If you drew a line from the tip of New Zealand, up to Hawaii and then down to the Easter Islands you would be looking at what is known as the Polynesian Triangle, and somewhere within this combined group of over 1000 islands is the tiny Independent Nation of Samoa, a culture lovers paradise of tropical palms, beaches untouched by tourism and people of all ages who do nothing but smile.
Many people I meet have never even heard of the tiny islands of Samoa, and those who have, usually associate it with incredibly powerful rugby forwards or WWF wrestling giants, namely Dwayne Johnson, aka ‘The Rock’.
Samoa is a place that has produced some of the most naturally powerful men on this planet since the Greek Gods of Olympus, and yet still it offers so much more, all of which is guaranteed to satisfy ones need for visual delights. One of the things I find most appealing about this little known South Pacific destination is how well it has retained its cultural identity.
Unlike some of the more commonly known Polynesian destinations like Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti, where westernism and garish tourism is all that is left of traditional customs; Samoa still lives and breathes an ancient culture. It is the only Polynesian country where the government recognises the ancient tribal customs enforced by the Matai (chiefs) as part of modern law, and amazingly manages to keep the two systems working together side by side.
If not for the golden arches of MacDonald’s looming over the capital of Apia, one would be forgiven for thinking you were walking the set of Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, with much of Apia remaining just as it was in the 1930’s.
The clapboard building where Robert Louis Stevenson once lived still stands, though today houses a lovely bar and restaurant. The locals go about their business in their traditionally lay back ‘poly style’, synonymous with the tropics, and the grinning barefoot children swat flies from their parents market stalls with traditional fans while sipping milk from fresh coconuts.
Leave the main town and you will drive through one village after another where the locals will be enjoying a game of volleyball and will happily invite you to play. You’ll see the local chiefs watching over the village with their tribal tatau (tattoo) poking through the tops of their lava lava (sarong) belying the extent of their bravery when the tattoo was first carved from waist to knee. Children will be swinging from the branches of mango and breadfruit trees, picking tonight’s dinner, and inside their open air fales (houses) you’ll see the occasional two door fridge and big screen TV just to remind you they are not entirely forgotten by modern society or ignorant to its comforts.
Samoa provides the traveler who is hungry for a real cultural experience, free of crowded beaches and spruiking tourism operators, the opportunity to visit and even participate in a world where ancient culture is still in play and natural unadulterated beauty abounds. Visit Samoa and you’ll be planning your next visit before you have even left its idyllic shores.
Sarah Jayne Gasu is an Australian author who regularly visits the Pacific and loves everthing to do with its people and culture. For extensive information on the islands of Samoa you can visit her site at [http://www.dreamholidaysamoa.com] and discover this beautiful and somewhat hidden destination in the South Pacific.
Being married to a Samoan High Chief gives Sarah real insight on the culture from the perspectives of both locals and tourists so you are guaranteed to discover everything you need to know to plan your dream vacation.
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