Still reeling from the effects of a long journey from Europe, we decide to pay a visit to the National Museum of Belau as an introduction to Palau. A pleasant walk through a quiet neighbourhood takes us to the oldest museum of the Micronesian region (established in 1955), and even before entering, our eyes are drawn to a replica of a bai, a traditional men's meeting house. Before we can even get close, a local tending the garden of the museum approaches us and we have an interesting conversation about Palau with this proud resident. We see a limestone sculpture depicting a dugong just outside the museum. We explore the museum, once the Chinese tour groups are gone, we have the museum virtually to ourselves. Life-size canoes hanging from the ceiling and some large wooden carvings provide a framework for learning more about Palau. The only thing we know about the country comes from our guidebook, and the museum turns out to be a great introduction to the country and the Micronesian region.
On the upper floor, separate sections teach us about the influence under the Spanish, German, Japanese, and American occupation; each one had a different approach to ruling Palau. There are old black and white pictures of Koror, old coins, stamps; there are books with colourful covers depicting typical Palauan scenes, there is background information on the history and culture, also about the carving of stone money in Palau by the Yapese. There are drawings of Palauans by Spanish visitors in the early 19th century, and replicas of villages. Apart from that, there are also artefacts from other parts of the region: love sticks from Chuuk, richly carved wooden cupboards, small canoes, pots, and more. The museum has a perfect size: not overwhelming, but big enough to present a good idea of the country.
Then, there is a section about the fauna of the region, with animals like salt water crocodiles and the rare dugong, birds, and fish. We cannot wait to explore the country now, and start by having a closer look at the bai we have seen before. Bais are men's meeting houses, long wooden structures on a platform, with richly decorated front and back sides. Inside the bai, we see a fireplace, which was used to keep mosquitoes away. The beams inside are all painted as well, and the corners have paintings of cocks, while the beam above the entrance has a black fruit bat depicted. Close to the bai, we find several objects from the Second World War period, which saw fierce fighting in Palau between the Japanese and Americans. Guns, aircraft parts, and artillery lie scattered on the floor, while nearby we find a Peace Memorial, erected for those who died during the war in the Pacific - even in this remote, peaceful corner of the world, war once raged, but this fortunately is history now. We are ready to plan our visit to Palau and see its natural and cultural beauty.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Belau National Museum (Palau). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Belau National Museum. Read more about this site.