To Fiji and back in 24 hours

by - Friday, August 23, 2013

The following blog post was actually written while on a plane two weeks ago. I've been a bit hesitant about sharing this because it does involve my work life - but this trip was too good to not share.

currently: sitting in seat 35D eating an ice cream.

I come to you writing this somewhere 35,000 ft above the Pacific Ocean, between Fiji and New Zealand. This trip probably came as a surprise to a lot of my friends as I barely mentioned what I was doing (in fear I would jinx everything), but it has been the most exciting 24 hours that I've had in a long time.

If you didn't know, I work for a radio station working as an online editor. I get to work with a great group of people, who have amazing ideas and personalities, in the entertaining and fun online and radio industry. I write, I video, I photograph, I design - I love my job!

It was almost half a month ago when I got asked if I wanted to create a video for a massive promotion we were running called Mid-Air Matrimony with Fiji Airways. It was all about five couples getting married in the sky, and long story short - they put me on a plane to Fiji to film the ceremony.


I've never travelled to Fiji before, or been anywhere around the Pacific Islands. So the offer that I was being paid to travel there was amazing (and almost crosses off a bucket list: to be paid to travel and write about it. Video is close enough).

I taxied to the airport at 6am yesterday morning [Wednesday], with a video camera, digital camera and suitcase in tow. It was a massive morning, involving a breakfast show broadcast and this wedding setup in Auckland Airport. Crazy stuff that gets a lot of heads turning and many curious people asking "is someone getting married here?"

After all that breakfast stuff was done, it was all down to getting on the plane. And I'll say that trying to film while checking in and boarding a plane - not easy.

But after some frantic moments, (I probably looked frazzled being this small 5 foot 2 girl with 3 different bags and our radio station's signage) eventually all was well and we got on the plane. Do you know how many times I've sat in business class? None. Until now.

My first business class ticket.
The fact I was going to Fiji for work - awesome. The fact my seat was a business class seat? Mind blowing. Call me odd for by being so fascinated and overwhelmed by business class, but it's a business class seat on an airplane. Where seats are spacious, the cutlery isn't plastic and no one leans their chair into your personal space. And while it's great that I'm on this plane filming for my work - that business class treatment was for me. Economy right now is not so inspiring - crying babies and restless old men pushing on my seat as they struggle to remain stable walking down the aisle.

Ermahgerd – Ferncer ferst!
Anyway, once we filmed the wedding ceremony (and you can watch said video here!) it was business class time. Oh it is bliss. I don't know if it was because of the wedding or because it was business class - but I had not prepared myself for a three course meal on the plane. Forget the one tray plane meal. We got served...
 
Entree: this native Fiji ota fish soaked in coconut cream, with papaya and a delicious salad. Lunch: a pepper camembert chicken with potato and veges.


Dessert: Ice cream! It was like a toffee ice cream with a berry copote, and two little chocolate wafer sticks. Best airplane food ever. And of course the food was enough to fill me for pretty much the rest of the night.

 
The seats are something special too. So many buttons to control my chair whichever way I want (well within reason.) So if I wanted to lie completely flat in my chair - it was possible. Also, their built in-screen offers so many options. (I swear I'm not being paid to write about Fiji Airways by the way.) 

I will say the one thing I should learn from Business Class travel is making use of the 'call attendant' button. Because being upper class means it's not okay to try and flag down flight attendants. Apparently.

The first glimpse of Fiji from the plane
Anyway, we eventually descended into Nadi, Fiji, which was a bit overcast and cloudy. I don't know why but I had expected to see a lot of really blue ocean and a lot of sand - like everything that appears in a Google Image search of Fiji. But it wasn't really like that... it was a lot of farm, a lot of small basic housing, and quite a few clouds of smoke. As it turns out, people like to burn trees here, and you can spot it from the sky.

Once we got off the plane (again, this video pretty much describes the whole airport arrival too, minus the feeling of humidity) we headed to the RadissonBLU Resort, which is part of a collection of seven different resorts along the coastline of Denarau Island.

I didn't really get time to see the "real Fiji" except in the drives to and from the resort. The two different lifestyles - the 'real' lifestyle of Fiji, and the resort lifestyle of Fiji, feel quite separate from each other. To me it seems strange that these two sides of the rural and almost poverty-striken versus the rich and compact resort island can be just 10 minutes from each other.
In my room, with my lei I got at the airport!
What is no different is the attitudes of the people. From the airport to the resort - the people of Fiji are the friendliest and most welcoming group of people ever. Everyone just welcomes you with 'Bula!' and offered their help with everything - which honestly is just unfamiliar to me.



My super wide bed, just for me
I haven't had my own bathroom in years.
Also unfamiliar to me - having my own hotel room! As someone with a sibling, I'm used to family trips where I'd share a hotel room with my sister, and because I'm the nice older sister, I usually give her the bigger bed. I'm not going to lie - but I did actually do a small victory dance after the hotel guy left the room. Dorky I know - but I was acting like an excited little girl about this all - you wouldn't expect I was 22.
My first Fiji drink! (that I ordered)
It was already quite dark when we got to the resort, so after we moved our things to our hotel rooms (and after my solo-celebration dance) my co-worker and I made our way to one of the restaurant bars where I got my first cocktail drink. I don't really remember what was in it, cause the bartender made it up for me, but it had vodka and sweet tropical juice in it (I think. My knowledge about alcohol is really poor).

We moved on, and wandered off towards the beach restaurant BLU where there was some fire dance entertainment going on. It was really packed, and pretty much every child at the resort were sitting around the restaurant. I was a bit gutted I had only been carrying around my cellphone to take these photos, but what they were doing looked impressive.
Except for one dude who kept dropping his fire poi. There's always one, and for a few seconds it looked like he had accidentally caught himself or one of this dancers on fire. All was well though and the rest of the audience looked captivated by it.
 
We watched the entire fire dance set before we moved on, looking for another place to eat (I was told by the luggage handler that there were three restaurants, I didn't realise till the next morning it was next to the BLU restaurant. Hard to find things in the dark.) As we walked, I took in the scenery around me. You could hear the tide coming in from the beach right next to the restaurant. You could feel the breeze within the warm humidity. You could see how impressive the pools and waterfalls looked lighted up at night. Couldn't really smell any food though.

In the end, after all the wandering, we just ended back at BLU where most of the crowd had left after the fire dancing concluded. In its space was a man encouraging people to bet on a frog race. (At first I thought the guy was auctioning off people. "He works very hard, moves very fast, who will pay $50 for him?")

 
Still full from lunch, I ordered something small with a petite-sized tasty calamari lemon salad, with a pina colada. I don't actually think they work together in taste, but there's no denying how Fiji festive it was.
 

This was all followed up with a refreshing and cool fruity sorbet. But I was so close to exploding from all the food I had eaten that day, I wasn't able to finish all of it. But it was still so delicious and much needed for the humid weather.

Soon after that though, I felt so full and sleepy. Food, early wakeups and that bit of alcohol just makes me want to curl up into bed. I welcomed my massive two king single bed, said hello to my friends back home online, then watched Adventure Time as I headed to sleep.

Despite having air conditioning in my room, I was still uncomfortable with the weather. So halfway through the night I ended up waking, with my limbs searching for any cool side of the bed (and thankfully, with a massive bed there is a lot of space.) I got a bit restless and turned the air conditioning, attempting to get comfortable again amongst the plump pillows. Later did I realise that in the dark (and half-asleep) I had actually been turning UP the air conditioning. So I ended up feeling uncomfortable through the night in 24 degree air conditioning. Facepalm.

I woke up about 7am (after maybe five hours of solid sleep), deciding that maybe I'd go for a swim in the pool before I had breakfast. I pulled back the curtains on my third floor to see that the resort staff were cleaning the pools. Darn it.

So instead I ended up washing up and wandering around the resort by myself, taking the camera with incase there were some shots I could film for the video. The weather was overcast and cloudy, but the view I saw was still impressive, as shown in this crudly put together panoramic.

The resort looked different to what I saw last night in the dark. For one, I didn't realise how close my room was to the BLU restaurant. Or that the other restaurant Cross was right next to my stairs. I also realised how many pools there actually were. This entire time I thought it was like one connecting pool.

You could also see how many kids there were as they ran around and played about the tables and lounge chairs. Why these kids were not at school I don't know.

At some point, I figured I better eat before it got late, so I headed to the BLU buffet and had a small and simple breakfast. Just some orange juice, followed with bacon, a poached egg, potatoes and a blueberry muffin.
 

Check out was just before 11am, so it gave me about an hour to relax in the pool and spa, which needed to be done. There were two things that people told me to do when I got to Fiji - relax and use the pool.
The pool was nice and cool against the warm weather, and since it was overcast, there wasn't really anyone in the adult pool, leaving me to paddle about and float in the cool water. Then following that up with time in the spa pool, relaxing amongst the bubbles while music played from the family pool next door. What was nice about the pools is how secluded and sectioned off the pool felt, even though they're so close to each other.
With half an hour till check-out, I regretfully got myself out the pool (ungracefully grazing my knee as I got out. Class.) then headed back to my room to shower and pack up. As I headed back upstairs to my room, I actually got a 'Bula!' from the man renovating the unoccupied hotel rooms next door, who I didn't actually spot till I saw his head peaking out from the palm leaves. The friendly nature of these people is just amazing.

We left the resort and headed back to the hotel, were I tried to take in as much of Fiji as I could left. This included taking a photo of McDonalds in Fiji. Cause, you know...

Anyway, this experience of Fiji has been fantastic, and while it was the shortest amount of time spent in Fiji, and I only stuck around the resort, it was really refreshing to be somewhere else for 24 hours. There are definitely things I need to do when I go back to Fiji, including swimming in Fiji water, and getting my hair braided like a 10-year-old female tourist (okay maybe not that last part.) But I'd definitely go back, even if it was for a couple of days, and truly take the time to explore the real Fiji. And of course, if this can be done through business class again, all the better.

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