For the first 6 nights we stayed on the Coral Coast, which is on the south side of the main island. It took us about 2 hrs and 30 minutes to get there from the airport on a local bus. The cost was US$7 for both of us compared to US$50 for a taxi. And you know Shari...(aka "Bohemiana"). But the ride wasn't too bad and we got to rub elbows (literally) with the locals.
We arrived at Rydge's Hideaway and it was still early morning because our flight arrived at 5:30 a.m. The staff was fantastic and allowed us to relax and enjoy the buffet breakfast while they got the room ready as soon as the other guests would check out.
Summary of the Hideway...Let's just say Bob was amazed that Bohemiana had selected such a nice place
! Bob's only criteria for Fiji was A/C and this was the least expensive of the hotels with A/C. But actually, it was fantastic! We had a spacious bungalow with a partial ocean view and we had not expected any view. The pool was fantastic (as you'll see in photos) and the ocean very mild with terrific snorkeling. Breakfast was included in the rate (US$95/night) as were almost all activies like snorkeling, reef walking, volleyball, kayaking, etc. The best part of staying at the Hideaway was #1-- the staff!! They were all Fijians from the village next door to the resort and they were unbelieveable. They said Bula every time they saw you and called you by name every time. We felt so pampered and accommodated. #2--the other guests...almost everyone was an Aussie with a few Kiwis and only one other American couple. Everyone was extremely friendly and sat around the pool talking all day with everyone. Very fun!
After 6 nights there we decided to move closer to the airport for our early departure tomorrow. We are at the Westin and while it is more posh than the Hideaway, it's more sterile. Gorgeous pool and lobby, very nice room but a bit formal. And surprisingly, there is no beach whatsoever. Still, it will no doubt be the nicest place of our trip. (We used Starwood points to stay here!)
Here's the big highlight--while staying at the Hideaway, they had a village tour to the village next door
. We got to meet the head counsel member of the three clans (tribes) who live there. He performed a "Kava" ceremony for us (see video) and spent over an hour telling us about traditional village life and answering our questions. We had no idea Fiji is still so traditional. For example, no one can enter any village without permission from the chief or a counsel member. Also, in this village there are 3 clans composed about about 280 people total. The clans own the land and leases it to the families. The houses are open for everyone--anyone can go into anyone's house at any time. The food, fishing, maintenance, etc. is all communal. If someone works on your house fixing something, he accepts whatever payment you decide to give whether it's money or a chicken. Also, women must wear long skirts in the village. There was a newspaper article during our stay that a teenage girl got 100 lashes for wearing pants in her village. It was really amazing to get such an inside look at how average Fijians live.
Well, we're off to Christchurch tomorrow. More to come later...
Shari & Bob
Added notes--More Reflections...
Fiji was much less developed than we expected
. The main island only has a couple of cities but really they are more like moderate-sized towns. The interior of the main island is nearly undeveloped. We traveled by local bus from the airport of the west side of the island to the south coast about half way across the island and we barely passed anything more than tiny villages here and there. A few villages had as much as a mini-mart and a car wash (I'm being liberal using those nouns; it was more like a sign that said "Car Wash" and a hose..), and a collection of concrete and corregated metal basic one-room houses. Resorts are few and far between except for on Denarau which has nothing but big resorts. As for Denarau, I can't imagine just spending a vacation only there because it's a completely planned development and very isolated from the rest of the island. Also, the global economic crisis is completely apparant as it seemed like both the Hideaway and the Westin were at 50% capacity.
Our first post...how exciting! We decided to wait until the entire Fiji stay and just give the highlights rather than drone on about minute details of our stay.