Friday, November 20, 2009
Apia, Independent State of Samoa
Apia is the capital of the Independent State of Samoa. The city is located
on the northern coast of Upolu, Samoas second-largest island. There are two
terms concerning Apia. The first one is that Apia is the name of the Village
that the city took its name from. The village has its own chief and also its
faalupega. The second term for Apia is the Apia Urban Area. This term is
better known to be the City of Apia and also where the 58,800 people live.
The limits of the Urban Area are mainly from Letogo village to the new
Industrialized region of Apia known as Vaitele. It is the nation's major
port and only city. Fish and copra are the country's major exports, and
cotton goods, motor vehicles, meats, and sugar are the major imports.
Apia is situated on a natural harbour at the mouth of the Vaisigano River.
It is on a narrow coastal plain with Mount Vaea (elev. 472 m) directly to
its south. Two main ridges run south on either side of the Vaisigano River,
with roads on each. The more western of these is Cross Island Road, one of
the few roads crossing to the south coast of Upolu.
Apia was founded in the 1850s. It has been the official capital of Samoa
since 1959. The harbor was also the site of an infamous 15 March, 1889 naval
impasse which 7 ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave
harbor while a typhoon was clearly approaching, lest the first moved would
lose face. All were sank, except the British cruser Calliope, which barely
managed to leave port at 1 mile per hour and ride out the storm. Nearly 200
American and German lives were needlessly lost, as well as 6 ships sunk or
Mulinu'u, the old ceremonial capital, lies at the city's western end, and is
the location of the Parliament House (Maota Fono) and the historic
observatory, which is now the meteorology office.
The name of the Catholic Cathedral in Apia is the Immaculate Conception of
An area of reclaimed land jutting into the harbour is the site of the
multistorey government offices and the Central Bank of Samoa. A clock tower
erected as a war memorial acts as a central point for the city. The new
market (maketi fou) is inland a bit at Fugalei, where it is more protected
from the effects of cyclones. Apia still has some of the early, wooden,
colonial buildings which remain scattered around the town, most notably the
courthouse, with a museum on the upper floor. Recent infrastructural
development and economic growth has seen several multi-story buildings being
built in the city. The ACB/NBS building (2001) houses the Accident
Compensation Board, the National Bank of Samoa, and some government
departments. The mall below it is home to shops and eateries. The Samoatel
building (2004) which is the site for Samoa's international
telecommunications hub was built inland at Maluafou, again to protect it
from the effects of seasonal cyclones. The newest addition to Apia's skyline
is the DBS building (2007) which houses the Development Bank of Samoa.
Writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last four years of his life here,
and is buried on Mt. Vaea, overlooking both the city and the home he built,
Vailima, which is now a museum in his honour.
Apia Harbour is by far the largest and busiest harbour in Samoa.
International shipping with containers, LPG gas, and fuels all dock here.
Ferries to Tokelau and American Samoa depart from here.
Apia is served by a good road network, which is generally kept reasonably
well maintained. Most of the main roads are sealed; the unsealed roads have
lower use. Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road although much
disputed legislation is in train to change to the other side. Speed limits
are 25 mph (40 km/h) near the centre of town and 35 mph (56 km/h) in the
rest of the country with a 15 mph (24 km/h) limit in special circumstances.
The country has no trains or trams, but is served with an extensive bus
service. People commonly walk around the town, or even for some distances
outside it. There are few bicycles and motorcycles, but increasing numbers
of privately owned cars which cause traffic congestion in the inner city.
Taxis are a common form of transport.
The small airstrip in Fagali'i, which was used for internal flights and some
international flights to Pago Pago in American Samoa has now been closed.
The main international airport, Faleolo International Airport, is a
40-minute drive west of the city.
Most streets are not marked with signs, and none of the houses or businesses
has street numbers. There are no postal codes and there is no local mail
delivery. Post office boxes are used for delivery, and a customs officer is
present in the main Apia post office to check parcels. Locals refer to
locations by the village where the house or business is situated.
Telephone services are efficient with local, trunk and international dialing
Both SamoaTel and Digicel operate mobile phone services with a high rate of
mobile phone ownership in the country.
International internet services are served by a satellite link with several
internet service providers offering broadband and dial-up services. The
dependency on satellite links means that there can be brief service
disruption caused by the sun passing behind a satellite, or for longer
periods during strong winds when the dishes need to be "parked" to secure
them. There are plans to set up a fiber-optic cable link but have not been
finalized. In addition to private service subscriptions, multiple internet
cafes are present in Apia.
This is a mixture of old colonial houses and more modern Western-style houses, interspersed with some traditional Samoan houses.