Best Time to Visit French Polynesia
Exotic French Polynesia Places to Visit
Best Time to Visit French Polynesia. French Polynesian culture has been around since 2000 BC; it is one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world today. French Polynesia is made up of 130 islands, although more than half the population lives on Tahiti. The largest city is Papeete, which is also the capital city.
The official language of the territory is French, it is the language used in all schools and is spoken widely on Tahiti. Ironically, however, Tahitian is an official regional language of the Society Islands and is the language that most people speak when at home, although not on Tahiti. English is not a common language, although it is understood in tourist areas.
When the missionaries arrived in Polynesia in the late 18th century, they did all they could to eradicate all the traditional Polynesian culture by destroying temples and carvings and banning tattoos as well as their heady erotic dancing. As a result of Tahitians no longer worship their old gods. But as some of their traditional ways managed to survive, these still have an influence on their lives.
Recently there has been an increased interest in the old ways and there is a strong movement towards rediscovering traditional arts. Traditional musical instruments are coming back, such as the pahu and toere drums, as well as the nose flute called the vivo. With the influx of foreigners into Polynesia came guitars and ukuleles, which were incorporated into the Polynesian sound to form a distinctive South Pacific island groove. Customary dancing (tamure) is also making its way back into French Polynesian life.
Tahitian families have traditionally been large, with extended families sharing a home. These days some couples may still live with either spouse’s parents after marriage, but only for a while until they find their feet. The trend towards nuclear families is increasing as their contact with western culture increases. Family ties remain very strong, however, and children are highly valued. Grandparents play a pivotal role in the rearing of their grandchildren, as do sets of adoptive parents, known as faamu. Read also: Bora Bora Tropical
As with most older cultures, marriage partners were chosen by the family and not by the prospective couple. Today, however, young people have more freedom to choose who they want to marry. Marriages are still celebrated with great feasts and festivities.
French Polynesia has a very laid back and casual approach to life, and this is most easily observed in their manner of dress. Dress standards are relaxed in classy restaurants and if you decide on beachwear; you need only bother with the waist down. A church is another matter and should be attended in your very best clothes, no beach wear (even with the tops) allowed.
The islands have a unique culinary style that combines old South Pacific cooking methods with French gastronomy with Italian and Chinese influences. The old traditional pit ovens, called ahimaa, are still used to cook food all around the Pacific. This involves a hole in the ground, stones placed in it and a fire lit to heat the stones. The food wrapped in banana leaves is placed on top and the hole is filled in with earth. It is baked for several hours.
A favorite dessert is baked banana or papaya puree, covered with sugar and coconut milk and served hot. Coconut milk is versatile and can be used in savory dishes as well, like chicken casseroles. Fish is a popular dish and is often marinated before being grilled or baked. It is considered impolite for a guest to refuse an offer of food, it is best to leave some food on your plate if you have had enough as this reassures the host that you have been well fed and ensures that no further helpings are served.
Tattooing has been a part of French Polynesian culture from the very start and has great aesthetic appeal. Both men and women are decorated with elaborate designs although it is considered socially more important that men be tattooed than women. Tattoo artists held a high rank in Polynesian society.
Their instruments were combs with sharp teeth made of bone or tortoiseshell that were attached to a handle. The comb was placed on the skin and forced in with a little mallet. The ink or dye was made from an oily fruit, which was placed on skewers and then burnt soot. The soot was then diluted with water and was ready for coloring purposes.
Facial designs were restricted to large areas of pigmentation, while on the rest of the body designs were grouped according to motifs. Human shapes were the most common motifs, especially eyes, arms, and legs. According to some discoveries made in the Tuamotus, only a few atolls had men that were completely tattooed. Women were typically tattooed with simple lines on their arms and legs only. Each island had its own distinguishing patterns that determined kinship.
The desire for cultural identity has risen among the Polynesian youth of today and more and more are having themselves tattooed in the traditional manner. The art has been revived and practiced for several years and is especially popular during July festivities.
The best time to visit is between June and October when the weather is relatively dry and cool. The prime attraction at this time of the year is the month-long Heiva I Tahiti festival in July. The festival features music, dancing, sporting events as well as arts and crafts displays. It is no exaggeration to compare it to Carnaval in Brazil; it has that attraction for people and that kind of party atmosphere. Another highlight is Bastille Day on the 14th of July, which is well celebrated and falls in the middle of the festival.
Another exceptionally popular event that brings all other activities on French Polynesia to a halt is the Hawaiki Nui canoe race that takes place in early November. It is a three-day, four islands, 116km event, in which 60 six-man teams from all over the territory and abroad compete against each other.
Day one is a 44.5km open ocean race from Huahine Island to Raiatea. Day two is a 20km sprint within the lagoon between Raiatea and Tahaa. Day three is a giant killer 53km open ocean crossing to Bora Bora. Drummers beat rhythmically to welcome them home, supporters cheer and TV camera crews wade into the ocean to get world-class footage to broadcast across the territory on the news. No team from abroad has ever succeeded in making it into the top 10.
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