Huge Banyan Tree Shades Historic Hawaiian Market

Shopping at the International Marketplace in Honolulu, Hawaii, is like shopping under a Pandora hometree from the movie "Avatar." You don't need 3-D glasses. You don't even need sunglasses. This marketplace, across from Waikiki Beach, is shaded by a huge banyan tree that forms a natural awning over about 130 local vendors who sell their wares to visitors. It's an awesome sight to behold, especially for someone from Michigan, who's used to seeing trees knocked down for retail outlets. I've been to plenty of outdoor shops and flea markets—almost all of them set in parking lots or cleared out spaces where trees used to stand.

The Hawaiians apparently didn't want to go to the trouble of using bulldozers and heavy machinery to rip up the trees for the marketplace. So they built the International Marketplace around the trees. There's one huge banyan in the middle and several other roots and trees throughout that crisscross the main tree's branches.

Builders could learn a lot from this place. It provides a cool break from the sun, and a cool way to shop and help the local economy. Much better than a mall or any old indoor, air-conditioned shop.

Sure, the marketplace is about consumerism. Some may call it a tourist trap. But there are good deals and eco-items here, including purses made from coconuts, and other island-made arts and crafts, along with local food and entertainment. I snapped the images here on my iPhone.

The banyan tree that covers most of the marketplace is about 100 years old, and is said to be the original home of Don the Beachcomber, who is said to have invented the mai tai.

According to local history, the marketplace is one important link to the past that remains in the bustling Waikiki Beach area:

"Over the last hundred years, Waikiki and Ka-lua-o-kau have undergone tremendous change. The International Market Place, as a central pedestrian shopping village under the shade of her historic banyan, has in the last forty years grown into a busy, exciting bazaar of small shops, food stands, Polynesian entertainment, restaurants, an art gallery and storytelling theatre.

"As Waikiki's future continues to evolve, the sense of its Hawaiian heritage becomes all that more meaningful, instilling a pride and respect for its ancient and recent past."

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Tags: Beaches | Farmers Markets | Hawaii

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