Visiting the late Doris Duke's Shangri La has to be planned well in advance of your visit to Honolulu.
The tours are booked through the Honolulu Academy of Art's website. There are only 3 tours per day, with a maximum of 20 visitors on each tour. The price is $25 which includes admission to the Academy of Art.
The tour starts at the Academy with an introductory video on Ms Duke and the history of the house. Then you are taken by mini-bus on a 20 minute drive to the property. The group is split into two groups for touring through the home with very well imformed guides. Photos are allowed outside, but none inside the house (a book is available at the Academy gift shop). Backpacks, tote bags etc have to be put into a locked area, however if you put your camera in there, you will not be able to take photos once you get out to the gardens.
The house had been showing it age, much has been restored, but Ms Duke's bedroom area is not yet on the tour.
Ms Duke had the financial wherewithall to buy anything which caught her eye, and a very educated eye it was. After her death Islamic scholars were astounded at the depth, quality and sheer quantity of the treasures she had collected. As far as is known Ms Duke had no interest in Islam as a religion, but was captivated by Islamic art and architecture
Ms Duke thought nothing of commissioning from the world's leading craftsmen that which she could not find, or when something had to be a specific size, but she also rolled up her sleeves and did a lot of dirty restoration work herself. Even so, at one point she had her houseman cut and lay tile rather than pay an expert.
Ms Duke was very involved in all stages of the construction and the many remodels of various rooms. The whole house is imbued with her peronality, it is an autobiography. The very modest forecourt is the absolute opposite of what the architect suggested, as was siting the house to face the ocean. The architect wanted to build a large mansion facing the drive.
The glass walls which, at the push of a button, lower into the basement, impressed me the most - Otis elevator technology!
The house is so well named, it really is Shangri La. So elegant, so serene. Such wonderful vibes.
At the conclusion of the tour you are returned to the Academy. The restaurant at the Academy is THE place to have lunch. Reservations well in advance are necessary, book lunch when you book the house tour. The gift shop is one of the nicest places to shop in Honolulu and has an excellent selection of books. The Academy's own art collections are excellent, especially all the various Asian collections. Plan on spending a whole day here.
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