07 November 2009

Fiji - Pretty Much the Best Place Ever (9 out of 10 nights, at least)

Tomasi and I right after the conga line broke up....

They say that you're supposed to drink your best wine first – that way, when you are still stone cold sober and at your most observant and critical you can enjoy the good bottle completely. All substandard bottles should come later, finally saving the 9 dollar bottle of swill for the end of the party when the Trivial Pursuit questions seem to be getting a lot harder and no one cares what the wine tastes like as long as their glass is full.

The opposite logic holds true for travel planning.

I am predicatable in a few ways: I will always order another round if you do too, I will never turn down cheese, I will stuff my bra on Hallowe'en and I always – ALWAYS research the hell out of my travel destinations. I'm that girl who pipes up with the random useless facts about the gross national product of Laos or the medieval history of Budapest while you would rather sip your pint and talk about ball sports or boobs. So of course, dutifully as always, while in Melbourne I picked up the newest edition of the Fiji Lonely Planet and started highlighting.

Fiji is pretty much the best place ever.

My mind was made up pretty quickly that for this trip I would eschew the typical ethnology and history that interests me so much and head to some islands to relax and unwind before heading back to North America. Fiji is not a typical backpacker destination – the only accomodation option on the islands are resorts, but most have dorms. I chose the Yasawa group, a rough and rugged chain of volcanic islands a few hours by boat from the main island of Viti Levu known for their beautiful beaches. Unlike the Mamanuca chain, the Yasawas have resorts and lodges for all budgets and are thought to be less touristy than these islands. And if Lonely Planet had anything to say about it, Octopus Resort is the place to stay.

The gushing half-page review was not enough for me – LP has tricked me many a time and I needed more proof. I popped onto tripadvisor to see that out of over 157 reviews, 140 give Octopus top marks. The most common compliment? The food. Well, you all know me – that was the decisive factor. Not to mention the extremely ethical nature of the place – they supply jobs, scholarships and a generator to the small village located behind the resort and make every effort to be eco-friendly. I booked four nights in their dorm (they have a wide array of accomodation choices all the way up to posh luxury bures) and figured I decide the rest later.

After a night in Nadi at a perfectly nice hostel I set out for Waya Island and Octopus. My first few hours were a bit tentative, but after the first evening I was sold. Like an adult summer camp (reminding me - in a good way - of Dirty Dancing – I mean, is there any other way to be reminded of it?) the resort is chalk full of activities. I made an ever rotating cast of pals and proceeded to relax on the beautiful beach, snorkel the reefs, sip cocktails, conga-line around, engage in boardgames and discussion, swim in the pool and get lomi-lomi massages. More importantly, I feasted on the three inlcuded meals a day – the food was simple but excellent.

Simple and amazing - Hallelujah omelette bar.

I booked myself an extra night and pondered my next move. Should I head back to Viti Levu? Further North in the Yasawas? Pop over to the Mamanucas? Stay put at Octopus? I finally decided to catch the ferry 30 minutes North and stay at Boteira Beach for a few nights, after which I would spend one night on the 'party island' of Beachcomber and then onto to Nadi for one final day.I bid goodbye to Octopus and all of the amazing staff there and landed, this afternoon, at Boteira.

It is the same price as Octopus, which is the thought that keeps running around my head as I take in the surroundings, so very different than what I am now used to. Where Octopus had about 60-80 guests of all demographics, here I am one of 9. The esthetically pleasing walkways, sand floored restaurant and relaxing common areas have been replaced by a haphazard, ramshackle collection of eerily empty barn-like buildings. My spotless dorm has been replaced by a cavernous space of which I am the only inhabitant and the bathrooms more resemble an outhouse than the modern, clean amenities offered by Octopus.

Do I sound bitter? Only slightly.....more homesick for my last resort – which is silly, but true.

Kini and Kidi - they had eachother in a headlock and were play fighting only moments beforehand.

I want my fresh fish with pineapple salsa and roasted vegetables and gourmet pumpkin salad and traditional Fijian Kokoda (lime cured walu – like a coconut ceviche.) I want my nightly kava ceremony – a muddy tasting slightly narcotic drink served with much pomp and tradition in most South Pacific countries. I want dorm bed – freshly made every morning, supplied with a showering towel and a beach towel and decorated with fresh flowers (never have I seen such a thing!) I want to talk to the staff of all ages who are encouraged to mix and mingle with the guests (unlike hotel employees in so many other countries) and who all knew my name.

To add insult to injury the price for the meals and dorm bed are exactly the same here at Boteira Bay as it was at Octopus. To give you a comparison that would be like paying the same rate for a Fairmont or Hilton and getting a Best Western instead. I think that the feeling of poor value is what is really getting me as I sit here eating my breakfast of cold cereal and dreaming about the omelette bar at Octopus.....

So I guess the moral of my story is that unlike wine, you should save your best accomodation for last while traveling so that you can really appreciate it – build up to the nicest (rather than the cheap goon) otherwise you inevitably will be disappointed.

It is with some guilt and more than a slight bit of traveler's shame that I, Violet Dear, am heading back to Octopus for my final two island nights rather than pay more money for ferries and resorts that may end up as disappointing as this one. I may even kybosh my last night in Nadi for one more in paradise – a slightly busy, fun loving one, a but a paradise nonetheless.

I may even carry a watermelon.

After a glass of really good wine, of course....

Traditional bures hidden in the palms. See you in 2 years, Fiji.


Anonymous said...

"it is the same price as Octopus..."


LOve your shit!

Strukbylitning7times said...

This is, hands down, my favorite blog. If I had the money, I would fund you to keep traveling, so that I could continue to enjoy your blog. Please find away to spice up LA.

the fashionate traveller said...

I loved Octopus too!! (well, until the food poisoning..but ya gotta be careful with fish). I found Mana island the worst value for money - if you didn't stay in the expensive side, you only had crappy dirty small rooms for $100 a night. Asia is MUCH better vale for money :) But yeah, the beaches in Fiji are lovely.

Jason said...

I'm sorry, did you say something about Fiji? I was preoccupied with the bra stuffing. :P

Great post!

kanmuri said...

Ummm, now I have to go to Fiji, too!!

Jonathan at Land, Air, and See said...

Could Fiji be done well on a frugal travel budget?