BULA!!! Welcome to Fiji

As Ashley and I wrapped up our time in Hong Kong we were a bit exhausted.   We loved Hong Kong and due to our extremely small room we were out of the there as much as possible exploring the city.    On top of being exhausted from Hong Kong we were both at a point where we were ready for some smaller places.   Since the beginning of our trip almost 2 months prior we had been in mega huge cities the whole time.   We were constantly surrounded by millions of people and a new place and we had a bit of sensory over load.

We knew we wanted to head down towards Australia / New Zealand after Hong Kong and we had planned approximately 30 days in each place.  This left us with a weird gap of about 15 days.   We could either stick out the 15 days in Hong Kong or try and find a different place to check out.   We had both heard of Fiji and my sister had been there before and recommended it.   After some research we decided that was definitely where we wanted to head next to get some vacation from our vacation. #firstworldproblems

Planning a trip to Fiji to can be a bit difficult.  There are a lot of different islands and there’s no way to see them all.  You land on the main island (Viti Levu) and from there you can hop to smaller islands.   We opted to hit the main island, then hit a couple smaller islands, then finish our time up on the main island.    To get out to all the islands you take a boat called the Yasawa flyer that runs once each day.   The boat has just enough daylight to start in Viti Levu and make it out to the furthest island.

Arriving in Viti Levu

The flight from Hong Kong was longer than I had anticipated.  It ended up being a 10 hour overnight flight which also involved around a 4 hour time change.  This left us feeling a bit tired the next day and a bit jet lagged.  We hopped off the plane and entered the airport and we were instantly greeted with “Bula!!” which is a greeting in Fiji.  Throughout our trip in Fiji we would hear Bula approximately 7,334,945 more times.   It seems there is a quota for the number of times Fijians must say Bula each day and they are serious about meeting that goal.   Over the course of the trip we came to love it as the Fijian people were so kind and generous and we felt it was sincere each and every time we heard it.

We found a cab and made our way to our hostel.  We had nearly a full day since we arrived early in the morning from Hong Kong.  We decided to stock up on some food/water/supplies before we went out to the islands.  We had heard from a number of people that you want to stock up before you go because once you’re out there you basically only get what the resort has to offer.    We heard that there was a local bus that would take us into town so we waited around outside our hostel and it came in short order.   The local bus was interesting because it stopped at designated bus stop, random people’s houses, and pretty much anywhere that someone wanted along it’s route.   It even picked up kids from school and dropped them off at their houses.

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We made our way into town and started to look for a local market to buy stuff.   We made our way through and outdoor market and then eventually into a grocery store.  The town was pretty run down and it didn’t look like anything new had been built there in the last 30+ years.   We hustled in and out of a few stores checking out our options before we bought anything.   I noted to Ashley that we definitely weren’t in Hong Kong anymore and we certainly weren’t anywhere near Kansas.

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As we hustled between stores I asked a guy if he could point us toward the best super market.   He started to give us instructions to the store explaining that you go down the street, then turn, then turn once more.   After he explained the directions he said, “you know what, I’ll just walk you over there I’m headed that way”.   As we walked that direction he told us he was currently studying a book about Fiji and asked us if we knew much about Fiji.  He was telling us all about Fiji and how much he loved it.

He asked us if we had ever heard of Kava?  I replied that we had not and his eyes lit up and he said, “Oh that’s great, we must do an introductory Kava ceremony for you, I will take you to a place just around the corner and costs nothing.  We do this for everyone who comes to visit our country.”  Obviously red flags are going up in my head at this point but due to jet lag and being stupid I agreed since we were still in the middle of the city and he said it was close.   In addition, I had approached him and not the other way around.

We walked a short distance further and took a turn that was definitely off the main area and down an alley that appears to have even more run down buildings.  It also looks a lot more residential.  At this point the red flags are going up again in my head that we need to back out of this deal because we have no idea what we’re walking into.  Ashley is giving me the “uhhhh should we be doing this” look.    Once again the jet lag/stupidity takes over and I decide to follow a bit further and just see where this rabbit hole takes us.   We quickly round a corner and it now looks like we’re at the back of a large run down apartment complex.  Que another red flag for thinking we are now going into this dudes house where he will inevitably harvest both our organs.

We reluctantly make our way up to the 3rd story of this place and I’m extremely close to calling it quits on this terrible idea.   We walk all the way to the end of the complex and there’s a door open at the end.  If I don’t like what I see we are definitely out of here pronto!   There’s a couple people sitting outside.   As we round the corner and look inside the room opens up and it’s a well lit legitimate looking shop where they had a large amount of wooden art work native to Fiji.    We both start to relax a bit now that everything seems more legitimate.

While we haven’t been abducted yet we still have no idea what a Kava ceremony is.  He pulls out 2 chairs and sets them in the middle of the shop.   He then pulls out a large wooden bowl and sets it down in front of us.   He sits cross legged in front of us and starts to tell us the origin of Kava.  Essentially Kava is a root that gets ground up into a powder that the Fijians believe has healing and medicinal properties.

He then pulls out a bag with the ground up Kava in it and dumps some into the middle of the bowl.   This Kava powder is a dark brown color.   He then adds some water to the bowl.   We are now staring into a bowl of dark brown water that looks like it’s full of mud.   He then passes smaller wooden bowls to both Ashley and myself.   Ashley went first.

Now you might be thinking that I should have been the first one to drink the dirt water that was created using an unknown powder by a complete stranger we just met.  However, common logic in this situation tells you that if it’s drugged Ashley is going to need to be saved and therefor I’m the one who should go second to confirm it’s not drugged.

So Ashley takes her first drink and all seems fine for now.  He then grabs my bowl and fills it up with the dirt water and hands it back to me.  Ashley’s still alive at this point so I drink mine as well.  Lucky for us there’s enough left over for each of us to have one more bowl.   We both oblige and finish our second bowl.   What did it taste like you ask?  It tasted like grimy water with a bit of dirt.  I wasn’t terrible, but it definitely was not good.

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We stand up and he tells us to take a look around the shop.   At this point we have been in here for about 10 minutes doing our Kava ceremony which is “free”.  It becomes quickly apparent that we should probably make some sort of a purchase.    We look around the shop and locate a small wooden sculpture.   At the same time I realize that I am starting to feel something from the Kava.   The Kava has a numbing effect (which he did mention to us) and I can feel my throat starting to go numb.   It’s a bit of a weird feeling because you can still breathe completely normal but you can’t feel the air going in and out so it gives you the slight sensation that you are suffocating even though you’re still breathing perfectly normal.  Great!  Let’s buy this statue and get going.

I pick up the smallest one and it’s marked at around $40 USD which is ridiculous.   I feel guilty not getting something (yeah he got me) but $40 for a small little wooden thing seems like a huge rip off.    I ask the guy at the counter if he would take $20 for it and he quickly accepts with a smile on his face.  Crap!  I should have started way lower than that.   We purchased our little statue and he even carved Fiji 2015 into the back for us!

We made our way back to the store, picked up our water and a few other things and then headed back to our hostel.  We were both exhausted from our long haul flight the night before and our Kava ceremony so we slept well that night!

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