The history of Honolulu’s Chinatown is explored on our newest Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast. Aloha Bruce and Lanai Tabura have a lively discussion about how Chinatown came to be, and the history of the Chinese in Hawaii.
With his typically vast knowledge of Hawaii’s past, Lanai explains that the first Chinese arrived in Hawaii all the way back in 1780. They found work under King Kamehameha as carpenters when the sandalwood trade was booming in the early 1800s. Many Chinese found success as merchants near Honolulu Harbor. This was the beginning of Chinatown as we know it.
Lanai also notes that many of the unique buildings in Chinatown were built around the same time, just after the Great Fire that decimated the neighborhood. May6 of Chinatown’s buildings have their year of construction featured in their faces, usually 1908-1910.
Lanai and Bruce also recall the seedy days of Chinatown, and its rebirth as a sophisticated arts district and a hotbed of innovative new restaurants and young chefs and restauranteurs. Critically-acclaimed places like Pig & the Lady, Encore, and Lucky Belly are noted, as well as a handful of excellent pizza joints.
Chinatown was once a theater district. Lanai talks about childhood memories of visiting a number of movie houses in Chinatown. He also discusses Chinatown’s history of gambling and prostitution. About 15-20 years ago, Chinatown underwent a makeover into the vibrant area it is today.
But old Chinatown can still be found in the traditional fish markets and dim sum and noodle shops that still serve a large Chinese community. Chinatown is now a multi-ethnic area as Honolulu’s demographics changes.
Lanai also points out that Honolulu’s Chinatown is different from others in San Francisco and Los Angeles because of its diversity. He also addresses the homeless in the area as typical of any big city, and the best and safest times to visit. Join Aloha Bruce and Lanai Tabura as they offer their unique expertise on Chinatown and how to experience it
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