French Polynesia - 2008

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We were married in Maui in November, 2007 and took our delayed honeymoon in May, 2008 on the wonderful islands of Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Since it was our honeymoon, we splurged on a garden bungalow with private plunge pool at the Moorea Pearl and an overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora.

Getting there

We started out our trip to one of the most expensive destinations on Earth by trying to be economical - we hopped on the bus to get to the el to ride to the airport. Perhaps a cab would have been the better option? At ORD, we flew AA to LAX. Since that leg of our flight was not booked through a TA, we had to recheck our bags at LAX. We also grabbed some alcohol at the duty free as we had visions of mojitos on the balcony of our OWB. We were also alerted at that time that our connection from Papeete to Moorea was cancelled (this seems to happen often). One perk of booking through a travel agent! So anyway, on to Papeete. We flew Air Tahiti Nui - which has the tiniest seats ever, but free booze so I guess the seats can be overlooked. Had our first (and last) taste of Hinono beer and promptly went to sleep.  We woke the following day and landed in Papeete. Since our flight to Moorea was cancelled, we had been booked on the ferry instead. So, we got on the bus to get to the dock. We had two hours to kill so we went into a small cafe for breakfast. Having "just gotten off the plane" (and totallly understanding that euphemism now), we were a little disoriented and our French wasn't the best. The surly waitress didn't help matters much. Through a bit of miscommunication, we ended up with some croissants, an Orangina, a coffee and a hot chocolate (not ordered - and cost 600 cfp or about $8). When we finally got the bill, it was in CFP. I was totally thrown off cause I thought we were dealing with XPF. Anyhoo, after asking the nice gentlemen at the other end of our table for assistance (who initially didn't want to help the stupid Americans at all), we got it sorted out (I guess CFP and XPF are the same thing. who knew?). Back to the ferry and a relatively uneventful ride to Moorea. 


Day one

The island of Moorea looked a bit like Kauai - very green and lush with mountains in the distance. We arrived at the Moorea Pearl and were immediatly greeted by hotel staff with a flower lei and pineapple juice. We were then escorted to our garden bungalow. It was spacious and nicely decorated. We loved the dark wood floors and accents. The plunge pool located in our (very private) backyard was the perfect temp for cooling off. We changed and headed to the main infinity pool. The pool area was very nice as well. We noticed that we were about the only Americans there - which was nice. Had lunch (relatively unexciting - I had an olive panini) and then decided to walk to the nearby town; Maharepa. Within walking distance, there are a number of small shops (mostly selling souvenirs and trinkets), restaurants and a market. We grabbed some supplies from the market and headed back to our private pool area. I highly highy recommend the garden bungalow. We live in the city and privacy (and backyards for that matter) don't exist for us. I miss it greatly. I seriously contemplated building a home in the fashion of our bungalow - I loved it that much.

For dinner on our first evening, we walked to  Le Sud. We were one of two couples there. Granted, it was pretty early (a little after 6), but it was already dark and we'd had a long day. I had a personal pizza which consisted of a cracker-thin crust, potatoes, creme fraiche, gruyere, herbs and olives. My husband had a chicken curry. We both really enjoyed our meals. 

Day Two

On our second day, we booked an afternoon 4x4 tour with our concierge. Little did I know it was going to be with Albert's - which is located just across the street from the Pearl (and would have been cheaper if we had just walked over and booked it ourselves). In the morning, my husband went for a run and I walked back to Mahrepa. I stopped at Caramelines and picked up two enormous ham and gruyere sandwiches on a baguette (450xpf each - this would prove to be hands down, the best deal in FP).  I also picked up a bottle of Monoi oil (which is supposed to be good for sunburns - I put it to the test a few days later), te tiare tea and um, a jar of Nutella (yes, I am aware I can get this in the states - but the Nutella in FP - and most of the rest of the civilized world for that matter - is made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, so I couldn't help myself. And yes, it is different).

After lunch, we boarded the jeep for our tour of the island (tip - bring bug spray!). We visited the juice factory and sampled the different rums and liqueurs and looked around the store. I could probably have done without a stop here. The tour also went to an agricultural school where we could purchase fresh squeezed juices and different sherbets and ice creams- including gardenia. We bought a pineapple mango juice and I spotted some tahitian vanilla beans and had to have some (creme anglaise! sabayon! my mouth was already watering). Not sure if I was supposed to bring those back in the country or not... The tour went on to visit an ancient temple, a lookout with views of Mt. Belvedere and Cook's Bay and a pearl shop (again, part of the tour I could have done without). Our guide hacked open a coconut and let us drink the coconut water - something I've never done before. Oddly, it tasted like squash.

For dinner, we went to Te Honu Iti. Originally we had made a reservation early enough to view the bay before the sunset, but they forgot to pick us up. So we arrived in the dark. I had Mahi Mahi with vanilla sauce (of course - any opportunity to have tahitian vanilla) and my husband had tenderloin with brandy cream sauce. Both were phenomenal.  We sat by the ocean and sting rays swam by our table. It was truely a wonderful restaurant.

Day three - on to Bora Bora

This was our last day in Moorea. We spent more time in our wonderful backyard. I am sad to admit that we did not do any snorkeling at all in Moorea. As I walked among the overwater bungalows, I noticed a lot of life in the water below the bungalows. I wish we would have taken the time to snorkel at the Pearl - as our hotel in Bora Bora didn't have a lot of sea life. In retrospect, I would have spent much more time in Moorea. There is so much to see there - it is truely a wonderful place.

We knew to sit on the left side of the plane on the way to Bora Bora - and certainly, the view is unbelievable. We boarded the shuttle to the IC Le Moana - and first dropped other passengers off at the Thalasso. The color of the water is amazing. Never seen anything like it. I will admit when we got to our resort, after being at the Pearl and seeing the color of the water by the Thalasso, it was a bit of a letdown.  There were many great things about our resort - the service, the location and the fact that we didn't need to rely on a boat shuttle to get around, the fact we could go swimming off our OWB and see all different kinds of marine life. But there were a few things that maybe could have been better. Our bungalow seemed rather cramped. It was great that we could slide the top off our coffee table and feed the fish, but there was often a current so it made watching the fish kind of hard. There wasn't a ton of activity below our bungalow - the same handful of fish hung out there during the extent of our trip (a black and white striped fish, two puffers, a handful of butterfly fish, 8 sea urchins, a few flounder - which were cool to watch, and numerous trumpetfish - oh, and this really large, rather aggressive mean fish that I've never seen before. We nicknamed him Slimer cause he came barrelling at me like the ghost did to Dan Akroyd in Ghostbusters). From time to time, we'd get a bunch of rays swimming by and a stray octopus. But it was relatively quiet. Our bungalow also seemed in need of some repairs and cleaning. I guess for the price we were paying, I expected it to be much nicer. Still, the staff was so nice and  helpful that it's hard to really complain. We were also very close to the Coral Gardens over by the Sofitel Motu - it's a short kayak ride (maybe 15 minutes?) or a little longer swim over to really excellent snorkeling. Be aware that jet skis (which should totally be banned from Bora Bora, IMO) and boats drive through this area.

Day Four

We walked to the nearby shops and picked up more supplied. The small grocery by Le Moana is maybe 15 minutes walk away. The street is pretty narrow and doesn't have a shoulder, so I'm not sure I'd make the walk at night. You are also walking through a residential neighborhood and, like all of the residential neighborhoods we saw on the island, is a bit rundown and no one really seems to feel the need to pick up their garbage. Like most of the island, I'm sorry to report, it smells of rotting fruit and garbage. We passed Le Maitai and the Sofitel on our walk. There were a few small restaurant shacks nearby. When we got back to the hotel, we took a kayak out to the Coral Gardens area. Sadly, we didn't totally know where we were headed or where to put the kayak so ended up kayaking around the motu and brought the kayak back and then swam out to the gardens. Just as an FYI - you want to be on the right side of the motu (when viewing from Le Moana). For dinner, we headed to Fare Manuia. It literally is just a shack (as many of the restaurants on Bora Bora are). I had fish with vanilla sauce (starting to recognize a theme here?). DH had swordfish and swore it tasted a little "off". All in all, I can't say it was a great meal.

Day Five

So...DH wasn't feeling very well. In fact, it had actually started the night before. We blamed it on the meal initially, but are now thinking that it was due to drinking the water at the resorts (since I got the same problem albeit two days later). We got tired of drinking bottled water all the time - and hadn't heard not to drink the water, but I don't have another explanation for our issues. We had made our shark/ray feeding tour for this day, but had to cancel as there was no way DH could handle being on the boat. We ended up taking the shuttle from Le Moana to Vaitepe that morning to head to the pharmacy (note: you can't buy any kinds of medications at the grocery stores - only the pharmacy, so don't bother looking). Of course, I had told DH about Dengue fever and he was convinced that was what he had (what is it about guys and illness??) so when we got to the pharmacy, he played up the wrong symptoms and of course, we came back with nothing that would solve the problem (forcing me to take a $30 cab ride out the following morning to get some immodium...). Anyway, Vaitepe. The market there is much larger than the one by our hotel - I would definately recommend if you are going to a market, head to this one when you first get to the island. The rest of the town is quite small - a few small patisserie and sandwich shops, trinket and parao stores, some pearl shops and a few high end clothing stores. That's about it. Nothing too exciting to see. After our visit to town, we headed back to our bungalow and spent more time out in the sun.

Day Six

As mentioned before, I had to head out to Vaitepe again to pick up supplies for DH. When I got back, we decided to head over to the Thalasso for the afternoon - to lay low. The Thalasso is much newer than Le Moana and much more "designerly" - I believe Phillippe Starck had something to do with the bar and restaurant areas. It is definately more luxurious than Le Moana. However, it seemed so much more like being in the states than Le Moana and I can't say I really liked it. People - mostly Americans - hung out more by the pool than on the deck of their bungalows. Seems kind of ridiculous to me to spend that much to go that far and hang out by the pool. I could do that in Kauai for 1/4 the price. Additionally, there is NO snorkeling at Thalasso - there is nothing in the water over there. But yes, it is a beautiful setting with a gorgeous view.  We had lunch at one of the restaurants on site (one of the nice things about staying at the Intercontinental is having access to both Le Moana and Thalasso and being able to charge to your room) and had the only bad meal of our trip there.

For dinner, we were lucky enough to get a table at Villa Mahana. If you are making a trip to Bora Bora, you must eat there. Make reservations in advance.  Try to get the single table at the top cause seriously, you don't want any obnoxious American couples to ruin your fabulous meal (like ours was - oy. I don't even want to talk about it). Unfortunately, my husband still wasn't feeling very well, but we went anyway and had a fabulous meal. We split the foie gras appetizer - it was superb. Perhaps the best thing I've ever eaten. For dinner, I had fish with vanilla sauce which was pretty much my staple on our trip. And of course, it was excellent. Seriously one of the best meals of my life. 

On our last day, we took the shark/ray feeding tour. A definite must. You stand in line with everyone else holding on to a rope. Apparently, this is threatening to the sharks and they don't cross the line (so make SURE you are holding on to the line!). But they get darn close. The rays don't seem to have any problem crossing the line and come at you from all angles. It was very cool, but a little unnerving after awhile - especially since the rays were coming from behind me. Still, an extraordinary experience.