Bula, which means life, best describes Fiji. So when you are greeting people, you are actually wishing them life and good health.
In Fiji, happiness comes naturally. They are happy people with limited resources. Shutters of markets mostly carry ‘closed’ sign with sunsets. People have their own time then. Spending time with families, enjoying drinks and other entertainment are all scheduled after the sunset.
Fiji is a beautiful island country consisting of an archipelago of 300 islands located in the Melanesia sub region of Oceania. Of the 300 islands, about 100 are inhabited. This jewel of the South Pacific Ocean lies about 1770 km north of New Zealand and 4450 km southwest of Honolulu.
Fiji is famous for its tropical beauty and friendly people, known for their rich traditions and culture. The Fiji islands are largely the product of volcanic action, sedimentary deposit, and formations of coral. The clustered islets and islands of Fiji are filled with dense rainforest, exotic waterfalls, picturesque coral reefs, and shaggy volcano peaks. The endless coastline of the Fiji islands features a serene atmosphere with seagulls cooing, the waves crashing against the glistening sand, instilling a sense of calm in every visitor.
Each island in Fiji has something special to offer, and island-hopping is an activity through which you can experience them. The pristine waters surrounding the Fiji coastline are perfect for scuba diving, kayaking and other aquatic activities.
The capital city of Suva lies on Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian islands, and is known for its colonial architecture, lush green parks, museums, and centres of learning. The main international gateway to this county is the town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi).
You will find the magnificent Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple here, with its traditional Dravidian architecture besides several churches and mosques. Situated in the tourist hub of Nadi, Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple is just one symbol of the nation’s conflation of cultures that includes Indigenous Fijian, Indian, Chinese and European origins. Designed by Indian architect V. Ganapati Sthapati, the colourful temple opened in 1994. This brilliantly built Hindu temple is not only one of the best places to go in Fiji but also one of the handful spots outside India where you can see traditional Dravidian engineering. The wooden carvings of Gods came here from India, as did the specialists who decorated the temple in its vivid coat and breath-taking roof frescos.
Traditional Fijian culture and customs are enchanting, especially the songs of welcome. Everywhere you go, you’ll be serenaded by warm smiles, friendly waves and the strains of island music. Meke is a traditional dance performed by men and women to tell stories through song and dance. Here, men demonstrate strong, virile movements, while women are more graceful and feminine.
Kava (also called yaqona) is an intoxicating drink that’s at the heart of all ceremonial and social events. When entering a village, custom dictates you participate in the 3000-year-old tradition of kava drinking. This earthy drink is made from the dried and pounded root of a type of pepper plant before water is added and the drink is served in a large communal bowl. Everyone sits in a circle as the root is pounded to a pulp, mixed with water then strained into a bowl called a tanoa. The village chief drinks first and when it’s your turn – clap once, gulp it down, then clap three times. When everyone has slurped this drink, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
If you want to pamper yourself with spa therapy in Fiji, the traditional deep tissue ‘Bobo’ (massage) is one treatment you simply can’t miss. ‘Bobo’ is a traditional massage technique used to relax or heal specific aches and pains. Using local oils to knead the most stubborn knots, your masseuse will apply a series of long, firm strokes with their fingertips, forearms, and elbows to stimulate circulation, release tension, and relax your muscles.
A perfect beachside holiday destination, Fiji has a warm tropical climate throughout the year. The temperature mostly lies between 26 and 31 degrees Celsius. The dry season occurs between May and October, and from November to April, the islands see heavy rain. Citizens of the many countries and territories, including India are granted visitor permits (valid for four months) on arrival in Fiji and do not need to obtain a visa in advance.
Fiji is the happiest nation on the planet. According to a survey by the WIN/Gallup International Association – where they interviewed around 64,000 people from 65 countries worldwide – 93% of Fijians are either 'happy' or 'very happy' with their lives. Fiji is such a spirit-lifting destination.
No one hurries in Fiji. When plans are delayed, people don’t worry or dwell, chances are they’ll take a nap, chat with a friend or have another bowl of kava. It’s amazing how much stress this elastic attitude about time alleviates. Whatever will be, will be, just keep on having a good time while in Fiji.
So, Fiji is the place, if you want to be happy and stress free!
Best time to visit - Between late October to early November. During these months, the weather is suitable to explore the destination.
Currency - Fijian Dollar (equivalent to 37 Indian Rupee)
Languages - English (official), Fijian, Hindustani
How to Reach – Nadi and Suva have the major airports. You may reach there through Singapore, Australia, New Zealand.
What to buy - Curious trinkets and artefacts besides the beautiful BULA shirts/dresses. Souvenirs can be bought directly from craftsmen, individual shops, or public markets. Beautiful carvings of bowl and cannibal forks, tapa cloth, woven baskets and purses, traditional crockery, signature black pearls etc., are a few of the preferred souvenirs. Jack’s is a prominent store in Nadi Market to buy such souvenirs.
What to eat - Sweet potatoes, rice, coconut, cassava for vegetarians and seafood for non-vegetarians. Too many Indian Restaurants serve great food. Even ISKON has a pure veg restaurant in Nadi Market.
Places to see in Nadi: Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, Fiji Culture Village, Garden of the Sleeping Giant, Port Denarau/ Denarau Island, Sabeto Mud Pool and Hot Springs.
Where to stay - Private pool villas, beachfront resorts, and budget hotel rooms can be easily found in Nadi ranging from as low as INR 1,000 to INR 10,000 and above. A good three star hotel can be booked in INR 5,000. Denarau Resorts area is best, but very costly.
(The writer is a senior executive in a CPSE. He was in Nadi, Fiji for an international conference in February 2023)
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