Closed: Waikiki’s International Market Place

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.

Waikiki’s International Market Place in 1965 (from ElectroSpark on Flickr)

Waikiki’s International Market Place in 1965 (from ElectroSpark on Flickr)

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.

Entrance in 2013

Entrance in 2013

Leisurely shoppers

Leisurely shoppers

Under the banyan

Under the banyan

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.

Fish pond

Fish pond

Central courtyard

Central courtyard

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.

A bit tacky? Guilty as charged!

A bit tacky? Guilty as charged!

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.

The Market Place at night

The Market Place at night

Strolling through the stalls beneath the banyan

Strolling through the stalls beneath the banyan

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.

A craftsman and his wares

A craftsman and his wares

Getting our ki'i personalised

Getting our ki’i personalised

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.

Some vendors were already gone when we were there last month...

Some vendors were already gone when we were there last month…

... Others were on their way

… Others were on their way

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.

View of the Market Place from our hotel balcony, with the banyan tree on the left

View of the Market Place from our hotel balcony, with the banyan tree on the left

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.

15 - A sign of things to come

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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6 Responses to Closed: Waikiki’s International Market Place

  1. Angeline M says:

    I had read just recently that it had closed, but I thought it was to be freshened up a bit, not completely razed….how sad at its fate! A visit to Waikiki was never complete for me without at least one walk through the International Marketplace; I must have done that dozens of times over the years, and nothing ever changed much, but I always went. I certainly do hope the tree is saved!!!!

    • Jaspa says:

      I really hope the tree survives too. I’ve seen an artists image of the new development, and I get the impression the new mall will be built around the tree, so it’s in an open area near the entrance. Fingers crossed!

  2. Sad. ‘New and improved’ is not always ‘improved’.

  3. Even though I hate markets I enjoyed your post!

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