When driving in the northern part of the island we got our car stuck. A testament to the willingness of the people to help was that by a serendipitous coincidence the governors of several of the states of Palau were driving around to check the progress on the roads. They stopped and helped us pull our car out of the ditch and they got stuck as well in the process. They pulled our car out first and then tended to theirs.
As is common in many areas of micronesia betelnut is very popular. It has been recorded in Palau since 1783. It is an acorn shaped nut that is wrapped in a leaf and seasoned with lime, pepper, nutmeg, and some other spices. Many Palauans carry small woven baskets around with them which contain the ingredients.
It is similar to chewing tobacco in that the user will place this in their mouth and chew it, spitting frequently. The Betelnut is red in color so their spit is also red and you may find red stains in busy areas. Betelnut is a mild narcotic that increases respiration and relaxes the heart.
In the picture it may be difficult to see but the Beetlenut tree is the one that is tall and slender with the red cluster below the foliage.
Originally settled around 2000 BC used for agriculture in the terraced northern part of the main Island. The early Palauans used stone currency and carved out of stones other things like the Monoliths and stone faces. The ties to a particular family, clan, or village are very strong among Palauans and for some it is known at birth where the appropriate burial place is for that child.
In the twentieth century Palau was controlled by foreign powers like Germany, Japan and the US. In World War II their were battles fought mostly in Peleliu although the US also bombed the capital of Koror during the Japanese occupation.
Palau was declared independent on November 1st 1994 from the US-administered UN Trusteeship but has benefited from help and funding from the US, Japan and many other countries since then.
The locals often do not own a vehicle or own vehicles that are not very dependable. Their are also only 61 km (37 mi) of roads in the entire country, only 36 km (22 mi) of which are paved. I found this bus to be a pretty interesting form of travel. I also saw mopeds and small dirty cars.
Native women are often topless. Wether picking up groceries, putting on cultural shows, or doing chores at home this is the way of life. This is normal and you quickly become used to it.
Tshirts are very popular also but generally this is when they are going to be in contact with tourists.
everybody chews betelnut. It's like chewing tobacco. I had worked in Taiwan where betelnut was quite common. However, even the Taiwanese tour guides were amazed at the betelnut prowess of Palauans. Apparently, Palauans add tobacco to the betelnut concoction to give it more kick.
Travellers from Taiwan would be invariably asked by the customs whether they brought in any betelnut. It's not contrabrand but the customs would "relieve" you of any betelnut in your luggage :-). According to my Taiwanese tour guides, Palauans preferred Taiwanese betelnuts.
Palau is one of the Marijuana/Pot capitals of the world!
The rich soil, temperate climate, and laid-back culture make this one of the most productive marijuana locales in the world. Privately owned islands can pretty much be self governed so the owners can be entirely dedicated to building their crop.
Local islanders smoke pot as freely as cigarette if not more due to the ease of access.
Palauan pot throughout the Pacific islands is almost as valuable as gold. It is probably one of the biggest exports, though untracked.
This is common in the islands, many variances depending on which island you are from -- with or without lime, and some leaf. Palauans -- especially on school grounds are not permitted to spit openly. Many are carrying their containers to spit into. You will have to watch that your tongue & teeth do not get too much staining from chewing. It also creates a buzz -- try at your own risk.
We stopped at a rustic, large two-story grocery/hardware/souvenir store. I wandered the aisles of the grocery store and saw a lovely young local clerk who had on a beautiful head lei that was totally different from any I had seen in Hawaii. I admired it. She took it off and gave it to me. I tried to refuse, and she wouldn’t hear of it. She said she had just been to the airport where a friend of hers had just returned from Yap with this lei. She insisted I take it and even put it on my head. When we went out to the car, Bill informed me that in most of these islands, if you admire something someone else has, they have to give it to you. Of course, I felt terrible, but Bill said at least I hadn’t admired her car or her refrigerator.
Visit an Abai (men's hut) -- I believe this is suppose to be open only to men or leaders of their villages.
I think the picture I have is an example of one of these huts.