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Saturday, October 26, 2002
Saturday: our 3rd day. We still can't believe how lucky we are with the weather, since we have not encountered any rain yet (which should be at least once a day this time of year.)
I woke up too early, watched some movie, went back to bed. We then woke up and had some breakfast outside and realized that they finally turned on the water for the water slide and so we relaxed in the pool and found out that the water slide ride can be quite bumpy.
We received a phonecall from Edo and kindly offered to pick us up to show us around to get an idea about the different parts of Suva and what kind of houses there are. We also stopped by his house and really liked it, we hope to find something very similar. He also took us to another supermarket where we bought some more stuff, finally some imported low fat yoghurt and australian cheese :) We returned to the hotel, but took a taxi a bit later to get back to Edo's place where he and his wife made a nice BBQ dinner. We chatted and had lots of fun and great food.
Friday morning we had our first "Sword seller" (the local word for "con artist") ... the guide books have described those people and their schemes, so we successfully dodged him. First he just started walking next to us, welcomed us and asked simple where-from and such questions, told us some news ... and then he said "have a nice day" and was gone ... just 2 minutes later he was next to me again and tried to hand me a wooden mask saying "i made this for you" .... yeah right. I told him very clearly "No" and he was gone for good ... according to the guide book, usually it continues that they ask for your name, carve it in the mask and then ask for tons of money and get very impolite - aggressive if you do not pay ... well ... we got around that :)
We did some more shopping, mainly groceries, and we looked around for some items we know we need to buy for our future home. We met with Edo, a future colleague of Ritsu, and Marijke for lunch to get great info on how to tackle the real estate market and how to select cell phone and internet providers (well .. there is actually no real big selection). Food was very yummy ... curries !
We kept walking around and found a perfect coffee maker at the Tappoo duty free store. We bought our first copy of the Fiji Times to look for houses ...
So, I will get a bit more into detail how the whole travel adventure from LA to Fiji was: The hotel we stayed at was the LA adventurer on Century Blvd. I stayed there 5 years ago. A cheap place, but spacious suites. And we had time until noon to repack everything and to check out.
After check out we had lots of time to kill so we did some more shopping, returned to the hotel from 2 nights ago (since I believed I had left something there) and around 6:30 PM we returned the car which has been our trusty travel buddy for the last 29 days. And with our huge and plenty bags we boarded the shuttle to the airport.
Luckily we could check in 5 hours before departure and everything went just fine, the luggage was all within weight limits and we had no tricky discussion about our one way tickets to Fiji.
We then called our new LA based friend Mika, who offered kindly before that she would drive us around and have dinner with us. And so we did: Mika found us a nice, no-thrills-just-great-food japanese place and we had lots of it, a pitcher of beer and a really good time (much better than sitting around the airport bars).
Mika returned us to the airport in time and we did some quick duty free shopping and then went without any trouble through security (well, of course they were as usual very interested in my computer bag which holds tons of electronic equipment) and we arrived at our gate just in time before boarding. Since we were in the second to last row, we were called for boarding very soon. While the usual setup on a 747 is 3-5-3 seats, towards the end, there are some 2 seat rows ... and we got one of those, so no 3rd person we would have to climb over to get out. But there was not much climbing going on anyway. We both fell asleep during take off. And the next time I woke up, dinner and the first movie (Scorpion King) were over already! I then at least went for a drink and watched the beginning of "Spider Man" but very soon I was tired again and fell asleep.
The next time we both woke up was just 1:30 hours prior to landing and they were serving breakfast!(with champagne, yeah!). Breakfast was some greasy but tasty egg dish and of course we were slightly hungry. We were a bit surprised about our flight attendants: after reading a lot about the fijian friendliness, we had expected to see some of that on the flight. But those ladies were all a bit grumpy.
We landed at Nadi international airport right on time and were greeted by 26C warm and humid air (at 5:20 AM!). Next stop: Immigration. They wanted to see some kind of letter confirming that Ritsu would work for the UN, but otherwise they were very friendly and let us enter the country. Then after a while of watching the parade of rotating luggage items we spotted all of our bags and without any trouble we got through customs.
We had to get all that stuff over to domestic flights and check in with Fiji Air. Those guys had some trouble with the weight of our luggage, but instead of charging extra or anything, they just said that some of our stuff may have to come on a plane just 15 minutes later. But in the end it fit all in and so all of our luggage was with us on a small 20 seat plane to Suva. Ritsu was surprised about the size, never having been in a prop plane that small.
The flight was pleasant and short (25 minutes) and we got to see some of the central mountains. Once in Suva, we collected our bags and Ritsu quickly got us a nice cab driver. This guy was a bit too talkative but very nice, explained a lot of things took a more scenic route to Suva (which he charged us 2 F$ extra for without telling us first ... grrr. One F$ is about 1 Euro or 50US cents). Once in Suva he let Rutsu out at a bank to get some money, and then the next stop was our hotel, the Suva Motor Inn.
Although it was 8:20 AM, they made our room ready so we could actually check in at 9 AM. So we spent some time at the Waterfall Bar & Restaurant, Ritsu had fresh fruit for breakfast, and I celebrated our arrival with 2 Fiji Bitters (hey, I was still in some other time zone :)
After settling in and taking a brief dip in the pool, we did our first stroll to town: Everything seems nice and walkable from our hotel. First stop was an internet cafe (1F$ for 10 minutes ... allegedly highspeed, probably some form of DSL) for a brief email check. We then checked out several shopping facilities, from mall-like structures, supermarkets to basic farmer markets. First impression: I think we can get pretty much everything here ... there only seems to be a lack in "health food" ... like low fat yoghurt, diet drinks and such. There are tons of restaurants, most of them indian or chinese. Lots of indian clothing stores too. I found one place selling all kinds of movies on VCD (not really cheap, 40F$ for "Lord of the Rings" e.g. and seems they only sell official releases, not bootleg VCDs). There is one duty free place we checked briefly for electronics: Coffee maker for 70F$, TV for 1400F$ a bottle of Bombay Saphire for 80F$.
So we then did our first big supermarket shopping ... mainly water, coke .. all stuff that is heavy to carry ... and on our way back to the hotel we had lunch at the Old Mill Cafe. Basic place, but very friendly people and nice food ... I had the Fish LoLo (in coconut sauce) and Ritsu had a chicken dish. Oh, did I mention that the temperature and humidity are pretty much perfect ... though at some point it got a bit too humid. But i think we maybe just caught a really good "dry" day .... our hotel room smells a bit as if it is usually more humid .. and everything feels a bit damp.
Other observations: Men wearing skirts !!! yeah, finally I can let out the transvestite in me :) They are called "Sulu" and are official dress code for men. They have formal ones that men wear to the office and informal ones for other times. Most men I have seen are wearing open leather sandals ... funny enough that there shoe shine guys for those around.
We have not really seen any other tourists in Suva. They must all be in and around Nadi or in the resorts all over the islands. And it may not be high tourist season. Another very pleasant thing was that we seemed to blend in ... no funny glances at the tourist couple (especially a tall, pale blonde guy like me)
We returned to our hotel and spent time napping, making first appointments by phone, computer stuff and finishing a DVD i started a while ago (a great Miyazaki movie about a flying pig :). Ritsu had to wake me up around 6:30 PM (i was napping so nicely) and we went to the Hotel Bar to meet Marijke, Peter and Clark. I have been in email contact with Marijke for some time now and she has given us lots of helpful suggestions for our relocation to Fiji. So it was fun to meet in person and we all had a great time. Peter introduced me to this bar's special "Around the world" drinking game: They have a list of 38 beers and if you have done one of each, you get your own steel mug to drink from in the future ... (legend has it that someone has done that in one day ... but it is not meant to be that fast) ... I think i did 5 of them last night :)
Peter also had us drink our first Kava !!! ... There were 2 guitar players and they brought a bowl of this herbal / narcotic drink ... it looks like muddy water and numbs your lips for some minutes ... the taste is not unpleasant. You clap once before you accept the drink and 3 times afterwards. We had a great time and were bravely fighting our fatigue ... but around 10 PM it was time for us to go to bed. We tried to watch some movie ... but the next morning both of us only recalled the opening 5 minutes :)
10/24/02 10:45 AM Fiji Time
WE HAVE ARRIVED !!!! we had a great an pleasent flight, both of us sleeping pretty much the whole flight, all of our stuff arrived too. After arrival in Nadi, we boarded a small island hopper plane and after 25 minutes we landed at Suva Airport .... but from there to Suva City it took another 50 minute cab ride (for 20 F$). Gladly we could check in early into our hotel and the first thing we checked out was the pool. Now we are doing our first stroll through the city.
We are in LA and tonight we board our 11 hour flight nonstop from LA to Fiji. Sure we are excited. The las 4 weeks have been a great trip and also a great transition from one place to a next, new, exciting one in the south pacific (well, I will start believing it once we are there)
I wonder when I will have a first chance to get online there, so check back often :)