amazing because it was installed in 1936.
The Damascus Room, is an entire Syrian Interior that was reconstructed at Shangri La and is used to display photos and papers of the history of the house.
Duke transformed the dining room into and “Islamic” feel using 453 yards of striped blue fabric on the ceiling and walls.
This is looking out from the living room, and the first thing you see is the amazing view of Diamond Head, the pool, the Playhouse house and the ocean through the floor to ceiling windows. The Playhouse, Duke’s name for a structure with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a small kitchen. The Playhouse is now used by visiting scholars on research trips. The pool is filled with seawater, which means it has to be drained and refilled once a week via a pump that draws from the ocean below.
The gardens were built based on gardens created during the reign of the Mughal dynasty. They are smaller in size, but the lush central courtyard, gardens near the pool and Playhouse, and a private garden adjacent to Duke’s bedroom had an unique combination of still or moving water, vegetation, trees, grass and fishponds.
Duke developed a plan a for a basin with two breakwaters in the harbor in front of the mansion. On one side there were stairs, built in 1937, that descend into the ocean for Duke’s private boating activities. On the other side, the harbor was named by swimmers as Cromwell’s, after Duke’s first husband. In the decades since, it has become one of the most popular and dangerous swimming holes on Oahu.
Lunch at Buzz’s was a wonderful experience. Buzz’s is located across from the Kahlua Beach Park, in an old beach house purchased in 1962. We walked up to the Halloween decorated front porch and the “spooks” continued to the inside. The menu was etched into a six inch wooden paddle. We ate on the open air porch. The burger I ordered was the best I have ever eaten.
We spent the night at the Hilton Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Resort, a Honolulu hotel, situated on 22 ocean front acres of Waikiki’s widest stretch of beach. We enjoyed an evening of walking the beach front, stopping to listen to music and drinking Mai Tai cocktails along the way. The next morning we were picked up in front of the open air lobby for a 10 minutes drive to Pearl Harbor.