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The Perils of Parking in Paia

January 18, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

I received an Email from a Singapore-based friend who informed me that he was visiting Maui, staying at the Paia Inn. I said that I will drive to see him.

This meeting gave me the opportunity to experience the back-to-Haiku-and-beyond Friday 5:30 PM traffic rush on the Hana Highway, and the monumental issue of finding parking somewhere in little Paia.

At first glance Paia is comparable to a plantation town with pre-War 1930s architecture, and all kinds of new people took over the stores, then made them stylistically younger and edgier than Makawao’s rustic cowboy charm or Lahaina’s 19th century waterfront. Kihei is architecturally the opposite: everything is new and still building, yet with a more retiree sense of open spaces and flowing movement to the beaches and up to Safeway at Pi’ilani Shopping Center.

Paia is the only place outside India that I thought I was back on the way to the Bangalore airport with little shacks on the city’s green outskirts adorned with twinkling lights and filled with incense and what seemed to be Hindu charms, and young men and women dressed in raw cotton tie-dyed blouses and loose trousers. I almost lowered my window to speak to a couple in my few Hindi phrases, but I think the couple was from New York.

I finally parked above the town in an open gravelly field, just like one in humid Chennai, in Tamil Nadu State, on the southeastern coast of India. I was late for my meeting; I had to dash down the street, avoiding bicyclists, runners, surfers, and half-naked children. For a small town, maneuvering down Baldwin Avenue was one of the most congested half-mile stretches on Maui.

I had a short meeting with my friend at the Paia Inn bar – there were many people drinking California chardonnay in large glasses with long stems. Some patrons seemed to be beamed in like in a Star Trek Paia special episode from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. I was the only one in a Reyn’s businessman’s Aloha shirt, tucked in, and I looked like a lost Honolulu City & County sanitation engineer. I had no chance to wander about, to reflect on the former barbershop, the Horiuchi market, a candy store – they were blurred scenes in a black and white movie of a by-gone era.

It was a strange, quick one-hour visit to Paia, a town of vivid contrasts packed in a tiny space. With a big parking problem.


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