While living in Samoa, the 19th-century Scottish novelist experienced a 'double day' when the nation hopped over the date line. Kathy Marks explores
Perhaps the most striking feature of Robert Louis Stevenson's house, situated on a hillside above Apia, the Samoan capital, is a brick fireplace. It was never used – not surprisingly, given the perennially steamy temperatures outside – but it reminded Stevenson of home. "His body was here, but his heart was always in Scotland," says Margaret Silva, who shows visitors around the plantation-style villa, now a museum.
The 19th-century novelist, poet and travel writer had spent three years wandering the Pacific before he and his family settled in Samoa in 1889. The warm climate agreed with Stevenson's health – he had been plagued by lung problems since childhood – and the culture provided rich fodder for his work. He and his American wife, Fanny, bought 300 jungle-smothered acres and built a two-storey timber home. They lived there with her two children, son-in-law and grandson, his mother and a maid. And they entertained Samoan high society with the help of servants clad in Royal Stewart tartan.
The family also had the uncanny experience of gaining a day while staying in one place. Until 4 July 1892, Samoa located itself on the western side of the International Date Line – even though its position suggested it should be on the east. This was because its strongest relations were with Australia. But gradually, San Francisco became more important, and pragmatically the authorities decided to side with the US.
The only way this could be accomplished was to have a double-day – and, with a nod to American sensibilities, Independence Day was chosen. Stevenson's mother, Margaret Isabella Stevenson, noted: "We are ordered to keep two Mondays in this week, which will get us straight."
Tomorrow, Samoa hops back in time to the side of the Date Line it originally occupied. From midnight tomorrow, Thursday 29 December, the clock will jump to 12.01am on Saturday, 31 December – leaving Samoans bereft of the final Friday of 2011 , but aligned with their most significant Pacific neighbour, New Zealand.
Just two years after that first date change, on 3 December (or was it 4 December?) 1894, the author of Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was dead. Stevenson was aged 44. He had suffered a stroke while opening a bottle of wine. The Samoans, who called him "Tusitala" ("storyteller"), were grief-stricken. "Our beloved Tusitala, the stones and the earth weep," lamented one paramount chief, Tuimaleali'ifana. Weeks earlier, he and other chiefs had arranged for a road to be dug between Stevenson's Vailima estate and the public highway; it became known as the Road of the Loving Heart.
What so endeared Tusitala to the locals was not only his profound interest in their culture, but his energetic championing of Samoa's independence struggle; at the time, the United States, Britain and Germany were jostling for control. The Polynesian nation still ended up colonised and divided – the US got the eastern half, Germany the western portion, which was subsequently administered by New Zealand – but Stevenson's efforts have never been forgotten. "He's one of our heroes back in the olden days, and he's still 100 per cent admired," Iulai Lesa, a guide with the Samoa Tourism Authority, tells me.
Restored in 1994 by Rex Maughan, an American millionaire, Villa Vailima – together with Stevenson's tomb, at the top of the adjacent Mount Vaea – has become a major tourist attraction. While most of the furniture was sold after the writer's death, the interiors have been carefully recreated. The few original pieces – a trunk, an armchair, a hammock he slung up on the front deck – help to conjure up Stevenson's final years in this South Pacific haven.
The spacious, high-ceilinged house is surrounded by lush grounds. Of its eight airy rooms, the most interesting is Stevenson's library, where he wrote an astonishing 13 books in four years, mostly while reclining on a day bed. The shelves contain first editions of his works, as well as remnants of his own collection, including Dickens, Milton, Wordsworth and Robert Burns.
The hike up to the tomb, following a steep, thickly forested trail, is worth the effort, not least for the views of Apia, the ocean and – on a clear day – neighbouring Savai'i island. (The main island is Upolu.) Fanny's ashes were brought back here after she died in her native California. A shorter track leads to a waterfall and cool, clear pool where Stevenson used to bathe; after you've climbed Mount Vaea, it's a wonderfully refreshing spot for a dip.
Although often sick, the Scot would periodically saddle up his favourite horse, Jack, and gallop down to town, where he would meet friends or stroll by the harbour. Nowadays, most of Apia's sights are along the waterfront. They include colonial buildings such as the old courthouse, a flea market, and Aggie Grey's Hotel. The founder is believed to have inspired James A Michener's character Bloody Mary in Tales of the South Pacific. Aggie Grey's has been a South Seas institution since the Second World War, when Aggie began serving coffee and hamburgers to American servicemen. Her father, a Lincolnshire pharmacist named William Swann, was a close friend of Stevenson's and a frequent visitor to Vailima.
A hotel where Stevenson's family lived for a year has been turned into a pool hall and nightclub, Crabbers. A little to the north, on a narrow promontory, is the independence memorial; the country – known as Western Samoa until a decade or so ago – has run its own affairs since 1962.
On occasions, the writer rode as far as a village 10 miles east of Apia. No one recalls its original name, but according to Margaret Silva it was re-christened Solosolo, after Stevenson dropped his handkerchief there. ("Solosolo" means "handkerchief" in Samoan.)
The customs and traditions he loved still flourish in such villages, with their networks of matai (tribal chiefs) and open-sided thatched huts, called fale. Visitors can participate in ceremonial 'ava drinking– elsewhere in the Pacific, the mildly intoxicating drink is known as kava – or watch food being cooked in a traditional oven, or umu, consisting of red-hot lava rocks.
Continuing east from Solosolo along the winding coast road you eventually reach some of Upolu's best beaches, including Lalomanu. This area was ravaged by a tsunami in late 2009, but the low-key resorts have been mostly rebuilt. To complete your half-island tour, return to Apia via the south coast and Cross Island Highway, which passes the Vailima estate as well as the picturesque Papapapaiuta waterfall.
Stevenson fans can stay at Le Manumea, a boutique-style hotel close to Vailima, or the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in town. Despite its name, the latter has no connection with the Scot, but it has been beautifully renovated and – like most drinking establishments – it serves the locally brewed Vailima lager. A glass of cold Vailima seems the perfect way to toast Samoa's favourite expatriate. Whichever day it is.
The main approach is via Auckland with Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149; airnewzealand.co.uk). An alternative is to travel via Sydney, to which fares tend to be lower, with onward flights on Virgin Samoa, bookable through Virgin Australia (+843 104 7777; virginaustralia.com).
The best way to get around the main island, Upolu, is to hire a car – but watch out for children, piglets and stray dogs. A medium-size car costs S$1,104 (£290) for a week with Blue Pacific Car Hire (+685 22 668; bluepacific.ws). Regular ferries between Upolu and other islands are operated by the Samoa Shipping Corporation (+685 20 935; samoashipping.com).
Samoa Tourism Authority: +20 8877 4512; samoa.travel
Source: The Independent UK
Photo Credit: Kirklandphotos
By Shirley Sinclair
TAP, tap, tap, tap, tap. Pause.
Tap, tap, tap.
The unmistakable wood-on-wood sound stops momentarily as white-gloved hands use a cloth to wipe away excess ink and blood.
This is old-school tattooing - tattooing the way the art began and has always been done in Samoa - and no needle is involved.
The deep-blue of the ink is "hammered" into the smooth tanned skin of the young woman.
She is undertaking the ritual in full view of the public inside an open hut at the Samoa Tourism Authority's cultural village at the 2011 Teuila Festival in the capital, Apia, on Upolu Island.
We ask if we can take photos and after a moment's discussion, the white-haired tattooist agrees. As he expertly works in lines and dots on the back of her knee and upper leg, she grimaces but remains silent.
Her favourite tunes coming through the iPod earphones go some way to soothing the pain that is a constant.
The rhythmic tap, tap, tap forms a pattern that in itself must be comforting to a degree.
But every now and then, the young woman hides her face in her hand, away from the inquisitive eyes, as if sleeping.
The pain must be almost unbearable, but still no tears fill her eyes.
Many Samoan women choose to have the malu, or female tattoo, which may cover an area from the hips to the knees.
The three men attending to the tattoo are respectful, almost reverent. We soon realise the ritual involves much more than mere artistic endeavour.
Traditions and protocols must be followed.
One member of our group is asked to remove her hat before sitting down. Another is directed to sit only on mats on the floor rather than the bare concrete of the hut to watch the process that has changed little over the past 2000 years.
The word "tattoo" is believed to have originated from the Samoan word "tatau". Christian missionaries who arrived in Samoa in 1830 tried to outlaw the practice but the matais or chiefs refused.
Each tattoo artist, or tufuga, spends years learning the craft, which often is passed down over generations as father teaches son.
Wearing the white T-shirts and red lavalavas (sarongs) of Samoa's famous Sulu'ape Tatau, the men on duty in the tattooing hut also protect the privacy of their charges.
They cover up the "private parts" of the young male only metres away on the other side of the hut who is undergoing another session on his journey towards a full body tattoo or pe'a, as it is known in Samoa.
In this session, the master tattooist is working on the man's hip and pelvic area. We are fascinated and our gaze remains transfixed on these two human canvases for more than 20 minutes.
A day earlier, we had met Samoa Scenic Tours' Chris Solomona - our guide on a day trip to peaceful Manono Island, who proudly and openly spoke about his full-body tattoo. The artwork took one-and-a-half months to complete in 12 sessions lasting five to six hours each.
He tells us that while an inked artwork is an initiation for a young Samoan man, he must think long and hard before committing to the full waist-to-knee tattoo.
Chris describes the pain involved in fulfilling the full-body tattoo process as a real psychological journey - "the ultimate mental and physical challenge of my life".
To commit to the pe'a takes great courage. But to start the process and not finish it would bring disgrace upon the family, he assures us.
Chris said that when he had called his mother to tell her what he was about to do, she warned him of the consequences of failing to fulfil the task and told him: "Do not come home until it is finished."
The full-body tattoo cost Chris about $3000 and he has since added a "sleeve" to the mix.
He said that while tattoos where common to Pacific Islanders, Samoans used only geometric designs incorporating tools, weapons and distinctive roof of the fale.
The "badge of honour" is a life-long reminder to Samoans of who they are and their proud heritage.
Photo Credit: Shirley Sinclair
The Tanoa Tusitala is proud to announce the opening of the Senikai Rejuvenation and Wellness Spa at The Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in Apia, Samoa. The Facility is due to open in the first quarter of the New Year.
The Spa will be located at the front entrance of the resort overlooking the sea wall and the harbour.
Kalpana Reddy, Director of the Tanoa Hotel Group says “we are very excited about this new facility as it will do much to enhance the overall guest experience at the Hotel.
“Our market research has shown that it will be very well supported by both the Samoan and international visitor market and having such an iconic brand as Senikai will assist in maximising the appeal of this facility, “ says Ms Reddy.
Debra Sadranu, Managing Director of Senikai Spas was in Samoa to make the announcement with the Tanoa Group.
“We at Senikai are delighted to be working closely with the Tanoa Hotel Group in the development and export of Rejuvenation and Wellness Spas within the Pacific. Their growth strategy closely mirrors our own and it is encouraging to see established Pacific companies working together in the development of the Tourism and Rejuvenation and Wellbeing sector.” said Ms Sadranu.
“This is our first new venture in this part of the Pacific and we are extremely confident that it will prove to be a catalyst for other joint ventures with Tanoa.”
Peter Sereno of Samoa Tourism Authority welcomes the addition of the spa facility to one of the most popular hotels in the nation.
“We are excited to welcome Senikai to Samoa – our nation is known for our natural beauty treatments and we look forward to Senikai’s expertise in interpreting the Samoan culture and our ingredients into their program” says Peter.
Photo Credit: Senikai Spas
Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa is excited to announce the addition of a Gym and Sauna to its existing Spa facility and adding further activity options for its guests. The facility is situated on the water’s edge and boasts 180 degree ocean views. So, whether you “work out” or “sweat out” the peaceful and majestic surrounds are wonderfully therapeutic to the mind, body and soul.
Source: Sinalei Facebook Page
Photo Credit: Sinalei
Aggie Grey’s Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa announces a truly Decadent night of fun and food to farewell 2011 and welcome 2012. Don't miss out.
GALA BUFFET DINNER with transfers from/to Aggie Hotel to/from Aggie Resort
6pm : Bus leaves Aggie Grey’s Hotel Apia
7pm : Bus arrives at Aggie Grey’s Resort
6-8pm : Happy Hours at Solent Bar
7-10pm : New Year’s Buffet Banquet at South Pacific Restaurant
9pm –2am : Disco Inferno with DJ bringing in the New Year at the Mahi Mahi Restaurant
2am : Bus departs Aggie Grey’s Resort back to Apia
Dress Code : Red Carpet attire ~ Formal Wear
Pre Sold Tickets available at Business Centre, Aggie Grey’s Hotel, Apia
Bookings for shuttle seats to be made before 30th Dec. 2011
Bookings are essential.
There will be a Local Special on Room Rates for locals who would like to stay overnight.
Please enquire at Aggie Grey’s Hotel - Reservations must be received by 28th Dec. 2011
For those providing own transport, buffet tickets can be purchased directly at Aggie Grey’s Resort.
Celebrate the New Year and participate in a draw to WIN free accommodation at Aggie Grey’s Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa!
Terms and Conditions apply/ P.O. is not accepted
For more information, please contact
Aggie Grey’s Hotel Business Centre
Telephone: +685 22880
Last night after celebrating the end of another successful season of Survivor, Jeff Probst revealed new details for the upcoming 24th season of the show.
He revealed that it’s going to be titled “Survivor One World,” and it will take place in Samoa, once again. This is the 4th time they used Samoa as a filming location. They’re titling it One World because they are putting two tribes on just one beach to battle it out. As far as I know,it looks like they’re throwing the Redemption Island twist out. I’ve also heard some other sources say that as well. So, once they get voted off in season 24,they’re really going to be gone.
Source: Hollywood Hills
Photo Credit: CBS
In the heart of the Pacific lies Samoa, where the weather is balmy, the scent of coconuts and frangipani hang in the air and life ambles along at its own measured pace.
Sounds like a Polynesian dream? Wake up and smell the tropics as you turn that dream into a reality with one of the many Samoa on Sale packages now available online at www.samoadirect.com.au!
Combine that with the great deals released by Virgin Samoa for off season travel and you’ll be off to this Polynesian Paradise faster than you can say “Talofa!”
As well as the spectacular scenery, pristine beaches and crystal clear coral lagoons, you’ll discover a 3,000 year old way of life that’s known as Fa’a Samoa.
From couples to families, there is accommodation to suite every budget, from resorts with spa treatments to budget style open air beach fales located right on the white sandy beaches along the stunning coastline.
“There are some amazing deals on offer at the moment on www.samoadirect.com.au” says Adele Leathan of Samoa Tourism Authority.
“We have prices starting from about $30 per person per night staying in a fale and that includes breakfast and dinner. For many, once you have stayed in the fale you lose all concept of the hotel star rating system. Why sleep five stars when you can sleep under a billion?” says Adele.
Known for the intimate settings of its properties, every visitor to Samoa is greeted with a warm and intimate welcome and shown home-grown hospitality.
Virgin Samoa has released amazing fares starting from $315 one way (for travel between 18 January – 30 March and 24 April – 20 June 2012) ex Sydney or Brisbane
SALE PERIOD: 3 December - 6 January
The Ocean Princess sailed into the Port of Apia today with more than 500 passengers on-board. The visit is the Ocean Princess' maiden call into Samoa. The vessel arrived from Suva, Fiji and it's next port of call is Pago Pago, American Samoa.07 December, 2011 permalink
Samoa Tourism Authority has booked a private screening of the Samoan film, THE ORATOR, on Monday 12 December at Hoyts Broadway.
The Orator (O Le Tulafale) is a 2011 Samoan film directed by Tusi Tamasese. It is the first ever Samoan feature film shot entirely in Samoa, in the Samoan language, with a Samoan cast and story. The film has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards and had its world premier at the Venice Film Festival.
The film is beautiful photographed and portrays Samoan culture in accordance with Fa'a Samoa (The Samoan Way).
"We wanted to thank everyone for their enthusiasm and support of Samoa in the last year and a viewing of The Orator is a wonderful gift, showcasing the beauty of Samoa, its people, the language and of course the culture," says Peter Sereno of Samoa Tourism Authority.
"The Orator depicts Polynesia at its most authentic and hopefully we can inspire all who see it to travel to Samoa and experience the natural beauty, authentic Polynesian culture and Fa'a Samoa for themselves" says Peter.
Virgin Australia is relaunching its Polynesian Blue operation as Virgin Samoa, with an upgraded interior and a new aircraft paint-job promised in "the first quarter of the 2012 calendar year".
Samoa's national airline - formed in 2005 by a joint venture between the then-Virgin Blue and the Samoan Government - will have "a new level of professionalism for our national airline; a new style; of which the people of Samoa can be proud" according to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Keep an eye out for the new aircraft livery on the airline's plane - yes, plane: just one Boeing 737-800 comprises the Virgin Samoa fleet.
Virgin Samoa's CEO Mark Pitt is keen on the "fresh, contemporary and sophisticated look, consistent with its partner Virgin Australia but with a uniquely Samoan flavour."