Just over two weeks ago I was in Fiji at the luxurious and isolated Yasawa Island Resort. Each of only 18 spacious bures, as the private cottages are called, has a view through the trees of a lovely sand beach and the improbably blue waters of the South Pacific. I had my choice of stretching out on a comfortable bed or a couch indoors, or outside a day bed on the porch, a chaise under a thatched roof or a hammock between the trees I don’t often get a chance to enjoy such pure tranquility.
Family, community and God are the trinity of Fijian village life
I’m not much of a church-goer, except in the South Pacific where the fierce faith of the people is palpable and worshipers’ impeccably harmonious hymn singing is heavenly. The coastal towns reflect a multi-cultural history — Fijians, English colonizers, descendants of indentured servants from the Indian subcontinent, later Japanese immigrants and everyone else. Hindu prayer flags, turreted mosques, a spectacular polychrome Hindu temple, a Hara Krishna compound and assorted churches from Anglican to LDS reflect the religious diversity of this island nation.
Inland villages, however, appear to come in two denomination, Catholic and Methodist, depending on which missionaries got there first. The village churches are very simple but the villagers’ faith is very strong. Sometimes there are pews, but often, the congregation sits on the floor. There is never any air conditioning, or even ceiling fans, but the churches are packed every Sunday with parishioners fanning themselves with spade-shaped straw fans. Despite the heat and humidity, everyone dresses up — the women in below-the-knees skirts (always) and the men in collared shirts — in some villages, often ties and even suit coats. Bible verses are read, prayers are prayed and hymns are sung. There is no collection basket, because the villagers support their churches, and they welcome everyone to join them.
No Boeing Dreamliner in foreseeable future, but Air Pac rolls out a dream of an air fare
Air Pacific has canceled its order for eight of the multiply delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliners to replace its 747 and 767 widebody fleet. Even the flag carrier of the island nation that largely operates on “Fiji Time,” where a casual interpretation of the clock is the rule, has lost patience and confidence. Air Pac was supposed to have begun transpacific Dreamliner service this year, but Boeing’s most recent delivery date has been pushed back to 2015 — so far.
If I were not in Fiji right now, this change of plans would barely have registered with me. But I am in Fiji and arrived here via Air Pacific. Continental Airlines, which has been calling on Nadi International Airport, Fiji’s prime gateway, will soon cease service.
Unbeatable Fare to Fiji & Beyond
If you have a tropical island dream and are free to travel soon, jump on the Fiji-based airline’s current “Take A Friend” promotion, you can vacation there for less than the cost of Hawaii or the Caribbean. Here’s the deal: the first person pays $1,050 roundtrip from Los Angeles to anywhere in Fiji or even beyond to Australia, New Zealand or other points on the route map. The second and third passengers each pay $525, and when three fly, a fourth flies free. These fares include the current fuel surcharge, which amounts to a couple of hundred dollars per person as an add-on. However, other fees and taxes do add $115-$170 per person, You do have to get to LAX, but grab a domestic fare sale and you’re golden.
Fiji is a Great Value NOW
If you make Fiji your final destination, you won’t be sorry. But if you are continue to Australia or New Zealand, know that passengers traveling beyond Fiji have the option of a Fiji stopover in one direction at no additional cost.
For a stopover, you’d want to stay on the island of Viti Levu — and on the west side within an hour or from the airport. Examples of the most practical of Fiji’s many resorts to dovetail with the flight are the Radisson Fiji and Sonaisali. At the Radisson Fiji on lively Denereau Island, pay for three nightts and get a fourth free, including daily breakfast. The Sonaisali Island Resort had two grat deals. For visitors spending a week in Fiji, the resort’s rates include all meals (the usual three plus afternoon tea) on a minimum five-night stay. The Stay 3/Pay 2 package is great for a stopover. The room rates include two adults and two children, daily breakfast, free child care in the Kids Club for ages 4 to 12, free meals for children to age 12 and a free jungle cruise. I went on a Sigatoka River Cruise trip via jetboat to a Fijian village in the interior — and if that’s what the Sonsaisali is offering, that’s not just a great deal (it’s normally about $105 per person.) If you ae like island cruises, Captain Cook’s Discovery Cruises gives a 25 percent discount for advance bookings 30 days before traveling. Their itineraries are three, four and seven nights though the Yasawa Islands, northwest of Viti Levu.
But wait! There’s more! At he current exchange rate. the Fijian dollar is worth %56 or $57 U.S. dollars. Fijians do not expect tips — though a smile and a vinaka (thanl you) are always appreciated, And room, food and shopping prices include taxes. Fiji is a popular family and honeymoon/romance for people from Australia and New Zealand — and did I mention that English is the official langauge of Fiji?
The air must be booked and travel commence by May 31; travel must be completed by June 14. We know it’s an outlay, but it’s a real deal considering the distance, and the exotic experience in the gorgeous South Pacific island nation or beyond.
Bula! is Fijian for welcome. And I felt welcome on the Air Pacific plane and after landing at Nadi
Is the US government functioning? I’m in Fiji, and right now, I don’t care. I left LAX on Thursday night, departing at 11:30 p.m., skipped all of the 8th as I flew across the international dateline. When I left, politicians were bickering and pointing fingers at “the other side of the aisle, posturing and pretending to do the will of “the American people.” I am at a day room at Raffles Hotel near Nadi International Airport before setting out for an eco-lodge in the hills. And you know what? I glad to feel light-years from ‘Washintgon, because I am in Fiji!
Yes, Bula! was welcome to my politics-weary ears.