1st October 2010 (white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits)
MP3 track of the day: Kingston Town - UB40
Weather: Hot, not very cloudy at all.
Waking up a decent time I got on with my 'jobs day'. As breakfast was included (I was starving, I hadn't eaten since yesterday lunch) I quickly made my way to the restaurant to see what was on offer. The breakfast consisted of toast and orange squash; I got two pieces of toast, a glass of orange squash and sat down with the intention of going back up, in a short while, for more toast. However when I did sit down a group of local 'idiots' came for breakfast.
Breakfast is served in a room with open air sides (due to the heat) so all food is covered with netting's to stop insects and birds eating the food. These idiots came in, took nearly a whole loaf of bread and left the covers off all the food. A bird swooped down and helped himself to a beak full of butter before I could get up to put the covers back over the food (think I'll skip any further breakfast). The annoying thing was that one of the idiots came back for another half a loaf and did exactly the same thing (however he did put butter on his bread and so I hope he gets ill). I put the covers over the food once more and headed out into town.
Once in town I headed into Jack's souvenirs where I was continually followed by a woman working there until I either left the shop or bought something. It really started to annoy me (I nearly said something) and I even went upstairs to see if I could give her the slip (no such luck, I reckon she must have planted a GPS tracking device on me). In the end I purchased a cannibal fork which she wrapped up for me, I didn't get a photo book as there weren't any good ones available.
I shouldn't have bought anything from Jack's; that woman annoyed me so much that I should have just left and gone to one of the other hundred souvenir shops along the main high street. However I didn't and I did get what I wanted so it was okay I guess. Next I went into a chemist to replace my nail clippers I lost here on day one, and then to a newspaper shop to get a new deck of playing cards (both of which cost a lot for Fiji; the nail scissors were £3.00 and I miss-read the price on the deck of cards, and they were £3.50! … however they are plastic coated and have lovely photos of Fiji on them).
Finally I went around the other souvenir shops, blanking out all of the hard sell, to find a photo book … which I did, and it's okay, but nothing major (I see a hole in the Fiji souvenir market perhaps). After this I went shopping for my final item, a hat; however I couldn't find anything other than baseball caps in the many shops I visited and so I gave up.
Finally I made it to the internet cafe where I spent three and a half hours uploading 80% of my island hopping photos. After this it was around 1pm and so I had lunch before heading back to my dorm to go through my backpack (re-packed it for my flight to make sure I hadn't picked up anything I'm not supposed to). I'm a little worried that, when I arrive in New Zealand, they may take my cannibal fork off me as it's wooden and I have a sticker on it saying that I have to declare it (I hope they don't ask what it is). I would have posted it home from here but I've got a lot to post and I need a little time to wrap it all up and find a post office.
I stayed in my room until around 5pm (writing this blog entry and charging up my electrical appliances) when I headed back into town. One final time I went back to the internet cafe to upload this blog entry and complete uploading my photos. Tonight I'll head to the hotels restaurant for my final meal.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my three weeks in Fiji. At times it's been hard but I have certainly got some great memories from this country. In fact my top five Fiji experiences are...
1) The Village near the Manta-ray resort – Looking around the village was great and meeting the children in the school was a very humble experience; this is something I won't forget in a hurry.
2) Snorkeling – Snorkeling among the fish that inhabit the tropical coral reefs should not be missed. It was so amazing to be so close to so many fish that I have only ever seen in an aquarium.
3) The mainland – seeing how actual Fijian's live was an eye opener; passing through villages and cities and seeing the difference between these and the tourist resorts on the islands was a little frustrating to think that, some of these resorts are owned by foreigners meaning that most of the money spent their went straight out of the country and didn't help the people living here. Also the sand dunes near Sigatoka were impressive.
4) Mantra-ray – my favorite resort; the one with the best food out of everywhere I have stayed.
5) The People – the Fijian people are amazing; I've had no problems with any of them and they are all so friendly and helpful. Most of them seem truly happy, even with as little as they have and they don't seem to ever get judged over there profession or anything. The people are the jewel in Fiji's crown, much much more than the paradise that they live in.
Below I'll go through my experiences of Fiji under different headings. One thing to note is that there are two Fiji's; the real and the dream world (which is basically the tourist spots). It is truly amazing to see the difference in the quality of life between people staying at resorts and the actual people who live here; even though Fiji isn't classed as a 3rd world country, I think, for the Fijian people, it is close to that. It astonishes me how the Fijian's, who work in resorts (who get paid roughly $2 an hour … that's 66p), aren't bitter at all with the difference. I got very angry to see tourists staying at luxury hotels that are apart of global chains; this means that most of the money would never even reach the normal people who live in Fiji (however I suppose they do provide employment). I also got annoyed with the endless stream of tourists who fly into Fiji, go straight to the Yasawa island resorts for a week and then head back to the mainland just to get there flight home. I'm sorry but they haven't seen Fiji at all, only a commercial dream world, as real Fiji is on the mainland. Don't get me wrong if people want to go to the islands then that's fine, however if one of these people have said they have seen Fiji I would find it very hard to believe them.
Overall tourist accommodation is good with mosquito nets and decent beds. I am a little skeptical over the cleanliness due to the amount of times I've been bitten by things whilst sleeping. In some places the sheets don't look like they had been washed for a while; however I do see cleaning staff all the time mopping floors etc, so I wonder if it's just the weather. Anyway this is a poor country so cleanliness will differ from home.
A typical Fijian's home would be nothing more than a concrete box, sometimes with glass in the windows, sometimes without (depending on the climate of that particular area of Fiji). They do have nothing and you can see that in the residential buildings that congregate within small villages. City accommodation is little better.
Transport is surprisingly reliable, frequent and cheap. The buses look like the Romans may have used them in their invasion of the UK but they all run and all have character. Getting to your destination on the main island is a breeze with loads of people at bus stations to help you; going on a route that you would prefer to your destination is a little more difficult. Taxi's are relatively cheap, especially if you pick up a taxi returning from a job to town, as the fair will be $1 per person. There are also loads of people carriers and mini-vans touring the island with transport for as many people as they can physically fit in them, again very cheap.
Catamarans, water taxis or any transport that is water related seems to be more expensive and not as frequent … but most of it still seems to run to a timetable.
Hoooot. What more can I say; between 10:00 and 17:00 the weather can be unbearable and this is a good time to sleep. The worst areas are the north and north-west of the main island; the south, south-east are a little better with more cool breezes and more rain. The coolest places are the islands as these get a decent breeze all the time.
Prices are very cheap on the mainland and I lived for around £17.00 per day. The islands are a different story; being stuck on an island means you have to purchase items from the resort, achieving a kind of monopoly situation. However, due to there being so many island resorts, there is a level of competition between these resorts and so prices aren't ridiculous; having said that you are looking at doubling the cost of living on an island compared to the cost of living on the main island.
I have gone over my budget due to my five night island hopping trip; I was supposed to spend £20 per day (total £420.00) however my daily budget has ended up at £31.35 (total £658.38) per day. I'm only over spent by £240.00 so I'm not really that fussed.
The people are amazing; all are so welcome and will help you out if you ask (sometimes even if you don't ask). All seem friendly however I would say that the Fijian people are a little more welcoming than the Indian-Fijians, but there is little between them. The only thing to look out for are the 'bola bola' men who want to shake your hand and keep hold of it as they tell you to come and visit their shop. A polite no thank you sees them disappear. Overall I would say that the Fijian people are the most welcoming and friendly people in the world … I feel it's going to be hard to top them in the other countries I shall be visiting.
My only gripe about the people is there relaxed approach to littering. I've seen people throw wrappers out of bus windows, there is rubbish everywhere you look and this surprised me when you take into consideration how nice the people are. I did noticed that the government is trying to tackle this with adverts about rubbish, but it doesn't seem to be enough.
Overall I was surprised at the high level of infrastructure compared to the lower of quality of life. Internet cafes are everywhere and, though the speeds aren't as quick as the UK, they ain't dial-up. The main highways look to be well maintained and the main cities have a good road next work. All the resorts on the mainland I've stayed in have hot water and the water seems pretty clean.
Go off the main track and the roads start to deteriorate with huge pot-holes (bigger than the ones in Derby, on the A38 towards Nottingham last Christmas). The island resorts have no hot water and only whilst I've been here has, I think, an island been plugged into the national grid (most get there power from diesel generators).
Due to the weather moving onto 'Fiji time' is a must. I prefer to get up early (around 6am) and then have an afternoon snooze (from 1pm until 4:30pmish) and then staying up until 10/11pm. Forget doing lots in a day; managing one attraction a day is pretty good going.
The food in Fiji is pretty good; most of the food at the resorts is general food you would find around the world but the fish is particularly good. Pineapple to seems to taste a lot better here but Kava, the national drink, is not that nice but has to be done. Overall I would say that Fiji isn't a place to come to explore different types of food.
Driving seems to follow the laws of the UK (they drive on the left). All driving seems to be well behaved and organized; I would feel comfortable with driving in Fiji. They do use their phones whilst driving (including the bus drivers) and beep their horn a lot (most of the time to tell the slower vehicle in front that they are overtaking) but overall I was surprised to see how well behaved and organized driving was here (certainly nothing like the images I've seen of India and South Sea Asia).
Safety isn't given too much consideration; I've already mentioned mobile phones but the lack of seat belts, people sometimes sitting on floors and no windows in buses are all common here.
Would I come back?
Yes I plan to … but probably in 40 years time (and it would only be a short visit to the main land). I want to see if / how Fiji has developed within that time, hoping that the quality of life has improved.
Would I recommend Fiji to others?
Overall I've loved traveling in Fiji; I've seen a lot and met loads of great people. Three weeks here has been an okay amount of time, but I am ready to move on. Being bitten to death, putting endless amounts of suncream on, (and still getting burnt) and feeling sticky all day (plus everything you touch feels sticky too), has become an annoyance I'm looking forward to live without. I'm also looking forward to achieving more with my days; due to the weather here it's been a mission doing anything but sitting in the shade.
I move onto New Zealand tomorrow where I hope it will be colder. First two things I need to do when I arrive is laundry (basically everything needs washing … I'll have to do it in two loads) and package up my souvenirs and Fiji guide book to post home.
In regards to how I am I think the home sickness has pretty much past; things I could be doing at home don't seem to be as tempting now as they were three weeks ago. I still miss home, and I'm still not sure about being away or eight months, but considering a month has nearly gone already we shall see. I'm still not sure about my route either; If when I get to Singapore (two months away) it's too hot I will have to decided what to do. My favorite plans of action are:
- Fly to Beijing and then fly home
- Fly to Beijing and travel around China for 2 months before coming home
- Fly to South Korea, find work teaching English over the winter and then head to Cambodia in February before quickly going through Vietnam and into China before heading home.
Decisions, decisions … still plenty of time.
I have my clothes ready for my flight tomorrow which include a pair of trousers … I had forgotten what they looked like.
So for the final time; Bula Bula Fiji and thank you!