Friday, 10 September 2010

Culture Shoooock!

MP3 track of the day – Oasis – The Importance of Being Idle

Weather: Very hot in both LA and Nadi, Fiji

Thursday 9th September 2010

Where was I last time I blogged … oh yes. Well I did eventually go out and do a bit of sightseeing on my final day in LA; whilst trying to hunt down some lunch I went to the famous Farmers Market that the 'hop-on' hop-off' bus stopped at yesterday. This old location has a market (but is now more of a cheap food location) with a posh shopping area attached to the back.

I went to the market for a Chinese and then had a swift look around the shopping area before returning to the hostel. I stayed at the hostel until 5pm when I then decided to head out to the airport. I could have got a shuttle for the reasonable sum of $15.00 (the airport is quite a drive) however, me being a traveler, I decided to follow the public transport directions given from the hostel (I had plenty of time as my flight wasn't until 11:30pm).

All was going swimmingly until my directions told me to get on the 'Metro Red Line'. With the word metro I immediately thought it meant the new underground system in LA as that was called

the 'Metro' and it had a red line …

… no. In LA there are two metros, one being an underground train and the other a bus and both have a red line. It didn't really matter me taking the underground instead of the bus (Infact I think I got to the airport quicker) but it did involve a 20 minute walk, in full gear, to the nearest underground station.

2hrs and I was at the airport. And this airport has quite an ingenious idea. It has two levels; the ground level is for arrivals and the top level is for departures. Sadly, this being America, no one told you this and there weren't any signs so, when my bus dropped me off on the bottom layer, I walked around for about another 20 minutes before a guy (who I later found out was helping people just so he could try to get money off me for charities) instructed me that I had to go upstairs.

Finally I dropped off my bag, went through security and headed to my gate. It was at least 3 hours before my flight was due to take off so I decided to get a little lunch at one of the many restaurants you find around the terminals...

… Apparently not in LA; there was only one place to eat and all that sold were sandwiches at a ridiculous price. Now I normally don't bother eating at an airport until I'm through security as I usually don't have to pay any tax. However it cost me $14.00 for a sandwich (which wasn't very nice), a packet of crisps (which I thought were salt and vinegar and they were cheddar and onion) and a bottle of water. I sat down and consumed the lot before waiting another 2 hours to board my flight. Whilst there I talked to a girl from Nottingham and she was backpacking roughly the same route as I was up until Australia (most backpackers I've met are).

Once on the flight I was pleasantly surprised to see that the flight wasn't that busy at all; I had a window seat and the seat next to me was vacant. The guy on the isle seat of my row was a very nice American (if a little mad) named Joey, and he talked to me about all sorts, which would have been great if I wasn't trying to sleep the whole way. You see we left LA at 11:30pm and we would arrive in Nadi at 5:10am two days later, but the flight was only ten hours. Therefore I thought if I could sleep most of those 10 hours I would be bright and breezy for my first morning in Fiji (hopefully beating jet lag). Eventually I headed off to sleep and I had a pretty good nights sleep too (missed the evening meal due to being asleep … which Joey said wasn't very good).

Friday 10th September 2010

Nothing happened today at all … seriously, due to crossing west to east I went across the time line thing and lost the entire day. I thought it would feel weird but not really, looking on the bright side it's done wonders for my budget.

Saturday 11th September 2010

I had a pretty good nights sleep on the plane and I arrived in Nadi early at around 4:20am. Before arriving we were given a breakfast of fruit and a muffin which was very welcome indeed. Once off the flight we walked along an outside platform before getting to the terminal … it was hot, very hot and only 4:30am!

Once inside the terminal I was greeted by a Fijian playing a guitar … oh and customs and immigration which were fine. I was in the customs queue with Joey who was telling me that he had spoken to a good looking Canadian chick, from Ottawa, who had just completed a Law degree and was traveling around for four months … he said that I should try to meet up with her as she was backpacking around Fiji (my mum would be proud).

I said goodbye to Joey and then got into a tax to my hostel. The hostel / hotel paid for my taxi and then took me to my room (which I was quite surprised with considering I was checking in at 5:00am). Fiji seems to not have hostels as such; instead they have hotels with dorms put onto the end and this one is just like that … it's very nice and has it's own pool.

I crept quietly into my room and went to sleep for around an hour before the rest of my hostel mates alarms went off … I know in Fiji most people get up early due to the heat but 6am! It turned out that the 3 Germans (2 girls and 1 boy) and 1 Fin (a girl) were going on an island hopping tour and that started at 7:30am. I wasn't tired and so I got up too.

I went to reception to ask about a bus into Nadi and luckily there was a stop at the end of our street she said. Well I couldn't find it and so I decided to walk part way into Nadi until I reached the next stop. Nadi is quite beautiful and along the way I took a few photos of the landscape; I also had three taxi drivers stop to try to give me a discounted lift into town to which I said no. I got to the bus stop which is opposite McDonald's (there everywhere!). Soon I could see what can only be described as a shed on four wheels with no glass in the windows bombing it towards me … must be the bus then. 70 cents (20p) later I was heading into town.

When I arrived at the bus station I can only describe the place as twinned with Delhi with loads of pre-historic buses here, there and everywhere with carts in the mix trying to sell goods. As I got off the bus I was greeted with a town that resembled something from 'sheds R us' with old concrete buildings, scattered all over the place. I had a map and so I headed to the attraction I had come to see; the Sri Siva Subrahmanya Swami Temple which was simply stunning (see my Flickr account for photos). For $3.50 (just over a pound) I was allowed to take my shoes, cap and sunglasses off and have a look around and take photos (apart from when I was inside). I decided to stay out of the temple in fear of upsetting someone as this wasn't my culture and I wasn't sure how to act. After the third lap around the temple taking photos the manager (who sold me the ticket) came to me and said did I want to have a look inside. I think he knew I was nervous and so he took me in and explained all about the temple and the Hindu four gods (he was nice, even though his name was 'red eye'). He also said that at the moment it was a religious period and that I was invited to share a meal with people in the temple, if I wanted, in a couple of hours. I decided that I wouldn't simply because I'm not religious in anyway (I just wanted to see the building) and therefore I felt uncomfortable taking someone's food, especially in a country that is poorer than the UK.

After an hour I left the temple and headed back to the center of town to find an internet cafe to see if I could book some accommodation in Sigatoka. I booked an hour (for 66p) and tried to find these two places within my guidebook but to no avail. I did however get a phone number which I will try once back at the hostel.

I then headed back to the bus station; all the time through Nadi I have been bombarded with blokes saying 'bola, bola' with a big smile on there faces wanting to shake my hand and to know where I'm from, how long I'm here and then asking me to visit a market, shop or something else they own. They are all very nice and pleasant (with a good firm 'no' making them go away) but it does start to get rather annoying. I have therefore decided to christen them 'bola, bola men'. Once back at the bus station I found out information for a bus to Sigatoka or the Coral Cost tomorrow (transport done, now just accommodation) and I got on the bus back to the hostel.

Now I don't know why but I got off the bus a stop early and decided to go to the McDonald's I saw as I went into Nadi. All this way for a McDonald's … if I'm honest I think it's because today has been such a big culture shock that I needed something I could relate to.

Anyway I'm back at the hostel, had a nice shower and now I'm back on with getting some accommodation booked for tomorrow night. The phone number doesn't work on a land line and so I'm going to try it from my mobile and if that doesn't work I'll either stay here another night (and go to the sand dunes on a day trip) or skip the sand dunes and head straight to the Coral Cost. I think Once I'm at the coral coast I'll spend at least four nights there as I really need sometime to get my head around the culture.

I've now been traveling for a week and so far it's been a little mixed. On the plus side I'm bang on, if not slight under, my budget (also STA have said they will refund me my Super-Shuttle fare). On the negative I didn't really like LA that much … I'm glad I went but don't think I would want to go back. The real downside is that I'm still a little homesick and so I'm still thinking whether this traveling lark was a good idea or not … no idea why I feel this way as I loved Canada and Alaska but I think I just need to give it time. All I'm saying is don't be too surprised if I come home after New Zealand or Japan.

Toodle Pip.

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