Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, is a charming pot pourie of cultures – blending English, French and Chinese with a rich Melanesian base. On the island of Efate, ‘Vila’ as it is often called, has numerous travel and tour operators for your soft or wild adventure safaris; primitive arts and crafts galleries, kids playgrounds by the sea, string bands performing in open air concerts, markets overfilled with 100% organically grown produce and new age gourmet cuisine cafes serving chilled French wines.
It only takes 30 minutes to walk from one end of Port Vila to the other. But a traveller usually makes a day out of it shopping at the array of Duty Free shops, China town, cafes, arts and crafts and waterfront markets. Iririki Island and the War Memorial look out are favoured by photographers.
The original intention for the establishment of the Capital was an area called Havannah Harbour on the North West Coast of Efate Island. Due to a lack of water the site was moved to Vila Bay. In 1906, Port Vila was declared the seat of government by the Condominium government. It all started as a wild outpost town. By the 1930s Vila had gained some with around a 1,000 Europeans now living in the town. The French and British social calendar at the time was full of cocktail parties, horseraces, club tennis and general frolic. The expatriate population were living a privileged life, in contrast the NiVanuatu people who had a daily curfew at 9pm. Vila boomed when it was declared a Tax Haven in 1970. This encouraged construction, development and investment especially for Vanuatu travel and tourism which has continued to this day.
Visitors to Vanuatu should remember that Port Vila does not reflect the rest of Vanuatu. Ask any NiVanuatu in the street, the majority will tell you they’re from another island. Port Vila is seen by the NiVanuatu people as their Capital City but the cultural and spiritual core of Vanuatu is in each of the islands that make up the archipelago. Vila represents 80% of the economic power of Vanuatu with 20% of the population. The other islands represent 20% of the economic power of Vanuatu with 80% of the population.
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