Visitors Guide H
Mats are plentiful – some of these are extremely finely woven and I imagine would take the local women an eternity. Tapa cloth makes for a good souvenir. The cloth is decorated in inks (usually brown/black) with designs based on natural objects (fish, turtles). You’ll also find carvings – war clubs, drums and tanoas (kava bowls). Unlike those found in Fiji, Tonga or Vanuatu that have four legs, Samoan tanoas have a dozen or more round legs. If you’re not impressed by the quality and range of handicrafts, keep in mind that Samoan culture is expressed far more in dance, song, story telling and tattoos. Tikis are not part of Samoan culture so save your purchase of these for trips to New Zealand or Hawaii. Head to the Flea Market and Aggie Grey’s Gift Shop.
The main part of Apia hugs the harbour. Some days the seas can be rough and waves crash into the harbour wall and children can be seen running up and down the stairs to the water playing ‘cheat the waves’. You may see container ships, ferries, fishing boats and cruising yachts and, before sunset, teams of men in their racing outrigger canoes out for a bit of practice. They don’t mind taking along tourists who want a ride or a paddle.
The tap water in Samoa isn’t fit for drinking so take bottled water wherever you go. I use tap water to clean my teeth and haven’t had a tummy upset, so it’s not instant ‘bali belly’ if you swallow a bit. Some resorts supply bottled water free of charge. If you want to bottle your own, boil the jug in your room before turning in and you will have boiled cold water in the morning.
You won’t contract any exotic tropical diseases but taking a small first aid kit is recommended. Hydrogen Peroxide, antiseptic cream and bandaids are recommended for coral cuts (even a scratch can attract coral dust). Analgesics and Berocca may come in handy, especially if you try to match the locals Vailima for Vailima. Imodium/Lomatil or similar can put a quick stop to an upset stomach. Head lice (uku) is common in the villagers and chemists will be able to assist with the right stuff to apply if you become infected. When purchasing medicine, check the expiry date.
In the event of an emergency, the hospital is there if needed but expect a long wait. To call an ambulance, dial 999. There are also medical clinics and private practitioners (see doctors).
Heat is a part of the tropics, though perhaps not as stifling as you would imagine, even in the summer months. The temperature doesn’t have the vast fluctuations experienced in parts of Australia and New Zealand – it should be around 25°C to 27°C all year round but the humidity can make it feel hotter. Carry a bottle of water with you and wear sunblock when going out – and a bit of talcum powder may come in handy for rash relief.
The Australian High Commission is next to the Rainforest Café on Beach Road in Apia – phone 23 411. The New Zealand High Commission is close by (opposite the John Williams Memorial) – phone 21 711. The US Embassy number is 21 631 and the British representative 21 758. Other countries represented are Netherlands (Ph 24 337), Sweden (ph 20 346), Germany (Ph 22 634) and China (Ph 22 474).
Hiking can be rewarding in Samoa but trails can quickly get overgrown so you may want to enlist the services of a local guide. There’s good hiking around Lake Lanoto’o near Apia, at O Le Pupu-Pu’e National Park in the south of Upolu and on Savai’i. A short rewarding hike is up to the Robert Louis Stevenson grave on Mt Vaea. Start from the RLS Museum and allow a bit over an hour for the return journey.
It’s easy to get around both islands of Upolu and Savai’i by car – driving is on the right hand side of the road and you should take your time, especially through villages where chickens, dogs or children may run onto the road. Kids may also throw stones at cars if they are speeding so keep that in mind as a deterrent – it could put a serious dent in your insurance excess as well as the vehicle. If you happen to bump into a much-valued pig, head back to Apia and turn yourself into the police (Ifiji St near the courthouse – ph 22 222). There are rental offices at the international airport, in Apia and at Salelologa on Savai’I (best to book ahead). Your driver’s licence must be endorsed by the Transport Control Board prior to rental (the hire company will assist). The office is near the flea market and cost is $10. An international driver’s licence won’t be recognised. Car hire here is the cheapest in the South Pacific and fuel costs are also reasonable but it can be scarce so top up in Apia and wherever you can just to be sure. Some of the hire car operators have a dodgy reputation so if you feel uncomfortable (e.g. – if they ask you for a passport as security) try somewhere else. Also, check the car for dings, bumps and scratches before heading off. While all the above sounds a bit negative, if you keep your wits about you and travel slowly, you will be rewarded.
Rather than a history ‘lesson’ here’s 3000 years in three short paragraphs. Polynesians settled in Samoa around 1000BC and the country was named after the sacred (sa) moa (chickens) of Lu, son of Tagaloa, the god of creation. Tongan invaders ruled Samoa from 950AD to 1250AD. The matai (chiefly system) was in place for 1000 years before Europeans arrived and is still the predominant force in society today.
Having said that, the arrival of missionary Reverend John Williams in 1830 changed Samoa forever. In ten years he had converted Samoa to Christianity and that is also an entrenched part of Samoan culture today. Williams did a lot better here than in Vanuatu where he was killed and eaten. German traders arrived in the 1800’s and in 1900 Samoa became a German colony (you still find a lot of German surnames around now). With the outbreak of WWI in 1914, the German governor surrendered without a fight to New Zealand, who really didn’t know what to do with their new ‘acquisition’.
As early as the 1890’s Robert Louis Stevenson had proposed an independent Samoa but it took till 1947 for this movement to start happening. In 1962 Samoa became the first Polynesian nation to realise independence and, in 1976, joined the United Nations.
If you’d like to read up on the history of Samoa, 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. Samoans are also more than happy to tell visitors about their history, culture and heritage although you may get the feeling that the more you find out, the less you seem to know.
All newlyweds want a memorable and romantic honeymoon, and the Samoa is perfect for both with sunsets, warm water and weather, colourful cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere. For obligation and cost-free advice on the best resorts and attractions for you, drop us an email for suggestions – we can also book flights and accommodation at competitive prices and only promote places we have been to ourselves and are happy to recommend.
I’m not sure how many equestrians there are in Samoa but you will see horses tethered in gardens through the villages. I’m guessing they are four-legged lawnmowers because the size of the horse, compared to the size of your average Samoan, doesn’t paint a picture of comfortable riding (for the horse).
At the hospitals in Apia or on Savai’i you will see by the number of people waiting outside that you will also have a long wait. Better to make an appointment with a private doctor and pay a little more. The phone number for the Tupua Tamasese Memorial Hospital in Apia is 21 212 and one private practice is the Soifua Manuia Clinic on Faatoia Road. The literal translation of ‘soifua manuia’ is ‘good luck and cheers’ but my guess is that it also doubles as ‘good health’. The emergency phone number for the hospital is 996 and for an ambulance 999.
What humidity? he asked, wringing out his shirt and wondering why he chose to wear jeans. Humidity is the reason your luggage handle may be wet, sheets may be damp, why your papers go limp, why your books get fatter and why their pages curl. It’s why your cd’s, floppy’s and videos go mouldy and why clothes can smell like mushrooms or have a coating of fine green fur. Of course it’s not that bad all year round. The worst time of year is December to February. The good thing about humidity is, it plumps up your skin and keeps it moist.
As mentioned above under ‘heat’, humidity is part of the tropics and Samoa is close to the equator. The most noticeable humidity will be when you hit the tarmac at on arrival at the airport and you will acclimatise quickly. Pack light cotton clothing (jeans are not recommended) and, in the cooler months, take a thicker top (long sleeves) for evenings, just in case. Carry water with you and throw yourself into a pool or the ocean if you’re feeling a bit sticky.
A very handy mix for coral cuts, scratches, nicks and abrasions. Pour onto the wound to cleanse it. This usually results in a fizz – depending on the amount of blood, think shaken creaming soda. The fizz means there is bacteria and the wound should be cleaned with peroxide each time the dressing is changed. After the peroxide, use some antiseptic powder or Betadine, and then cover the wound. Unlike in Australia and New Zealand, fresh air is not good for wounds. Peroxide is available from the chemists. Don’t ignore coral cuts – they can get nasty in a short time. Be sure to clean the wound every two hours and continue three times after the fizzing stops. Tropical ulcers can develop within days if wounds are left unattended. Nature’s answer to hydrogen peroxide is lime or lemon juice. Failing that, the sap of the frangipani tree also draws out the infection.