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Apia Sights

By the harbor side where Falealili Street meets Beach Road is the John Williams Memorial, dedicated to the missionary who implanted Protestantism in Samoa in 1830. Nine years later Williams was killed and eaten by cannibals on Erromango Island in the New Hebrides (presently Vanuatu). Later his remains were returned to Samoa and buried beneath the porch of the old Congregational Christian Church (1898) across the street.

A block west on Beach Road is the historic wooden Courthouse dating from 1906 during German times, which served as government headquarters until 1993. It's still used by the Supreme Court. On Black Saturday, December 29, 1929, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, leader of the Mau Movement, was shot in the back in front of this building by the New Zealand Constabulary while trying to calm his people during a demonstration against the colonial regime. Eight other Samoans were also killed and five years of severe repression followed, only ending with a change of government in New Zealand.

The Falemataaga Museum of Samoa (weekdays 1200-1530, admission by donation) opened in 1999 in the former prime minister's office upstairs in the courthouse. It presents a good collection of Samoan artifacts, old photos, and cultural objects relating to Samoan ceremonies, tattooing, tapa making, and fine mats. There's some archaeology and a chronology of Samoan history. The natural history section on Samoan birds, fish, and corals is educational, and an assortment of cultural icons from other Pacific countries is also on display.

West again is imposing Mulivai Catholic Cathedral (1885-1905), formerly a landmark for ships entering the harbor, and Matafele Methodist Church, a fine building where marvelous singing may be heard during Sunday services.

Across the street is the gigantic eight-story Government Building, erected in 1994 with a S$35-million interest-free loan from the People's Republic of China. It and the neighboring seven-story Central Bank of Samoa wouldn't be out of place in Abu Dhabi, Doha, or Dubai, and stand as stunning examples of third-world megalomania.

At 0750 on weekday mornings, the police band marches from their barracks near the Courthouse and plays the national anthem here at the raising of the flag. The lovely gardens behind the Government Building are well worth a walk.

Nearby is the Chief Post Office (signposted "Samoatel") with the modern headquarters of the ANZ Bank opposite. A block west in the center of the traffic circle where Vaea Street meets Beach Road is a Clock Tower built as a WW I memorial.

On opposite corners of Vaea Street and Beach Road are the former Burns Philp store, now Chan Mow Supermarket, the National Provident Fund building housing the agency that administers the country's pension fund, and the Nelson Memorial Public Library, named for Olaf Nelson (1883-1944), a leader of the Mau Movement.

Farther west facing a small harbor is the Savalalo Fish Market. The numerous locally owned longline fishing boats here have made fish a leading export during the past few years, but safety standards are minimal and several boats and crews are lost each year.

The Flea Market nearby was Apia's main vegetable market until 1995, when it was moved three blocks inland. These days you can shop for handicrafts and clothing here, and cheap food stalls are on the side closest to the harbor. It's hard to beat a breakfast of hot chocolate (koko) with buttered bread, or a large bowl of cocoa and rice. You can easily distinguish which places are selling cocoa by the large metal tea pot on the counter. Surprisingly, there's also quite a bit for vegetarians, including palusami and roasted breadfruit. Less healthy barbecue takeaway meals are available at several roadside locations around town. If available, oka (raw fish) is a better choice than the mutton flaps.

One of Apia's two bus stations is next to the Flea Market, and just beyond is a flashy Women's Center, built with another Chinese loan. The large wooden building almost across the street is the headquarters of the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation. These were once the premises of the German trading companies, whose assets were seized when New Zealand invaded in 1914.

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