I’ve been in Fiji for a few weeks now and I can safely say that when you come to this tropical island paradise, expect to chill like you’ve never chilled out before. Fiji’s got the whole relaxin’ thing down!
The Things I Loved:
The People Are Refreshingly Friendly
Not a day went by where I didn’t receive a welcoming “Bula” greeting from a local as I strolled by them. Armed with cordial head nods, big islander style smiles, and cool Fijian handshakes, it’s easy to strike up a good conversation with anyone on the streets. I found that many wished to learn about me and were interested in my thoughts about their country. I also came here thinking I would get heckled and hassled to buy things on the streets like in many countries, but not here. They left me alone in that regard for the most part. Fiji, you are friendly.
World Renowned Shark Scuba Diving
I went shark diving in Fiji, not once but twice! Both times near Beqa Island, one of the most renowned and sharkiest places in the world to spot a whole range of beasts from the elusive tiger ones to the motley crew of bull sharks. Scuba diving has always been one of my favorite activities, but scuba diving with sharks upped the ante quite a bit. If you are an avid diver, I highly recommend you check it out.
Those Rotis and the Samosas
The local delicacy in Fiji didn’t really jump out at me. As a matter of fact, there is a heavy Indian influence on the cuisine, specifically in the capital of Suva. However, I did come across two glutton heavy, savory morsels straight outta heaven–rotis and samosas. The version of a roti I had is a concoction of warm potato chunks and minced veggies wrapped in a thick floury dough, lightly fried. A samosa is similar but smaller, kind of like a pizza roll but in a triangular shape and baked. It’s the perfect snack, breakfast, brunch, dinner, and lunch. I’m not sure if these are strictly “Fijian” foods, but you can certainly find them almost anywhere on the main island.
The Beach-side (Budget) Resorts
Not the expensive ones, I’m sure they’re nice, but I’m talking about the budget ones like Fiji Beachouse and Uprising, both located along the coral coast far AWAY from the backpacker heavy party hostels in Nadi. I’ve been to a whole bunch of resorts during my time in Fiji and do you know what the main theme is at these resorts? Chill the heck out! Really, it was just pool, beach, billiards, hammocks, beanbags and booze. What more could you want?
It’s Relatively Cheap
I was a straight up baller in Fiji. The US dollar equaled about two Fijian dollars, but still most things were cheaply priced (aside from the excursions). Opt for the bus ride that costs less than $10 USD to get from one side of the island to the other. Accommodation was popularly priced and the food and beverages were easy on the wallet. Just stay away from the western restaurants, bars, and the chummy resorts and you’ll find the dollar stretches quite far. We found a bar where you could buy-one-get-one free of absolutely anything you ever wanted! Two pitchers of beer for $5 USD? Sold! By the way, the bar with the BOGO is called Traps. Go there for Ladies Night on Wednesdays.
I ranted on a previous post about how much I disliked the taste of kava. Despite the stolid taste, the kava gatherings were simply something I’ve never experienced before. It’s entirely social, where groups of people sit cross-legged on mats laid out on the floor with everyone drinking kava out of a single wooden bowl. Each person that takes a drink receives a quick burst of attention filled with double claps and “Bulas”! The locals pride themselves on sharing the experience with foreigners such as myself and will never hesitate an opportunity to gather around to drink kava with their family and friends. Literally you just sit there, converse a bit, and drink kava. It’s pretty neat!
The Buses With the Music
Whatever country I’m in, taking the local bus into town is typically flat and ho hum. Usually nothing special. However, every single freakin’ city bus that I rode in Fiji played funky tropical island beats that made me kinda sorta look forward to the ride. From reggae, to island remixes of modern songs, to zippy numbers I’ve never heard of in my life, the music was always bumpin’ and on point. So much that a good portion of those songs are now on a custom Fiji playlist on my iPhone, thanks to the Shazam app. These tunes will forever and always remind me of my chilled out time in Fiji and of all those awesome people I met.
And then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum…
Things I Didn’t Quite Love
Lack of Diverse Activities
If you ask some of my Fiji housemates, they will tell you that I was consistently bored out of my mind. Besides beaching and diving, there is barely anything else to do! Yes there is white water rafting, zipling, sky diving, but it’s either complete crap, ridiculously expensive or both. There is surfing too I suppose but it’s not really my thing anymore. With Fiji, you’re trapped on a small island with no where else to go. Yes you could go island hopping to do more beaching and boozing but I already beached and boozed a hundred times over on the main island. Now I have to pay $150 for a boat to take me to another island to do the exact same thing? No thanks. Make sure you have your Kindle ready for Fiji.
Lack of Beer Choices
You have two choices of beer in Fiji: Fiji Gold or Fiji Bitter. There’s also usually some random third choice and then a handful of imported beer that I can get back in the States. Fiji is not the place to try local brews because they only got two…maybe three. By the way, don’t let the name fool you, Fiji Bitter is so much better than Gold.
Resorts Lost My Reservations ALL THE F*C%ING TIME
Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you if you ever decide to visit Fiji. If you book ANY accommodation here, even if you get your confirmation email, call them to make sure they have your reservation because not once, not twice, not even three, but four freakin’ times I showed up to a resort to find out they “never” received my reservation. Even when I proceeded to show them the confirmation email on my phone, there was still “nothing” they could do about it. Fortunately, most of the times they were able to re-book me except for one instance where we had to find another more expensive accommodation because everything else nearby was already booked. That was SO annoying.
There’s this thing on the island called “Fiji Time”. Basically, if anyone (specifically Fijian locals) is late for anything, instead of blaming it on their lack of punctuality, they can usually get away with it by the excuse of simply saying “Fiji Time”. Fiji time is basically a way of saying that you were so entranced with the chilled out vibes of the island, that the importance of time became second fiddle to the sensation of island style relaxation and hanging loose. “Where’s the bus that was supposed to be here at four?” Oh sorry, Fiji time. “Where is the main teacher for this class because I can’t handle 47 kids by myself?” Oh sorry brutha, Fiji Time. “Where’s the meal I ordered like an hour ago?” Oh, Fiji time. Most of the people I was with kinda enjoyed the concept of Fiji Time. As for me, I absolutely hate being late for stuff…so it was something I had to accept and get used to.
Besides all of that, I’ve built a couple solid friendships during my stay in Fiji and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about them soon on here. I’d have more to report about Fiji but there is only so much I could write about when it comes to sittin’ on the beach and drinking a beer.