(Republic of Palau, Beluu ęr a Belau)
- Location: Western Pacific
- Capital: Melekeok
- Language(s): English, Palauan
- Population: 21,095
- Total Area: 459 sq km
- Currency: United States Dollar
- Curious Alcohol Fact: The local brew is made from coconut juice.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 10.10 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Coconut milk, kava
The Republic of Palau is a unique nation when one views it from various angles. In addition to being one of the smallest independent nations in the world, it is also one of the youngest as it gained independence in 1994 when it stopped being under the mandate of the United Nations. The nation is a collection of over 300 coral and volcanic islands and is located close to the island of New Guinea, the Philippines and Guam. Of the hundreds of islands, the most populated are Koror, Babelthaup, Arakabesan and Peleliu. In the late 1940s, the country was established as a constituent of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and had its administration carried out by the United States. The former capital city of Koror was on an island of the same name but the new capital is Melekeok and is on the island of Babelthaup, which is also the largest.
The population of the island nation is quite tiny, as it stands at just 21,000. More than two-thirds of the population are indigenous Palauans who have Asian, Austronesian, Melanesian and Micronesian roots. Descendants of the Japanese, Americans and Europeans are also found on the island. The official languages are Palauan (a Western Austronesian tongue) and English. However, on some other islands, Sonsorolese-Tobian, which is another indigenous language is also spoken in addition to the two mentioned earlier. Around 75% of Palauans are Christians and other follow a mixture of ancestor worship and spiritism while others are Muslims and Jews. Many of the Christians are Catholics or Protestants. Among the Palauans, hospitality is very important and they reflect this at all times.
One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed while touring the heavenly islands of the Pacific Ocean is the exciting array of delicacies. Thus, when I landed in Melekeok, I expected a scintillating display of meals, and I was not disappointed. From traditional foods to Chinese noodles and Japanese sushi, Palau is a place of culinary wonder. There are many restaurants where you can also get American-styled dishes. As an individual attracted to local dishes, I could not but notice the common ingredients –seafood (particularly crabs, lobsters, prawns and shellfish), pork and tubers (especially yams and cassava). In a village, I was treated to what many tourists would consider bizarre –a plate of fried fruit bats! Funnily enough, the bats tasted nice and crispy –somewhat like chicken.
Just as is the tradition in many islands in the Pacific region, coconut milk is ubiquitous in Palau and you are sure of getting copious amounts in Palauan restaurants. However, the most interesting thing is for you to climb a coconut tree and pluck the coconuts yourself, make an incision on one end and gurgle the fresh milk! Local alcoholic drinks are also made from fermented juice. There is also another local drink called kava and is made from the roots of the kava plant. Wines and beers are sold in many bars.
The most popular sport in Palau is baseball and has been enjoyed by the islanders for decades. Apart from baseball, football, swimming and local games are also quite popular on the island. As for me, I am always at home with the locals when it comes to the games.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria)
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