Category Archives: Fiji

Five Tranquil Getaways Around the World

Guest poster’s quintet of spots of beauty — Thailand, New Zealand, Norway, Dead Sea & Costa Rica. Make mine Fiji

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.

Each of the 18 Yasawa Island Resort's luxurious bures has its own thatched palapa with a view of the beach and the sea.
The experience made me very receptive to an  offer from Yuli Linssen Kaminitz of EasyToBook to provide a guest post on “the five most peacefulplaces on Earth.” I accepted, though I am not sure how an island that attracts “thousands” and is known forits monthly  beach parties, or Norway’s “vibrant cities” with “great nightlife” equate with tranquility. Still, it’s her list, not mine — and images she provided are  definitely tranquil.  Here are her recommendations:
The Five Most Tranquil Places on Earth by Yuli Linssen Kaminitz
White sandy beach, palm trees, green jungle, fresh juice shakes and fisherman boats, what else do you need? Koh Phangan is a small island that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Aside from chilled out atmosphere and breath taking surroundings, Koh Phangan is also famous for its monthly Full Moon Party. The party itself is a big reason for the popularity of the island. Once a month, during full moon, a huge party festival occurs in Haad Rin, the main beach of Koh Phangan. Even if you are not fan of beach parties, it is still worth to go and check it out. Thailand is warm throughout the entire year so make sure to bring your bathing suit and a lot of sunscreen!
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world and it explains why the entire “Lord of the rings” saga was filmed there. In New Zealand you don’t need to travel to a certain touristic location in order to enjoy the view, it is gorgeous everywhere! This relatively small country looks as if it was painted by an artist; blue lakes, ice glaciers, impressive mountains and huge oak trees are all part of the scenery. There are many different things to do in New Zealand but you should not count on too much mingling; the people who travel there like to enjoy the nature calmly and camp in secluded areas. The nicest thing about New Zealand is the fact that you can get a taste from both worlds: when you want some quiet you just stay in the nature area and when you feel like a bit more busyness, you can just travel to one of their main cities such as Auckland or Christchurch.
Norwegians people love nature and their respect for the environment is clearly seen when visiting this extremely green country. In many cases Norway might ring a bell to some of you only when talking about very cold places. However, Norway has so much more to offer other than that. Cities such as Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim are not only shockingly beautiful but also vibrant and offer great nightlife. If you want to see the country at its best go to visit one of Norway’s many national parks, they are so amazing you won’t be able to stop taking photos with your camera! Aside from the gorgeous national parks Norway is known for its stretched coastline, luxury ski resorts and huge waterfalls.
The Dead Sea, (also called the Salt Sea) is located 423 meters below sea level and that makes it the lowest elevation on the earth’s surface on dry land. This amazingly peaceful and quiet place was one of the first health resorts in the world and that is thanks to its fresh air and nurturing water. People from all over the world come to the Dead Sea not only for a vacation purpose, but also with a doctor recommendation, in case of skin diseases. The Dead Sea is proven to help relief skin problems and the strong sun there is apparently not as harmful like in other warm places. Because the sea is full with salt it is impossible to swim there, but you will be able to float in the water, an activity that still make people shocked after many times there. The Dead Sea produces amazing cosmetic products that are being sold all over the world. One of their very famous best-sellers is a facial and skin mud that moisturizes the skin and leaves it clean and fresh. This mud is available all over the Dead Sea and for just a small amount you will be able to cover yourself in it!
There is no better way to finish our list but with this stunning beach location. Just by reading the name, (Costa Rica sounds so exotic) you get the warm feeling of breath taking sunsets, tropical beaches and delicious cuisine. Costa Rica is the ultimate place to have a relax holiday where you can count on a lot of resting, eating, drinking and swimming. For those of you who like to be a bit more active, there are plenty of things to do here as well; Snorkelling, surfing and fishing are just some of the options you can pick from. Even though Costa Rica is an isolated location, it is still very accessible to reach, just 45 minutes by plane or three hours by car. Note: I am sure that Yuli means that Costa Rica's coasts are 45 minutes by air or a few hours by car -- not that this Central American country itself is that distance from whatever her reference point might be.

Fiji: Islands of Faith

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.

The prettily situated Roman Catholic church in Navala.
Wall-to-wall parishioners seated on the floor.
Mothers of small restless children worship on the porch so as to cause minimal disturbance.
Sign for Catholic school in Navala.
After Mass was over, a procession of celebrants and altar boys visited "elderlies" with a crucifix, holy water, the Host.
Door to church in Tau Village. A limestone quarry and kiln at the edge if the village operated until 1983, providing money for paint, pews and bright linoleum.
This little boy followed us into the church.
The Methodist church in the farming village of Nakalavu up the Sigatoka River.
Names of villagers (I think) in commemorative cement edging around the porch.
Another simple interior.
Bukama Village church.
The palm fronds used to wrap the pillars on Palm Sunday are locally grown in Fiji.
Bible passages read, in turn, by a female pastor and by children.
Children dressed in their Sunday best for the Palm Sunday service in Bukama Village.

Air Pacific Cancels Dreamliner Order & Offers Dream Air Fare

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.

Continental is still flying to Fiji, but when it ceases service to Nadi, it will leave service to/from Los Angeles to Air Pacific.

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.

Kava: Deeply Rooted Fijian Tradition

Ceremony & socializing around a wooden bowl
Kava is a Pacific islands root crop that is ground into a powder, mixed with water in a large footed bowl made of hardwood bowl and called a tanoa and served in small wooden bowls. It is a spectator event at big hotels and “occasions,” but it is purely participatory in an intimate setting.
Originally only men but now also women gather around the tanoa to take turns drinking kava, with ritual clapping and cries of bula! before and after the drink is downed. The tepid liquid with the deep, earthy flavor makes the lips tingle and ultimately has a soporific effect. In Fiji, kava plays the role of beer or cocktails in American society — but without alcohol.
Kava Preparation
What would you do it you wanted kava? You might buy bottled kava in cities like Suva — as convenient as buying bottled coffee drinks. You can get pre-ground kava, which is akin to buying instant coffee. Or you can grind your own roots with a mortar and pestle, a bit like buying whole coffee beans and grinding them. When you mix the ground kava with water, you can  wrap it in a cloth to strain out unwanted bits, sort of like a teabag, or you can comb through the liquid with a seive made from the bark of a mulberry tree.
Heaps of kava plant root at the Lahtoka market. Waka and kava both come from the root of the kava plant, with waka the lower part and kava is up higher on the plant.
An atlernative to grinding kava is buying it pre-ground.
Four colleagues and I stayed at the very rustic Bulou’s Eco-Lodge in the forest about a 20-minute walk from the village of Navala (more about that later). Tui Nakawana Talili, who runs the small inn with his mother Boulu Alithiana Talili. is a purist, about kava and everything else in this  lodge deep in the hill country above Ba Town on the island of Viti Levu.
Tui carefully mixing water and ground kava.
As it is mixed, kava takes on a color like thin, very milky cafe au lait.

The mulberry fiber "seive" is used to strain particles and clean the sides of the tanoa.
Kva, Kava Everywhere
Group functions at large resorts often include an elaborately carved kava and tasting offers -- but no actual ceremony.
Simple salt cellar in the shape of a tanoa side by side with a Western-style bread plate and butter ramekin at Yasawa Island Resort.

In Fiji, a Million Miles from America’s Ugly Politics

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!

All international flights arriving at Nadi Intl Airport are greeted by a cheerful band.

 

The lei is not just a Hawaiian sign of welcome, but a Polynesian one. Bula as experssed by a string of beautiful blossoms and the sweet scent of plumeria and other tropical flowers.. l
My flight arrived in the pitch dark, but soon, the sun rose and shown on the planes that had arrived recently and were soon to take off again.

Yes, Bula! was welcome to my politics-weary ears.