Visitors Guide B
Baha’i House of Worship
The majestic and impressive Baha’i House of Worship is at Tiapapata on Upolu (8km from Apia). It is open to all for prayer and meditation from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The monumental dome is 30 metres high and there are nine sides to symbolise the nine major religions of the world. The information centre is to the left as you approach the temple. Visit www.bahaitemplesamoa.ws for more info.
Bananas are plentiful and sweet. They make for a handy snack, help make up a tasty fruit platter with paw paw, mango and coconut and go with coconut cream to make up a dish called suafa’i. They are complimentary for guests staying at Tanu Beach Fales.
There are ANZ and Westpac banks in Apia (and an ANZ and Westpac on Savai’i in Salelologa). Banking hours are: Westpac Mon to Wed 8:30am to 3:00pm; Thurs & Fri 8:30am to 4:00pm and Sat 8:30am to midday for money exchange. ANZ: Mon & Tues 9:00am to 3:00pm; Wed 9:00am to 3:30pm; Thurs & Fri 9:00am to 4:00pm and Saturday 9:00am to midday for money exchange. There are also ATMs outside the ANZ banks and at the airport and Westpac has ATMs front and rear of the Apia branch. The banks deduct exorbitant commissions when changing traveller’s cheques. If you carry them, inquire at the private exchange offices near the clock tower in Apia. They often change money (cash or traveller’s cheques) at the same rate as the banks without deducting any commissions at all.
Two palagi walked into a bar… you think one of them would have ducked! A palagi is Samoan for a Caucasian or non-Samoan and bars are where you will find a mix of Samoans, expatriates and tourists. In Apia the RSA Night Club on Beach Road is a favourite haunt (9:00am to midnight) with live music some nights. Also on Beach Road, the LIGHThouse (challenge a local at a game of pool), Blue Lagoon, and Crabbers. On the Rocks, Bad Billy’s, Splash and the Tropicana Lounge Bar are worth checking out. For a quiet drink in a colonial atmosphere, drop in to Aggie Grey’s (but beware of overfriendly locals who may hit you up for drinks).
There are stunning beaches in Samoa. The white sand, azure waters and coconut palms usually seen only on postcards are there for you to enjoy – swim, snorkel and, in some spots, the surfing is sensational (powerful left and right breaks out on the reef – not for the novice though). In summer the best surf is off the north-facing beaches and in winter off the south. Some villages charge a fee to use their beaches, and this usually also covers parking and the day-use of an open beach fale with mats. Anything left unattended in a fale or on a beach could disappear while you are in swimming.
Dress cose – while bikinis and bathing suits are fine within your resort, you do need to cover up with shorts, a t-shirt and / or an ie lavalava when swimming in a village. Nude swimming, and topless swimming for women, is illegal in Samoa and would be regarded as highly offensive by locals.
While I’ve heard there are some beef cattle on Upolu and Savai’i it’s not really a staple and there’s no beef industry like you find in Vanuatu. You’ll find beef on the menu in resorts but this may be imported from Australia or New Zealand. In villages the staples are more taro, breadfruit, pork, fish and chicken with beef being the tinned variety. Naturally, seafood is abundant and inexpensive – a whole fresh lobster in a restaurant can cost as little as $40 (Samoan!).
The local lager, Vailima, is terrific – light, refreshing and tasty it is reminiscent of good German ales – probably due to the German influence and a Bavarian brewmaster. Apart from being a welcome thirst-quencher, it is inexpensive.
Some villages are very strict on not allowing beer to be sold on Sundays, even within your accommodation property. Grocery stores aren’t meant to sell beer on Sundays either but you may get away with it if nobody is looking. Because it is easy to drink, a bottle can disappear quickly and the climate doesn’t lend itself to let a beer sit for too long. Mind you, there could be an opening for an entrepreneur to introduce a range of insulated ‘snoods’ with witty slogans that are popular in Australia and New Zealand. After all, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder’.
Manuia is ‘cheers’ in Samoan and midnight says ‘time gentlemen please’.
Riding can be a good way to get out and discovering, especially on Savai’i where the roads are sealed and mostly flat (there are 1800km of sealed roads as well as dirt tracks for mountain bikers). You can hire bikes from René at Raci’s Beach Club next to the service station in Manase ($20 half day and $30 full day). Personally I wouldn’t take on the whole island but concentrate on the north coast only where you can explore rainforest and caves, check out the beaches, swim with turtles and get a feeling for life in the villages. On Upolu some of the resorts have bikes/mountain bikes for hire. Take plenty of water! Here’s a link to an article on cycling in northern Savai’i.
Many plants common in western Pacific forests reach the eastern limit of their distribution in Samoa. There are 536 species of flowering plants in Samoa with about 30% being endemic. There are 228 fern and allied species and more than 100 species of native orchids. Many of Samoa’s plants are restricted to single islands and 3 are considered threatened or endangered.
Of Samoa’s 37 native land birds, 31 are endemic species and 4 are introduced species. There are at least 9 species of terrestrial reptiles including geckos and skinks and the Pacific keel-scaled boa (Candoia bibroni). The Samoan flying fox (Pteropus samoensis) is an endangered CITES-listed species.
Large islands in Samoa support up to 6 species of fruit-eating pigeons including the Samoan tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris). The Samoan wood rail (Pareudiastes pacificus) and sooty rail (Porzana tabuensis) are probably extinct, while the Australian gray duck (Anas supercilliosia), purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio samoensis), many-colored fruit-dove (Ptilinopus perousii perousii), Samoan ground-dove (Gallicolumba stairi stairi), ma’o (Gymnomyza samoensis), and island thrush (Turdus poliocephalus samoensis) are all endangered or threatened.
For the best birdwatching in Apia, combine a walk with another rewarding experience and head up the summit of Mt Vaea from the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum at Vailima to the graves of Stevenson and his wife, Fanny. Vailima is only 3.5km inland from Apia so Mt Vaea is very much part of Apia’s landscape. Again, take water…
The Wesley Bookshop on Beach Road in Apia has a section dedicated to Samoa and South Pacific. There is also the Pacific Room at the Nelson Memorial Public Library opposite the Clock Tower on Beach Road. You need permission from the librarian to go into this room and the library opens Mon to Thurs 9:00am to 4:30pm, Fro 8:00am to 4:00pm and Saturday 8:30am to midday.
You can buy beer from grocery stores/supermarkets Monday to Saturday.
I’m not a lawn bowler but I’m told it can be addictive so if you need the hit of a few ‘ends’ the Apia Bowling Club is at Sogi along the Apia Beach Road and adjacent to the Kitano Tusitala Hotel. Greens are generally well maintained.particularly during the first half of the year. There’s also the Apia Park sporting complex.
Local buses are colourful, full of character, cheap and not particularly comfortable. The seats are wooden with no cushions and the suspension could be shot, so a smoother ride can be had towards the front rather than over the rear axle. For bus travel around Upolo head to the fish or flea markets in Apia or from the markets in Salelologa on Savai’i and ask the bus drivers which bus you need to catch – a Jason’s map is a handy travelling companion – sometimes pointing can be more effective than palagi (tourist) pronunciation. Standing on buses isn’t allowed so if you get on a full one you will have to sit on another passenger’s lap. Pay as you get on for long-distance trips (small change is appreciated) and on local buses in Apia you pay as you get off. Most accommodation properties have their own transport for transfers.
Business hours are 8:00am to midday and 1:30pm to 4:30pm Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings from 8:00am to midday. The post office doesn’t have a ‘siesta’ and opens 9:00am to 4:30pm. Government offices close on Saturday.