Fiji and Vanuatu

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The South Pacific is a wonderful place filled with beautiful islands and friendly people although getting around can be tough. For me, the best place is Fiji. The name Fiji alone sounds tropical and almost made up. The islands are beautiful and the country is easy to manage. Some might say it is too touristy and built up but you know what-if a lot of tourists go someplace it’s probably pretty good! Besides we’re not talking Cancun here in terms of numbers of tourists, we’re simply talking more than say…Tuvalu! Make of it what you like but there’s no debating that Fiji is pretty awesome. It’s easy; it has something for everyone, good restaurants, great scenery and the best sunsets I have ever seen. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it and learn the word “Bula” because you’ll be saying it a lot.

This was my second trip to Fiji. The first was seven years ago in late April, early May 2003. I can say without a doubt it was one of the best times of my life at the end of the best trip of my life of several months in Australia and New Zealand with my buddy Jake. That time in Fiji we split up the time between the Sheraton Denarau Island resorts and Beachcomber Island and this time I did the exact same thing.

This time I was in Fiji three different times over about two weeks as Nadi is the biggest hub in the Pacific for flights to the smaller islands. The first time, I was in Fiji 4 nights and stayed at the Westin, which was previously a Sheraton in 2003 but had been remodeled and renamed. It was heavenly and I’m not talking about their famous heavenly beds. It was my first stop after my nightmarish trip to Tokelau so I was thrilled to be able to chill and relax in comfort and do absolutely nothing.

I did manage to leave the resort a few times to go into town to catch games 6 and 7 of the Lakers/Celtics series which made me happy of course that the Lakers won. That was in Port Denarau which is a new shopping development featuring, among other things a Hard Rock Café, where I convinced the manager to take music videos off the TV and put the game on. It was a big success because soon the bar was packed with people watching the game and drinking Fiji Bitter beer. I also went into Nadi town twice for dinner at the Indian place and the Japanese teppanyaki place. I can’t remember the names but there is only one of each so you can’t miss it.
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The second time I was in Fiji this trip was for only one night and I stayed one night at the Sheraton. Again, I kind of relaxed and chilled out after a long few days in the Solomon’s plus the through the night flights via Nauru and Kiribati which featured three stops and about 12 hours. I highly recommend the buffet breakfast at the Sheraton. I never normally eat at the hotel but this spread was worth it and luckily was included with the room so I didn’t have to pay the extortionate prices.

The third time was for two nights at the Beachcomber Island resort (below). This place is truly awesome and gorgeous. It is a small little islet that you can literally walk around in about 8 minutes. I have written about it on this site before so I won’t spend too much time but it is great for anyone to experience the party island of the Pacific.
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My lesson learned from this trip as opposed to 7 years ago is I am a lot less tolerant of late night drunken hijinx by 20 year old Brits and Aussies on gap year as the accommodation is shared, hostel style. In fact, the dorms have over 100 people in the same room! My second night, I was quite ill and got seriously annoyed at people unable to be quiet but I knew what it was like so it is my fault.

I did manage to meet some really cool people on Beachcomber including three British guys; Nick, Joe and Bav who I will be seeing in New York in a few weeks as they stop by on their around the world trip-if they make it out of Beachcomber alive that is and all the crazy Aussies!

The food on Beachcomber is very good and the prices are very reasonable with three meals included in your accommodation. It is about a 30 minute boat ride from the main island of Viti Levu and another 20 minutes to the airport in Nadi. If you don’t mind some loud noise and some hijinx then give Beachcomber a shot and if you don’t want to stay in dorms, they have nice private bungalows. If I ever go back-that is definitely what I will do.

By the time I left, I was so tired and dehydrated that all I wanted was a private room with a comfortable bed which I finally got when I got here to Vanuatu. I was sad to leave Fiji but it’s a place I will definitely be back to either as a destination itself or as a stopover for a few days en route to another island.

Vanuatu

I will be perfectly frank. I am very disappointed in the way my Vanuatu portion of this trip ended up. First, I was originally supposed to have 5 days here when I was originally planning this trip but an error with the damn International date line cost me the time as I had to completely re-route the whole second half of this trip. So I ended up with two days and would be unable to visit the other islands besides Efate where the capital, Port Vila is.

As it turns out the day I arrive in a massive rainstorm, I am sick as hell and just go to bed at the Hotel Olympic in town. I literally slept from noon on arrival until about 8pm, got some Vietnamese for dinner-just soup, to see if I could hold it down. I then went back to bed at about 9pm and slept until 8am this morning. I was annoyed because I slept through the US World Cup match but relieved because I would have gotten pissed anyway when they lost.

So I went out exploring Port Vila today in the rain, which sucked. The rain was constant and annoying. The other thing was it is Sunday so many things were closed. The harbor was still nice and I can see why everyone says Port Vila is the nicest city in the Pacific but I didn’t get that good a feel for the place. I eventually hope to make it back here to see it under better circumstances and better weather.
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The rain broke briefly so I did manage to have brekkie/lunch today at Nambawan Café and Juice Bar (above) which is a Port Vila institution with amazing smoothies. I had the coconut banana pineapple one and it was excellent. They also had decent pizzas which I tried to force down. While it didn’t stay down too long, I feel a lot better today than I have so hopefully it’s a good sign and I will be better moving forward for Wallis and New Caledonia because the French colonies, as you’d imagine, are supposed to have amazing food. We shall see.

So I am spending my last few hours on Vanuatu hiding from the rain and relaxing. I am hoping the place I stay in by the airport tonight in New Caledonia has a TV so I can catch the England/Germany match. I am really torn in that one because I want both teams to lose but I cannot possibly cheer for the Germans in any sport. Plus, it would be more fun if England got a little further but then got their hearts ripped out so the whole nation could go into mourning and continue talking about 1966 like it was yesterday! I joke because I love the Brits but their World Cup team has been talked up so much but they don’t play as a team. That’s why they will not win versus a team like Germany (although injuries may hurt them) or certainly not Argentina or one of the South American teams that play together a lot.

The wireless connection here in Vanuatu is awful so uploading pictures take forever, which is why there’s only a few.

Comments

  1. Beachcomber is amazing!

  2. It’s a pity that Vanuatu has disappointed you.
    I haven’t travelled to so many countries as you have. But Vanuatu is my absolute number 1!
    The people are so modest and genuine friendly … not pushy at all!
    I don’t know another place on earth where you can get so close to an active volcano as on Tanna Island with it’s Yasur volcano…
    Millennium Cave walk on Espiritu Santo … superb day walk …
    I’m not a diver … but diving the President Coolidge wreck seems to be THE best!
    Pentecost Nagol, the land diving on Pentecost Island …
    You certainly have to go back to convince yourself of the contrary of your first experience !!!
    I would try some of the less explored islands too, to get a real insight in the local culture!
    Heidi – Belgium

  3. Port Vila is the worst place I have ever been in my life. My family took a cab ride to the turtle sanctuary and then drove around for approx. 3 hours. In this time we saw hundreds of locals, not one smiled. The local population look very tired and depressed… The only smile we got was from our taxi driver who ripped us off! I’m sure there are genuine lovely people and awesome holiday areas, but I won’t be trying them any time soon.

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