(Vanuatu) Vanuatu is known for Kava in the South Pacific and I hope they try to drink only Kava.

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I took a small propeller plane and headed from Fiji to Vanuatu. During my trip in Fiji, I got to know many new countries in the South Pacific, and one of them was Vanuatu. Just in time, I decided to go there because the border was being opened.



When I look at a new country through the window of an airplane right before landing, I always feel both nervousness and excitement with thought of “How can I cycle over there?”



Fiji Airlines gave me a few challenges because of taking a bike on the plane. However, it seems to be very good in that it connects all the island countries in the South Pacific.



Vanuatu is right next to Fiji and close to Australia.



Vanuatu has many islands located vertically, and the capital is called Port Villa. The main island is quite small, leading to one two-lane road. It has a population of 310,000 and became independent from a British-French colony in 1980.

The peoples of the South Pacific are divided into Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians. 98% of Vanuatu’s population is Melanesian.



When I arrived in Vanuatu and saw the city center at the capital, I was surprised by how develop and clean it was. Most of all, Westerners were often seen on every street, so I thought there were already a lot of tourists even though it was not long after the border was opened. I felt like I saw foreigners more often in Vanuatu than in Fiji.
As it turned out, there were many foreigners living in Vanuatu as no tax on wages.
In Fiji, most foreigners, including locals, spoke English so could communicate easily. But many foreigners here spoke French, so it was difficult to mix for the person who could not speak French.



Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, was small, so it was easy to look around, and above all, it gave a peaceful feeling because it was next to the beautiful water color.



In particular, the park was really neat and well maintained. Interestingly, there was no cleaning person every hour, but there was almost no trash. Although the sea was located right next to the city center, it was hard to find garbage floating on the water.



There was a building in the park that sold handicrafts for tourists, but it was quiet because the border had just been opened. While filming a city tour video, I had a chance to talk to a woman who makes baskets, and she said that it takes quite a while to make one basket.



There was also a market selling fruit at the end of the park.



It was cheaper than the supermarket, so I often bought fruit here while stayed in Port Vila.



It was perfect to buy a coconut here from time to time and ate it in the park.



At the side of the fruit and vegetable market, people sold the food.




I had to pay U$14 for a simple meal at a restaurant in the city, but I could get the food here only for U$5.



At the back of the park, I could see locals enjoying a French marbles game called Pétanque.



I could see such an amazing sunset in the park. One of the great advantages of traveling in the South Pacific was the wonderful sunsets and sunrises.



On one side of the park, there was a tour company that was selling water outdoor activities, and even though there was no staff at the counter, I could see the shop door was wide open.



Since I didn’t know about Vanuatu before, I did a search at Korean consulate before going and found that security is stable, violent crimes do not occur, and people do not drink alcohol in general.

I thought that the whole country was safe when I saw that the tourist company counter in the park was still open even without an employee guarding it, but there was a big twist behind it. In my experience, Vanuatu has been one of the less secure countries.



The good thing about Vanuatu was that restaurants, cafes, and bars were always near the water, and sandy beaches gave it a resort feel. But the real problem was that the locals couldn’t control their drinking and drank too much. The park, which was peaceful during the day, turned into a street of young people who were drunk in the night, making it a place that cannot be easily accessed.

When I was staying in the capital of Vanuatu, I often woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning to the sound of people screaming, even though my accommodation was a little far from the bar. I was not sure it was for crying, laughing or screaming for help. I was worried sometimes I should report it to the police to see if there was an incident.

Once, I was invited to a meditation meeting at a foreign friend’s house, and when I left after it was over, one friend’s Nike shoes were gone and another friend’s iPhone was also gone. Since it was a gathering of about 20 people, I believed they forgot where left it. But they were right that it was stolen. When the owner of the phone called, the person who stole the iPhone asked for the password without shame.

In fact, a foreign friend who lived here said that 3-4 years ago, thieves often broke into the house because the security window was not properly installed. This meant that there were commonly thieves before the Pandemic.

I also got pickpocketed for the first time while traveling the world. I was with friends at a bar, and I suddenly felt something strange, so I looked behind me and saw that a local man had taken my phone out of my pants pocket. When I asked what you were doing and asked for my phone back, he gave it back as if nothing had happened and disappeared. I was able to figure it out right away because I wasn’t drinking, but if I was drunk, it would have been stolen. In fact, another foreign friend said that he had actually had his cell phone stolen at a bar before.

I really wonder how many years the Korean consulate wrote the information that ‘Vanuatu is safe as they rarely drink alcohol and do not have much crime’.



Vanuatu Independence Day was special.

Locals wore colorful clothes and enjoyed the festival with their families. It looked so pretty that I asked if I could take a picture. Soon, I realized the boy was upset at something and cried before I arrived. Even though her mother tries to comfort him, he kept turning around and crying.



The park where the event was in progress was filled with people wearing multicolored clothes.



When local girls saw my camera, they posed for pictures.



Thanks to that, I got to take a picture with them too.



Vanuatu, like Fiji, became mostly Christian after the arrival of Westerners. They kept singing Hymn on the stage.



The population was only 310,000, but there were several large hardware stores.



I lost the handle of the tripod in Fiji, so I went to the hardware store and tried to find a replacement screw to use, but the tripod handle was unusual, so none of the products on the market fit. Thankfully, an employee found the right parts among the old parts in the warehouse and trimmed them.



Screws to replace the tripod handle.



Thanks to the local who took quite a long time to make the tripod handle screws



I have been bitten by bed bugs several times in Fiji. In Vanuatu, I was bitten while sitting on a pretty clean office chair. Unlike bed bugs on other continents, I could immediately notice when bitten. They were like a mosquito since the level of itching and swelling were similar.



I stayed in the capital of Vanuatu for quite some time because for the borders of neighboring countries were closed. Afterwards, I heard the news that the borders of neighboring countries would open soon, so I decided to go around Vanuatu by bicycle.

I saw a take away shop next to the supermarket, so I stopped my bike and got food, but I was surprised that the price was so cheap. It was only U$3.

I thought the capital of Vanuatu gave lots of benefit to foreigners but not that good to locals. If the country doesn’t have oil, this kind of free tax or low tax policy turn to huge disadvantage to most locals as foreigners from rich countries come and make everything extraordinary expensive. However, it seems that there were not many economic policies for a small island nation like Vanuatu to choose.

Vanuatu was known for issuing passports after receiving investment. It was said that 30 to 40 percent of the Vanuatu government’s revenue in 2020 came from passports scheme. It cost about U$130,000 to obtain Vanuatu passport, and it was not necessary to actually live in Vanuatu, and it took only 1-2 months. The EU concerned that Vanuatu did not properly check and even they gave passports to those who were on the Interpol list. So in 2022 the EU created a new rule that they don’t give visa exception for the people who get Vanuatu passport after 2015. (The reason for the 2015 standard is that Vanuatu signed a visa-free agreement with the EU in 2015.)



I was sitting at a supermarket eating lunch and seeing locals carrying baguettes in their hands reminded me of French people. In France, too, people carried baguettes by hand rather than putting them in bags.

Although Vanuatu went through a British-French colonial system, the French influence remains much stronger. There are several big supermarkets called Au bon marche in the capital, which stock a lot of French food.

What I felt while traveling to various countries around the world is that once you colonized another country, even if that country becomes independent, it can continue to exert influence on that country and generate income there more than other countries.



Once out of the capital, the roads were very well paved and there were not many cars. Unlike Fiji, which drove on the left due to British colonial influence, here, French influence, drive on the right.



There was a very beautiful beach next to the road, so I took a break. After that, I was about to go out on the road again, but suddenly a local came, stopped me and asked me to pay the entrance fee. He said there was a sign and told me to look at that. In fact, there was a sign, but the admission price was erased. So, it looked suspicious and I tried to ignore it and go out. But the local came out so strongly. When I stopped a passing local car and asked for help, the driver also told that there was an entrance fee here. I thought a driver tried to his side as he was a local, so I quickly rode my bicycle and left while the two were talking.



Soon another beach appeared. Four young female locals were in the car so I asked them. They said that there was an entrance fee for most of beach. It meant the local guy was doing right thing about asking me money before and I was wrong. It was a culture I had never experienced before, so I felt sorry for making a mistake without knowing it.



While crossing the bridge, I saw a place where the water color looked really pretty. There were many wonderful natural environments that can be used for free though.



Rural villages came out often. In the capital, I didn’t exchange much greetings with the locals, but it was nice that everyone greeted me warmly in the countryside.

Later, while passing through a rural village, I saw a strange person. Seeing him wobble, he seemed drunk, so I tried to keep my distance from him, but he suddenly chased me. Fortunately, there were many local around, and everyone laughed as if this sight looked funny, and I just laughed as well and passed it on, but honestly, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.



At sunset, I stopped at a village and saw a house on the side of the road, so I asked the locals if I could pitch my tent. The locals said that it could be dangerous to set up the tent next to the road because of drunk people. They told me to follow them. And even that moment, behind me there was one drunk guy staggering and mumbling “I want sex”.

The place where the local men and children introduced me was the nicest house in the village with the fence, so I felt a little relieved. But late at night, between 2 and 3 am, I heard the sound of bar music from far away and the voices of drunk people, so I was so nervous that I couldn’t sleep deeply and even had nightmares.

The local who guided me to this house said that he doesn’t drink alcohol but only drinks kava. I don’t know why many young locals were addicted to alcohol instead of the traditional drink, kava in Vanuatu. Kava is a local traditional drink that is made by grinding the roots of a pepper-like plant in the South Pacific and has a relaxing effect. Vanuatu kava is of such good quality that Fiji, the neighboring country, even said Vanuaut kava is the best. I wonder how good it would be if locals in Vanuatu only drank kava, a local drink, instead of alcohol.

I’ve seen drunk people a few times in Central Asia, but Vanuatu was the first time I felt threatened by drunk people time to time.

However, there are many drunk people staggering on the streets in my country, South Korea, just like in Vanuatu. Probably my country is the worst country for bad drink culture and even we don’t have Kava to replace it. I just hope one day South Korean realize how horrible drinking culture we are having and try to fix such as banning drinking at the public.

It seemed the Vanuatu government recognized and tried to improve the alcohol problem of the locals. For example, on national holidays, the sale of alcohol in supermarkets was prohibited.



Many resorts were closed due to the pandemic, making it difficult to find restaurants and supermarkets. I thought I could eat the lunch here, but it was a pity that it was closed down.



A beautiful beach stretched out in front of the closed resort.

After that, I got on the road again. At the middle of the island, there were almost no cars and people. When I was riding my bike there, I saw a local man riding a bicycle. I felt like he was following me, so I rode my bike so fast like crazy, pretending cycling fast for fun. But that person also caught up with me at a crazy speed, so I was so scared that my heart was pounding.

Fortunately, the next village appeared and I slowed down, stopped the bike, and pretended to be okay, saying “You’re cycling really well” and smiled, but in reality, I was out of breathe.

After catching my breath for a while, I was riding my bike again, and the man kept cycling next to me, and another little girl also cycled next to me. When we started talking, I realized he was a teenager, only 15 years old. It seemed he had followed me for fun at the empty road, but I was really scared to death when being followed by male on the empty road.



I was really hungry, but luckily I found locals selling something on the street.



The yellow color was a food made from cassava, and it was delicious and chewy as like Korean rice cakes. The fried fish was caught on the same day, so it was fresh and tasted good. There was no supermarket nearby, so I couldn’t buy water. Therefor, I drank 4 coconuts and took a break.



Kindly the locals laid a mat so I could rest really comfortably under the roof, and we were able to take pictures together before leaving.




Afterwards, while I was riding my bicycle on the road, I saw a tourist sign saying there was a cave, so I entered the side road and found the cave at the end of the village. To be honest, I was scared to go into the cave alone, so I quickly checked with the light and came out right away. It seems that before the corona, tourists came and rode a kayak into the cave with a guide.



The official language of Vanuatu is called Bislama, and since it is derived from English, you can understand the meaning at a glance.

No Kilim Mama Totel->No Killing Mom Turtle



Since the island is small, I passed already half of the island. If you ride a road bike without luggage, you could cycle the entire island in one day.



As the day was about to get dark, I asked the local people’s house next to the road if I could pitch my tent, but the local man refused with a serious face. Since I had already seen drunken young guys when I entered the village, I thought it would be dangerous to stay in that house on the side of the road, so I thought it was rather fortunate that I had been rejected.

Afterwards, a local woman walking on the side of the road saw me and asked what’s happening and she felt sorry that they didn’t allow me pitch my tent. She said there was some religious house she could ask for me. We walked down the street talking together. When we got there, the lady asked them for me. But the lady said that house couldn’t give me space to pitch the tent because people came to pray in the next morning.

The lady said sorry about it and asked to stay at her house. She apologized me that her house was on the mountain and had to walk. But it was much better since it was far from the main road and I thanked her for giving me a place to stay. Actually, the trail in the mountains was steep, so she helped by pushing my bike from behind sometimes. I kept saying sorry about my bike but she kept saying sorry about steep trail.




After I set up my tent, she invited me to dinner. It was said that her son hunt a bat that day. I already knew some rural people in Vanuatu ate bats, so I ate it gratefully because it was a treat. But later I found out, it was pigeon meat. I wonder if we misunderstood each other because of the language barrier. Anyway, I was grateful that the local family treated me very kindly.



It was a place where families lived together, and there were simple buildings built with cement, but there were no toilets. The evening before, a local woman gave me a bucket of water and said that I could wash in the forest next. I used Sulu (traditional big thin clothe to cover legs) to cover my body, but I was nervous that someone would see it, so I couldn’t wash properly and my clothes were wet. Anyway, it was nice to be able to wash off the sweat I shed during the day.

The lady said she would go to work early the next morning, so she and I set out on the road together. Before marriage, she worked as a teacher on another island, and after the kids grew up, she started working again. After saying thank you, I got on the road again.



As approaching the capital, the road became steep and the pavement condition was quite bad. In particular, the last section was so steep that I wasn’t sure if I could go there by bicycle. Miraculously, I was able to come down by holding the brakes tightly. I heard traffic accidents often occurred due to too steep slope there. It is a scary section even to drive through. (Above picture is not that steep slope I am talking)

All the restaurants in the city were expensive, so I stopped by a local restaurant before entering the city. I was uncomfortable as several men who looked to be in their 20s walked in and out of the restaurant, confused whether they were drunk or drugged. A man who didn’t seem normal kept trying to say something to me from the window, but I ignored it and just ate. When I finished eating and went out, it seemed that some locals were giving them money, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what the situation was. I ignored them as calmly as possible and quickly got out of there on my bike.



After a trip around the main island of Vanuatu, I took a picture for my memory. I wanted to go to the northern island as well, which is larger than the main island, but has far fewer people. However, after hearing the story of a European woman living in Vanuatu who escaped after being attacked by a local man while camping with her son, I did not want to go on a bicycle tour far away.

Maybe the north island would not have alcohol problem since it was far away, and I thought that maybe it could be safer as everyone knows each other. I always said you never know until you try. However, since my safety is more important than the adventure, I gave up going to the north island because I didn’t want to ride my bike while worrying too much.

I guarantee 90-99% that if you come to Vanuatu for the holiday and only stay at a resort, you can enjoy without any problem. In fact, many foreigners who have lived in Vanuatu for a long time say that they really like Vanuatu. I travel unusual way, so my experience could be different from others.



I’ve been in Vanuatu for almost two months, waiting for borders to open to other neighboring countries. I felt depressed while having Pandemic in Australia last two years. I wanted to go back to my normal life, so I tried CrossFit for the first time in Vanuatu. Originally, I don’t like gyms, but CrossFit was a group exercise, and it pushed my limits, so it was really nice and I felt normal. I also surfed a few times.

I met this charming friendly guy while looking for someone to play chess. He said that his dream was to create a chess association in Vanuatu. Hopefully he make it one day!

I heard that there was a famous French restaurant in Vanuatu that sells bat meat. The owner of the French chef allowed me for taking the video, and this friend helped film.



Although the bat meat was cooked at the French way, the smell was too strong. I’ve traveled the world and eaten all kinds of meat, but this smells beyond imagination. It is said that if you eat it the way the locals eat it, you can’t even try.



I don’t like to leave food behind, and the process of cooking this bat took an incredibly long time. I wanted to leave an expression of gratitude to the chef, so I ate everything. The French chef laughed and asked how I could finish it.

Later I came home and tried to sleep, but the smell of bat meat kept coming up from inside. Even when I woke up the next morning, the smell of bat meat continued to rise. I could eat smelly durian fruit and even I started enjoying it later, but this bat was an incredibly smelly meat that I don’t think I want to try it again.



I saw Summer, Korean girl, whom I had met in Fiji, again in Vanuatu. When I got Covid in Fiji, she texted me every day asking if I was okay and brought me food and medicine. As the schedule in Fiji matched, we also visited the island together.

Summer worked UN in Fiji for over three years, but she applied for UN in Afghanistan because she wanted to work somewhere where she could give more help. I wanted to stop her because I was worried about safety in Afghanistan and even just the regime passed to the Taliban at that time. But since she was serious in what she was doing, I couldn’t stop her but wish her a good luck.

A few months later, Summer received an acceptance letter from UN in Afghanistan. She took a trip to Vanuatu before leaving the South Pacific, so I was able to see her again. She was a really fun friend, but her passion for work was so serious that I admired her. Moreover her family was having hard time economically when she was teenager, but she didn’t blame about her situation and just worked hard to reach her goal. She was such a inspirational person.



There were many sail boats in Vanuatu, and I learnt that Vanuatu was a place where sail boat travelers in the South Pacific stopped. Since they avoid the typhoon season and rough ocean, most of the travel routes and times were similar, so they said that they meet travelers again at their next destination in general.



I even got to know the couple who owned the red boat in the picture and took a look at their boat. It’s well automated, so you don’t have to drive yourself in the middle of the ocean. However, when arriving at the port, there were many ships and obstacles around, so they had to steer manually.

I met sail boat travelers when I was crossing from Central America to South America, and it was nice to see sail boat travelers again. Above all, this time I was able to drive the red sailboat myself, so it was a really fun experience. I thought that I would like to buy a sailboat if I earn a lot of money one day.



A beautiful view of Vanuatu from a distance.

I finally heard good news that Tonga, another country in the South Pacific, was opening its border. I knew the name of Tonga because I had heard it before, but I was hesitant to go there because a volcanic eruption occurred badly a year ago. Searching the Internet news, I couldn’t find any up-to-date information. I found a Tonga accommodation on Google Maps and sent a message, and they said everything was back to normal and I could come. However, the tourism service may be limited due to the covid hit.

To go to Tonga, I had to get a covid rapid test at the hospital. Covid test was free in Vanuatu though. I had to go to Tonga via Fiji. After staying overnight in Fiji, I went back to Fiji airport the next day, but they said they only accept covid test result having within 24 hours. I hurriedly took a taxi to a nearby hospital and returned after receiving a covid negative test again. Still, world travel wasn’t easy due to the pandemic.

To be honest, I never thought I would travel to Tonga, so I was excited. On the other hands, I was worried and wondered that there was really no effect left from the volcanic these days, but my excitement was much greater.



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===Videos about Vanuatu Trip from my YouTube channel===


Vanuatu Bike Tour Vlog



Vanuatu Kava Bar Tour



Trying Vanuatu Bat Meat



Tour Port Vila City Center, the capital of Vanuatu



Vanuatu Independence Day Park Tour

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1 Comment
  1. Thanks for spending so much time writing down your impressions and reflections about Vanuatu! What an excellent way for me to start a Sunday morning with a coffee and reading your blog, feels like being on the road again. I am always impressed on how you can interact with locals and your ability to find and highlight all the hidden treasures, both people and places, of a country. With drunk people, however, such a cycling trip can become bothersome so quickly. I guess its much more difficult to cope with compared to the most difficult and dangerous roads …

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