Going to church in Samoa

Church is Samoa is a big deal. It is a super big deal. They live for church. Some might question how much it leads one’s life but no question that church is center to Samoan life. The Constitution begins, “Samoa is found on God.”

Come Sunday, try and get your best clothes on, clear out your day and head to the closest village church. If you do not have anything nice, ask a local what to wear. A nice lavalava and Hawaiian will work for a Palagi (white person). Church in Samoa is a touchy thing.

Be warned: church services are long and the preacher can preach even longer. Pastors are under the belief that Sunday is their day to speak as long as they want and as Christians, the people should be there taking notes.

My guess would be three hours is average. 

Will you understand Church in Samoa?

This will all depend on the pastor’s education and the education of the people in the village you are in. If the pastor speak decent english and he thinks the people understand english enough; he will probably switch from Samoan to English.

2933409Otherwise, some younger person will come over and sit next to you and tell you what the pastor is saying. If not, just smile and enjoy the experience.

Depending what type of church you go to, they might do more singing than speaking. Others have long winded preachers. Just go with the flow.

After church people will come up to you and talk to you, culturally, they are expected to welcome and honor the palagi (white person). They will ask you to come to their home for dinner. Enjoy the Sunday feast in the village.

About an hour or so, later, try your best to excuse yourself so you can enjoy your day. They understand you have other things to do and they will plan to nap all day anyways.

Anyways, Enjoy church and you never know; God might speak to you in Samoan.

Sleeping in fales in Samoa

Samoan have slept on beaches in what we would think of as “park shelters” for a very long time.  It works for them and it is quite the experience, a positive one for us. They are called fales.

Samoa is hot! Because of that and poverty; air conditioning is out of the question. The Samoans instead have build homes close to the ocean and without walls….Free Air Conditioning.

Alot of families have build some fales, or huts, next to the ocean that they rent out for $20 (50 Tala) a night and they even cook the food for you.

This is very popular on the South Coast of Upulu (main island) and the big island, Savaii. Depending where you are, you might have or might not have electricity. Make sure you charge up your Kindle before leaving town areas. 

Why fales are amazing

When I go to Samoa, I need to study and take time to read for my studies. There is nothing more relaxing sitting in a hamlet, reading my Kindle, listening to the waves come from the Pacific Ocean.

If I need something to drink, I can just go to the little store down the road and get a 750ml of Coca-Cola or King Cola. (a local soda) Being in the fales is great for everything beside getting on the internet.
Every morning, the guest will bring you a breakfast. It will be some fruit, toast and tea. It is not a buffet line but this is Samoa, after all. Around noon and in the early evening, they will serve you a Samoan dinner. It might look weird but Samoans love their food. In fact, food is a center piece of culture there.

I think I had more hot tea staying in fales in Samoa than I have had in my life. They love tea. It is nice to cleanse your system with it for a few days though. Bring a box of tea bags from Apia might be a smart move.

Bring a light jacket!

Late at night, the wind can get really chilly. You will be glad you had a light jacket or bring a blanket. For the most part, you might not need it but you will be glad you did….especially if it rains. Samoan downpours are not light showers most of the time.



Drinking Kava in Fiji

One of the greatest things to do in Fiji is drinking kava. It is a traditional drink in Fiji but many do it night after night. In fact, there is a growing discussion among Fijians if it is good or not. (Churches hate it)

The reason that the church is so against it in my opinion is that they see it as competition for money to be given to the pastors.

However, I agree with most: You are not off the plane until you have had kava.

Kava is a legal “drug” that is used in Fiji by the people. No matter if you are Fijian, Indian, Polynesia, White or Chinese; you drink kava from time to time.

According to KavaRoot.com, “Kava (Piper methysticum) is an age-old herbal drink that was the beverage of choice for the royal families of the South Pacific.” Today, it is a center piece of Fijian life.

Every night in the villages of the Fijian Islands, you will find men gathering in circles to enjoy the drink. Sometimes, there will be alot of cultural norms followed with it and  sometimes, it is just people sitting around on the couch enjoy it and clapping.

If you are in Nadi, you can make your way over to Bamboo Hostel in New Town to have some kava with other tourists. If you want to do it with Fijians; there will be many just sitting around town drinking it.

In Suva, alot of guys hang out down by the Market in the evening and they drink kava all evening. If you can’t find them; just ask anyone where you can find some people to drink grog (its other word) and they will tell you. If not, they will probably take you home and invite all their friends over for a kava session.

For more information about Kava, here is a handy how to drink Kava guide.


Where to party in Fiji

Alot of people want to party in Fiji. In fact, the party goes to Sunrise in this exotic Pacific nation.

The Fijian love to drink. They will go to the clubs every weekend and it is a way of life for many of them. After dealing with work all week, Friday night will see the clubs in downtown Suva and Nadi completely packed for dancing the night way.

If you want to go out and have a blast, you can do it in Fiji. Be careful though. Fijians love to practice their best Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield bout at the end of the night. There is almost always a fight in downtown Suva over some girl or something someone said. However, it is great entertainment. 

Generally speaking, there is two night club experiences for backpackers in Fiji. There is the party it down with the locals at the normal bars around the area. The other experience is to party at one of the resorts with other tourists. Both are unique and have their place.

Fiji party ladies

So where do you go?

That would depend where you are really. I do not know some of the outer islands too well. However the following is for the places I have been alot.

Nadi. You really have three options. You can go to Ed’s Bar that is a favorite for Expats and older guys. It is a true bar. Just alot of sitting around and drinking. Otherwise, there is two clubs across the parking lot from each other. Ice Bar and White House. Ice even has a van that runs around and pick up tourist to bring them to the bar.

Pacific Harbour. You have a few places but no real clubs. The Club Oceanus and Uprising is the closest you will get. Oceanus is the go to place for game fishermen

, divers, surfers, etc. Basically, the sizable expat population in Pacific Harbour gather here. Uprising is more your tourist’s bar with tourist prices. A third option is a bar called Oasis that is owned by a white Fijian.

Suva. This is the place to party in Fiji. You have Friend’s Bar on Cummings, another (shady) club in the old movie house by immigration, O’reilly’s off Victoria Parade, and on Carnarvon rd; there is a dozen (at least) clubs side by side. You will find what you are looking for there.

Nausori. This town on the edge of Suva really has two clubs and they are across the street from each other. One is called Whistling Duck and the other is called Dolphins Night Club. A third option is the Nausori Club but when I have been there, mostly older timers.

I am not sure what is happening in Savusavu but I am sure there is a new clubs up there as well.

If you have partied in Fiji, what was your experience?

party ice bar nadi

Riding the bus in Fiji

If you are on a tight budget, you will probably be going around Fiji on public transport. The bus are pretty decent but be warned: they are on Fiji time. Fiji bus is not a bad way to go.

The Fiji bus system is two fold: local and cross island. If you are going local, they all leave from a set location known as Bus Stands. In Suva, that is next to the Market and they mostly go to Nausori that next to MH Supermarket. In Nadi, it is behind the market across from Court’s Department Store and in Lakota, it is behind the market as well.
If you are taking a local Fiji bus anywhere in the country, it is pretty quick and reminds me alot of jeepneys but in the old Indian style bus. They are moving parties sometimes with loud music and people even dancing.

You get on the bus, swipe a card for payment now, find a seat and enjoy the bus ride in Fiji. Most local trips are about $2 or less depending how far you go. I think the most expensive local trip I did was from Nadi to Laukota and that is $2.40 or $1.33.

What about long hauls on a Fiji Bus?

If you are going across the main island, you will take Pacific Transport or Sunbeam. From Nadi to Suva which is about four hours; that is going to cost you $15.70 ( $8.70) It will go to Sigatoka then on to Pacific Harbour on the way into Suva.

Another option that you have is take a mini-van to Suva or Nadi and it is about the same price but it will only stop once in Sigatoka. They run around the clock though. They will beat the buses by about an hour but they do so by speeding and you are packed into a van that is over-crowded sometimes.

I personally perfer the big Fiji bus over the van because being crowded for several hours is no fun. 

Just say No to taxi

Taxi drivers will try everything known to man to convince not to use a bus or a van. They are like the rest of the taxi driver in the world and they are trying to get a passenger and will lie, steal and cheat to do so. Be forewarned.

Very few places a taxi goes, a bus does not also go. Along the main roads; you will never have an issue.


Is the Pacific Harbour worth it?

Alot of people like to go to Pacific Harbour in Fiji but is it really a good place for backpackers.

If you are a backpacker with a decent amount of cash? Yes.

Pacific Harbour is not Nadi but it is not Yasawa Islands either.

You can find some quite good things to do there.
According to HostelBooker.com, you can get a dorm right in the Art village for around $20 (USD). This is the main complex and has the only grocery store in the Pacific Harbour without going up to Navua. It also has most the restaurant in the area as well. Honestly, the Art village is the place to be.

Across the street is the Seventh Day Adventist camp and if you give them a little money, they will let you use their facilities for the day. It is very nice and right on the beach. If you do down one way, you have Uprising Resort that has a great resort priced restaurant. To the other side is a public beach for the Fijians.

Having the Post Office right there can be pretty handy too.

Adventure Capital?

They say that this is the Adventure capital of the world but I am not sure according to who. Hawaii might contest that. However, there is alot of adventure stuff going on….at premium prices.
You can go Big Game fishing, ziplining, and even drive Go-Karts at the Harbour.

What I see most is backpackers just renting a bicycle and riding around. There is a sideroad off the highway that is great for that and it is cheap to rent I believe.

If that doesn’t work out, you can get around in taxi or buses. Bus going up and down the highway are .70 Fijian to most places in the Pacific Harbour area and to the town 10 kilometers up the road, it is $1.15.

If you do need to go to Suva to shop for something, it is only an hour from the Art Village and the fare is $3.70 Fijian. That’s $2.05.

You have the city of Suva at your fingertips but you are away from its craziness on your vacation.




How to get around Nadi

Nadi, Fiji is a cool little town but it is known also for its tourist traps. Some believe Nadi’s resident think white people are ATM machines. That could be true.

What is Nadi like?
Nadi is basically three roads. The main road that goes through the town and runs out to become the highway again and a back road in the town area. There is a third road going to Port Denarau which is the top dollar tourist stuff.

Assuming you are on a budget, Denarau and Hard Rock Cafe are probably not smart places to hang out. You can do Nadi cheaply though…. if you know what to do.

Three things to do in Nadi

1. Go to Smuggler’s Cove in New Town and swim. It is a overpriced backpackers on the beach with a very nice swimming pool. Go have lunch there for $10 Fijian or so then swim in their pool for free. They also have fire knife shows every Tuesday.

2. The largest Hindi temple south of the equator is in Nadi. This was put up by the large minority of Indians naive to Fiji. It is quite odd  to see in a very christian nation. However, the Hindi population is about 40% currently. It is really cool but they can be very anal about cameras sometimes.

3. Picnic at Wailoaloa Beach. On your way to New Town is a turnoff for Wailoaloa Beach. This is a free public beach for the locals. You could go to MH Supermarket and get some food and have a picnic with some friends (or locals) and enjoy the day free of tourism.

Another good thing to do is run up to Jetpoint and get some of the best fried chicken I have ever had at Wishbone. While you are there, you can also get some grocery from Jetpoint as the stuff in New Town, Nadi was unreal pricy.

Village life in Samoa

Going to a Samoan village can be quite the educational encounter. You can learn alot about a culture that is basically untouched by Western ideals for the most part.

Note: this article is written in the context of (Western) Samoa, not American Samoa. The experience would differ a little.

What is life like in a Samoan village?

Samoans are amazing people. If you come into a village; there is a chance they will offer you tea (Commonwealth influence) and some Bananas. They would love to just sit down and talk to you. They will do their best with English so don’t worry about that.

They love to get people from other countries. They will call you “Palagi.” It just means simply you are white. They do not mean it in a racist way though it can seem that way. Samoans are just like that.

Try and come around on the weekends

If you can, come around the Samoan village on the weekend and you can have to To’ona’i. This is like a weekly Thanksgiving dinner for us. It is quite the operation.

Here is a great video from the Food Network about it.

It is quite an amazing feast. You will love it. It is mostly Samoan food but you might just find some western food slip on the table. I have saw Jello and Fried Chicken as well as the Taro.

You will love it. 

Enjoy the time and remember this is not the West. Tradition is you always take off your shoes at a door of a fale, always cross your legs and make sure you honor the presence of the older men in a room. Otherwise, you should be good to go.

Afterwards, just grab your tablet and do some reading on Sunday afternoon! But be careful with your Kindle, Samoans love devices. Really, they do….alot. Just a word to the wise.

Are Fijians friendly?

Fijians are amazing people. No questions about it. The people of Fiji are an interesting mix of people. You have a bunch of Fijians, Indians, Polynesians, Chinese and some white people. All are quite the great people.

Amazing People

What I love about Fiji is not the tour packages or the tourism gigs. What I love is spending time in the real villages. I spend a month in the villages of Lebanon, Kiuva, and Waisslima. The life of the Fijians is not found in the nightclubs of Suva but in the villages along the coast. This is where the real Fiji happens. 

Many come to Fiji and never see the villages of Fiji. There is nothing like sitting down until six in the morning drinking grog listening to the older Fijians talking life under the British. You will hear stories you couldn’t dream of.

While I was in Kiuva, some of the guys even took me out fishing with a sphere gun and I didn’t go very good but it was a blast anyways.

Are the Indians Fijians?

Alot has been said over the years about the Indians in Fiji. They are different. They live different. They have different problems. However, for the most part, they are great people. Indians globally are known to be quite the cut thrown business people but if money is not on the table; you will have no problem with the Indians in Fiji.

In my experience, the Indians are more in touch with the rest of the world. They tend to be the ones in business and tourism. Most of the experiences you will have in the first day you are in Fiji will be interacting with the Indians.

Relax, they are alot better than some online articles make them out to be.

What about Polynesians, Chinese and White people?

The Polynesians you will see are mostly from Fiji actually. They are from the outer islands of Lau or Rotuma that traces to Samoa. The hospitality of the Polynesians in Fiji is world class. They just love people. They might even try and talk you into going to Rotuma.

The Chinese population mainly just runs a row of resturant in Suva and has little dinery all across Fiji. These are great places to drop in, have a $5 meal. ($2.50) Most of them can’t speak English and that is a score of frustration but that’s life.

The white is left over mostly from the British. They were here, had kids that in turn had kids. What you have now is a small white population that is mainly gathered in the Pacific Harbour and they just run their small businesses and live like everyone else. There are also extremely helpful for the most part.

How to have a great time with Fijians

In America, it is a common belief that if you want a good day at a family reunion, do not bring up religion or politics. In Fiji, that is even more true! Religion and Politics are both a very ugly business in the islands. Both have a very dark past. For a good time, just start clear of both of us.

If they ask to church, understand they will put pressure on you to give them money for “the poor.” Just be aware of that beforehand. It is up to you if you want to accept that or not.

I hope you enjoy the Fijians as I did.

Kadavu: Fiji Unspoiled

I was at Horizon Beach Backpackers one day and I met a German that frustrated with Nadi’s “ATM culture” (white people are just money machines). He wanted to go to Kadavu. He had heard about the kava from there.
We went to Suva that is a few hours away and found the Valesasa Trasportation Company. It is by Coca-Cola. Just look in a phone book in Fiji for the exact address. It left on a Tuesday evening around 10pm or so.

The next morning we landed in a place called Vunisea which is the capital. This is the “big city” (and only town) in all of the island. It is so small that the Post Office doubles as the Super Market.

The welcoming party

The very first people from Kadavu that I met was the local weed dealer! Later, I learned that Kadavu is at the core of the illegal drug trade in Fiji and shortly before coming, DEA, Australia and Fiji worked together to arrested a crap load of people.

When you get to town, there is two little general stores like in old Western movies by the water and up a steep hill is the Police and the Post Office. That’s basically the town. I would guess that 1,500 of the islands 10,000 live in this “city.” Whatever you didn’t buy in Suva; get in this town for twice the price.

 Vunisea is your last dose of civilization until you return to Suva as well. 

We went on from there to a place called Kavala Bay. This is a harbor in the middle of nowhere…. litterally. The only thing there is a Post Office and a small school. All electricity is by solar panels. You are truly in unspoiled land. This is the same Fiji that William Bligh found 300 years ago. Little has changed including technology.

This is the beginning of seeing the rough life of Fiji under military junta. Places like Kadavu have very little interest to the government so little investment makes it their way.

Private investors in tourism is their own hope. The little resorts around give the locals the other money they can get legally beside kava farming that is really a long term concept.

Finding a place to stay

The resorts are stupid high. Talking $200 a night. Matana Beach Resort seems to be the best one but very pricy to say the least. We did not want to spend $1,000 for a week on the island and from what I could see on Youtube; it just wasn’t worth it.

We was running out of options and though we was going camping right at the landing there or hoped someone would give a living room to crash on. We learned very quickly that Kadavu was not backpacker friendly whatsoever.

There was a man there that was picking up gasoline named Michael that his dad use to run Albert’s Place but they closed the resort about a decade ago. He took us in and we stayed in one of the run down cottages and cooked on the beach eating rice and what Ramon Noodles for the whole trip.

We also went to the village around the bend to have Kava every day. It was a great time.

Should Backpackers go to  Kadavu?

NO! It is not for Backpackers. It is for divers and for people having honeymoons. $100 a night is not a backpacker’s market. If it was not for Micheal, we would have been sleeping in the open praying it didn’t rain.

If you do want to go, try and meet up with some people from Kadavu on Couch surfing or people you meet in Suva or Nadi. Otherwise, you could end up sleeping on the street or some stranger’s porch. You need to be better prepared that we was; that’s for sure.

Oh, and if you can take the other ferry, Grounder Shipping. They have a much better one that was sourced from Canada.