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Friday, January 11, 2008

Honeymoon in French Polynesia -- Bora Bora 12.29.07 - 1.1 .08

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.

Sunday 12. 30. 07. The next day we woke up to a gray and cloudy sky. We decided to stay in the resort since we really have not spend much time at this beautiful property and H was not feeling 100% with his stomach. We went to check out their over water chapel.  According to the resort staff, many Japanese couples came here to get married. The small chapel was facing directly to Mt. Otemanu and had a glass isle with a lot of fish swimming underneath. I am not sure if the guests would pay much attention to the bride and groom, but this is really a romantic spot to get married. (Huh, maybe our 10 year anniversary to renew the vows?) Majority of the visitors here are Americans.  There are quite many Japanese and Australians as well.  (Flights from LA to Papeete are 7.5 hours, from Tokyo are 12 hours, and from Australia are about 8 hours.)  There were many honeymooners but we also saw many of the visitors with their whole family. After visiting the main island, we were happy that our resort was located at the outer motu. Not only was the view better, we were away from most tourists, which made the whole experience here even more special and serene for us. The most people we saw on the daily basis were at the breakfast buffet, which had no more than 50 guests at any given time. We spent the morning at our villa swimming in the ocean, moved to the swimming pool in the afternoon, and went to the swanky Bubble Lounge for happy hour before we headed back to our villa to get ready for dinner.

We picked this time of the year for our Honeymoon because between the Austria and Taiwan wedding, we really didn't have a lot of vacation days left. By planning everything around the holidays, we were able to stretch our travel days as far as we could. However, we soon realized that Christmas and New Year's were really not the best time to come to this part of the world. The wet season was hardly affecting any of our activities, but the holiday schedules were. Two of the "must visit" restaurants in Bora Bora closed for the month of December, Bloody Mary & La Villa Mahana. UGH...... So, based on the concierge's recommendation, we settled for Matira Restaurant since they had recently hired a French chef from another famous restaurant in town.  The whole dinning out process required a little advanced planning. We had to coordinate the shuttle boat schedule to IC Le Moana to be picked up by the restaurant's free transportation, same process for the return, but it really was not much of a hassle. The restaurant was located on the Matira beach and we had a great view of the ocean and the sunset.

By this time of our trip, we just gave up watching our expenses. Bora Bora was so beautiful that we just wanted to enjoy our experience here.  And we were getting used to the high costs of everything that nothing shocked us anymore. I figured we would eat instant noodles for 3 months once we get home. We ordered black truffle risotto with shrimp for appetizer. It was most guys' nightmare: expensive ingredients, beautiful presentation, served in a huge plate with itsy-bitsy portion. But it tasted soooo good. we practically licked the plate clean. I had sea bass and H had lagoon fish for the main course. The sea bass was also delicious. The Lagoon Fish turned out to be Mahi Mahi, and I realized on this trip that I really did not like Mahi Mahi all that much. The meat was too heavy and the texture tasted more like poultry than seafood to me. We finished with warm chocolate cake and a banana milkshake. (Very good combination of the taste and hot & cold contrast) H was not feeling well with his upset stomach again. He ended up not touching much of his lagoon fish and we felt obligated to brown bag the dish even though we both knew the chance of us eating it was close to impossible. Somehow, making the effort to bring the dish back, put in the fridge for a few days then throw it away felt less wasteful than leaving the full plate of food in the restaurant psychologically.

Speaking of throwing things away, I noticed something interesting during the past week at both resorts we stayed. The house keeping staff did not throw away anything in your room that seemed very apparent to us as garbage, if you did not put it in the trash can. Whether it was a day old French fries, one tiny almost rotten grape, or a piece of wrinkled plastic wrapping, no,  they stayed exactly at the same location where you left them. I wonder if it had to do with how everything was so expensive there and people thought all of these things were still usable and eatable somehow?

Monday, December 31, 2007. It was the last day of 2007. What a year we had! And I can't believe that we were ending this year in Bora Bora. I couldn't think of a better place to finish this phenomenal year! It was also an action packed day for us. We finally were able to take our initiation dive in the south pacific ocean. How exciting! After a relaxing morning in the resort, we were picked up by "Nemo World Dive" at 2:45 p.m. On the way to our diving spot, we put on our wet suit (Yum..incredibly sexy...), and got a brief lesson from our instructor about breathing with your mouth, how to balance yourself in the water, how to adjust the water pressure, etc. An Indian couple dived in before us, and somehow, the guy was not able to get down, he ended up floating on the water with the air tank on his back and just snorkeled around the whole time while his wife went down with the instructor. H whispered in my ear mocking this poor guy as I was laughing and elbowed H to stop. Finally, after what seemed forever, it was H's and my turn. We followed the instructor, bit into the air tube, held the rope and slowly descended into the deep water. I had a hard time adjusting to the water pressure. Salt water came into my goggles and I could not breath through the tube. I felt suffocated. Fear took over, I panicked for a second and released the tube from my mouth. As soon as I let the tube go, the air filled my jacket and I was floating above the water. The first thought came to me was "Oh no! I am gonna be the guy that H just mocked!" The fear of humiliation quickly outweighed the fear of suffocation. I was determined to dive. After regaining my composure, we tried it again. I quickly learned that "squeeze your nose and blow" trick to adjust the ear pressure did not work for me. I had to do it with swallowing. This time, I was able to dive in, YEAH!! H was doing great on his own the whole time and filmed everything with our camera. (the waterproof case really came in handy for this trip) The instructor held my hand the entire time. We were 6 meters (18 feet) under the water. There was a huge wall of coral reefs on a side with endless openings to the sea. We could not see the bottom, it was pitch dark when we looked down. The instructor picked up a closed sea star. The shell was hard as rock. We even saw a sea turtle swimming far away! I was so excited that I wanted to scream and jump. But no.. can't do neither one of them in the water. After about 30 minutes, we came out of the water. I was so happy that I just did my first dive. It was something I always wanted to try and now I can cross it out of the list!

We got back to the resort around 4: 30 p.m. and ran straight to the Thalasso spa for our spa treatment at 4:45 p.m. As H was waiting for me with the masseuse in front of the changing room, a gorgeous woman passed by them. The masseuse told H that she was Eddie Murphy's future wife. (We later learned form the entertainment news that they got married on the New Year's Day.) The Thalasso spa was supposedly the best spa in French Polynesia. They claimed to use deep sea water for all their spa treatments. I had no clue why that was supposed to be beneficial, but we had to have our spa treatment because it was a honeymoon. (Ya, I am such a sucker for those marketing tools. Oh well, one more week of instant noodles is not gonna hurt.) The environment was very zen and chic with a private jacuzzi for two, steam rooms, mist showers, and a honeymoon spa treatment room with a glass floor. You could watch the fish swim while you were getting your massages. They offer a "day pass" for resort guests who did not want to have any spa treatments but would like to use their facilities. (Don't bother, it is not worth it.) 

After the spa treatment, we had another hour and half to get ready before our New Year's Eve event. Again, this was the mandatory event for all the resort guests with a cocktail hour, Polynesian Dance show, raffles, dinner buffet, fashion show (Not sure about the thought process behind this whole fashion show idea. I guess whatever kept you awake would work.), live band, and dance. It was definitely better organized than Sheraton's Christmas Eve dinner in Moorea. The food was better and a bottle of champagne was given to each table.  But then again, it  did cost us twice as much as the Christmas Eve Dinner at the Sheraton. French Polynesia was close to the end of the International Date Line and one of the last countries celebrating the New Year's. It was funny how New Zealand was only a 6 hours flight away, but 23 hours ahead of Bora Bora. For the past two weeks, we had been going to bed before 10 p.m most of the nights. It was a challenge for us to stay up past midnight, but we were determined to see this New Year through. It was an awesome, hectic, and sometimes challenging 2007. I was looking forward to see what the future would bring now that our year long wedding project no longer hung over our heads. H had the conviction that 2008 is going to be better and bigger than ever. And I believe it is true.

Except that we were leaving Bora Bora the next day. And we knew for sure that there was NO WAY Tahiti could possibly top this. 

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