Five nights on the next island over from Tahiti, our first ever stay in an over water bungalow. It should have been fabulous. Shoulda…
Let’s be clear: the island is really beautiful and the water around us is often stunning. For many people this would be the vacation of a lifetime and so yes, we feel more than a little churlish to complain. There were just so many things the Hilton we’re staying at got wrong. Little things, like requiring a towel card to get a beach towel. I mean, we’re staying at an expensive resort and you treat us like we want to steal a $5 towel? And the big things, like some of the worst food ever. Seriously. We only had dinner here once and it’s distinctly possible that the salmon dish I had was the worst salmon I’ve ever eaten. The worst gym of our vacation. And just unlucky. Not only did it rain a lot, but our over water bungalow was (second) closest to the beach, meaning that every kayaker and snorkeler and paddle boarder was going right past us all day. And it had the (second) worst views, missing both sunrise and sunset. There were literally dozens of rooms that I would have preferred but we drew the short straw. Sad!
OK, I got that “first world problem” stuff off my chest. Now it’s time for all that was good or even great. Mostly, it’s just really beautiful. There’s a reason the idea of French Polynesia looms large in our collective fantasies. Brilliant waters, lush forests, friendly locals, grand mountain peaks – they make for a perfect setting. I did several long walks off the resort grounds just to get some exercise and see stuff. Whenever I would encounter a local either walking or bicycling they always smiled and acknowledged me. Heck, it’s so friendly here that a local dog adopted me on one of my walks, joining me for four or five miles and even placing himself between me and a dog that was threatening to chase me. That’s friendly locals!
I’d read the reviews before we arrived and they were pretty damning about the quality of the food (though ultimately not damning enough…) so right from our first night we made a reservation at Rudy’s, a French restaurant run by Belgians (close…) who really care about their food. We ended up eating there three nights, opting for the Moorea Beach Café the night Rudy’s was closed. Both were standouts, especially compared to resort food.
We did one big (big!) excursion while we were here. We rented e-bikes to circumnavigate the island. It was my first time with an e-bike and to be honest I was surprised by how little a difference it seemed to make except on the couple of small hills we encountered. On the hills though, especially later in the ride, it was pretty nice. Altogether it was a little over 37 miles around the island and I have to admit that I was surprised at how exhausted I was at the end. Maybe I am getting old.
Except for the ride itself, the other highlight of the day was stopping a few miles short of our hotel. We were hot, tired, and sore so we splurged: beer, pizza, and dessert (cheesecake for me, a flaming crepe suzette for Mark). We’d earned it, dammit, and I am going to relish that lunch for years!
The other thing you do at a place like this is snorkel and look at fishies. So we both snorkeled a bit, though ultimately we get bored with it quickly. It turns out though that the best fish viewing could be done from just outside our bungalow. We saw a few manta rays, which are very cool to watch. And even more exciting we saw three – three! – sharks swimming just a few feet from us. How cool is that?
One final sad note, and perhaps part of the reason why I’m less than thrilled with our stay here. Shortly after arriving we learned that our niece Jennifer – my older brother’s only child – had died. Just five years ago she lost her young son to cancer and I’m not sure she ever recovered. She suffered from chronic pain for years and had been diagnosed with PAN vasculitis, a rare cancer. Just a few weeks ago she opted for hospice care, with an expectation of at least a few more months to live, but went much faster than anyone expected. In just the last five-plus years my brother has buried his grandson, his mother, and now his daughter. That’s tough.
Bora Bora should be more upbeat.