Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Honolulu's Chinatown

The new brick entrance to Maunakea Marketplace gives way to an old-world bustle of agrarian commerce and exotic knickknacks, just part of a 20-square-block section of Honolulu’s Chinatown that could be a set for noir films. Across the alley is Oahu Market, more of the same, only more of it, where growers and fishermen stock an sprawling array of countertops with the island’s freshest bounty, an overload of quirky items that will be new to tourist taste buds—pickled, sweet, salty, smoked, spicy, and combinations thereof.

 Historic stone buildings from the 1800s give way to dashes of Art Deco at the Hawaii Theater, doors open to Asian art importers and herbalists and waterfront junk shops, and also a few seedy bars (anyone for midday boilermakers at Brandy Lee’s Black Pearl Lounge?) Chinatown is a city within the city, nudged right up to the gleaming skyscrapers and palm-shaded plazas (and more historic buildings) of downtown Honolulu.