TRAVEL NEWS, TIPS & STORIES
I just thought this might interest you, if you haven't ordered a copy of Johnny Jet's latest travel book, this is something you should get. It makes a great gift for any traveler even if you don't travel. Just click on this link and order his book. I guarantee you'll absolutely enjoy every penny of it. If you could send this link out to anyone else you know who loves to travel, please do so, for the love of travel. When you send me your official Amazon reciept via email, I will personally send you $150 worth of redeemable promo coupon codes for you to use on your next trip and throughout the year. Sound too good to be true... just order now! For only $14.95 you get $150 of FREE discounts. I'll also throw in sample pages of few good e-books on frequent flying and airport security, absolutely free. Eric@yahbooks.com
|WHERE'S JOHNNY JET? ... FRENCH POLYNESIA!|
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Here are clues where I took Amber for her birthday. We both have never been on the airline or to the destination, which is popular for honeymooners. It is very far from LAX and even farther from JFK. The colors, artistic designs, and name of the airline alone will make you want to go there, not to mention the brand new Airbus A-340-300 airplanes. Any ideas?
I can't wait any longer and must tell you now. We went to Tahiti! Yes, TAHITI! I know I am the luckiest guy in the world. It all started a when I received a phone call from a friend of mine who is one of the best travel agents. He was running an incredible special offer from FlyTahiti.com and wanted me to get the word out. They said "how would like to show Johnny Jet readers what Tahiti has too offer?" I said, “Let me think about it” for a NANNO second. Of course I'm going to go. Naturally, I didn't tell Amber Airplane, because I wanted to surprise her. I said, "How would you like to go to a tropical destination this week? She just looked at me like... “I know you are lying, after all we just got back from Australia”. Then I told her it's OK if you don't believe me, just have your bag packed with plenty of bathing suits.
I know she thought we were going to Florida, but when we arrived at LAX's International terminal her thoughts switched to the more probable; Mexico. Then we walked down the concourse and I said Okay, “let's play the "pick a destination a game". Praying she would pick Tahiti. I said, “Take a look at these airlines and choose which one you want to walk up to and if you are correct we will go there”. She said I know it's not Air Tahiti Nui, but that's where I would go! My heart filled up with excitement, I put my head down and a frown on and said, "Don't we wish". Then I pulled out a BIG smile and the tickets for Air Tahiti Nui and, “DING, DING, DING, YOU ARE RIGHT”!
I thought she was going to say, "Do you realize we just flew over Tahiti last week? It would've made it a lot easier just to....” but she didn't. She loves flying, just like me and an 8 hour, 4125 mile flight is no big deal, especially when you are on Air Tahiti Nui. Air Tahiti Nui operates one of the youngest fleets of Airbus A340-300 aircraft in the world. This plane was so cool that it's now one of our favorites. We sat in economy on the way over, and had a nice comfortable bulkhead seat with plenty of legroom. The plane was so smooth and quiet that I felt like I was dreaming. Not to mention they have pretty flight attendants that keep changing their uniforms for each meal service. The food, the service, and the free in-flight entertainment were outstanding.
When we landed in Papeete it was dark. We were greeted by a Tahitian band and a flower lei. I really prefer to land at night when I go to some far off land, because it makes it that much more magical. It's especially nice to wake up in the morning, open the curtains and have little idea what's lays waiting for us to discover. Not to mention, it helps with getting over jet lag (at least for me). Speaking of jet lag, you don't get any because Tahiti is only three hours behind PDT time (2 hours in PST). However, if we flew another hour or two West we would've lost a day, but that didn't happen.
Because everything was so last minute, I didn't get a chance to read up on Tahiti or finish my Frommer’s guidebook. Therefore, when I went to the airport ATM I didn't know what the exchange rate was. I freaked when I saw all my choices: 15,000 - 20,000 - 25,000 - 30,000 - 35,000 and of course I was pressed for time to catch our next flight. For a second there I was like, “Holy cow”! I don't have that much money in the bank! Then I regained my traveling sense and figured choosing the middle amount would be safe. It was! FYI: 25,000 CFP converted to USD equals US$230.00.
We took a 3-minute van ride to the other side of the airport where the really small inter-island flights take off. Their is no security or metal detectors on interisland flights which makes travel a pleasure. Sitting under the little hut waiting for our flight to Moorea and listening to the crickets really was something special. I finally felt something I have never felt before: The feeling of being in the South Pacific, back in time. You have to understand, I have always dreamt of coming here and just the word South Pacific alone makes me melt.
Our flight to Moorea was amazing. We heard the five-minute, twelve-mile flight or jaunt is the second shortest in the world (the shortest, I think is within Scotland). We were on a Dornier 228 which seats 19 passengers. There were 12 of us on the plane, half were American, and the other half French and we all shared one thing in common: FEAR. Small planes make most people queasy, but I have to tell you this flight turned out to be wonderful. It might have been the coolest I have ever taken. It's hard to explain, it’s something you need to experience for yourself. All I can tell you is that is was surreal, just like our trip.
I'm looking forward to next week so I can show you around the Tahitian islands, and don't forget to get your copy the best new travel book, You Are Here Traveling with JohnnyJet.com! Safe travels.
Greetings from the South Pacific! After last week's newsletter I received a bunch of email asking, "Where in the world is Tahiti located". That kind of surprised me. I figured everyone knew where paradise was, but I was wrong. Therefore, we begin with some background info about one of the most beautiful places on earth. This map shows you where Tahiti is located, but this map does a better job of detailing.
As you can see from the maps, Tahiti is located in French Polynesia, which is almost exactly halfway from Australia and California. It is made up of 118 islands in 5 archipelagoes (island groups) with each having their own character. Those five archipelagoes consist of the Society Islands, Tuamotu, Gambier, Australs and the Marquesas. Most visitors go to the Society Islands, which are home to the popular destinations of Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and .... French Polynesia covers an area of 2,000,000 square miles which is about the same as Europe, except here it's mostly water, not land mass. The actual land area is only 1,370 square miles.
Since we don't have time to write for weeks and weeks like we did for Australia, we will give you the History of French Polynesia here.
The largest island in all of French Polynesia is Tahiti, which also hosts the capital city, Papeete. Tahiti gets the most visitors not because this is where they want to be, but because the major airport and port are located here. Most people, or at least they should, quickly go from Tahiti to the outer islands. Why? Well, the island of Tahiti is a lot different than what you most likely imagine. It's a bustling city. Let me give you this statistic so you know what I am writing about: If the whole population of French Polynesia is 245,405 inhabitants (2002 census) and 150,000 of those inhabit the island of Tahiti... Well, than you see what I'm talking about.
Don't get me wrong, it's good to know that everything you would ever need (including a major hospital) is a short flight away, but trust me; you will want to visit the other islands.
Okay, put on your seat belt, I'm about to give you a lot of information: According to the latest census, French Polynesia is made up of Polynesians (83%), Europeans (12%), and Asians (5%). The religion is broken down as follow: 55% are Protestant, 30% Catholic, 6% Mormon, 2% Seventh-day Adventist, and 2% are Buddhist and Confucians. The Government is described as an overseas territory of the Republic of France, so naturally most people speak French, but the first language here is Tahitian, which is a dialect of French. Here are some translations to help you get by:
The big question? How to get to Tahiti and how long does it take? Well, from Los Angeles it's 4,150 miles and the flight takes 7 1/2 to 8 hours. From Honolulu, it's 2,796 miles away and it takes 5 hours to fly. Paris is 10,630 miles (17,100 km) away and you have to go via Los Angeles for a combined flight time of 18 hours and 30 minutes (ouch!). For those of you who live in Santiago, Chile it's 4,660 miles (7,500 km) and you will have to fly via Easter Island for a combined flight time of 10 hours. All of you from Auckland (New Zealand), it's only 2,423 miles away (3,900 km) and the flight takes a mere 5 hours. For our mates down in Sydney it's 3,542 miles (5,700 km) away and you will need to fly via Auckland for a combined flying time of 8 hours. Last but not least our friends from Tokyo and Osaka, you are 5,468 miles (8,800 km) and the flight time is 11 hours.
The average temperature in FP (French Polynesia) is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 27º Celsius, and the water temp is just about the same at 26º C/ 80º F! No matter what time of year you should bring summer clothes, beachwear, and sports wear and boating clothes, all preferably in cotton. Some evenings might get cool, so bring something warm. We did not need to wear any of our light sweaters, but if you are on the lagoon side or on a boat or maybe in the mountains, then you might need it. Most people wear sandals, sneakers, boat shoes or nothing. Would you believe this place is so laid back that on one of our inter island flights the Tahitian man sitting next to me was in his bare feet! He didn't even check shoes because I watched him walk right off the plane into a car and he didn't have a bag. Now how many times will you see that? I am not a fashion expert but most men wear aloha shirts and women wear pretty printed sundresses. Bring lots of bathing suits, sunglasses, a hat, sun block and mosquito repellent, those suckers can get evil after the sun goes down. BTW: The restaurants are casual.
The tap water is supposedly safe to drink only in Papeete and Bora Bora, but not in other places. We didn't take a chance so we drank bottled water everywhere. If you are planning on plugging in electronic devices then bring a French adapter because electricity is either 110 or 220 volts depending on the island and type of accommodation. Connecting to the internet is expensive through your hotel room, but if you use either one of the hotels computer's or find a cyber café, then it's quite affordable. For all of you who have international cell phones, they work, but like most people who go to FP, I didn't want to be connected to the world.
One of the first bits of info Amber Airplane looked up after we landed was what time the shops open. Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 11:30 am, then they close for lunch and reopen from 1:30 pm to 5 or 6 pm. Some may stay open ‘til 8:00 pm. On Saturdays from 7:30 am to 11:30 am and maybe later depending on the shop. Most places are closed on Sunday.
Entry Requirements: Each visitor to French Polynesia must have a return airline ticket to their home country or to at least two more continuing destinations, sufficient funds to support themselves while in French Polynesia, in addition to the following: For U.S. and Canadian citizens: a passport is required that is valid for six months beyond the date of departure from French Polynesia. No visa is required for stays of up to one month. For more info, check out the French Consulate.
Everyone wants to know how friendly the locals were, especially the French. The Tahitians are very friendly, laid back, and peaceful people. The French transplants I met were mostly hotel managers or chefs and they too were friendly, they just weren't as laid back as the Tahitians. We did encounter a few French tourists. Some were very friendly and some had that stereotypical negative energy towards Americans. There were times when I could feel their "Stupid American" attitude. I'm not sure if it was because of the war or not, I didn't really care to find out. It's the same mixed attitude I get when I ever I go to France and I am sure it's the same the French get when they come to the U.S. I think its just people in general, no matter what race or nationality. Some people are cool, some aren't.
Being in Tahiti and especially not speaking the French language, you didn't hear much about the war or SARS. There were only 3 TV channels (at least, in our two different hotels) and all were in French. I didn't hear any American radio stations and the English newspapers all came in a few days late. It's the perfect escape from the world.
Now for the good stuff: We left off last week on our 5-minute flight to the most beautiful island I have ever been to; Moorea. The pictures you are about to see do not do it justice. You really need to come down here and see for yourself. The tall lush green mountains and the colors of the water are breathtaking. When we landed in Moorea, there was a lady holding up a sign with Johnny Jet on it and she grabbed our bags and took us to our hotel. If you were with us for our 10-minute drive, you too would've been sticking your head out the car window to witness one of the most unbelievable skies in the world. It was incredible to see so many stars; I bet you never knew there were so many. Our mouths were wide open with disbelief, which wasn't the smartest idea because a mosquito flew right in. The roads were dark, there were no street lights and we only saw a few cars. It was just Amber Airplane, the driver, her 8-year old child, the palm trees, the stars, and the world we were about to see when the sun came up.
I can't tell you how ecstatic we were when we checked into the new Pearl Resort. Everything was so new, open air and clean. The lady at the front desk told the buff Tahitian bellhop to grab our luggage and take us to our “over the water bungalow”. That's right, OVER THE WATER BUNGALOW! We only dreamt of one of these rooms and now we were about to experience it first hand. How happy were we? Our room was amazing as we anticipated. I will show you around our hut in the morning when the sun comes up. But did you know the over water bungalow was created here in French Polynesia? It was actually the idea of three California guys (Jay, Muk, and Hugh) who built the first one in 1968, on the island of Raiatea. Now you will find them all over the South Pacific.
The next morning, we were like kids waiting to open our presents from Santa. We could hardly wait for each to share the moment of opening the curtains for the very first time to see what was really out there. It was 7:30am and I guess I shouldn't have screamed when we opened the curtains, but I couldn't hold it in! Besides, it just came naturally. Unfortunately, the pretty lady sun bathing in the cabin next to us must've thought I was a pervert, because she immediately put her top back on and went inside. Okay, I got a little excited. The view was one of the best I have ever seen, oh and the beach was a mere thirty feet away! We couldn't wait any longer to jump in the beautiful ocean and feel the warm water. The water was crystal blue and so relaxing and invigorating. Now, check this out, every bungalow has their very own private deck and outdoor fresh water shower. How nice is that?
After our swim, we sat and stared at the beautiful mountains and coconuts floating by as we waited for our room service. Having room service delivered by boat is a fantasy. After dining on our porch, we went for a little walk around the hotel property, to check out the goods. The pool was inviting, the lobby was open air and the staff was friendly. What was ironic was that I really did not want to leave our over the water hut, but Amber Airplane wanted to go out and explore. But I am so glad she talked me into renting a car for US$60.00 for four hours and driving around the 36-mile island. It was a great time. Except our car wasn't really a car, it was so small, I don't even know what they call them. I think it was a Moke, which is actually a type of Mini.
The island basically has one main road and they appropriately call it "Round Island Road,” which is a good explanation because it goes around the island and usually hugs the ocean. There are a few side roads, but not too many. It turned out to be of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken, especially when we drove past Cook's Bay and seeing multi-shades of blue water and the rugged green mountains in the background. Did I mention there aren't any street names? Our first stop was to Belvedere Lookout. So the directions were, “Look for a road after the bridge by the beach. Take the paved road up through Moorea's central valley through pastureland”. They actually were perfect directions. As we drove on the road to Belvedere, we saw some familiar surroundings. Have you ever seen the movie Love Affair with Annette Bening and Warren Beatty? Well it was this field that they walked through to get to his aunt's house. How beautiful is that?
Near there, you will also see some horses out grazing. We continued up the hill. Here is where we were told, "When you see a phone booth pull over and go buy some amazing homemade jelly's". It turns out that the French lady there is marrying a guy from California and they are both really cool and their jelly is tasty. When we reached the top of this narrow and windy road, we were at Belvedere Lookout, and the views from there are supposedly unmatched in the South Pacific and I believe it! They had a bunch of wild chickens running around and if you are quick like me you will catch one... yeah right. Look closely at the trees and you will see all kinds of fruit in them. We saw everything from Papaya's to Banana’s.
There are only 4 major hotels on the island of Moorea. Pearl Resort, Sofitel, the Sheraton and Inter-Continental. The latter two are pretty close to each other. We checked them all out to see how they compared to ours, and well; they didn't. Ours was the best and newest. Except Amber Airplane really liked the fact the Inter-Conti was the only one to have a spa (figures) and dolphin quest. That's where you can swim with the dolphins (not for free), but the best part is you don't have to be a hotel guest, you just need money, money, money!
We continued on with our drive. Of course Amber made me stop at Kina Maharepa shopping center to check out the islands number one tourist purchase, black pearls. Those suckers are expensive. After dragging Amber Airplane out of the store we went to go look for the Atiraa Waterfall. Check out these directions: "About a half a kilometer (1/4 mile) beyond the town hall, opposite an A-frame house on the shore, an unpaved road runs straight between several houses and then continues uphill. Then you have to walk up a steep, slippery, and muddy trail for 20 minutes." Sounded good, but we heard it was dry and besides the local kids weren't being too friendly (they wouldn't get out of the way as we drove up their road), I guess I might be sick and tired of a bunch of tourists invading my property too.
The color of the water here really is breathtaking. It's hard to concentrate on driving but luckily there's not a lot of cars or pedestrians around. We drove past the ferry's, a tasty fruit stand that I had to stop at to buy one of my favorite fruit's, lychee, only 300CFP (US$2.80). But didn't buy any of this little kid's catch of the day. Our last stop was a doozy called Plage Publique, it's supposedly Moorea's best stretch of public beach and it's right next to the Sofitel hotel (except the beach here is not raked). We didn't think it was anything better than our beach, so we went back to our hotel for swim.
The whole drive took just over 4 hours. It was hot, sweaty and so worth it. Yes, it was expensive to rent a car but the good news is that it only cost couple dollars to fill it up. If you don't want to rent a car or moped, you can rent a bike. If that's too much exercise, then take an Albert bus tour (tel. 56.13.53) or the Moorea Explorer (tel. 56.12.86) half day round island tours cost about US$19.00 per person.
It was Saturday night and we had a few options. Should we stick around our hotel and see their free weekly Tahitian Tiki Show or take a bus for 45 minutes to the other side of the island for the Tiki Theatre Village ? We didn't want to get back in the car so we watched the show at our hotel. It turns out the other one was much better, but hey, this one was more convenient and free. The entertainers at our hotel were all very nice, in fact too nice. After they took pictures with us they gave us their sweaty and smelly head pieces and lei's. We tried to decline, but they wouldn't take no for an answer.
What's cool about Moorea is that most restaurants will pick you up and drop you off for free or pay for your taxi or at least half of it. If you want a taxi, plan ahead because they are hard to come by. The only restaurant that was still serving at 9pm and willing to pick us up was Le Mahogany. It serves combo of French and Chinese food. I had Kun Pao chicken and Amber Airplane had the Filet Mignon. It was moderately priced but not our favorite meal here.
The following day we dined at our hotel for an incredible breakfast buffet. It was pricey at US22.00 per person, but the French Toast (made with French bread) was the best I have ever had. After our tasty breakfast, we hung out around the hotel, snorkeled, and relaxed. When I woke up from my nap on the deck, Amber Airplane was no where to be found. Guess where I found her? That's right at the hotel shop buying jewelry. Busted!
That night we had dinner at the only restaurant open on Sunday night on our side of the island, Alfredo's. We didn't want to go to an Italian restaurant in Tahiti, but it was either that or have the seafood buffet at the hotel (We don't like seafood). It turned out to be a lot of fun. The food was okay, but the atmosphere was great. There was a bunch of people from MTV’s Road Rules TV show dining and they kept getting up to sing with one of the best karoke singers around. Within an hour everyone knew one another and people kept chanting for each table to get up and sing. We knew it was time to leave when the whole place starting chanting Johnny Jet, J-o-h-n-n-y J-e-t, A-m-b-e-r A-i-r-p-l-a-n-e. There was no way we were getting up!
Next week see our adventures of three airplane rides, three boat trips and five islands all in one day. I know it sounds crazy, but come along with Johnny Jet and you’ll see. Safe travels.
Now it's time to pick up where we left off last week with our fantastic trip to Tahiti. In case you missed last week's news then click here for the archives. We had an incredible three nights on the island of Moorea. We didn't want to leave because we didn't think it could get any better than that, but we were wrong, our trip did get even better!
The airport in Moorea is fairly small. They have a few shops and they use old-fashioned scales to weigh your bags. What I liked about flying inter-island in French Polynesia is that everything is so laid back and welcoming. Even the bathrooms. That's right! They might not be the cleanest but they have fresh flowers. Another positive thing is they do not have security for the inter-island flights. Which means no fumbling at security check points. (On the International flights Tahiti is tight with security).
Our first flight of the day was on Air Tahiti and we were on their ATR 72 (68 passenger turbo prop). We were nervous to be flying on a "smaller” plane, but this plane cut through the wind and turbulence very smoothly. Yes, just my luck, I was there during their rainy season. Our first stop was to the island of Huahine. It took thirty minutes to get there and we didn't get off. We just sat on the tarmac for about fifteen minutes to drop off and pick up passengers.
We then flew a painless fifteen minutes to Bora Bora. The tip here is since the inter-island flights do not have pre-assigned seats, try and be one of the first few on the plane and sit on the left hand side for the incredible view of Bora Bora on landing. It was raining so hard; that the only thing we could see was this, but I can imagine how it normally looks.
The locals call Bora Bora “Bora Boring”, but I think that is why so many vacationers love it. It is picturesque and if it were sunny we would've had some amazing pictures to show you. It has a tall lush green center and is completely surrounded by the lagoon and a bunch of white sandy motus (small islets). In fact, the airport is on a motu called Motu Mute. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean and couldn't find it online.
Unfortunately, it was so rough that our surprise event, which was set up by our travel agent, was canceled. It turned out they left us a message on my international cell phone the day before, informing us of a change in plans, but as I said last week, I didn't even bother to turn that device on. That little mistake made for quite an interesting afternoon. We were supposed to be met by the guys from Lagoonarium to take us out for a picnic and a private shark and giant manta ray feeding, by hand. Yes by hand! I hear this is the thing to do when you come to Bora Bora, and how great would've it been to get a picture of Amber Airplane's face while we were feeding the sharks?
Obviously, there was no one to greet us at BOB (that's Bora Bora's three letter airport code). We had no idea where to go, but everyone pointed us to the free ferry to town. So we did. The ferry took about twenty-five minutes to get there and the colors of the water, again, were breath taking. When we arrived, still no one there for us. We asked everyone where we should go (keep in mind we could hardly understand these people, because they spoke Tahitian). Finally, a good-sized Polynesian man who worked down on the dock said he new the Lagoonarium folks and would take us there for free. Usually, I don't get in the car with strangers, but we didn't have many options and you don't hear about much crime on Bora Bora. After driving for a while around on the main road similar to Moorea's shoreline drive. Amber Airplane whispers to me, "Maybe he is going to kill us and sacrifice us to the Gods". I thought she was kidding until I saw the fear in her eyes. I whispered back and said, “Are you kidding? These people are so friendly they wouldn't"... then I noticed a machete on his seat and he had a funny grin, so I said to her, "well maybe you are right" and then she really freaked.
It turned out to be a crazy adventure. We drove halfway around the island, which is only nineteen miles long to begin with, but it was quite winding and deserted at times. It was pouring rain and the guy literally dropped us off on a drenched lawn. We didn't see anyone around but for five happy and smelly flea ridden dog that wouldn't stop jumping on us and shaking their wet sand all over. Amber Airplane was thinking, “What the heck are we doing here” and she jumps on top of the bench to escape. I said I am going to find someone to speak to and I'll be right back. Amber was yelling don't leave me! I said with a chuckle "you better behave and stop shopping".
It turned out the Lagoonarium staff was very apologetic and told me they left me a message. The wife of the owner took us down the street to Hotel Mai Tai and treated us to lunch for our inconvenience. Of course, after lunch Amber Airplane said she was going to the bathroom and I spotted her sneaking into a store across the street. Then the owner of the Lagoonarium picked us up and drove us around most of the island. He was a cool dude and he showed us all around, including the Windstar boat. Since we weren't able to experience the day he had planned he gave us videotapes to see what we would’ve seen if it was better weather. After reviewing the tapes, I can't wait to go back.
We took the thirty minute ferry back to Motu Mute, checked into our next flight to Raiatea so we could catch a ferry to the most romantic place I have ever been to or have ever seen. Next week I will show you what a romantic getaway is really all about. Here's a sneak peak of the magical island.
Okay, let's get to the GOOD stuff! TAHITI! (Or should I say FRENCH POLYNESIA!) Last week we left off on our flight to Raiatea, which is where you need to land to get to my new favorite island in the world. We stayed at the brand new 5-star Pearl Resort on Taha'a (opened August 1, 2002). That's right: Taha'a. Write it down and tell all your friends who are looking for a romantic getaway. This place is it.
We were greeted by a well-dressed Tahitian named John (nice name!). He took our bags and walked us over to the port, where we caught the boat to paradise. It took 30 minutes to ride across the calm blue waters to our hotel. The Taha'a resort will take your breath away, I promise. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. (That usually scares the hell out of me, but this time I didn't want to leave). Everything was so clean, fresh and tranquil. The lobby made me feel like I was in a gigantic 5-star…tree house.
The staff was amazing. We were greeted with a smile, a lei, and a cool blue vanilla delicious non-alcoholic drink that I wish I could have a sip of right now. We were then personally guided to the nicest, most unbelievable hotel room ever! It was an over the water bungalow that I could have lived in forever. Look at this room ! Everything was state of the art, and spotless. Here, I'll show you around. The bathroom had two sinks which is key whenever you travel with Amber Airplane. The water pressure in the shower was firm. Now let's go see our private deck, complete with lounge chairs (this is what it looks like during the day ) and an outdoor shower. Okay, are you ready for the best part? Now hold on to your socks... check out the foot of the bed. There is a glass floor that you can lift to feed the fish or hear the sounds of the ocean while you sleep. Is that incredible or what?
After taking in the view, let's go for a tour of the grounds. If you feel like being active, just see the " Beach Boys " at the activity desk. There are plenty of sports activities, including tennis. Every visitor has free use of snorkel gear and kayaks. The best day we had was when we took a two-person kayak and paddled over to neighboring Motu. We pulled up on this deserted island, put on our snorkel mask and fins, and saw some of the most incredible fish and coral reefs ever. It was magical. I wish I had pictures to show you, but some moments are private.
By the way, there's more staff here than guests. In fact, the Taha'a Pearl Resort has only 48 over-the-water bunglaows and 12 beach bungalows. The place was almost packed to capacity, but we hardly saw anyone. It was like our own private island. We were there in their rainy season (which isn’t long, because the sun usually shines) and it still was the best place ever.
Do you want to see what the beach bungalows look like? Although these are a bit cheaper, they are just as nice. This is the entrance, the bed, a seperate room, two sinks (again) and a private bath tub outside! How sweet is that? Guests also have their own private beach. Now if this resort isn't the nicest in the world, then what is?
It's unreal! I still can't get over it. I keep thinking, Did I really just go there?
Every night the maids came in for turn-down service, but instead of mints they left sweet-smelling flowers all over the place. Oh yeah, they also gave us an ancient bedtime story to read before saying night-night. It was a different two-page legend each night. The one I brought back is called “Legende de Migo.”
The next morning we woke up early and headed to breakfast, which is in the tree house (main building). Before we left, we fed the fish from a bread basket the hotel leaves at the foot of the path. It’s day-old bread, but I’m sure the fish love it. There are 3 restaurants on the island, and the food at all of them is amazing. A famous French chef lives on the island, and we were in awe of what he cooked up. I had one of the best Denver omelet's ever at the breakfast buffet.
We went back to our room to lay around and snorkel. I took pictures of Amber and the giant Manta Ray's from our room. That's right: the friendly manta rays swam right underneath our room. How exciting! Check out this whale – uh oh, it's just me after breakfast. People who don't feel like swimming in the ocean can lie out at the pool, (it's a cool 78 degrees). Or they grab a book and lie on one of the many hammocks which are set up throughout the island. Well, it's time for lunch on our deck. Gotta go!
What a trip!
Back to paradise for the last time (well, hopefully NOT the last time, but you know what I mean). As I hinted last week, Amber Airplane talked me into getting a couple's massage. A couple's massage? That's what I said too. I wasn't real keen but we were in French Polynesia, it was almost Amber's birthday and it wasn't that expensive. So what the heck! I didn't know what to expect because I had never had a couple's massage. I thought to myself, Is there only one masseuse? Where would we lie? On the same table? ...
We strolled into the spa hut for the appointment, and sat around chatting with the French manager. She was very nice and I was thinking, Will she be giving us the massage? She must've read my mind because a second later, after a double clap, out from the room next door came two pretty, laid-back Polynesian women. I looked at the manager and said, "Dang, that's better then the clapper!"
The ladies held our umbrellas as they escorted us through the light drizzle to the massage room. The room and surrounding were very quiet and chic. They shut the door and told us to strip down. I said "Hello!" Then Amber gave me a look only a perturbed girlfriend can, and I said, "Of course! I'm only joking." I jumped under the sarong as they requested, and kicked my feet with excitement. There I was, face down staring at a beautiful pink hibiscus flower directly below my head rest. All I could do was smile and think, This is going to be great.
Then the ladies came in and asked, "You ordered the coconut and ginger massage?" I wondered, "Is she talking to me?" When I realized she was I said "No thank you, I just ate." They giggled, then Amber Airplane rolled over and said, "It was either coconut or avocado, and I know you don't like avocado!" Good job, Amber Airplane, but I don't want ANYTHING on my body. Then I felt the cold sprinkles of this concoction of fruit and oils oozing down from my neck to my toes. I felt like I was the dessert, and they were topping the garnish. They rubbed and rubbed. It was sticky, but it felt and smelled so good. I was thinking "Dang, I can get used to this!"
My lady had the ultimate masseuse voices. I'm sure Amber's did too because I didn't hear her say a word. The lady had the softest and most gentle voice I have ever heard. She whispered in my ear when we were halfway done, "Sir, please get up and take a hot shower." I was thinking about a cold shower! (Just kidding.) Check this out: The showers were outside in the rain -- how sweet is that? After the hot shower I ran back in for the second half of my rubdown. I dove on that table like it was a pool in the middle of the desert.
I still can hear her soft voice: "Sir, did you like? Sir, was the pressure good?" I thought being in French Polynesia was like visiting another planet, but after this massage it felt like I was in another galaxy.
Unfortunately, the clock ticked faster than warp speed. It was time to say good-bye to paradise and catch the ferry to Raitea, so we could fly to Papeete and then back to L.A. When we checked into our flight from Papeete to LAX, the whole crew from MTV's Road Rules were behind us. I was thinking this could be a long redeye, with all those crazy dudes on the plane. I tried to work my magic for an upgrade, but the gate agent looked at me like I was insane. He said, "You can buy an upgrade for $600." I handed him my business card and said "That's not a bad deal, but my name is Johnny Jet, not Johnny Rockefeller." He didn't laugh (neither did Amber Airplane). Hey, I thought it was pretty darn funny.
I was sitting at the gate waiting for you know who to get out of the gift shop when I heard: "Johnny Jet, please come to the counter." I thought, Oh gosh, Amber must've got hurt pulling stuff off the shelves in the store. I went up to the gate, and the same guy who checked us in said, "Your tickets please." I handed them to him, and he gave me new ones. Our seat assignments had gone from row 41 to 3! Yes, THREE! That meant business class! It almost felt like winning the lottery. I said, "Holy cow, thank YOU, thank YOU!" He said, "I just want you to know, we don't upgrade anyone for free. You are probably the first and the last." I asked why he did it. He said, "I just looked up your website and I think it's the coolest." Now that's cool.
We were so excited that we were the first to board the plane. We sat down, had a cool drink, ate an awesome meal (s) and then watched movies on our 15 inch screen. Yes, the TV was huge. The flight was 7 1/2 hours, but it was way too short. Business class felt better than first on most airlines. It was so comfortable we did not want to get off. In fact, when we landed I asked Amber, "Do you think we can go on to Paris with them?" She said, "How about we go back to Papeete instead?" Even better.
What a trip!
Top 10 Websites to check out for a trip to French Polynesia:
1. Best travel agent to have plan your French Polynesian dream trip is FlyTahiti.com.
2. Airline to fly there Air Tahiti Nui
3. Inter Island Flights
4. Hotel: Pearl Resorts
5. For More Pictures
6. Forecast for Tahiti/Papeete, French Polynesia
Best Guides Books:
8. Lonely Planet
9. Tahiti Tourisme
10. Tahiti Guide