Samoa

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Samoa is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. It is part of the region of the Pacific known as Polynesia. Its population is around 185,000 but many more Samoans live outside the country, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and California. Samoa is about one-half of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand. The islands have narrow coastal plains with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior. The two main islands are Upolu and Savaii. The capital, Apia, and the international airport are on Upolu. (less...) (more...)

Population: 195,476 people
Area: 2,831 km2
Highest point: 1,857 m
Coastline: 403 km
Life expectancy: 72.94 years
GDP per capita: $6,300
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About Samoa

History

Samoans originally arrived from Southeast Asia around 1500-1000 BC. The oldest known site of human occupation dates back to that time and is at Mulifanua on Upolu island.

In 1830 missionaries from the London Missionary Society, notably John Williams, arrived and Samoa rapidly embraced Christianity. More recently, Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) have constructed several sizeable churches.

By the end of the 19th Century Samoans had developed a reputation for being warlike, as fights had taken place between them and the British, Germans and Americans, who wanted to use Samoa as a refuelling station for coal-fired shipping and whaling and for commodities. On the island of 'Upolu German firms monopolized copra and cocoa bean production, while the United States formed alliances with local chieftains, mainly on the islands to the east, which were later annexed to the USA as American Samoa and have not been granted Independence. Britain also sent troops to protect business interests. Germany, America and Britain supplied arms and training to warring Samoans, stoking tribal battles. All three sent warships into Apia harbour when, fortunately for Samoa, a large storm in 1889 damaged or destroyed the warships, ending the conflict.

An important arrival was Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author, who travelled to the South Pacific for his health and settled in Samoa in the early 1890s. His house at Vailima in Upolu and his grave on the hill above it can be visited. Stevenson was known as "Tusitala" (teller of tales) and this name lives on in one of Apia's hotels.

In the early 1900s an Independence movement began on the island of Savai'i. Known as the Mau a Pule this had widespread support throughout the country by the late 1920s. Supporters wore a Mau uniform of a navy blue lavalava with a white stripe, which was later banned by the colonial administration. On 28 December 1929 the New Zealand military fired on a peaceful Mau procession, killing 11 Samoans. New Zealand had occupied the German protectorate of Western Samoa at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It continued to administer the islands until 1962, when they became the first Polynesian nation in the 20th century to re-establish independence. The country dropped the "Western" (which distinguished it from American Samoa) from its name in 1997. It celebrates Independence Day on 1 June.

To promote closer ties with Australia & New Zealand—Samoa's largest trading partners—driving switched from the right to the left side of the road in September 2009. It was the first country to switch sides in many years, although it's small size made things less chaotic. Then, in December 2011, Samoa switched sides of the International Date Line—moving from the east side (UTC -11) to the west side (UTC +13). The move was to help businesses with ties to New Zealand which only shared 3 working days a week (Monday in NZ was Sunday in Samoa & Friday in Samoa was Saturday in NZ).

Climate

The climate is tropical with a rainy (and tropical cyclone) season from October to March and a dry season from May to October. The country has an average annual temperature of 26.5°C. This makes it a suitable winter vacation destination for those from southern hemisphere countries.

Activities

Below is just an indication of things to do in Samoa. For more detailed information, see Upolu, Savaii and Apia.

  • A Samoan Tattoo. This traditional art form is very much a part of the Samoan culture. There are different designs for women and men; in the case of men the tattoo can cover half the body. Beware that the tattooing process can be very painful, but if you think you can take the pain ask at your hotel or guest house for advice on local tattoo artists.
  • Get married. Samoa is a popular place to get married and spend your honeymoon. Several hotels and resorts offer special packages on their web sites and they will make all the arrangements.
  • Golf. Golf is very popular in Samoa. There is even a suggestion that the recent introduction of Daylight Saving Time was primarily done so that executives could get in a round of golf after work before it got dark! All courses are on Upolu. Two are close to Apia, one near the airport and a nine-hole course is found on the south coast.
  • Diving. Scuba diving is a relatively new activity in Samoa. Both Upolu and Savai'i have great dive spots, with around 900 fish species and 200 types of coral. There are dive companies operating on both islands.
  • Fishing. Samoa is a popular fishing destination. Fish in the local waters include blue and black marlin, sailfish, yellowfin, and the giant trevally. Most charter companies operate out of Apia harbour.

Food

Eating is an extremely important part of Samoan life, as the size of many Samoans may suggest. They often take food with them when they travel. Samoan food is not highly spiced or seasoned. It uses ingredients that are relatively unfamiliar to most Westerners, such as breadfuit, taro (or talo), taro leaves, cooked green bananas and raw fish.

  • Umu. The umu is the traditional method used for cooking. A fire is built and stones placed on it. When the fire is down to the embers the ingredients, such as green bananas, breadfruit, taro, fish, palusami and pork are placed on the stones. It is then covered with banana leaves and left to cook.
  • Oka is the way Samoans prepare raw fish. It consists of small bits of fish that are marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, coconut cream, salt and finely chopped onions.
  • Palusami is made from taro leaves and coconut cream. The coconut cream, onions and some taro are wrapped in whole taro leaves and cooked in an umu. Well cooked, this can be unforgettable and you should not leave Samoa without trying it.
  • Corned beef. Samoa rapidly adopted this import and it is widely used as an accompaniment to Umus and other dishes.

Unfortunately it is difficult to find these delicacies, maybe partly because western food is more “cool”, partly because the average tourist wants to eat what he eats at home. The usual things you get is more or less good imitations of western-style or Chinese food. The market in Apia is a good place if you want to try some of the local stuff. It's also a good idea to stock up on fruit there before heading anywhere on the islands.

Most restaurants are casual and not too expensive. Places to eat are listed in the pages for Upolu, Apia and Savaii. Outside of Apia, most of the best places are associated with hotels or resorts.

Drinks

No significant gathering in Samoa, whether official or for pleasure, is complete without the 'Ava (or kava) ceremony at the beginning. Kava's biological name is Piper methysticum, which means intoxicating pepper. The roots of the plant are used to produce a mildly narcotic drink that is passed around meetings following strict rules. However, you do not need to participate in a Samoan cultural event to try it. On some days it can be purchased at Apia's central market (marketi fou).

The local beer is Vailima [4] beer. It's cheap and you can buy it everywhere.

Non-alcoholic beverages and bottled water are available in all roadside stores. Coke, Fanta and Sprite are available in 750 ml glass bottles for about 4 WST. You will need a bottle opener for these if you want to take them with you to drink later; otherwise stores will have a bottle opener available. Bottled water is available in a range of sizes.

Alcohol is plentiful in the bars. There's not that much in most stores and it tends to be expensive. Le Well near the market in Apia (ask any taxi driver) has a good range at the best prices. For heavy drinkers, the cheapest liquor is generally vodka in large (1.75 L) plastic bottles. This may be bought from supermarkets and bottleshops and is also available in smaller 750 ml bottles for about 25 WST. Imported wines are generally very expensive, although not as expensive as in the restaurants.

The government shut down most of the popular and legendary bars and night spots in Apia in 2006, citing underage drinking, drugs, noise, and crime. They were reopened several weeks later. At the end of 2010 bars and nightclubs were supposed to close at 22.00 although some seemed to be able to evade this. There are lots of smaller bars and night spots to check out. Also every hotel has a bar as do most of the restaurants.

Shopping

The currency is the Tala. It is variously written as WST, WS$ or SAT.

Local laws make it illegal to carry out business in a foreign currency. Changing money is relatively easy.

Business hours are from 09.00 to 17.00 on Mondays to Fridays and on Saturday mornings. Some supermarkets are beginning to open on Sundays as well. If you are feeling hungry at night, then bakers' shops open late to sell fresh-baked bread.

Samoa is relatively inexpensive for western visitors. Haggling is not customary and is in fact considered to be rude. Tipping is not practiced or expected in Samoa.

  • Apia Public Market. Great place to buy Siapo (tapa cloth made from mulberry bark), 'ava (kava), hand carved kava bowls, produce, donuts, etc.
  • Apia Flea Market, In the 'old' public market building.
  • Farmer Joe's, across from the Apia Public Market (Fugalei Rd, 3 streets S of Beach Rd). Well-stocked Western-style supermarket with a complete collection of prepared and canned food, boxed milk, cereals and chips, and cold drinks. Very good bread selection. Open on Sundays.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Samoa on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Samoa

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Apia is the capital of Samoa. It is on the island of Upolu and has a population of around 40,000.

Interesting places:

  • National Parliament
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
  • Apia Park
  • Papaseea Sliding Rocks
  • Piula Cave Pool
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Interesting places:

  • To-Sua Trench
  • Togitogina Waterfall
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Interesting places:

  • Afu Aau Falls
  • Alofaaga Blowholes
  • Salelologa Market
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Interesting places:

  • Lalomanu Beach
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Samoa

This is just a summary of what to see. Consult Apia, Savaii and Upolu for more detailed information.

  • National Parks. There are several national parks in both Upolu and Savaii. These offer tropical vegetation, numerous birds and some interesting lakes. Falealupo Rainforest Preserve on Savaii has a short canopy walkway and you can sleep in the trees. Lake Lanoto'o National Park on Upolu has a fascinating lake where introduced goldfish thrive and grow to amazing sizes.
  • Waterfalls. The inland areas of both Savaii and Upolu have some spectacular waterfalls, some with 100m drops. Those on Upolu are a bit more accessible. Papase'ea Sliding Rocks on Upolu have only a slight drop but the vegetation on the falls permits an interesting slide into the pool below.
  • Blowholes. Savaii has some spectacular blowholes caused by the sea forcing water up through tubes in volcanic rocks.
  • Caves. There are interesting caves on both islands.
  • Lava Fields. Parts of Savaii are covered by lava rock, following various eruptions by Mt. Matavanu.
  • Villages. Although Western-style buildings are gaining in popularity, traditional Samoan fales are still found everywhere. These are of an oval or circular shape with wooden posts holding up a domed roof. There are no walls, although blinds can be lowered to give privacy. The village is very important to Samoan culture and there are strict rules governing the way village societies function.
  • Beaches. Samoa has miles and miles of beautiful and empty beaches. There is a range of accommodation, from simple beach fales to luxurious resorts. Beaches invariably belong to the nearest village and the villages often request a small fee for their use.
  • Museums. Samoa was home to the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson for the last five years of his life. His home, just outside Apia, is now a museum. The Museum of Samoa in Apia is also well worth a visit.
  • Kilikiti. This is the local version of cricket and is very popular in Samoan villages among both men and women. The principle of the game is the same as cricket but the rules vary considerably and there seems to be considerable flexibility in their interpretation. The most obvious differences are the bat and the fact that balls are bowled from each end alternately rather than employing the six-ball overs of cricket. Kilikiti is played on concrete pitches on village greens, and is accompanied by lots of noise and considerable enthusiasm.

National Parliament - Apia

Robert Louis Stevenson Museum - Apia

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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