Friday, October 19, 2018

Sundays in Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi, Viti Levu (Fiji Islands)

On the morning of my arrival in Nadi, the airport town (now its newly minted 3rd city) of the Fiji Islands, I was blessed with a gloriously sunny Sunday. Fiji sleeps on its Sabbath day. Stores are shut and public transport rests. Nothing stirs, "not even a mouse". Between 7 and 11 AM, me and my luggage waited for a room to be vacated. Visiting Nadi Town, about 3.8 kilometers away, was out of the question. But there was a beach 800 meters long waiting to be explored - Wailoaloa Beach.

Wailoaloa Beach has about half a dozen beach properties open for flashpackers. It seems to be part of a bigger political subdivision called Newtown Beach facing Wailoaloa Bay. Compared to Southeast Asia, these beach resorts and hotels cost more for less in terms of facility and quality of service. The basic rooms command higher prices that don't include breakfast or internet. Fiji is more expensive in this sense. Tropic of Capricorn, my hotel, has good wifi. You can walk along Wasa wasa Road and get a signal from Tropic. But it is limited for one gadget and has unstable connectivity.

I stood at the lawn facing the beach. It dawned on me that I was at the far reaches of the South Pacific in Melanesia. The 13-hour flight has taken a toll on me. I knew I was coming up with the flu but it was a great morning. I refused to give in easily. 

The best beaches of Fiji aren't found in the main island of Viti Levu but further off the coast in the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. Nadi is essential because it's the transit point. Even day trips to several islands can be booked from Nadi, then leave and return to Denarau Port some 15 minutes away by taxi.

World's Best Coconut

While strolling on the beach, an old man came up to me for a chat, and I thought, "How hospitable." "Where you from?" he asked. "Oh I love Philippines people. Yesterday, a Philippines man bought my coconut." I braced myself. He took me to a corner that made me a bit uneasy then started chopping a coconut. I wasn't hungry nor did I ask for a coconut. I just had breakfast. 

"How much?" I asked. A buko juice wouldn't be too much, right? "It's very cheap," he remarked, which rang an alarm. Then he asked for F$20 (P507), and I said "no". My breakfast cost me F$15. This was F$20? My hotel only asks for F$4 for it, and it's served chilled with a miniature umbrella on it. After haggling, we shook hands with F$10 (P255) - which was still a hefty amount for a piece of coconut. But I knew this was strictly for charity. "Coconut from Fiji is the best coconut in the world," he declared with a smile. It wasn't; it was in fact sour. He profusely thanked me as I resumed my stroll. The rest of my stay, no one else offered me sour coconut juice, thankfully. 

Aside from the half-dozen beach resorts bunched up close to each other, Wailoaloa doesn't have much to offer. There were no other cafes or parks. The residential houses were few and far between. There were stretches of land with nothing but grass. There's a volleyball net in front of Travellers Beach Resort. Further south, there's a construction that appears to be bigger and more luxurious than any of the establishments presently standing. If they're meant for tourists, this would encourage healthier competition and bring down prices of overpriced accommodation.  

At 11 AM, I finally got my room at the 4-story building facing the ocean. The dorms were tucked away at the back. My room was small but I had a double bed with AC, a small ref, and a clean toilet with shower. The fixtures looked archaic, even for a developing country like the Philippines. My room was far from luxurious but would suffice. I struggled to get my luggage through a narrow stair, then malaise came all over me. I suddenly felt sick, like my whole body held back just until I found a bed to sleep on.

The next 4 hours, I was dead to the world. But I was in my South Pacific piece of paradise.  

Best coconut in the world?

Hello from the other side.

View from my room.

One of the two swimming pools in Tropic of Capricorn Beach Resort.

Wailoaloa is a 5 minute taxi ride and 10-15 minutes by bus to Nadi Town.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Fijian Tales - Traditional Dining at the Tropic's Bamboo Kitchen (Nadi)

It was early morning Sunday when my plane landed in Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. The airport town of Nadi (the newly minted 3rd city of the country) slumbers on a Sunday. In fact, nothing stirs all over the islands. They take their Sabbath day seriously as a great number of its population are Christians, then Hindu and Muslims. Most shops are closed. Even public transportation isn't running, except the taxis. Tropic of Capricorn sent someone to pick me up at the airport. He was waving a bond paper with my name written on it. Before 7 AM, I was already in front of the Tropic of Capricorn Beach Resort at the edge of Wailoaloa Bay.

 I was in a daze, partly due to the 13-hour plane ride, the change of time zone and because I was coming up with the flu. 

Unfortunately, I couldn't be accommodated until about 11 AM, when a room became available. I wouldn't have minded otherwise if Nadi was "open for business". But there was nothing to do. I couldn't even go to town and check out the shops. 

Nothing Urgent

To make the best of the situation, I took a stroll along Wailoaloa Beach, with its placid waters and the gentlest of ripples. When the resort's Bamboo Kitchen (Tropic Cafe) opened, I ordered breakfast. This took awhile. Everything in Fiji takes awhile. Nothing is urgent here. If you are in a hurry, I would be sorry for you. In southeast Asia, Laos has its "Please Don't Rush" demeanor? Try Fiji. 

Breakfast was 4 pieces of bread dipped in rich egg butter served with lightly cooked bacon strips.

Everyone at the Bamboo Kitchen introduced themselves. Nanni, Maria. I met Teddy and Marlon by the pool. Everyone was warm and accommodating, wearing their radiant smiles with an ebullient "Bula!" It's their "Mabuhay" - their welcome salutations; their hello, their good morning, etc. 

Later that night, I chose a customary Fijian dish so I ordered "Coconut Crumb Chicken" at F$15 (P385). What went to my table was a delectable work of art that looked more like a dessert than a meal. It was chicken crumbed (breaded chicken) in coconut flesh served with pineapple and tomato salsa with a side of spinach, cassava and lemon butter sauce. Fijian meals usually contain coconut, taro, yam or sweet potato. This one had baked taro leaves that tasted good. Cassava slice was chewy and tasty.  Sprinkled with bits of pineapple and tomato, the whole concoction beautifully came together with slices of chicken. I felt smug.

The restaurant itself was open spaced, facing a grassy lawn with cots and benches. A few steps away, the South Pacific beckoned. It was the perfect meal to end an exhausting first day in Melanesia.

As a child, I used to watch that Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. I could hear Bloody Mary sing "Bali Hai". 

I was standing on its set.

My first meal and breakfast in Fiji. Nothing fancy but the price.

Bamboo Kitchen

Tropic of Capricorn Beach Resort faces Wailoaloa Bay. My room was at the 3rd floor, left side of the photo.
Nadi is located west of Viti Levu. This photo only from Dolphin Island's website.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Upper Farm - Rustic Atmosphere in Upper-End Steakhouse (Digos City, Davao del Sur)

It was a pleasant surprise finding Upper Farm in Digos City, Davao del Sur. The joint is a hamburger and steakhouse set in a rustic ranch-inspired, rough-around-the-edges diner at the back of a department store. Some readings point out that the concept of the place is partially a tribute to the owner's parents who were farmers. I just dropped by and ordered a heavy set of chicken wings paired with white rice and the delectable salty vinegar sauce which I was told, was a best seller. We wanted to try their sisig but it wasn't available. Their shoestring potato is a good serving on a bowl and a must-try at P75. 

The place isn't inexpensive. Rice meals are rather limited if you can't do away with rice, but if you're into burgers and steaks, this is a great place to indulge. It does make an uncomfortable meal when the weather is sweltering; there's obviously no airconditioning. But I am just nitpicking. 

The address is Asian Highway 26, a narrow backroad. You have to head towards Cor Jesu College and turn left somewhere. It opens at 9 AM. 

#upperfarm   #dining   #foodporn