Tuesday, 8 May 2018

MICRONESIA: Yap Islands, Showing Female Thighs Is Considered Vulgar And Immodest. No Shorts Except At Beaches.

Yap International Airport

Yap is one of the four Federated States of Micronesia.

Yap is comprised of the main island atoll of Yap with Maap and Gagil connected by road and Rumung, commonly referred to as The Forbidden Island, is accessible by boat but still within the reef.

Outside the reef, Yap extends towards Chuuk and has many outer islands and atolls; some of which are accessible by plane.

Yap or Wa′ab traditionally refers to an island located in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, a part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The name Yap in recent years has come to also refer to the state within the Federated States of Micronesia, inclusive of the Yap Main Islands and its various outer islands.

The Yap Main Islands are considered to be made up of four separate islands: Yap Island proper or Marbaq, Gagil-Tamil, Maap, and Rumung.

The four are contiguous, though separated by water, and are surrounded by a common coral reef. They are formed from an uplift of the Philippine Sea Plate, and are referred to as high islands as opposed to atolls.

The land is mostly rolling hills, densely vegetated. Mangrove swamps line much of the shore, although there are beaches on the northern sides of the islands.
Excluding the reef area, Yap is approximately 24 km long, 5–10 km wide, and 98 km2. The highest elevation is 178 meters/584 feet at Mount Taabiywol in Fanif municipality on Yap island proper.

The Yapese people's indigenous cultures and traditions are strong compared to other states in Micronesia.

Colonia is the capital of the State of Yap which includes the Yap Main Islands and the Yap Neighboring Islands—the outer islands mostly atolls reaching to the east and south from the Yap Main Islands for some 800 km (500 mi).

Thease are the atolls of Eauripik, Elato, Faraulep, Gaferut, Ifalik, Lamotrek, Ngulu, Olimarao, Piagailoe (West Fayu), Pikelot, Sorol, Ulithi, and Woleai, as well as the islands of Fais and Satawal.

Historically, a tributary system existed between the Neighboring Islands and the Yap Main Islands. This probably related to the need for goods from the high islands, including food, as well as wood for construction of seagoing vessels.

In 2000 the population of Colonia and ten other municipalities totalled 11,241. The state has a total land area of 102 km2 (39 sq mi).

The island is famous for its stone money, which is rather large and cannot easily be moved.

The island was opened for tourism in 1989 and has seen a good amount of tourists visiting, especially for the scuba diving and to catch a glimpse of the traditional Micronesian island culture.

Skin Diver Magazine has called Yap the most interesting island in Micronesia and gives Yap the honor of being one of the magazine's top 3 dive sites.

Yap is known for its stone money, known as Rai, or Fei,: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of usually calcite, up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter most are much smaller.
The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter.Many of them were brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most came in ancient times from Palau.

Their value is based on both the stone's size and its history. Historically the Yapese valued the disks because the material looks like quartz, and these were the shiniest objects available.

Eventually the stones became legal tender and were even mandatory in some payments.

The value of the stones was kept high due to the difficulty and hazards involved in obtaining them. To quarry the stones, Yapese adventurers had to sail to distant islands and deal with local inhabitants who were sometimes hostile.

Once quarried, the disks had to be transported back to Yap on rafts towed behind sail-driven canoes. The scarcity of the disks, and the effort and peril required to get them, made them valuable to the Yapese.

In 1874, an enterprising Irish American sea captain named David O'Keefe hit upon the idea of employing the Yapese to import more money in the form of shiploads of large stones, also from Palau.

O'Keefe then traded these stones with the Yapese for other commodities such as sea cucumbers and copra. The 1954 movie His Majesty O'Keefe cast Burt Lancaster in the captain's role.

Although some of the O'Keefe stones are larger than the canoe-transported stones, they are less valuable than the earlier stones due to the comparative ease with which they were obtained.

As no more disks are being produced or imported, this money supply is fixed. The islanders know who owns which piece but do not necessarily move them when ownership changes.

Their size and weight - the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry, make them very difficult to move around.

Although today the United States dollar is the currency used for everyday transactions in Yap, the stone disks are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange.

The stone disks may change ownership during marriages, transfers of land title, or as compensation for damages suffered by an aggrieved party.

There are four other types of currency on the Island. First there is Mmbul which is a length of lava-lava, the cloth used for loincloths, three or four feet long and two feet wide, wrapped up in a Betel nut sheath.

Then there is Gau or Gaw, a necklace of shells, up to 10 feet in length. The shells come from Canet, an island near Ponape, from Ponape itself and from Euripik.

Since these come from a distance, Gau is worth more than Mmbul. Yar is money made of large shells about eight inches wide, pierced and tied on a coconut rope.

Finally, Reng is the name of money made of turmeric, which is ground and mixed with water and the paste shaped into a ball, typically used for tribal ceremonies.

The state of Yap consists of 134 islands and atolls. Twenty two of these are populated, stretching across an excess of 100,000 square miles in total area.

Yap's main island is made up of four high volcanic islands, accounting for 38 of Yap’s approximate total 50 square miles of land area.

The main island of Yap is where the state capital and commercial center, Colonia, is located. Most of the outer islands stretching approximately 600 miles east of Yap Island are coral atolls.

These atolls are sparsely populated by people different from the Yapese in both culture and language.

The US dollar is the official currency in Yap, and Micronesia.

There are three types of traditional buildings on Yap. The tibnaw is a family house and has a roof made of woven thatch of dried palm fronds.

Inside, there is one open room with no lavatory. Kitchens are separate structures - t'ang outside the family houses.

The faluw is the men's house; such buildings were built on the shoreline with easy access to the sea. Prior to World War I, women had been kidnapped and taken to the faluw. Today this practice no longer occurs.

Women considered it an honor to be chosen for the faluw, because only the most beautiful women would be taken there.
Such a woman was called the mispil or resident female of the faluw. As the island's culture was more and more influenced by the rest of the world's views on prostitution, this practice ended.

Largest of the three types is the p'ebay, a place for the community to come together for school, dances or meetings. As with all structures on Yap, it is necessary to obtain permission before entering.

There are a few men's houses that women are allowed to enter, however people must always ask for permission.

The Yapese language belongs to the Austronesian languages, more specifically to the Oceanic languages.

Yap was initially settled by ancient migrants from the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

The people of the Neighboring Islands are descendants of Polynesian settlers,and as such have significant ethnic dissimilarities from the people of the Yap Main Islands.

Their culture and languages - Ulithian and Woleaian are closely related to those of the outer islands of Chuuk. English as used as a common language.

The Yapese and Neighboring Island Yapese were some of the most renowned navigators in the Pacific.

Yapese sailors traveled phenomenal distances in outrigger canoes, without the aid of a compass, navigating by the stars and the patterns of ocean waves using techniques of Micronesian and Polynesian navigation.

During pre-colonial times, the people of Yap established an island empire and dominion over what are now the Neighboring Islands of Yap State.

Beginning in the 19th century, Yap was colonized by the Spanish, Germans, and Japanese in succession.

The double-hulled voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu, gifted by the Polynesian Voyaging Society to master navigator Mau Piailug, is home-ported on the island of Yap under the command of Piailug's son, Sesario Sewralur.

Yapese society is based on a highly complex caste system involving at least seven tiers of rank.

Historically, the caste rank of an entire village could rise or fall in comparison to other villages depending on how it fared in inter-village conflicts.

Winning villages would rise in rank as a part of a peace settlement, while losing villages would have to accept a decline in comparative rank. In many cases lower ranked villages were required to pay tribute to higher ranked villages.

Further, dietary taboos might be imposed on lower ranking villages, i.e., they might be prohibited from harvesting and eating the more desirable fish and animals of the sea.

Within each village each family had its own rank comparative to the others.

Until the arrival of the German colonizers, the caste ranking system was fluid and the ranks of villages and families changed in response to inter-village intrigues and confrontations.

In the early 20th century, however, the German colonial administration pacified Yap and enforced a prohibition against violent conflict.

The caste ranking of each village in modern Yap thus remains the same as it was when the system was frozen in place by the Germans.

The freeze left the villages of Ngolog, Teb, and Gachpar in the modern-day municipalities of Rull, Tamil, and Gagil respectively, as the highest ranking.

Yap has a relatively small tourism industry, with the Yap Visitors Bureau reporting only 4,000 annuals visitors since 2010.

China's Exhibition & Travel Group (ETG) has announced plans to develop a 4,000-unit resort on the island.

Standard 110 volt and the same US type outlets are used on Yap.

Yap shares the same time zone (GMT + 10) as Sydney, Australia, and is one hour ahead of Tokyo, Japan.

Holidays on Yap Islands

Yap Day - Observed in first week of March Annually.

FSM Constitution Day – May 10

UN Day – October 24

FSM Independence Day – November 3

Yap State Constitution Day – December 24

Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian and Satawalese are the island's official languages, all of which are indigenous, but English is also spoken by many of the locals and travelers will have no problem getting by knowing little if any of the indigenous languages.

Many of the elderly Yapese people are fluent in the Japanese language as well.

Yap International Airport receives service from United Airlines.

Visas are not required for tourists staying 30 days or fewer. Travelers must have a valid passport and/or documentation of citizenship.

All visitors to Yap must have an onward or return ticket. Entry authorization for stays greater than 30 days must be obtained in advance from Immigration and Labor, FSM National Government, Kolonia, Pohnpei, FSM 96941.

United Airlines offers flights to Yap a few times a week from Guam and Palau. Certain Palau flights continue on to Manila.

Taxis cost $1 to $1.25 each way to go anywhere in Colonia. It's generally best to call for one rather than try to flag one down, as they are typically unmarked.

While there are a few taxi companies to choose from, the cheapest appears to be the one run by Outer Islanders.

Travelers are also free to use the public bus system in Colonia to get around.

These buses are often used to transport students and government workers and run between Colonia and the outer villages in early mornings and evenings.

Car rentals are available from companies such as 7D and Pacific Bus Company, both located nearby the Manta Ray Bay Resort.

Japanese right-hand drive cars are generally cheaper, with typical low-end prices ranging from $22 to $33 per day.

Most hotels provide transportation to and from the airport free of charge.

From Yap, visitors may charter a boat or take the government ferry to the Outer Islands. PMA Pacific also provides flights from Yap to Ulithi Atoll.

There are quite a few villages and places to learn about the unique island life. As always, you should ask permission before wandering about.

An alternative is the Yap Living History Museum, a display village in Colonia where you can see traditional houses and stone money.

Beaches are relatively few on Yap, and since they are all privately owned, you should always ask permission to use the beaches.

The beach at the Village View Hotel is a popular picnic spot among the locals, as it has several pavilions with picnic tables.

While reasonably picturesque but if only at high tide, swimming is not suggested, since the area near the beach is more muddy than sandy.

Once you wade out far enough, snorkeling will reveal a few lonely outcroppings of coral with attached marine life, but it's nothing compared to the reef.

The outer reefs around Yap are full of aquatic life not just mantas, and they attract divers from all corners of the globe.

Inquire about ship rides, private planes or for the more adventurous might consider looking into sailing on a tradition canoe.

Snorkel on the reef. The coral, fish, and even the giant clam species are similar to Palau, except that they are virtually untouched and unspoiled. And, if you go to the right spots, you can see manta rays or stingrays.

The tidal currents in Yap are extremely strong, and at certain times of the day you cannot hope to swim against it. Therefore, do not attempt to go out yourself.

Hire a boat, let the current take you where it wants, and wait for the captain to pick you up on the other side.

Surf the island's legendary waves.

Take a cultural tour and check out the local island life.

Visit the Traditional Navigation Society and take a ride in a traditional outrigger canoe.

Fresh fish, including wahoo, yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, snapper, grouper, and various reef fish, all for less than $2 per pound. It's best to call and ask about availability.

Yap Fishing Authority and Quality Catch are good places to start. If you ask nicely, they'll even clean the fish and sashimi it for you.

Yap offers few restaurants, with most found in the Colonia area. In Colonia, you can choose between; O'Keefe's $5.00 lunch specials include tea, rice, cabbage salad, soup and meat, MNUW, The schooner behind the Manta Ray resort.

Relatively pricey, but if you eat on Wednesday or Friday night, you may catch a movie.

Ganir - Filipino food with a raised veranda style dining area, ESA - a variety of options priced very well and Trader's Ridge with more great food and still reasonable.

Outside of the Colonia area you may find other eating options scattered. Grocery stores and convenience stores may also sell prepared food in takeaway containers in the morning and/or around lunchtime.

7D pool open every Friday night up to saturday morning. A kind of beer garden with a dancing stage animated with live music and 5 pool tables where locals hang out.

The Pine Bar and Grill is a brand new bar on the banks of Chamorro Bay. Its neon lights look somewhat out of place in Yap.

Manta Ray Bay Hotel. One of the larger hotels on Yap. Here you can make arrangements to scuba dive, and view the Manta Rays that the waters around the island are famous for.

Yap Pacific Dive Resort. The hotel is on the site of the original pre-war Japanese command post. Good service, nice outside area with swimming pool and restaurant.

ESA Bayview Hotel, A family owned and operated hotel located just outside downtown Colonia. Two scuba/snorkeling operators are located directly next door, to the right of the lobby entrance Beyond the Reef, and Nature's Way.

O'Keefe's Waterfront Inn. A very private and stylish guest house, right on Yap's waterfront.

Pathways Hotel. A more traditional design hotel with 9 local style cottages and full service restaurant.
Village View Resort, Wacholab, Maap, 30 Minutes North of Colonia.

Yap's only beach-front resort with a full restaurant, bar, and diveshop. Free pickup/dropoff to airport. Rooms have 110V, AC, mini-fridge, hot water. Rates start at $65/night for single occupancy; $75/night for double; $85/night triple. $65+.

Yap practises a rigid caste system creating an additional element of control over would be trouble makers.

So, as long as you are culturally sensitive and respectful, you will be able to experience an entire cultural immersion.

Do not wear shorts in public, except at beaches or swimming areas - showing female thighs is considered vulgar and immodest.

Public toplessness remains an accepted practice, though generally limited to ceremonial events and/or the older generation.

From Yap you can make the journey by boat or plane to Palau, Guam, or the Outer Islands of Yap.

If leaving by plane, note that there is a $20 airport facilities fee payable in cash upon departure.



Tourism Observer
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