Uber, schmuber. Behold the buses of Pago Pago ...

Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, is full of custom-built, crazy-colored buses.

I’m not criticizing. I’m just saying, if you were in Pago Pago right now, your daily commute might be more interesting. This video explains why.

As you know, Pago Pago is the capital of American Samoa, a South Pacific island group 4,800 miles southwest of Los Angeles. As you might not know, it’s pronounced pongo pongo — whenever you see a “g” in the Samoan language, a stealthy “n” sound is likely lurking nearby.

Anyway, most people hop on buses to get around Pago Pago and the dozens of other villages on the island of Tutuila. These are privately owned and operated buses, known as aiga buses.

They often begin life as American-made pickups — a Toyota Tundra or Ford F-350, for instance. Then the Samoans get down to adding cabins of wood or fiberglass, thumping sound systems, screaming colors, custom designs and pet names like Titanic, Happy Valley, Island Pearl, Lupelele, Nataliah, Sweet Smile and Badenough.


No L.A. train, bus, taxi or Ubermobile can compare. (Pago Pago does have taxis. So far, there’s no sign of Uber.)

In fact, if you’re a geek for homespun transit design, you’d have to put these buses alongside the art trucks of Pakistan and the tap-tap buses of Haiti.

In months ahead, I’ll be writing (and editing videos) about American Samoa’s people, beaches, bats, crabs and culture. But for now, behold the buses.

“A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens — except you see the world, and hear it, and get a respite from workaday life. We’ve covered Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, the Alamo, an Alaskan float plane and the reading room of the New York Public Library, among other places. Since early 2013, we’ve been adding a new minute every week (and some of those “minutes” are closer to 120 seconds). So if you’d prefer an hour or two away, we’ve got more than enough here for you…


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Twitter: @mrcsreynolds