Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinatown Giveaway!

CHINATOWN GIVEAWAY: To enter, just check out "Our trip to Chinatown" and leave us a comment. Make sure we have your e-mail please. We'll enter all names in a drawing to win one of our Chinatown collection Jade Wire Wrapped Ring in your size! One winner to be selected and notified by Febuary 15th, 2009 5pm PST

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our Trip to Chinatown

"Please take a ticket," a small voice from the ticket booth says as we pull into the Chinatown Municipal Parking Garage. David and I park and are soon in the microcosm called Chinatown within the large city of Honolulu. As we step out onto the streets, we move into a steady flow of pedestrian traffic moving like clockwork as people bob and weave through eachother, delivery dollies full of boxes, and loads of produce being brought to the market for the day. Many of the people are indeed Chinese and this seems to be their daily routine. It's a beautiful sunny day and we've come to take in the Chinatown experience that we've already grown to love through our previous adventures here on quest for unique pieces to incorporate into our jewelry designs and display.

We start by visiting the produce vendors. There are heaps upon heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables lining the streets. David snaps some pics because the colors look so vibrant and delicious. Bok Choy, Jabong, lychee, and I even spot some fruits with names I can't pronounce. It's an overwhelming variety! As we keep meandering through the crowds, we enter the meat market. Here butchers chop fresh meat and slop it on scales right before your eyes. Pig heads, hoofs and even the skins line the cases. "Splash," I look behind me and see a large tub filled with catfish splasing and practically jumping out of their bin as if trying to make an escape. Fish tanks swimming with live fish like Uhu, milk fish, sun fish, and so many others create a steady humming sound mixed with the banter of vendors and customers making deals and purchases. Plucked chickens strung by their wing in long uniform rows and shiny shrimp lay in huge piles from which you hand pick your own to buy. Many smells fill the air-both good and not so good and we pick up on them all as we pass through. Yum...that smell is the food court and plate lunch is the main draw. Huge pans of authentic Chinese cooking made from fresh ingredients are served in heaping scoopfulls with all kinds of rice, noodles, meats, veggies, and sauces. We continue on and find many small family owned Chinese restaurants are interspersed along the streets as well, and we are suddenly halted by a window display with Dim Sum being served for lunch. Wow! I can't believe how pretty it all looks, like little works of art, all handmade, hot, and steaming right before our eyes. This is David's favorite and he says it's some of the best food he's ever eaten!
As we move on, we see an older man handpainting signs in honor of Chinese New Year coming up January 26th. It is year of the Ox and we choose a painting that reads, "May your business flourish." We'll post it in our workshop and hope it brings us luck!

We've come today also on a mission to find a money tree to add to our farmer's market display table, so we enter into the Maunukea Market. Two cute little girls sit eating their plate lunch in the back of one of the shops and we ask if we can take their picture. Their mom says "10 dollar, no just kidding!" Rows and rows of miniature bamboo shoots and money trees line the large metal racks. Certain animals, like frogs, that hold significance in the Chinese culture decorate the vases. David spots the perfect tree and we leave, victoriously, with our prized money tree.
One stop is a must for us everytime we come here, and that's Kimi's Bead shop. I can still remember how amazed I was the first time I stepped through the door. Strands upon strands of everything you could imagine fill the walls, aisles and every place in between. Huge cases of all kinds and colors of pearls, red coral, Chinese turqouise, carved stone and wood, cinnabar, and really unique beads that we've come to love and use in our "Chinatown" line of jewelry. Our best find here came one afternoon when we happened to be on a quest for a variety of nice round beads or stones for our handmade wire wrapped ring design. I had been rumaging around for a few minutes already when I spotted them. Beautiful real Chinese Jade balls in the perfect size we were looking for. I called David over and he too noticed them right away, confirming that we had to have them. We call one of the workers over to get a price, and we can't believe how reasonable they are. Sold, we say, and head to the register with the rest of our finds. As we are about to hand over the money, an older Chinese lady appears from the back and the two start talking in Chinese back and forth, we don't understand but it seems that the worker is in some kind of trouble. In the end, the lady tells us that we got a really good deal and that her son, the worker, sold us the real Jade for too cheap. What a find! The Chinese say jade brings good luck and in this case, it definatly did for us.

As we walk along our journey, I can't help but notice the great variety in people all gathered within these few streets. Mainly Chinese, but also tourists, eclectics, shopkeepers, homeless, and we even spotted a couple transvestites. Being the perpetual people watcher that I am, I am easily intrigued by these random individuals and enjoy just observing. One man catches our attention by strolling the courtyard singing to a bunch of flowers he has acquired. He boldly poses for his picture to be taken, and David snapped it. In such stark contrast, we then pass by and quickly turn back around to peak in on two ladies quietly hand stringing beautiful leis in a small broken down building. They have a grace about them that is so elegant and their work is just beautiful. We are the minority and it feels like we stick out amoung this place, but what an adventure and so much to see and apreciate!

If we had more time, we could have stopped in to check out some of the art galleries that also make up a good portion of Chinatown. Art is promoted in many forms, and one of my personal favorite galleries features an artist that uses surfboards as their canvas. Within the same gallery is another artist that handpaints really colorful trucker and fidora hats with skulls, and birds, and tattoo like inspired art. Every first friday of the month, Chinatown hosts an art walk called "First Friday" and this is when we like to come check out such galleries and also vintage shops. The streets line with vendors, all doors are open, wine is served, and live music pours out of all the bars and restaurants. If you ever get a chance to come check out "First Friday," it also happens to lead up to a fun night out of dancing and socializing as the afterparty continues at places like Indigo and Hotel 39. The lights dim and the whole Chinatown day vibe turns into more of a nightlife aura with D.J.'s and live bands playing a large variety in playlists.

Well, it's back to work for us. Time to head back to the workshop with our finds. We'll be back another day for more of the great culture Chinatown has to offer us, and as always a few great beads along the way. For more about Chinatown, visit