The second most populous state in Palau is Airai, which is located on the south coast of the Babeldaob Island. It is where the country’s main airport, the Roman Tmetuchi International Airport, is situated, and it’s connected to Koror Island by the Koror-Babeldaob Bridge.
The state itself has a population of 2,455 people, according to the 2015 census, which is the second largest population in the entire country. The town of Airai is the largest in Palau, outside of the state of Koror. Airai has a long and vibrant history, with the oldest Bai (men’s meeting house) dating back 200 years ago. There is a lot of ancient Palauan architecture to see, however the vast rains of Palau have affected it over the years.
You can visit a lot of the ancient areas of culture by taking an Airai Cultural Tour, which will allow you to see the Airai Bai (men’s meeting house of Airai), as well as the Chades er a Mechorei, which is a site that holds a lot of significance for the people in the village of Airai.
The Airai Bai was originally built in the year 1890, however in the 1970s a major restoration of the meeting house was undertaken. The building is located in the center of the village, on a platform made from stone that had held previous bais in the years before. The front and interior beams of the building are decorated with traditional Palauan legends, and the site and building have been a long standing centerpiece of the community.
The Chades er a Mechorei is one of the most significant pieces of Palauan heritage and Palauan’s are very proud of it, as it demonstrates the skills and the perseverance of historic Palauan’s, due to it being made with sophisticated architectural techniques which were very difficult to do without using today’s technology. The Chades er a Mechorei was also used in the olden days to mark the boundary of jurisdiction between the Reklai and Ibedul, who were two of the most powerful chiefs in Palau. The northern side was controlled by Reklai, while the southern side was controlled by Ibedul. Once the line was crossed, anybody looking to escape from Koror (which was under Ibedul’s control) would become untouchable, as they were now under the jurisdiction of Reklai. Likewise, the opposite was also true if somebody was looking to scape Reklai’s jurisdiction.
While on an Airai Cultural Tour you may be lucky enough to visit the canoe sheds, called Diangel, which were used as the main method of transport in previous years. Back when the village was still young, the houses were spread around the Bai, which is normally located close by to the ocean, hence the need for canoes.
Airai has a lot to offer in terms of historic architecture and culture, which can be seen in full through taking a cultural tour of Airai. If you’re in the state it’s certainly worth going on a tour to see the beauty of the villages and historic buildings.