What a treat it is to visit the South Pacific. People always ask what Fiji is like and I always say the same thing. Fiji is simply breathtaking. The beauty is unmatched and the locals are extremely friendly.
We spent our days basking in the vibrant sun–fanned by the relentless ocean breeze. At night, we were lulled by a moonlight that seemed much closer to the earth than normal. If that wasn't enough, we sang soft rock from the early 90s while trying feverishly to follow the words attached to a television monitor...Karaoke anyone? We laughed and drank Kava- Fiji's traditional drink of choice, comprised of a ground root soaked in water. Always open to new experiences, I took the cup offered to me by a charming man with grey hair and leathery brown skin. I held the cup, which was more like a small bowl between my hands, and I drank. Kava is beloved by native Fijians. The drink had an earthy flavor. Once down, my tongue went numb in some places. On the bright side, I felt more relaxed–one of the benefits of drinking Kava.
We stayed at an all-inclusive resort run by native Fijians on the private Matamoanoa Island. The island is located about 2 hours from the airport by ferry. The ferry ride over was an amazing journey. The views were astounding and the weather was perfect. We zipped along dropping off passengers at islands scattered in the sea. As we approached Matamoanoa, we were greeted by nearly a dozen people standing on the beach singing a lovely welcome serenade. "Bula" the Fijian word for welcome was stated then and we felt that way during our entire stay.
After we were shown to our private quarters, a 580 square foot bure with all of the amenities one would need, we settled in for seven days of bliss. The island caters to couples and is comprised of 24 private bures. Our door opened onto the beach and was just steps away from the water. On the first day, we were pampered with an hour long massage on the beach at sunrise. We kayaked, made baskets, played volleyball, hiked, scuba dived and snorkeled until we were faced with the reality that our trip was coming to an end.
Matamanoa is for the traveler who seeks seclusion. Many guests that we met traveled to other islands before ending in Matamaona. If you want a bustling city with nightlife and a variety of restaurants, consider accommodations on one of the larger islands. But if you want to relax, be pampered, and enjoy nature, you can't go wrong with Matamanoa.
Fijian communities consist of close-knit villages governed through a tribal hierarchy. On the neighboring island sat a modest Methodist church–a testament to the island's many cultural and religious influences. There are people from all over the world living in Fiji's major cities. However, on the smaller islands you will find people who have hair and features similar to other groups closely linked to the African Diaspora.
While tourism is the country's leading source of revenue, Matamanoa is owned and operated by native Fijians. The profits from the property remain in the local community.
From the crystal clear waters to the unforgettable sunsets, Fiji is a destination that should not be missed.
Beautiful doesn't quite do it justice. I wonder if there are any words to adequately describe Phuket, Thailand (pronounced pu-ket). Paradise, perhaps?
Located in the Andaman Sea of southern Thailand, Phuket's name, according to some sources, is said to be derived from two Thai words, phu (mountain) and ket (jewel). Seeing this beautiful mountain jewel was well worth the 23 hours it took to get there. There are tons of airlines that fly regularly to Thailand, but the best deal I found was with Korean Air. They provided top-notched service (even in economy class).
In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake caused a devastating tsunami throughout much of southeast Asia. Phuket has since recovered and has experienced tremendous growth. However, one tour guide confided that because of so much development, the island's natural beauty diminished. Admittedly, as a tourist, I couldn't relate but was very respectful of his concerns. I was drawn in and mesmerized by the aqua blue water, white sand beaches, mountain views, delicious cuisine, and the warm friendly smiles of the Thai people. Seven days was not nearly enough time to take it all in.. but believe me I tried!
Let me say though, nothing can prepare you for the heat. The weather is very, very hot and you will sweat like there's no tomorrow!! We were there in March, the "dry season", when temperatures are "cooler" and sea conditions are good for swimming and diving. (March is also considered high season for tourism which officially ends in April.) If you do make the trip, be sure to pack light loose fitting clothes. You can research the best time of year to plan your trip by visiting sites such as The Phuket Holiday Guide which breaks down the pros and cons for each month of the year.
Man do we have a lot of catching up to do. This rapid fire traveling schedule doesn't leave us with all that much time to contemplate and write. If we aren't checking in somewhere, we're checking out and trying to catch a plane.
We were worried about where we'd stay in Hong Kong. It's a famously expensive city and we intended to be there for about ten days.
I always say, "Everything always works out perfectly," to which Todd always replies that it's dangerous to say that.