Hello again - any regular readers, I have been away for a while, and taking a while to get back into gear after returning.
My Charming Assistant (and her charming 9 year-old daughter) scored a good deal with Air Pacific and Sofitel Fiji for 4 nights for the three of us with child staying free and a free dinner for her each night.
Now, I did have some moral reservations about holidaying in a country which has a repressive military dictatorship running the place. On the other hand - as I often hear in these cases, the last thing the low-paid locals need is a tourism collapse on top of coup turmoil. I saw one miltary policeman in the whole time - grim looking, with a beret and Attitude. That was it.
Anyway, Sofitel is run by a French hotel chain and this shows in the high standard of food - from the basic Cafe style (and bloody good coffee) through to fine dining available on site. Value-wise it was about the same as in $NZ, but alcohol was generally over-priced. (I recommend the very good local Fiji Gold ale at about $NZ5.00 a bottle.) But they do a mean Margarita at about $NZ15. On the other hand, a bottle of basic Nobilo Monkey Bay Merlot goes for about $NZ42.00. Staff are immaculately dressed and are very attentive and friendly. The second floor lounge bar plays retro jazz and faces the beach with views over the underlit pool.
However, you could be whisked from the airport straight to the Fantasy Island ambience of Denarau Island's international hotel strip - and think that you are in 'real' Fiji. But it really is a gated community with security guards on the causeway to the exclusive tourist strip. On the way from the airport, you can't fail to notice extremely run-down third world, tired and dirty looking shops and homes. It is obvious that very few locals enjoy an affluent lifestyle - and that our friendly and polite hotel staff very likely live in those very basic homes.
The sheer foreignness of any destination is what I love - if it smells different or I see unusual animals or flora - that's what I love. So I got coconut trees, toads, Frangipani trees, little red and grey birds, and little stripy fish that race around your legs in the shallows. What I wasn't expecting - re exotic natives, was eyebrow-plucked and camp as a row of tents transvestites and gay boys. Kind of disconcerting when they are 6 ft 4 Fiji natives and built like a brick shithouse. They were everywhere from the airport to the action-packed Robinson Crusoe tourist island activity. Maybe they find more sympathetic employment in tourism and hospo. I had heard that the military are anti-gay, so perhaps the international hotels offer refuge and are gay friendly.
Four nights was about enough - I have a 3 day burn out with most foreign spots. It was great - I zoned out and had fab food and expensive wine. The 9 y/o loved the Kids' Club - we had some quality time out together. It was exotic and relaxing and very enjoyable.
Phil runs the goddamn best wine tours in Auckland New Zealand