ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 29

December 06, 2018 – Suva, Fiji

Suva (soo-va) is the heart of Fiji, home to half of the country’s urban population and the largest city in the South Pacific. It’s a lush green city on a hilly peninsula, that gets more than its fair share of rain, and has a vibrant cultural scene.

Downtown is as diverse architecturally as the populace is culturally. A jigsaw of colonial buildings, modern shopping plazas, abundant eateries and a breezy esplanade all form the compact central business district. Small passages are lined with curry houses, sari shops and bric-a-brac traders. Bollywood and Hollywood square off at the local cinema and within the same hour you’re likely to see businessmen in traditional sulu (sarong) and students from across the Pacific region rocking the latest styles.

Today we are on a private tour and on a bus with 22 of us.  Our first stop is at Bilo Battery, a WWII historical site.  The Bilo Battery was a key part of the defense of Fiji, being one of only four gun positions protecting Suva. Frankly, there is not much left to see but if it were not for the rain, it would provide an excellent view of the Suva harbor.

Our next stop was the Fiji Museum. This museum offers a great journey into Fiji’s historical and cultural and evolution. The centre piece is the massive Ratu Finau (1913), Fiji’s last waqa tabus(double-hulled canoe), over 13m long and with an enclosed deck for rough weather.

Other attractions in the main hall include war clubs, a gruesome display about cannibalism and the rudder from The Bounty (of Mutiny fame).

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The growing influence of other South Pacific and European cultures is documented in a hall on the other side of the museum shop. It is here that you’ll find the well-chewed, but ultimately inedible, shoe of Thomas Baker, a Christian missionary eaten for his indiscretions in 1867.

Upstairs, a small Indo-Fijian hall chronicles some of the contributions made by the Indian workers and their descendants who were brought to Fiji in the 1870s as indentured labourers.

Adjacent to the museum are the Thurston Gardens.  After visiting the museum, the plan was to wander through these compact but beautiful gardens. However, again, the weather played havoc with our plans.

After a scenic drive through the city (not much to see really), we went to the very interesting Municipal Market.  It’s the beating heart of Suva and a great place to spend an hour or so poking around. The boys with wheelbarrows own the lanes and they don’t seem afraid to mow down a few tourists to deliver their cassava on time. Besides the recognizable tomatoes, cabbages and chilies, there are bitter gourds, mangos, papayas, jackfruit, dalo (taro), yams and so much more. Produce is cheaper than in supermarkets and there’s no need to haggle – prices are clearly marked.  They measure their produce by handful, heap or bundle.

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Our lunch was at the Holiday Inn and so I was not expecting much from a hotel restaurant.  I was mistaken!  The quality and quantity of food showcasing their local cuisine was excellent.  There were also several desserts and I asked them to also serve the mangoes (a heap for $3 Fijian or $1.85CAD) and papaya (large for $2 Fijian or 1.25Cad) that I bought at the market.  Delicious!

The balance of the afternoon was free time which we spent by walking around the downtown and retreating back to the ship to immerse ourselves in the books we are enjoying.  Next stop is Apia, Somoa!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 28

December 05, 2018 – Nadi, Fiji

Nadi (pronounced Nandi) is Fiji’s third-largest center and its gateway town. Most budget and mid-range accommodations as well as the vast majority of shops and restaurants are in or just north of the town center. A 20-minute drive over a short bridge to the east lies Port Denarau, home to six international luxury hotels (and counting), the shopping complex and marina, and large private homes.  A shared beachfront and free shuttle bus makes it easy to get around Port Denarau and access the restaurants and spas of each hotel. Denarau is built on reclaimed mangrove mudflats; most of the beach has dark-grey sand and murky water makes it unsuitable for snorkeling.

Having said all that, our focus today was on golf!  The plan was to meet another couple to make a foursome.  However, when we got onshore (this is a tender port), just our friend Terry was waiting for us.  It seems his wife Cynthia was not feeling well and opted out of golf.  Rather than an awkward 3-some, Karen bowed out of golf and thought some shopping might be in order.  When our friends Jillian and Ed saw Karen and inquired what had happened, they graciously invited Karen to join their group to go to the mudbaths.

Their first stop was at Garden of the Sleeping Giant.  Founded by the late American actor Raymund Burr (anyone remember Perry Mason?) in 1977 to house his own orchids, the garden now displays more than 2,000 kinds of orchids across its 50 acres. It’s located in the foothills of the Sabeto Mountains.

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From there, it was on to the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool for a naturalistic bathing experience north of town, where you can take a dip in these underdeveloped thermal bathing and mud pools in the lush Sabeto River Valley.  Anyone looking for an expensive spa experience substitute will be disappointed. The admission fee is approximately $30 Fijian Dollars.

Before the mud…

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After the mud…

The cleanse…

The massage…

And then the drinks!  Life is good!

While Karen was enjoying her adventures, Terry and I checked in for our golf game.  The cost was $90 Fijian dollars for green fees and $65 Fijian for club rental.  Works our to about $95 CAD, so not too bad.

We were teamed up with another couple of guys from the ship.  The course was reasonably good.  A different type of grass which made the greens a bit tricky but no excuses.  We had a wonderful day albeit very hot and humid.  Our round was about 4.5 hours and we really enjoyed a local beverage after the round.  I’m very glad we had the chance to play golf in Fiji…it made up for our missed round in Mooloolaba, Australia!