Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
18Trip End Apr 02, 2014
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Over the last two weeks, we have spent time in small towns (less than 10,000 people), tiny villages (with a population of well less than 1,000), and even the largest city in the South Pacific (Suva, which has a population of about 165,000). And nowhere did we fell unsafe. In fact, I have felt far safer traveling throughout Fiji, than I did last year camping on the Big Island of Hawaii (watch out for an east-coast town called Pahoa...). Hell, I think the most unsafe place I've been to in the last year was the week I spent in Calgary, Canada, just before flying to New Zealand in October 2013. I mean, there, you drive through the city and consider yourself lucky if all that happens to you is someone gives you the middle finger, cuts you off and then drives away down Deerfoot Trail. But I digress...
Fijians are some of the friendliest people in the world that I've come across in my travels. Regardless of where you go, the locals almost always flash a big smile, sometimes wave and tend to offer up an enthusiastic "Bula!" (Hello, Hi, or Welcome). While this is certainly evident in tourism-based settings (where individuals will often give you a huge, double-armed wave and shout "BULA" at the top of their lungs, while giving you a smile from ear to ear. People not directly associated with the tourism industry are almost as friendly and outgoing.
Again, I feel comfortable in my claim that Fijians are some of the friendliest people around. And I can say this because, yes, I've now visited a few touristy resorts and taken part in a number of day tours. But I've also taken the rental car and driven around the entire island of Viti Levu; in other words, I've spent a little time in areas that don't get a lot of visitation. We drove through towns and villages that had very little to offer in terms of a tourism product or service. Despite this, it was these same tiny towns that featured some of the most friendly people around.
While driving the Kings Road from Suva to Rakiraki (the north-east part of the main island of Viti Levu), we would drive through tiny villages and every villager that was near the road would look up, smile and wave. If we had the vehicle windows down, people would shout out... you guessed it... "Bula!" I'm not sure if they do this for every vehicle that passes along that stretch of highway, or if it was because we were driving a rental car, of if it was because they could look through the windows and see a white guy driving the car..
Even just walking through the local open-air markets and supermarkets to buy groceries, people would smile, greet you, and then just as often as not, strike up conversation (the fact that I have a Canada Flag patch sewn on my pack may have had something to do with that...) I mean, just the other day, we were standing in line to pay for a few groceries at the local corner store and the guy behind me randomly strikes up conversation, asking me how I am enjoying Fiji, how long I've been in the country, and where in Canada I was from... the next thing I know, I find out the guy spent a year working in Alberta!
Fijians know how to be welcoming and friendly, and this certainly results in travelers leaving the country with great thoughts and feelings about the place, and wanting to return!