In 1965, during a brief spell of shore leave from the P&O liner Himalaya, Rich’s Dad (Bryn) visited the International Market Place in Waikiki, O’ahu. When he heard we would be visiting Hawaii in December last year, he was excited for us to follow in his footsteps.
At the time of Bryn’s visit, the International Market Place was practically pristine, having opened only eight years earlier, in 1957. It was a modern, open-air, themed collection of shops, restaurants and entertainments, arranged around an already ancient banyan tree.
So last month, upon fulfilling our mini pilgrimage, we were understandably shocked to discover that we would be among the final tourists to ever see the Market Place of Bryn’s youth. Because as I write this, less than a month after our visit, the old International Market Place is no more. It’s been swept away to make room for a brand new namesake. A shiny, multi-storey, designer shopping mall.
It can’t be denied that during the 48 years since Bryn’s visit, the original International Market Place had become more than a little shabby around the edges. And yes, much of the stuff sold there was cheap, tacky imports.
But there was still a certain charm to wandering around the (admittedly repetitive) stalls, looking for a bargain to take home as a souvenir or gift. And in any case, not every tourist visiting Waikiki wants (or can afford) to get their keepsakes from high-end designer stores.
Plus, in amongst all the tat, was the odd gem. Like watching a craftsman carving a kiʻi (the Hawaiian version of a tiki) while sitting on the ground, the wood gripped tightly between his feet. Or getting him to personalise the one you’ve just purchased.
To be sure, some people will miss the old International Market Place. Others will be glad to see the back of it. Honestly, I understand both points of view, although I tend to fall on the saddened side of the fence.
After all, as I wrote just three months ago in Farewell, Maid of the Mist?, once a piece of history like this is gone, it’s gone for ever.
The one saving grace is that, if what I hear is correct, the old banyan tree will live on within the new development. I hope its true. And I look forward to visiting the new International Market Place one day, to see how they managed it.
Maybe Bryn will come with me.
Don’t forget to come back to Jaspa’s Journal over the coming weeks for more tales of my recent adventures in Hawaii. You can also follow my continuing Journeys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And as of this week, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy!
Want to know more? Check out David Thompson’s interesting article in Honolulu Magazine, The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Waikiki’s International Marketplace.