More of my photos from Fiji


Fiji Archives

March 2, 2006

foreign flags and ukuleles

when travelling, someitmes you encounter people that will tell you all kinds of things to try and get you to part with your tourist dollars in all kinds of new and interesting ways.

however, sometimes they're telling the truth too.

case in point: we arrived at nadi int'l airport here in fiji a little after 5 in the morning, where we were greeted by several ukulele players (note: the art of the ukulele is alive and well here in fiji), the usual customs clearance, and then into a horde of friendly, smiling, fijian touts (with high-pressure sales tactics at the ready) to redirect us to any number of places to stay at.

fueled by our guidebooks and the usual independent travel paranoia, we dodged all the touts and headed to the second floor of the building, where our guidebook assured us that in office #20 we would find the Fijian Visitors Bureau, offering pure and unabiased advice about the many places we could stay at. one particular tout followed us persistently, assuring us over and over that the FVB office was closed and gone. we turned the corner, arrived at office #20, and found... an empty office with a radiator that had been ripped out of the wall sitting in the midle of the room. oops -- guess we should have believed the total stranger for once.

we then proceeded to get a taxi to the "nadi bay motel" our friends had advised us on and which we read about in our guidebook as a good place to start, and our taxi driver took us to the "nadi bay resort hotel", which he told us was the same one, as did the staff. of course, the name had changed twice since the guidebook, as had the phone number, but by process of elimination (only place on an nearly-empty road), we concluded we'd reached the right place and settled in. it's a good spot to spend a day at.

today is our day to "acclimatize". this means pondering the 4 hour time change that also involves losing a day, adjusting to the normal (ie. not-enormous-hungry-giant-sized) portions, tasting the local brew (straightforward and strong), and poking around town.

we had a great indian meal in town (there is a large population of people originally from india here, see fiji's history for more details), and watched as a fancy black mercedes car pulled up in the street opposite, with a miniature chinese flag flying proudly from its hood, whose driver then let three very opulent-looking chinese folks up into a restaurant.

not sure whether we'd just witnessed ambassadors or tour group members disembarking from the car, we spoke with the taxi driver and it turns out that foreigners are big on displaying their own flags (along with the fijian one, of course) in fiji. or something like that. as proof, he pointed out the german and fijian flags flying proudly over "HAMBURG HOUSE", a place which i can only imagine is full of perfectly-roasted bratwurst and enormous, frosty mugs of excellent pilsner.

in other news -- my cold is getting better, and i'm rapidly reading my way through james michener's "tales of the south pacific". we're headed out to a beach resort at the south part of the island in the morning, which means my first dose of actual fijian beach.

photos note: bandwidth here is realllly slow, so don't expect any photos online for a few more days at least.

March 3, 2006

bus ride

recently we've arrived at a "backpackers resort" right on the beach called The Beachouse, on the south side of fiji. great stuff... beautiful beach, a bamboo raft anchored in the water that you can swim out to, palm trees providing shade, genuinely friendly staff, and a good bunch of guests. we're here for a few days while we plan the island we'll head to for the next week or so (probably somewhere in the yasawa group).

today we headed into suva to get some supplies, and had our first Bus Ride of the trip as a result. for me, Bus Rides are those unique experiences riding a charter/non-scheduled bus anywhere in the world. each country, city, and driver has their own form of Bus Ride.

today's Bus Ride was in a minibus. the return minibus back from suva to the resort was the best one. this bus had started its life out as a white toyota minivan. the stock back seats had been ripped out and replaced with high-density seating the van to accomodate up to 11 passengers, plus the driver and his sidekick. the ceiling covering had been removed and replaced with tropical print fabric, which was then covered with plastic sheeting to avoid stains. the dashboard had tribal-print carpeting literally nailed into it, and the steering wheel was covered in a massive, soft cover that the driver's hands barely wrapped around. the gearshift was similarly decorated. hanging from the rearview mirror were two shell necklaces, and an extra suction cup on the widow had an air freshener in the shape of a pineapple, and a small stuffed-animal mouse pointed out towards the highway. above both the driver-side and passenger-side doors were a series of small fish stickers from the movie "finding nemo". to complete the cramped vibe, a kenwood car stereo with cd changer was playing a mix of fijian pop music and american r&b.

the windows had large guards over them to stop insects or rain from entering the car. when the sky was clear, the windows were down the entire time to ventilate the car, and during any sort of downpour, the windows were rolled up all the way, and the AC was cranked to full blast. i was in the front, crammed in next to the driver's sidekick guy (the sidekick was absolutely nonplussed about this seating arrangement), watching us honk and blaze past other cars and minivan-buses on the 2-late highway. as the pepsi-sponsored highway sign urging drivers to "arrive alive!" whipped past, i was beginning to wonder what the accident rate was on fijian highways, and if any minibus drivers ever allow their passengers access to the seatbelts.

after the first hour of the drive back, i promptly fell asleep for the rest of the journey. (one of the best survival methods for Bus Rides).

fun fact: it takes as much time to drive each way from "the beach house" to suva as it does to drive from los angeles to palm springs. just in case you're thinking about heading into town from here to run a few errands too. HONK!

March 6, 2006

life at the beach house

i probably won't find a good place to upload photos until i reach NZ in about a week and a half, so i'm using one of jean's photos from flickr instead! this is the backyard of the beach house, which we just left this morning.

many afternoons were spent in hammocks in this yard (which transitions right into the beach, more photos to come later), drinking fiji beer, playing card games, or making coconut jewelery. i know the last activity kind of sounds like we're in therapy, but in a way, i think we are.

March 9, 2006

enroute to the octopus

(Now reading: Peridio Street Station by China Mieville. August gave it to me just before i left, and it's proven to be a great 900+ page book. It's innovative steampunk, basically, and recommended to anyone with some time to spend reading.)

I'm currently making my way through the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, heading gradually south until we end back up in Nadi where our Fiji trip began. We've just left the Coconut Bay resort on Naviti Island, and were staying at Otto and Fanny's resort on Tavewa before that.

Our next stop, the Octopus Resort, is the resort that's been referred to as "a bit posh" by some other backpackers we've run into, but considering that it costs the same (or less) as some of the no-fan-in-the-dorm sweathouse wonders we've been to so far, i think we'd welcome that.

By the way, you may wonder how i'm staying at so many "resorts" on a budget trip. here's the secret: in fiji, "resort" does not mean acres of pristine beaches, 4-star hotel rooms, etc. instead, here's how it works:

big main building + bures (fijian houses) + meals + alcohol + activities + fan = fiji resort.

so with that in mind, next stop, Octopus Resort!

March 13, 2006

a card game called shithead

As any good backpacker knows, one of the best ways to pass the time while travelling, or while relaxing at your destination, is to play card games. The best card games for travellers are simple, easy to learn, based on a healthy mixture of luck and skill.

While I've learned many card games across my different trips (most recently, the game "Seven" from the Swedes I've been hanging out with here at the Octopus Resort), the all-time classic card game for backpackers is Shithead. I am particularly fond of this game, and have no shame in quickly roping people into playing this game ad nauseum, even if the only person around is the same person that i've been travelling with for the last month.

Game of Shithead in progress.

The rules of Shithead, as we have pieced them together from other backpackers, go like this:

Each player is dealt three cards face-down, then three cards face-up, and then a hand of three cards face-down. The remaining cards are left in a stack in the middle of the table. Whichever player has at least one 4 in their hand and plays their 4(s) first, gets to go first. The rest of the players go in clockwise order, playing cards that are either equal to in value or higher than the card that was played just before them. Once they play their cards (if they have multiples of the same card value, they can play those at he same time), they draw that number of cards from the stack of remaining cards in the middle of the table. If a player cannot play any of their 3 cards, they have to pickup all the cards played so far, and take those into their hand.

When the stack of remaining cards is exhausted, and a player's hand is empty, they can then play cards from the three face-up cards in front of them. Once those cards are gone, they can then choose one card from the face-down cards in front of them when it's their turn to play. Once all those cards are gone, then the player has used up all of their cards and they have won the game.

Now, there are some cards that are special and have specific effects in the game. These are:

2: Can be played at any time. Playing this card means the next player can play any card.

3: "Transparent", and can be played at any time. Playing this card means that the next player has to play a card that is higher than or equal in value to the card played before you played the 3.

7: The next card that is played after the 7 must be lower than or equal to 7.

8: Playing this card means that the next player loses their turn, and the game moves on to the next player after that.

10: Playing this card clears the pile of cards played so far -- they are swept off of the table, and the player who put down the 10 can play another card as well. (Note that the pile of cards is also cleared when 4 cards of the same value are played sequentially, either by one player or different players. Whoever cleared the pile gets to play again.)

Ace: Because it's the highest-value card, it can be played at any time (except after a 7, as per the rules above.

So that's our version of Shithead. Have any of the rest of you played this game on your trips? If so, what are YOUR rules for it? (And if you have any other travel card games, pass 'em along, i definitely could use them...)


There are a lot of thoughts that go through someone's mind when getting their PADI Open Water Diver certification (in other words, your required license to scuba dive in most parts of the world). In my case, it was a series of thoughts about "oh, THAT'S how the fish from my childhood tropical aquarium were supposed to exist in the real world!", and the other, more unlikely thought: "NOW I understand the Infocom game Cutthroats."

Cutthroats box cover image

The game itself, which I'd first played at around 12 years old and never really considered a very good Infocom game (all the diving references in the game like tank air measurement just seemed confusing and awkward to me), suddenly flashed through my mind and i realized that Cutthroats was more of a loving tribute to scuba diving and putting some intrigue and mystery around diving, rather than an stand-alone amazing adventure game.

Anyways, learning how to scuba dive has been fantastic. After the awkward first few dives in the pool and the ocean off our island (with water so warm that a wetsuit is optional), things picked up quickly. The fourth dive we went deeper than on our previous dives, and after swimming past a school of giant double-headed parrotfish, we floated over the reef "cliff" and swam over a drop going down hundreds of feet. To be able to feel like i'm flying over a drop like that, without any sense of vertigo, was just... like nothing else.

PADI certification came a few days later, so now i'm all set to dive in the many future dive destinations on this trip. Now I just need to get ahold of a computer so I can replay Cutthroats one more time...

March 14, 2006

octopus love

Much love to our friends at the octopus resort in fiji!

Jean and I had an amazing week there... we came for a day, but ended up spending seven there, learning to scuba dive, sunning ourselves on the beach, playing card games with our friendly posse of swedes, and doubtfully watching the pool turn from blue to green. (the last one will be fixed by now)

this place is an undiscovered gem, and we were lucky to be there. mad props to ross, polly, and the rest of the octopus team. and of course, thanks to allyson and bryan for tipping us off to the land of the octopus.

and to our friends on the octopus staff -- keep on with the scuba lessons, music every night, naps in the afternoon, and basket weaving lessons.

About Fiji

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Fiji category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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