Tourists buy inexpensive souvenirs (and lots of crappy stuff) at the International Market Place, strategically situated in Waikiki on Kalakaua. The most enduring sight here is the giant 100-year-old banyan tree that seems to cover the entire open-air market like an enormous umbrella. Every time we’re in Waikiki, we find ourselves walking through here, not because it’s a destination, but because it’s along the way on several of our walks in the area. We’ve never purchased anything here, but we did have cocktails and snacks at a restaurant bar back in 2009.
Late this afternoon, as we were making our way past the vendors’ carts and tourist shops, we noticed a roped-off area that seemed to be preparing for some kind of food bazaar. Then, it occurred to me that this must be the Thursday afternoon farmers market. Sure enough, it was.
The usual island fruits made their appearance: papayas, mangoes, bananas, pineapples. One man was skillfully slicing up pineapples into chunks that were packaged into plastic tubs. Some containers had the fruit sprinkled with li hing mui powder. The foods were of a different sort than you would find at the KCC Farmers Market—snack foods, mostly deep-fried, and many that are comfort food to the locals, who seemed to make up most of the shoppers. A people’s market. Instead of going out to dinner somewhere, we made a decision to purchase a few snacks here to take back to the condo, including li hing pineapples. All of it was pretty good food, but ones that you don’t want to make a habit of eating often.
Update: The International Market Place has been demolished to make way for yet another shopping mall, this one with Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. Eh what? Despite how tourists may have seen it as an open-air market of trinket shops and stalls, it was too valuable a piece of property not to be claimed by developers eager to cash in on the big-spending Asians (Japan, Korea and China) who are ever desirous of labels that can be bought cheaper in Honolulu than back at home. These small shops were at least owned and operated by locals. Gone, too, is the Farmers Market with all its ethnic food.