Returning to Samoa brought back a lot of good memories for couple Pan and Peter Clydesdale.
The couple from Bathurst in New South Wales, Australia lived in Samoa for two years from 1996 to 1998 with their three sons. It is their second visit after the last one nine years ago, when they came with their family just before the cyclone.
While living and working in Samoa back then they built a strong connection to the country and its people.
In recent years they have recognised changes in Samoa, but the atmosphere and the culture has remained unchanged as they remembered, which is a bonus and has made their stay even more enjoyable.
“Obviously there are a lot more modern hotels, resorts, more shops and traffic lights but the natural beauty of the place stayed. You can still drive around and remember the places we have been to. The people are still very friendly and happy, we love the singing and dancing which didn’t change,” Pan shared with Dear Tourist.
Bringing friends with them was good, according to Pan as they talked a lot about Samoa and she had the chance to show them the place where they spent so much time.
Visiting the Lalomanu beach, where they spent a few months before Cyclone Gita hit, was an unforgettable experience for her.
“It made us really aware of what it means when natural disasters happen and I am very happy to see that it has the Fales again, which they rebuild.
For Pan, the rebuilding after the natural disaster showed that it was an acknowledgement by the locals, that they were part of the environment.
In terms of taking care of the environment, she said she did not see any bad behaviour compared to other countries in Asia, where she has travelled a lot to.
“Driving through the villages on the road they beautifully maintain their gardens, they cut the grass and planted colourful plants, sometimes even painted the rocks aside the street.
They really take care of their villages with pride,” she added.
There were no “aggressive and drunk people” around when Pan went around and she felt safe in Samoa.
“I suppose there is maybe alcohol and drug issues but I haven’t seen any,” she said.
In other parts of the world there are fears indigenous people are losing their culture due to its commercialisation in response to demands from the tourism sector.
But Pan does not think Samoa will lose its culture as she is of the view that there is a lot of respect for Samoan culture.
“I think within the slow progress the culture will still be respected. I would say Samoa is the most Polynesian of all islands. When you go to Fiji or even Tahiti these days there are very much top resorts like anywhere in the world.
“We saw the Sinalei Resorts built by Samoans, where the resorts fulfill a standard but maintain the culture having the Fales. Some people prefer resorts like the Taumeasina or the Sheraton, which is one of the international top resorts.
“We used to go to the public beach at the Return to Paradise Resorts we now have to pay 30 Tala, which is alright because it’s the village’s land and with more tourists coming over they consider making money,” she said.
The couple spent a week in Samoa before they returned to Australia yesterday.