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Monday, January 7, 2008

Honeymoon in French Polynesia -- Bora Bora 12.27 - 12.28.07

To be honest, Moorea was...nice. It was what you expect for a tropical island, the sun, the beach, the ocean. But I wasn't sure if it had more than Hawaii could offer. If Moorea was all that we experienced of French Polynesia, I would have a hard time justifying the long flight and the high cost. If given the opportunity, I wasn't sure if I would have the desire to come back to Moorea again.

So, after 5 days in Moorea, H and I were looking forward to visit Bora Bora to see what the fuss was all about. The transportation, arranged by our travel agent, showed up at the hotel promptly in the morning of Thursday 12.27.07 and took us to the airport. The flight from Moorea to Bora Bora was about 1 hour long. As soon as we landed our eyes on the island of Bora Bora from our plane, we were in awe of its striking beauty. The lagoon and motus which surrounded the main island created the most beautiful green and blue color we have ever seen. We took nonstop pictures, and became really excited about the next part of our honeymoon.

The docks for the resort shuttle boasts were connected right to the airport. Since the airport was located on a motu, the only way to leave the airport was by boat. We were happy that the weather was great so we had a clear view on the flight and on the boat ride to the resort. I took tones of pictures on the 10 minutes boat ride. I knew I probably ended up taking the same thing over and over again, but everywhere you lay your eyes on, it was just picture perfect.

The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa was located on the motu Piti Aau facing Mt. Otemanu. It was the newest resort built in 2006. As soon as we arrived at the resort dock, we were greeted by a reception staff  member who whisked us away in a golf cart. She first gave us a grand tour of their facility. IC Thalasso had a huge property. It was quiet, calm, clean, peaceful, and swanky. The infinity swimming pool had the grand view of the majestic Mt. Otemanu. Some people may find it's lack of Polynesian flair as a shortcoming, but that did not bother us at all. We were so elated with everything we had seen. I loved how the employees smiled and greeted you with Tahitian hello "Ia Orana". It was pronounced as "Yo-rah-nah". When the girls said it, it sounded like singing!

After a quick check-in procedure while I waited on the day bed drinking pineapple juice, we were taken to our over water villa - 207. Every room had a whole glass wall facing the ocean. The glass coffee table in the living room offered us the view of the water beneath. We could look out to the open Pacific from our bed. The huge bathroom had a stand alone bathtub, a big shower, and double sinks.  There was a sun deck that allowed us to swim out in the ocean from the villa . H and I looked at each other with joy. Finally, this did not feel like just another trip and another destination. It felt like a true honeymoon. We spent the rest of the day on our terrace drinking champagne, watching the sunset, and taking more pictures until it was pitch dark. It was quiet here.  We were completely alone on this tiny little spec in the middle of the South Pacific. Bora Bora felt like end of the world, the pathway between earth and heaven. We were so happy where we were and what we saw. We felt absolutely blessed.

Of course, the blessing came with a big price tag. It was roughly the equivalence of a $20 burger,  a $8 can of coke, and $13 charge for room service. However, the view from our bed when we first opened our eyes the next morning made us forgot all about the price tag.

The next day after the breakfast buffet at the Reef restaurant in the resort, we took the free hotel shuttle boat from IC Thalasso to their other propriety on the main island to Matira beach, Inter Continental Le Moana. There were no fish or coral reefs for snorkeling at the Thalasso lagoon. However, we were told by the concierge that there was a motu perfect for snorkeling within 15 minutes by kayak from Le Moana. The friendly beach staff provided us with towels, fins, and bread to feed the fish. We decided to take an outer canoe since we had all these snorkeling gear with us. The beach staff even gave H a quick lesson on how to use the canoe, since it was harder to control the direction and much easier to flip. We were nervous but set out to take this little adventure on our own. After 15 minutes, we were only half way. My arms were sore, and H did the most of the paddling. It took us probably half an hour to get to the motu, nonetheless, we got there without flipping the boat!. 

The sun was strong. We piled on our sunblock. We snorkeled out to the deeper water. The corals we saw were much bigger and more beautiful compare to Moorea. We were surrounded by so many different colorful fish. Some looked familiar, and some we had never seen before. We were excited and scared at the same time. Snorkeling is an interesting experience. It almost feels like meditation. All the noise was tuned out when you put your head into the water. You only hear your own breathing. You were in your own world and your own discovery. You discovered another world that was eerie and sacred. Everything moved slower and more elegant. The creatures had  the most vivid colors and the oddest shapes. Some of these sea animals must be God's most creative work. I could almost imagine how God said to him/herself, "Wow! I can't believe that I actually came up with this one!" I got nervous as I sometimes drifted closer to the corals. I had this fear of some unknown creature hiding inside of the corals to come out and attack me. My jar was sore from biting hard into the snorkel. But I was happy. We took a brief break back to the motu and went out again with bread to feed the fish. Within 2 minutes, we were surrounded by hundreds of the black/white fish as I was feeding them bread. It was quite a spectacular sight!

We got back to Le Moana around noon. We had some time until the next shuttle to the main village Vaitape at 2:45 PM. After some rest at the swimming pool, we decided to take a quick walk around the area and get some lunch. By the time we sat down in the La Bounty restaurant and ordered a pizza, it was already 2:00 p.m.  After we quickly chowed down the pizza and rushed to pay, it started to pour. We had no umbrellas. The restaurant is about 10 minutes walk from Le Moana. It was now 2:30 p.m. We had no time to wait for the rain to stop and I was not going to sit on the bus with soaking wet clothes. But no, this little obstacle was not going to stop me from going to Vaitape! So, we left the restaurant, took off all of our outer wear, put them into our waterproof bag, and walked down the street in our swimming trunk and bikini in the rain. Of course, as soon as we got back to the hotel, rain stopped.

We had just enough time to dry ourselves, put on the dry clothes, and get on the shuttle bus to Vaitape. Bora Bora is a tiny island of 8000 residents and 12 police officers. The circle island road is 32km (19 miles) in total length. Naturally, Vaitape was nothing worth noting and two hours were more than enough to visit every store twice. We bought some postcards and browsed through a few Tahitian Black Pearl stores. We were, however, quite tempted to get tattoos. We loved how artistic the Tahitian tribal tattoo designs were, but I still wasn't quite sold on the idea. Oh well, maybe next time.

Saturday, 12.29.07.  We booked a half day lagoon excursion based on the Concierge's recommendation.  It had the same routine as the excursion in Moorea. The sting ray, shark feeding, and snorkeling. However, since Bora Bora was well-known for it's stunning lagoons, we decided to take the tour again in Bora Bora. On our way to feed sharks at the deep sea, we passed by a private motu owned by some French guy. The motu was worth an estimated $100 million.  The tour guide told us that Eddie Murphy was staying at the Motu and was getting married there in a few days. I would say Bora Bora is definitely a great place to own your private island if you had the money. However, almost all the land is owned by the locals, they did not sell their lands. The locals believe that money comes and goes, but lands stay forever. Most of the mega resorts leased the land from local landlords. I think they got a point.

Unlike Moorea's shark feeding at the lagoon,  we went out to the deeper water of the ocean for the shark feeding. As soon as we jumped out of the boat and saw the sea through our goggles, we were absolutely blown away. The sea was at least 25 feet deep and had the most beautiful clean deep rich blue color. There were corals on the bottom of the sea.  There were countless beautiful velvet black fish swimming beneath us. On the lower layer of the sea, you saw some black-tip sharks. As the tour guide dived in to feed the sharks some huge fish bones, there were more and more black-tip sharks swimming around us.  Some of them swam up to the top part of the water and got closer to us. You can't help but get a bit nervous when they came near you. All of a sudden, we saw these 2 HUGE sharks swimming by at the bottom of the sea. They were at least 3 times the size of the black-tip sharks we saw. One circled around the fish bone, it looked like he sniffed at it, took a bite, and swam around again. We learned from the tour guide that they were around 9 feet long lemon sharks. It was the most surreal experience we ever had. The tour guide took us to the last stop, a snorkeling spot called "Coral Garden" by the locals. We followed the guide's lead and snorkeled through a serious of coral reefs. It was like a nice stroll, just with fins in the water.

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