Our Creative Director, Tiana Grace, reports on the sights and culture from a spectacular Fiji holiday.
Booking a Fiji Holiday
For travel nerds like me, booking a holiday is half the fun as the actual experience. I love browsing all my options, comparing prices and reading reviews from other travelers. So I was excited to plan a quick getaway to Fiji over the Easter break.
Our return flights to Nadi from Auckland were booked and the dates were set; I was ready to book the hotel. I knew the approximate area I wanted to stay in because I had visited sunny Fiji before. Having a map with available hotels was a must. As we were travelling over the Easter break it was particularly important to find the cheapest price, they were inflated due to high demand. I needed to make sure I wasn’t paying too much. Having used booking.com several times before, I trust them to secure my reservation at the best price.
Since it was a busy time of year for travel to Fiji, I decided to stay in seclusion at the beautiful resort Fiji Marriott, Momi Bay. Being a travel nerd, I peeked at the prices on offer directly from the Marriott to make sure I was getting the best deal. I discovered the room I wanted to book was not available directly at all. Pleased with myself, I confirmed a lagoon front bure.
Arrival at the Resort
Having seen photos of the resort online, it did not disappoint in real life. Upon arrival staff greeted us warmly, playing the guitar and singing a traditional welcome song. Happy smiling faces were a great way to start our stay. In fact, this could be one of the reasons the Fiji Marriott is rated so highly. Booking.com reports three-quarters of all travellers expect to meet someone friendly and personable upon arrival at their place of accommodation while travelling. This place certainly started off on the right note.
We awoke on our first morning to a tropical paradise sunrise on the white sand of the lagoon right outside our bure. And the day only got better with the buffet breakfast. I started with fresh fruit and yoghurt, then made my way to the waffles and French toast station. I couldn’t help myself when it came to the sugar-coated French toast, drizzled with sweet maple syrup and topped with scrambled eggs, bacon optional. Fresh fruit juice and smoothies, made to order. As were omelettes, with every conceivable filling to choose from. I was so full and disappointed I physically couldn’t fit more in. Croissants-plain, savoury or sweet. Asian cuisine, local Fijian cuisine, cereal and toast were left. Unfortunately, uneaten.
I used to be apprehensive about booking breakfast with the room as the prices can seem high in comparison to getting your own breakfast outside the hotel. I’ve learned waking up and having this part of the day sorted makes up for much time and effort, especially in a foreign country. I now always include breakfast in my booking. Morning energy can be used to plan the day, rather than trying to organize a meal, which can then sometimes be unhealthy, or worse — skipped altogether.
Experiencing Local Culture
If you’ve read my travel experiences before you know I love to experience local culture, and this trip was no different. Bad Boy and I set out on a boat owned by one of the locals, and we rode the waves to his home village. Friendly Fijian people welcomed us to their home. The market stalls were laid out displaying beautiful traditional objects including kava bowls, shell necklaces and wooden salad servers. Always the sceptic, Bad Boy insisted it was all “Made in China” and not produced by the local village. Of course, I wanted to believe the locals when they told me everything was produced in Fiji.
Having vowed to the local stall keepers to come back and buy something later, we entered the village meeting hall and participated in a kava drinking ceremony. We made a donation to the village and bought some kava to take home. Most of the objects were made of wood and shells. I was worried we would be stopped at customs due to New Zealand’s strict biosecurity. We wanted to purchase something to support the village so I settled on buying a few bars of the coconut soap, a safe bet for a gift to give friends or family back home. The soap packaging proudly declared “100% organic, product of Fiji”.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
As our time in the village came to an end we walked its sandy shores and imagined life as one of the locals. Home, school, church, and community resources are all within stone’s throw away from each other. As we pondered, we heard “Bula!” coming from behind the trees. A radiant older lady glowed with positivity as she emerged from inside one of the tin houses. She spoke limited English but gestured for us to sit down on a wooden jetty on the shore. The three of us sat there together and spoke broken English about her love for her family, taking care of her grandchildren, helping in their education. Her role as an elder was that of a caregiver. She was wise, beautiful and proud of her community.
Curious about us, she asked where we were from and we found we had many things in common; family, friends, community, running a household. Then I realized, no matter where you go, we all have these things in common. People aren’t all that different, no matter race, culture or class, there are always these common denominators we share. Thinking back, I wish I had of captured a photo of that special woman, but it seemed a shame to ruin such a natural and organic moment by asking her to pose with me. She didn’t want anything from me but an exchange of words, of culture, of a smile. I learned in that moment, the best things in life are free. During my time on our Fiji holiday, her smile was the greatest gift of all.
When we got back to our hotel this new found experience made me understand the staff more, I understood where they were from, where they would go home to after a long day at work. Their cheerful jovial spirit was infectious, and we were able to relax in each other’s presence, sharing stories and feeding the fish in the beautiful lagoon.
Back Home in Auckland
All too soon we were back home in Auckland. Bad Boy decided to “treat himself” by taking one of the would-be gifts — the bar of coconut soap — to the shower. He came out of the bathroom laughing his head off. Inside the beautiful soap packaging was a standard bar of supermarket soap stamped “Pearl”. I’m so glad he opened it before we gave it as a gift! I probably would have never heard the tale of how mortified the recipient was when they went to use it. So much for “product of Fiji”. Although, this instance was probably created by Bad Boy and the law of attraction, and makes this experience one to remember.
The writer stayed at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay courtesy of booking.com. The opinions within the article are those of the writer and all photos are her own.