After Hawaii we started on a new part of our trip which is characterized by less development and less tourism. We will visit 3 small countries in the Pacific Ocean – Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. From what we knew beforehand, Tonga is the less developed and Fiji the most developed (at least in terms of tourism).
Samoa, with less than 200.000 people, was our first stop, and while it doesn’t seem like there is much on offer when reading about it, we found a place which we really enjoyed. For what it was, that is – extremely low key, friendly people, not many tourist sights, not very developed.
Samoa is not on the normal tourist trail, and we would probably not have enjoyed it as much had it been on a shorter trip. But since we have so much time on our hand, Samoa was the perfect destination for us. It is a small country consisting of mainly two islands, where more or less everyone live in small villages along the beautiful coastline.
We spent 10 days there, and managed to drive all the way around both of the two main islands. Most places we went, we met other travelers whom we had met before (mainly people who recognized us – I’m guessing it must be the kids who give us up :-)). Even when we arrived in the airport in Fiji we were approached by a couple who asked us what we had been up to on the rest of our Samoa trip …only problem was that we didn’t remember exactly where we met them… 🙂 There were not many other tourists, but since the country is so small people tend to go to the same places.
On arriving in Apia, the capital, we thought of it as a small city. Not a capital. About 38.000 people live there, and with only a few roads, a few restaurants and a very limited shopping selection we did not fully understand its buzz until getting back there after spending some time in the rest of the country. Outside Apia everything is country-side, and everyone describes Apia as stressful. People living on Savai’i (the less inhabited island) even describe all of Upolu (the island where the capital is) as stressful. They all mention that Savai’i is so much better for kids. Funny how priorities wary relative to the person you are talking to. My first thoughts were ‘but what about their education’? their health? work possibilities? I’m still not sure exactly what they meant about that ‘better for kids’ thing. Mainly because Upolu was extremely slow as well. But admitted, when we came back to Apia, we were surprised to actually feel overwhelmed by the traffic, the many (!) restaurants and the so well-stocked shopping (??)!
The colorful busses are very typical for Samoa, and the bus station was probably the best sight in Apia.
Samoans are a happy and proud people. They seem to enjoy life in their small country, which they call the cultural and geographical heart of Polynesia.
We have never before been to a place like this, where people are living such simple lives, but still care so much about exterior appearances. Everyone had a really neatly kept garden, and it must be the country in the world with the highest share of people employed by cutting road-side grass!
There is really not much in Samoa. Not much money, not much tourism, not much business of any kind – except from small road-side stores that sell water, chips and cookies.
There were only very few actual sights – an ocean trench, a lava field, and some blowholes. And while they all were pretty amazing, it was just being in the country was the real experience in itself.
Despite the seemingly poor communities the Samoan churches are nothing less than extravagant! Every village – even little tiny ones – has a huge church. And on Sunday everything is closed, even gas is impossible to get during church service! In stead Samoans dress in their finest clothes and go to church.
We really liked Samoa, and I’m trying to think exactly what it was that was so special about the country. I think it was the special Samoa look and feel to the whole country. Samoa is very easy to recognize, basically all life goes on in small huts with just poles, and no walls, called ‘fales’. These are seen everywhere and are used for hanging out during daytime, for community gatherings, for sleeping on the beach, etc.
We even had our own little fale on the beach for some nights. It was very basic; but with a mattress, a mosquito net, and the ocean right outside – who needs more? 🙂
They had a fiafia night (fiafia means ‘happy’) with local dancers, – the fire dancing was especially interesting for the kids.
…and then Samoans love babies! Every meal we had, we actually had without a baby in our hands for the first time in two months! Everyone loved Gustav – and he loved them 🙂
During our stay in Samoa, Carla turned 3 – see pictures here if you like.
Next stop is Fiji (to where we almost missed our flight as they changed our flight time since we booked the tickets…It was a very close call :-))
And finally a few wise words to end this post 😉