May 23, 2013

What Everybody's Buying in Fiji: Masi Tapa Cloth

Where: Fiji
May 22, 2013 at 10:30 AM | by jetflyboy | 

Welcome to "What Everyone's Buying," a new series on souvenirs, wherein we investigate what tourist trinkets are the hottest selling in hotspots around the world.

After a few days, or even a week, on any of the islands of Fiji tourists leave with stellar suntans and big smiles on their faces from saying "bula!" all over the island. But the souvenir that your friends and family really want is the traditional masi, or tapa cloth seen all around Fiji.

You may remember our original feature on the masi, from when we headed to the islands for the unveiling of Fiji Airways and their new airplane livery—it's a traditional pattern painted all around the airline's new Airbus A330.

Back to souvenir size, the tapa cloth is made from mulberry tree bark which, after being peeled in long strips from the tree, is scraped away from the inner fibers and then dried, soaked and pounded until they become wide and very flexible. Then the strips are felted together to create a cloth ready to be adorned with home-made dyes hued from red-clay, burned nuts and bark. The pattern is created from a wood carving which is painted and then stamped on the tapa.

Where to buy: We wouldn't normally send you to a tourist shop, but the best place to score some cool masi is at Jack's of Fiji. The gift shops can be found from the airport to any of the major hotels and the popular tourist areas. We found they had the best selection, but if you wanted a bit more distinctive pattern you may want to check out the local markets since each island has their own unique design.

Prices depend on the size and a pretty affordable even in the tourist shops; for a piece about 24 inches square, we paid about $9 USD. Not a bad price for some handmade, one-of-a-kind souvenir.

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