Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Souvenirs From a South Pacific Cruise

Beach Bags for sale at Port Vila markets, Vanuatu
I think part of the fun of travelling is picking up souvenirs of things you might not get in your own country. An island-style memento to take home as a reminder of your Pacific Island cruise will bring back fond memories of sunshine and sandy beaches when you are in the middle of a cold and frosty winter!
  The laid-back lifestyles of the tropics are reflected in the souvenirs on offer to tourists. When cruise ships visit some of the Pacific Island ports, the local people sell their wares from little stalls set up beside the roads or on the beaches. It is a great chance to chat and laugh with the islanders as you look at what they have for sale.

Souvenirs at a roadside stall in Savusavu, Fiji
Here are some of the things you might choose to buy on your South Pacific cruise.
The doll wears a tapa cloth top

  • Pacific Island clothing: casual clothes are the order of the day. Brightly coloured fabric, often patterned with hibiscus flowers, is used to make shirts, skirts and sarongs as well as beach bags.
  • Jewellery: delicate mother of pearl and other shells, such as the colourful conch and cowrie, are made into bracelets, necklaces, pendants and earrings. In Fiji, I bought an unusual pendant made of strips of shells. In Savusavu, Fiji, and in Tahiti, black pearls which are locally farmed are used to make striking jewellery. 
  • Wood carvings: artisans use locally sourced wood to create a range of wood carvings as souvenirs. Sometimes you'll be able to watch the woodcarvers at work. Their pieces range from tiny to life size, and include paddles, spears, decorated masks and carved turtles. I suppose what you choose will depend on how much space you have in your suitcase!
  • Souvenirs made from leaves: in villages all around the Pacific, pandanus leaves are woven to make a wide range of useful items such as floor mats for houses, and baskets to store and carry provisions. You might like to buy placemats and coasters for the dining table, baskets and bags or even a sun hat made from pandanus leaves.
  • Tapa cloth: something that is unique to the South Pacific is tapa cloth. The inner bark of the paper mulberry tree is harvested, soaked in water and pounded to compress the fibres. This results in a strong, thin, paper-like substance used to make floor mats, placemats, even clothing. The patterns in brown and black on the cream coloured tapa cloth are made from natural dyes. I bought a set of four round placemats in Fiji that are perfect for when we have barbecues.
A word of warning. If your cruise ends in Australia or New Zealand be aware that those countries have very strict bio security laws about importing items made of wood and other plant materials. You must declare them on your customs arrival cards otherwise you'll risk getting an instant fine and the goods will be confiscated.

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