Big Money in Yap Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of a group of four tiny island nations that are spread out over 2,500 kilometres of Pacific Ocean.

Some of these places are so remote and so small that they barely appear as a dot on a map, yet don’t let their apparent insignificance dissuade you from planning a visit.

Of the four small nations, the country of Yap has probably the most interesting history. Particularly because it is the only state in Micronesia that can boast that it once ruled an empire.

Admittedly the Yap Empire wasn’t on par with Ancient Rome, but they did exert much influence over neighbours because they had a good financial system which was based on stone money.

Yes, although Yap is one of the least populated countries in the world, with about 11,000 permanent residents, they use the world’s largest coins.

These coins are made out of stone, and, as with most places, the larger the coin, the more value it has. The largest Yap coins are a massive 4 metres in diameter and need up to 20 people to carry them.

The smallest coins are only 3.5 centimetres in diameter, but are still a substantial size for a coin. Although the US Dollar is legal tender, the stone coins are also still used, although the larger coins don’t get exchanged much.

For centuries the people of Yap have traded with other island nations, including travelling as far as Papua New Guinea in canoes laden with stone coins. These voyages necessitated remarkable feats of seamanship as a simple voyage to Palau, one of their nearest neighbours, still entailed a voyage of five days in good weather.

The island of Yap actually consists of four islands that are joined by a common coral reef, and one of the main attractions is the diving. Of particular interest if the opportunity to dive with manta rays, and it is one of the few places in the world where this is a regular occurrence.

The people live a very traditional lifestyle which is based around a tribal caste system. Although visitors are made very welcome on Yap, they do request that visitors respect their way of life, which includes the wearing of their traditional garb, meaning grass skirts for the women and a type of loin cloth for the men.

Yap is difficult to visit because there are only limited flights to the island, but the effort is well worth it, providing you don’t mind basic facilities and a way of life that is very laid back.

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