Tahiti: La France d'outre mer

Trip Start Aug 24, 2005
Trip End Dec 23, 2005

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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ah, the exotic South Pacific of French Polynesia. We were lured by romantic visions of iridescent, reef-protected, mesmerizingly turquoise-blue lagoons saturating beaches of sugary sand under the shadow of rugged and lush mountains, all while lusty maidens serenaded us to sweet sleep surrender... Not quite reality!

Tahiti and the nearby island of Moorea were not as idyllic as we had dreamed. Picture Hawaii (especially the outer islands), but with a heavy dose of French attitude. In spite of what we knew and what we anticipated, it still shocked us to hear French (or French pidgin at least) come from familiar Polynesian faces. As naturally as we had come to expect English in Hawaii, the French seemed foreign in this setting.

But here we were, in the middle of French Polynesia, foreigners ourselves in this new Gaugin twist of the Pacific. We immediately reaquainted ourselves with the satisfying taste of baguettes, fromage and Orangina. We even seized the opportunity to speak a few words en Francais. Like C3PO robotically translating R2D2's electronic beeps, Reza tried to convey Cheryl's wishes, but he was thwarted and rebuffed, too slow for a short patience audience. Fortunately, English is widely spoken.

Rude, curt attitudes, uncomfortably long stares, and widespread line-cutting throughout our short stays in Papeete and the scenic island of Moorea, 30 minutes away by ferry, frequently jolted us from our idyllic South Pacific dream. To add insult to injury, Tahiti is expensive: c'est trop cher! So you pay dearly for this rudeness, and c'est dommage. No romantic over-water bungalow on this trip, nor could we squeeze in an extra trip to Bora-Bora. We had to save something to bring us back and what's more, either luxury would have required us to forsake our European plans. Bottom line: pad your savings accounts before you come to Tahiti, and better yet, consider an overpriced cruise to save you from exorbitant prices on shore. If the food and accomodations don't deplete your savings, the plethora of Tahitian black pearls certainly will!

This whole trip we've encircled Hawaii like a shark, underwhelmed by our tropical destinations in comparison to the 50th state. Hawaii is not in the South Pacific, but luckily for our friends who live there, it offers almost everything we've seen. Sure, the water is cooler, not as protected by near-shore reefs and as turquoise-blue; and you'll find it more difficult to climb mountains while gripping for dear life on the back of an officially licensed "Le Truck", but it can be just as quaint and exotic outside Honolulu, minus all the hustle and hassles south of the equator. People are friendlier, costs are (relatively) cheaper, and a world of conveniences is within easy reach. For those of you allured by romantic visions of the South Pacific, here's our black pearl of wisdom: give the Hawaiian Islands a try first, and if an outer island isn't remote enough, try the Cook Islands next. You'll find less cultural shoals to run you aground. If you're in need of more adventure to drain you sense and sensibility, then head for China!
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