Goodbye Asia, Bula Fiji!

It was always going to be hard to follow Indonesia. It was absolutely amazing and a part of our trip we won’t forget in a long time. Even so, we were both looking forward to our next destination, Hong Kong. Just ever so slightly different from the places we’ve been travelling around for the last 2 and a half months…

On arrival we quickly and easily (we weren’t used to this) found our way to the bus station and onto our transport into the big city. The bus even had wi-fi….we really had arrived into a different world!

Hong Kong really reminded us of Tokyo, all the crowds, bright lights and weird noises, we instantly liked it. One thing we had to do whilst in Hong Kong was sample the Dim Sum. I’d read about a restaurant round the corner from our hostel which was called Dim Dim Sum Dim Sum restaurant (you can’t make these things up) and it was amazing. Really cheap and really good, I vowed at that moment to have dim sum every day whilst in Hong Kong (and I did!)

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On the second night in HK we decided to go to the ‘world famous’ symphony of lights show which happens every evening in the harbour. Basically the buildings light up and change colour in time to the music…sounded great. We arrived early to claim a good spot, got some great pictures of the Hong Kong skyline and settled down (in the drizzle) to await the show….it wasn’t the best. A few buildings flashed their lights but generally we were quite disappointed. Nothing was in time to the music and the tallest and most impressive building couldn’t even be bothered to take part! Oh well.

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The following day we decided to visit some of Hong Kong’s countless markets, including ladies market and goldfish market. Goldfish market was actually just a street full of pet shops and there were tons of dogs and cats for sale. I spent the majority of our time there dragging Tom away from the puppies otherwise I think we’d still be there now!
After traipsing around umpteen stalls we decided a much needed rest was in order so headed off down a little street to find a local food shop. Someone, (Tom), decided that whilst we were in Hong Kong we had to try one of the local specialities, Chicken feet! Now, I’m generally up for trying new things but after the un-hatched chick fiasco in Cambodia, (see the Cambodia blog if you have no idea what I’m talking about) I was quite happy to give chicken feet a wide berth. However someone, (Tom), had other ideas. The plate of about 10 chicken feet arrived at our table and I’m pretty sure he instantly regretted his decision. To be fair he gave them a good go, he managed two claws before admitting defeat and agreeing with me (I had two bites) that they were pretty disgusting!

A year ago when we were planning our adventure we wrote down all the countries we wanted to visit and for me the one place that was an absolute definite and unmissable was Fiji, our next destination.

On arrival into Nadi (pronounced Nandi) we were greeted with thick cloud and to be honest, I was cold! Not quite the start I was hoping for but at least it wasn’t raining! We knew Nadi wasn’t a place we wanted to stay for longer than a night so quickly arranged our trip up the coast and towards the north-east island of Taveuni. Someone at the hostel recommended that we stop off at a place called Beachouse en-route so that’s where we headed.
After managing to squeeze on to the local bus (it reminded us of our experiences on the transport in south-east Asia, a Fiji bus is never full) we arrived at Beachouse and I can honestly say we thought we’d got off at the wrong stop. It looked like a 5 star resort, not the backpacker place we’d booked!!! Plus, the sun was shining…this was more like the Fiji I’d dreamt about!

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After a day of doing nothing more than lounging around on the beach (and swinging on the swing) Tom decided he needed to do some exercise and I wanted to go for a walk so headed off up the road. After shouting Bula (Fijian greeting) about a million times I started talking to some kids outside a little village called Komave. They asked if I’d like to have a look around so I gratefully accepted. It started off with 2 kids showing me around but by the end half the village had appeared to give me the guided tour!!
After a look at the community centre and nursery school a lady came running out of her house to invite me in for a Kava ceremony as it was Father’s Day. Kava is the traditional drink of Fiji and is made from the roots of the Kava plant. In the ceremony the Chief of the village sits at the front (next to me as I was the guest of honour!) and the Kava is made and shared around. It was so lovely to be invited in to experience this traditional event. It really backed up everything I’d been told about people from Fiji, they really are some of the friendliest people on this planet!

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The next day our trip up north continued and a mini bus picked us up to take us to the port at Suva where we were meant to be getting a Ferry to Taveuni. Unfortunately for us the ferry had been cancelled, but we were told not to worry, there was another ferry running instead!! What we weren’t told was the new ferry was going to a different island….oh and instead of taking 20hours to get to Taveuni it would now take us 36hours, minor details!!!!!!!!! In Fiji everything runs to Fiji time, if we ever ask how long something takes…the reply is always “fiji time my friend”. The chilled out and care-free attitude of the Fijian people is addictive and we learnt pretty quickly not to worry too much about keeping to any plans or schedules.

One night on the cargo ship, a truck, a speedboat and a rickety old mini-bus with a door that didn’t shut properly later and we’d arrived at our lodge in Taveuni. Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji and seems far less touristy than the others. Rather than seeing big resorts and touristy restaurants there was nothing but small villages and little lodges, much more what we were hoping for. Whilst on the island we went to the Waitavala Waterslide, a natural chute which plummets 50 metres down the hillside. Basically we just slid down the rocks getting covered in bruises….but it was great fun!!

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Taveuni is one of the few land masses in the world that is crossed by the International Date Line. To keep Fiji in one time zone they have adjusted it but we had to get the obligatory picture of being half in one day and half in the other!!

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We stayed for 2 nights on Taveuni before heading to an island called Qamea and the Maqai resort. Well, on arrival it looked like paradise, and we knew straight away that the 2 days we’d planned on staying were going to be extended.
I don’t think any of our photos do the island justice. We slept in little Buras (huts) on the beach which were pretty much glorified tents with beds and a little cold shower and toilet at the back. We awoke every morning to the sound of the waves and could walk out of bed and straight into the sea, I was in heaven.

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The place was run by Fijians who were from various villages in the local area so it really felt like we were experiencing the real Fiji. The staff were all unbelievably friendly and treated us like friends rather than paying guests. We ended up staying at Maqai for 6 days and definitely fell into a Fiji-time lifestyle! When we could prise ourselves away from sitting around doing nothing we went for a trek up to the lookout point and snorkelling to the drop-off which was about 100metres from the beach. Whist snorkelling Tom saw a 2metre long shark…I was next to him but managed to miss it!!!

We both really enjoyed learning all about how the local people live and we even went to visit a local village to meet some other people from the island. The kids from the kindergarten there just wanted to play with us and interact with new people, such an amazing place.

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Everyone was so happy with life and loved nothing more than to sit around playing the guitar, drinking Kava chatting and laughing. We both absolutely loved our time at Maqai and really felt like we were staying in a small village experiencing traditional Fiji life.

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After finally managing to drag ourselves away we headed back to Nadi (thankfully on the boat that took 20 hours not 36) and arranged a trip to the Yasawas for a few days. The Yasawas are a group of islands off the north-west of the main Fiji island (Viti Levu) and the area where most of the tourists head. We just wanted to go to a couple of islands to finish off our time in Fiji. Our first stop was Octopus Resort and it was a far cry from what we’d been used to in the north. It was absolutely beautiful but rather than being a small, homely, basic place it was much bigger and quite fancy, we weren’t used to this. We actually felt like we were on holiday from our year-long trip! In Maqai there were as many locals as there were tourists but at Octopus it was very busy with tourists. Absolutely stunning beach though with beautiful turquoise sea.

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After Octopus we hopped back on the boat and went to a tiny island called South Sea. We just stayed for one night before heading back to Nadi for our flight to New Zealand. The beach wasn’t quite as nice here but the island was so tiny (it took 9 minutes to walk around) that we couldn’t not love it. Plus it was back to basic accommodation again…we felt much more at home!

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Fiji completely blew me away and exceeded all my expectations. I’m so happy I’ve finally been to the place that was top of my ‘must visit’ list. It was very hard to leave such a beautiful country but we are both really excited about our next stop…New Zealand.

We’ve taken loads of photos, please click here to have a look.

Vinaka (thank-you) Fiji, it’s been epic!!

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