Asian American

Chinatown, Hawaii

Chinatown, Oahu, 2015
Chinatown, Oahu, 2015

Visiting Hawaii meant not only visiting memories, but places where those memories are contained. Chinatown is one such place. Honolulu’s is one of the oldest Chinatowns in America and probably is one of the smelliest. So, I find it rather amusing that tourists come here and based on their 3 star reviews, visitors possibly find it dirty and disgusting.

I remember a guy I was dating in high school saying such, to which I replied, “Dude, my family shops there…”

We were Chinatown regulars, standing obediently as children, off to the side, listening to the cacophony of Asian languages disco down the aisles.

Excitedly searching for White Rabbit Candy, staring at the pig heads on ice, eating at Hong Kong Noodle House – a family tradition.

Waiting on sidewalks and street corners while my mom caught up with her friends.

Parking the car, where, you know, we always park the car.

Then visiting mom’s friend’s shop, staring at the Thai magazines, videos, newspapers, groceries, candy, and then standing around waiting for mom to be done doing what needed to be done.

Buying fresh thick white flat Chinese noodles and pork-filled manapuas when we weren’t trapped by the smell of raw fish.

Waiting at the food courts or the car park while mom talked with her friends. Does she know everybody?

We were Chinatown regulars, standing obediently as children, off to the side.

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25 thoughts on “Chinatown, Hawaii

  1. “visitors possibly find it dirty and disgusting” You are so honest, Lani. I’ve often wondered what non-Chinese or non-Asians think of Chinatowns, always cramped, wet around the market areas and the smell of raw seafood everywhere…but it’s these parts of it that makes us feel, well, at home and close to the family.

    Great write up, great trip down memory lane for me. I would always be on the lookout for White Rabbit Candy, and sugar cane juice too in Malaysia’s Chinatown. My mum was always on the lookout for nuts and dried sour fruits.

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    1. It’s okay. I find it repulsive sometimes. The stench gets to me. Hahhahahaa. But when you always go there or go to the markets in Asia for food, well, you just have to get past the smell as quickly as possible.

      White Rabbit Candy forever!!!!! 😀

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  2. Oh the white rabbit candy, my wife’s favorite 🙂

    I’ve never been to a China town simply because in the countries I’ve been there are no such things. Well, I’ve been surely in China but it is yet again different to go through a multicultural Chinatown in a big city and to be in an Asian city

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  3. I love the frenetic movement, the noise, and even the smells of a Chinatown. I love Asia, so it just brings back memories of my trips there. This is a great look into the past and growing up Asian-American in the U.S.

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  4. This was such an awesome post. You made me feel what it was like to be a kid there. I used to go to Chinatown in San Francisco on occasion, but not enough to cement in any real memories. Well, except for the chicken feet I accidentally ordered at a restaurant there. I think it was the start of my need for food exploration. 🙂

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  5. Ahh love the details that provide such a rich experience of chinatown, like rabbit candy and pig heads. 🙂 me too, I grew up always having to peel the sticky strands of fresh rice noodles apart on Saturday mornings so my mom could cook kuy theav (rice noodle soup).

    Thanks for sharing this nostalgic and breathing, living part of life . 🙂

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  6. I remember walking there from Waikiki clad as such at night looking for Bar 35, and made a mad dash across a tiny street to get there in a hurry because of a sketchy character nearby… Sure enough, a blindingly white police guy barrelled up in his police car – siren and light flaring… Scared the b-Jeez outta me and gave me a lecture and a ticket for jaywalking!! (However, I wrote the judge about what all had factored in, and they let me off, thankfully.) Quite the entrance into Bar 35 for my first time.

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    1. Chinatown at night is scary stuff, indeed. I would never go there. It’s where all the prosititues (and probably unsavories) hang out.

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  7. I didn’t find time to figure out where Chinatown was but did see certain historic presence of the Chinese in Hawaii when I was in Maui, etc. So thx for the photo memories.

    I have different memories of different Chinatowns in life. When my family would take us there only1-2 times annually inToronto when we lived 100 km. west in smaller German based city. They did massive grocery shopping. We also loved dim sum.

    Then moving to live in Toronto for 25 years, Chinatown was simply another shopping stop for myself occasionally per month. But it was also a touchstone because I was an active volunteer for a national advocacy organization for Chinese-Canadians on race relations, medica portrayal, immigration etc. for 5 yrs. before it was 5 years at literary magazine on Asian-Canadian arts.

    Vancouver and Calgary: I live close to a Chinatown but in a neighbourhood that has no historic connection to Chinatown.

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    1. I love learning more about you 🙂 Yes, when I was in Canada, we went to the famous Vancouver Chinatown. Wow. It was bustling with action, but like some Chinatowns, not too far away were the scary people. I don’t know why Chinatown attracts the homeless drug addict types. Chinatown in Portland, Oregon wasn’t really a Chinatown at all. I want to say Seattle was like that too. Just a historic recognition or stamp and little else…I mean, Portland has a nice garden, but it’s not really Chinatown but an Asian touch.

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      1. Exactly. It’s just called Chinatown, but it’s not really, unless it’s changed since I was last there. I think they have a museum and like I said, a nice garden that looks more Japanese and maybe a couple of Chinese restaurants. It’s funny, most of the Asians are Vietnamese and like the majority of the minorities they live past 72nd St.

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