Take a tropical 'staycation': No need to slather on sunscreen

Going Topical column in the May 5, 2014, issue of Coin World
Published : 04/21/14
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For most of us a day trip or “staycation” to an exotic island resort is impossible, unless you happen to collect world coins. 

Those coins that showcase the unique beauty of these tropical lands make it possible to vacation any time, and still sleep in your own bed at night.

The travel industry often surveys singles, couples and families about their favorite and intended island destinations. The nations whose coins are described here regularly show up in the top 10 survey slots. 

French Polynesia is a favorite. The best known island in this South Pacific chain is Tahiti, thanks to Fletcher Christian, Paul Gauguin, and black pearls. The universally appealing landscape on the 100-franc coin has always been a view of the mountainous volcanic Tahiti. Palm trees frame the sailing canoes called va’a and the over-the-water bungalows built on stilts.

The South Pacific includes Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, of which Vanuatu is a part. The inviting landscape depicted on that nation’s 20-vatu coin is that of palm trees and a giant coconut crab, the world’s largest arthropod at 9 pounds. 

The coconut crab is a land dweller that eats fruits and nuts, is easy to catch, and tastes delicious. The last two attributes have made it endangered. Tourists and locals are now encouraged not to eat this delicacy. 

Unlike coconut crabs, no shortage exists of the Polynesian staple called breadfruit. Breadfruit trees supply shade, wood and food to people in the New Zealand territory called Tokelau. So important is this fruit, the island put a highly engraved close-up of a breadfruit tree on their 1-tala coin.

When cooked, the ripe breadfruit tastes like freshly baked bread, but the texture is more like sticky boiled potatoes. If cooked with sweet coconut milk, breadfruit becomes a dessert.

Banana trees like the one on the Samoan 50-sene coin are technically not trees but very large plants. Their fruit is the world’s third most popular (after tomatoes and mangoes). 

An island staple food is a simple banana pudding called Samoan poi. It is made by blending ripe bananas with cold coconut milk, and then adding a little vanilla, lemon zest and sugar to taste.

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