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So it’s been a little while since my last post and the only reason I can give you is that I’ve been enjoying beach life perhaps a little too much – my apologies. Does the picture here count enough as an ‘I’m sorry’ gift? If not, go find your sense of humour like the owners who came up with this name for an ACTUAL restaurant I saw in Northern Cali. ‘WTF’ comes to mind!
Anywho (spelling Nazi’s, you know who you are, that is my own word that I am currently in the midst of petitioning to have added to the Oxford English dictionary so bog off), since leaving the Philippines, I have witnessed the immense skyscrapers and Asian lifestyle of Hong Kong, and been getting incredibly sunburnt on the beaches of Fiji.
Hong Kong was an enormous change from Filipino life, or should I say the week of beaches, truly brilliant people and far too much Red Horse I found on the Island of Boracay in the Philippines. Which meant what followed was a sobering few days in the Asian trade and financial mecca of Hong Kong. Did I say sobering? Sorry, I meant hungover.
Jumping on a 12 hour flight (yes I’m fully aware that was what you would call a super brief re-cap), I landed in the Islands of Fiji to have what can only be described as the experience of a lifetime. Anyone who’s been to Fiji will attest to the highs that the beauty and the ‘Fiji time’ bring to the mind and body of anyone who has visited. Anyone, who has not been, please good lord, go. It’s an experience which only allows for a single word description; paradise.
Arriving on the main Island of Fiji in the town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi), I was greeted with the sensation you get from opening a hot oven, pure unadulterated sun, and intense humidity. I had arrived out of season (oh shite) when the humidity is at its highest and torrential downpours and cyclones are on the menu. My first day was spent lazing by the pool at Smugglers Cove (more of a hotel than a hostel, which you’ll find out is the name of the game in Fiji) and deciding what to do with the rest of my trip.
After a very helpful chat to some British guys who’d just finished Island hopping and a free bottle of vodka later (thanks chaps), I decided on 12 days of Island hopping across 6 islands in the Mamanuca and Yasawa chains; South Sea, Waya Lai Lai, Barefoot, Mantaray, Coral View and Beachcomber (even the names sound heavenly). Ideally, I’d have liked to decide where to stay and where to go in the moment, but with a little research you find out these 6, 9 or 12 day trips are the easiest and cheapest way to see the Islands (although i’m not sure you can ever use the word cheap regarding Fiji).
You also learn pretty quickly that a trip to Fiji is more like the world’s best holiday rather than your typical idea of travelling. For a start, the Islands are so small, without towns or shops that the ‘resorts’ have to be all-inclusive, not what I’d expected but it made for a seriously relaxing trip. If you’re looking for 4 star luxury though these resorts are not that. I loved it but the bed bugs (yea ok, I didn’t love those little shits) and 3 hours of electricity a day are not for everyone. So I hopped onto everyone’s favourite yellow boat, the Yasawa Flyer, and headed to the first and smallest of the Islands I visited, South Sea (which takes all of 5 minutes to walk around) to get me some real life ‘Fiji Time’.
But what the bloomin’ heck is Fiji Time you ask? Well with the risk of sounding like a pretentious twat, it’s a way of life (yep, I know, it’s unavoidable). For me, Fiji Time was everything I didn’t have at home; it’s relaxing, being calm, taking everything at a slow-pace, recognising where you are and really feeling it. It’s the little man who jumps in your brain and screams ‘chill the fuck out!’ Once you’ve listened to him though, there is nothing not to like. Yea, you have to take the slow service, unanswered questions and lack of explanation, but once you’re on Fiji Time you don’t want any of that anyway, all you’re after is a cold beer and the sun on your face.
Heading North to the more isolated Yasawa Islands I stopped on Barefoot, just in time for a cheeky cyclone (those who know me well will be pleased to hear I didn’t freak out even when they started boarding up the buildings) before heading to Mantaray. Mantaray Island has some of the best snorkelling around, knocking the Philippines and The Great Barrier Reef out of the park. All the islands do have other activities aside from 24 hour beaches; shark feeding, swimming with Manataray’s in the right season, hiking and village trips but really, if you don’t like the beach, Fiji isn’t for you. Be warned though, on almost all of the Islands anything that isn’t sitting on a beach or eating costs extra so you need to have a fair bit of cash on you before you leave (I’m sure all you lovely folk have worked out that with no towns on the Islands, there are no cash points either). It also cost me almost double my budget (travelling Asia it is not), so treat it as a well-priced holiday and you’ll be fine.
Arriving at Coral View, I noticed a distinct lack of beach (a major test for my Fiji Time attitude) but a few hilarious Swedes and some sunshine soon quashed any fears of boredom. There’s not really nightlife in Fiji, perhaps Beachcomber, ‘the party Island’, in high season, but in general its drinks if you’re lucky enough to afford it, Kava (the Fijian beverage of choice which gives you similar highs to smoking green but tastes like muddy water), and good old fashioned chats. Luckily for me, I met a lovely local who plied me with Baileys on ice all night. Wishing to stay longer, and already skipping Beachcomber to stay another night up North, I reluctantly headed back to the mainland.
A few days lazing back on the mainland with nothing but a bikini (my whole bag was locked in a freezer for two days to kill the bed bugs) was left until my flight to LA. Book in tow I readied myself for 4 days of nothingness. But again, travelling always has a surprise up its sleeve and it didn’t disappoint as I met two Australians that can only be described as sheer awesomeness. Running a Surf school on the Coral coast, 2 hours south of Nadi, these two swept me away for a day of fresh coconuts, beers and sunsets at Mango Bay resort. Bliss.
All in all, what did I find in Fiji? I found me. Not the semi-control freak who can’t relax, permanently looking what’s around the next corner, but someone who could finally get rid of their busy, stressful head and simply enjoy. Once I’d embraced Fiji Time there was no need to talk, no need to do and I was ready and raring to meet people who could change my life. Ah Fiji, i’m not sure I’ll ever get over you and simply can’t wait until we meet again.