In the early planning stages of our RTW, the hubs and I knew we wanted to stay in a few quirky accommodations. From renting a campervan to sleeping in an underground motel surrounded by opal mines, we were looking forward to changing up our accommodation options as we bounced from place to place.
Sleeping in a luxury beachfront bure was obviously what we envisioned when we first imagined one week in Fiji, but spending some time experiencing the real Fiji and genuinely connecting with the local culture quickly became very important to us. I scoured the internet for weeks, pouring over reviews until I finally decided this was it:
For about $225 FJD for the night, we would stay in a cabin on the property of a local couple. Our stay also included the chance to tour the village, meet children at a local school, and experience a taste of Fijian life that greatly differed from the nearby resorts.
Our home for the night: the “Starfish” cabin.
To be perfectly honest, I did have some concerns. For one, I didn’t want this to be some voyeuristic experience, and it was hard to tell in advanced if the local villagers approved of Westerners coming in to gawk at their way of life. But this is where our hostess, Taupo, and her nephew, John, completely put any worries at ease as soon as we arrived.
From the moment we slipped off our shoes and walked through her front door, Taupo encouraged us to ask as many questions as we wanted, and in return—as she had mostly Australian, Kiwi, and German visitors and very few from the US—she wanted to ask us about life in the states, places we’ve visited, and everything we knew about Barack Obama.
Taupo prepping our tea in the kitchen at Danny’s Village homestay
Over afternoon tea and coffee (something to get used to in its own right—the hubs and I have never sat and had a piping hot drink when it was one billion degrees of humidity outside), we sat down to chat about our stay. Though our welcome packet said that bottled water would be available for sale, Taupo unfortunately didn’t have any on hand—this is definitely worth noting, because our only other options were to hitchhike into town, or walk over to the neighboring resort at Mango Bay. We opted for Mango Bay and that was an adventure in itself so: BYOW, once more.
“Oh, just walk along the coast, and it’s right around that corner.” (Not entirely true).
Later, we joined Taupo and John for dinner. Sake, the owner of Danny’s, had unfortunately fallen very ill. He came out to meet with us for a bit, but was clearly exhausted. Sake told us all about how his father had given him the land to turn into a homestay, and a portion of every stay goes back into the village. There was another homestay in their village, operated by Taupo’s sister and her husband, but Sake was extremely proud of his beachfront plot of land. He got tired quickly, excused himself to go lie down again, and soon left us to chat with Taupo some more.
Our dinner: chicken & carrots with “red sauce,” lamb (which we later learned was more likely goat), potatoes, and breadfruit—a local starchy food that tasted a lot like potatoes and is boiled until soft and edible.
As we ate the dinner Taupo and John had made for us, they told us about our plans for the next day. Early the next morning, we would wake up and walk around the village together before heading to the local school to meet the children. When I asked how the villagers felt about people coming to tour their area and meet their kids, she laughed at me.
“They love it! They love white people! They love black people, too, but white people! They love you.”
After that, we figured everything was pretty much on the table.
Once we were finished with dinner (and were seriously stuffed—Taupo had taken to chanting “more food, more food!!!” after each bite), we headed back to our cabin for the night… at 7:30 PM, it was already pitch black, so there wasn’t much to do. Though our cabin did have electricity, the lights brought on a TON of bugs, which neither one of us really wanted to deal with. Instead, we strapped on our headlamps, climbed into our sleepsacks, and let down the mosquito nets.
We went to sleep that night excited for the day ahead, and—though we had loved our time in Hawaii—finally feeling the culture shock we had been craving.