I scheduled a business trip to Auckland, New Zealand, and Apia, Samoa. I was fortunate that Leslie was able to accompany me.
In Auckland, we stayed at the Stamford Plaza Hotel. One evening we decided to try the Kabuki Teppanyaki restaurant in the hotel. It is a Japanese display cooking restaurant. Along one of the walls are dozens of bottles of various alcohol.
We had been to that restaurant once before and liked it, so we decided to try it again. The second time was even better. Maybe the chef was more flamboyant. What was the most surprising about the meal was my utensils…I was able to eat the entire meal with chopsticks! That is a feat I was never able to accomplish before.
I work with a Japanese colleague. After the trip, I asked her if these restaurants were popular in Japan. She said, not really. It is much more of a touristy thing.
Following our time in Auckland, it was off to Samoa. It is only about a three and one-half hour flight.
Our hotel room overlooked the Pacific. That provided the opportunity to watch ships coming and going from the port of Apia.
Of all the times I have visited Apia, I had never visited the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. During this trip, we had an opportunity to go. It was fascinating. The Scottish RLS was born on November 13, 1850. Around 1888, RLS made his first visit to Samoa. He fell in love with the island. In 1890 he bought a plot of land and built his home. That is now the RLS Museum.
For about US$20, one can take part in a guided tour of the residence. One of the interesting things about the house are the fireplaces in some of the rooms. Obviously, RLS was thinking of Scotland when he designed the home. A fireplace was indispensable in Scotland; in Samoa they are superfluous.
The grounds are stunning with a wide variety of tropical plants and flowers. The house is at the base of Mount Vaea. He died at the very young age of 44 and is buried upon that mount, overlooking the sea.
Following the photo below of Leslie holding the Vailima beer, I added some additional photographs of the Catholic cathedral in Apia. It is one of the most stunning I have ever seen.
Apia, Samoa – January 22, 2017
It was exciting to go on this trip to Samoa because I was staying at a brand-new hotel, the Taumeasina Island Resort. Previously, the hotel I used, while nice, did not give the feel of a tropical island hotel. The grounds had beautifully done tropical landscaping, but the hotel was not on the water.
The Taumeasina Island Resort is on a small, human-made island. The resort has the look of what one imagines a tropical island resort to be. There are beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Virtually every room has an ocean view.
It may seem odd to be so emotional about a place to stay. However, when I travel to Samoa, it is for business. I have no time to explore the island truly. That makes the hotel very important to me. During my trips, I could stay for an extra day or two, but I would much rather get back home.
The other new experience on this trip was the airport. There is a new departure terminal. I became used to the construction at the airport since that is all I have known on my trips. Now, the updated portion is very clean and modern. The arrival portion is still old but undergoing renovation.
Roughly translated, talofa lava means hello in Samoan.
I arrived in Apia at about 20:15. When I finally retrieved my bags, I went to customs. Since my bags took so long to make it onto the belt, the line was quite lengthy. I did have some drama with customs because I brought two oil filters for a generator. Regardless, I finally made it through and to my transfer vehicle.
As is typical, it took nearly an hour to drive from the airport to the hotel.While I was in town, it was very cloudy and rainy. On Thursday, much to my surprise, I discovered the reason for the lousy weather…a cyclone! Cyclone Amos was on track to Fiji, but it turned and headed toward Samoa. As soon as I discovered that, I began to worry about my flight back to New Zealand.
Luckily, as I headed to the airport, Cyclone Amos appeared to have slowed. Once at the airport, there were even some breaks in the clouds, allowing one to see some blue sky. I was pleased to lift off the ground, knowing I was heading home as opposed to being stuck in a dangerous cyclone for an unknown amount of time.
The flight to Auckland was uneventful.
This was my first trip to Apia, Samoa, a business trip.
I made it to Wellington Airport around 08:00. After I checked in, I was “greeted” by a rather large dragon head, a model of the dragon from The Lord of the Rings trilogy sits in the terminal across from the check-in area.
Since I had plenty of time, I went upstairs to the shopping and food court area to wait for my flight. One of the first sights I saw was Gollum, a character from The Lord of the Rings. The pose looks as though he has his head underwater in a stream, trying to grab a passing trout. Although Gollum is ugly, the overall display was unique. I found it hard to keep from looking continuously.
At the other end of the shopping and food court area were two raptors suspended from the ceiling, one of them ridden by Gandalf. Gandalf is a wizard character from The Lord of the Rings.
My flight to Auckland boarded and departed on time. I found myself sitting by Brent Arnell, a right-handed batsman with the Wellington Firebirds cricket team. The entire team was on the flight. Brent said they were on their way to Auckland for a match. I must confess, I did not know who Brent was until I got back to the internet, and I was able to ask Mr. Google.
We made it to Auckland in about an hour, landing without incident.
About an hour after leaving Wellington, I arrived in Auckland. I waited for the free shuttle bus to get me from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. It seemed like it took forever. I probably could have walked it quicker. Oh well. Once at the international terminal, I made my way into the main waiting area. While I was there, I saw a massive Airbus A380 taxiing. Those are truly amazing planes. I understand there are “suites” on the upper level of some of the aircraft. I am confident I will never experience one.
While I was waiting at the airport, I stopped at a shop and bought a book on the history of New Zealand. It has been fascinating so far.
Boarding the plane and the takeoff were uneventful.
I was happy to see that one of the white wines they served onboard the Air New Zealand flight was Thornberry Chardonnay. Leslie and I have become quite fond of that particular Chardonnay.
I arrived in Apia at about 20:30 local time. Samoa is just to the west of the international dateline. I felt like I could see yesterday if I looked to the east. My one checked bag was one of the first to come off the carousel. From there, I went to stand in line at customs. I had a brief conversation with the customs agent and then sent my bags through the x-ray machine.
Walking through to the other side, I quickly spotted the driver for the shuttle to the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. He took my bag and me to the waiting van. Once seated, he went back to wait for another couple who were also staying at the hotel.
The drive from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes. It reminded me a little of Georgetown, Guyana. The road was only a two-lane road. When the van caught up to traffic, it took a while to find a proper location to pass the vehicle. One big difference from Georgetown is there were streetlights along the entire route, even away from the city.
As we passed homes, it was amazing to see that every home was virtually wide open. When I say wide open, I mean WIDE OPEN. Many homes had no windows or doors. House after house saw family after family sitting and watching television as traffic buzzed by on the road.Many of the homes had a fale in front, or near the front, of the houses. A fale is a large open structure used as a meeting or gathering place. They have tall coned or domed roofs held up with large timbers and no walls. The driver said that when there are deaths in the various families, the fale serves as the funeral location.
The number of churches we passed on the way to the hotel surprised me. By far, the largest church compound was the Methodist Church. Both sides of the road had Methodist Church property for a half-mile. In Apia, the driver pointed out the Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said its compound is even more extensive than that of the Methodist Church.It was close to 22:00 when the van reached the hotel. Not surprisingly, the registration lobby was in the middle of a fale.
After placing my bags in the room, I stopped by the bar, in a fale, for a beer. I had a Vailima, one of the beers made in Samoa. On the way to the hotel, the driver proudly pointed out the Vailima brewery as we passed.Before departing Wellington, I queried Mr. Google for the location of the U. S. Embassy in Apia. He very kindly showed the site and indicated the walk would take me about 17 minutes. I departed the hotel with a map neatly tucked in my pocket. It was not that hot, probably just 81 degrees Fahrenheit, but the humidity made it a little uncomfortable.
At the end of my nearly one-mile walk, I found myself facing a rather dilapidated building, but there was no indication of the Embassy. Regardless, I soldiered on, taking the elevator to the fifth floor…no Embassy. I walked down two levels, by now sweating profusely, still no Embassy. I walked into an office and asked the receptionist where the U. S. Embassy was located. She was quite surprised. She told me it was back down the road. Armed with that information, I began my three-quarter-mile walk in the direction from which I had come. I finally stumbled across the correct building and located the Embassy. The staff was surprised my “five-minute” walk had taken me so long. I told them Mr. Google is usually a pretty smart guy, but he missed the mark this time.
At the end of my workday, I walked the three-tenths of a mile back to my hotel. It was much quicker and easier than my morning tour of Apia.
One day for lunch, we ate at Sails Restaurant and Bar. The view of the ocean was breathtaking. The waves broke far offshore. There is a coral reef that does not allow the waves to come onshore unless it is a cyclone. There is a shipwreck that was visible from the restaurant that was the result of a past storm.
The buses on the island are colorful. They are not as bejeweled as the jingle trucks in Pakistan, but they are very nicely painted. The slogans on the sides of the buses are the names of the bus companies. Painted on the front is the name of the village to which the bus is destined.
I did see Robert Louis Stevenson’s home on the island. I did not have time to visit, but I will on a future trip. The house is now a museum. He is buried on top of the hill overlooking the home.
On Friday afternoon, I began my journey back home.
Departing Apia, Samoa was uneventful. However, about 45 minutes out of Auckland, the ride got a little bumpy as we crossed a weather front. I believe it was the remnants of a cyclone. Thankfully, the landing at Auckland was nothing compared to our first landing at Wellington this past November.
Even though the ride had been a bit bumpy earlier coming into Auckland, the landing in Wellington was surprisingly smooth. The pilot did say we had picked an excellent time to arrive in Wellington. Earlier in the day, Wellington airport was closed periodically because of high winds.