PERFECT GETAWAY FROM THE CONCRETE JUNGLE
Relax and unwind in your own private, over-the-sea wooden hut with views over a crystal blue lagoon
There are just a few places in the world where one can really leave all of life’s worries behind. For me, such an escape is a place more than 10,000 kilometers away from home, with warm sunshine, azure sea, curving golden sands overhung with coconuts and palm trees, indigenous cultures and, most importantly, genuine people and their smiles.
That was my first thought when I arrived in Fiji, an island country in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean.
After a 14-hour flight from Beijing to Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, I encountered rain and my excitement undoubtedly offset the exhaustion brought by jet lag.
I headed to the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, a newly opened luxury hotel with modern facilities, local touches and considerate service.
Welcomed by a glass of traditional kava to drink and Fijian folk songs in the lobby, I was immersed in the fun atmosphere and surprised by the incredible surroundings — the brown wooden architecture, palm weave lampshades and decorations, water pavilions and the over-the-water villas standing between the sky and the sea.
The open design of the hotel made me feel as though I were on an ancient boat heading to visit a tribe living in seashore bures, the name for local wooden and straw made huts. Stones and flowers were hidden among the palm trees.
Perched on the blue waters of Momi Bay and surrounded by artificial lagoons, the resort fits perfectly into the natural environment, with its 114 wooden beach villas, 22 overwater bures and 136 luxury rooms with open space, featuring both modernity and traditional Fijian characteristics. It is the only hotel that has over-the-water villas on Fiji’s main island.
“It’s quite unique that even when it’s busy like today — we were fully booked last night — you don’t feel it,” said Silvano Dressino, general manager of the hotel. “The openness gives our customers space to think and be themselves.”
“The resort is built in a modern, fresh approach to bring aesthetic design to traditional Fijian architecture,” he added.
The arched shape of the lobby, bures and beach villas all resemble the canoe style popular in Fiji in ancient times, a watercraft made from native trees found in the Polynesian island state of Tonga. The style reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the first voyaging traders and settlers from the West coming to Fiji.
Mike Fulkerson, vice-president of brand and marketing for Marriott’s Asia-Pacific region, said the mixture of modern sensibility and local cultures is the key to every Marriott property.
“There are very small detailed touches, including the travel decor, subtle colors, streamlined designs and modern furniture.”
The rain became even heavier. Walking along the wooden bridges and narrow paths, I saw a hazy beauty in the cloudy but pristine sky, the vast ocean, the verdant saplings and vivid flowers.
What I needed most was a long sleep on the private balcony of my bure, facing the sea, or in the hammock by the side of the lagoon, waiting for the first rays of sunlight the next morning.
Finally, it became sunny. I jogged to the Goji Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant where I could talk with the chefs face-to-face and enjoy local Fiji favorites, as well as Western and Asian food.
The other two on-site restaurants are the seafood Fish Bar, boasting a jaw-dropping infinity pool and stunning ocean views, and the Mediterranean-style poolside Lagoon House & Bar, with a terrace overlooking the lagoon.
General Manager Dressino said that the curries, decorations and stones of the Fish Bar all originate from neighboring islands.
I took a boat to one of those islands, Tokoriki, where the Sheraton Resort & Bar under the Marriott brand is located, and where my interaction with the local people began.
Charlotte Acraman used to be a diver and is now a waitress at the hotel. She told me that with a stable job there, she no longer needs to travel around the South Pacific Ocean as a diving instructor, as she did for eight years.
“I live with my three children in the nearby village Yanuya and I feel happy that I can see them everyday,” she said.
“For the last three years at the resort, I have always treated people the way I would want to be treated,” the 32-year-old said. She added that the key to good service lies in the detail, from a selfless and generous spirit to the willingness to share the life and culture of the island.
Veta, a 17-year-old, also from Yanuya, impressed me with his singing and smiling.
“I received a letter from the hotel, saying that there was an opportunity to sing for guests every Sunday. I felt excited because that is what I love to do — to sing and dance,” he said, with a happy smile.
“People in my village make a living making handicrafts and growing cassava-root crops. When I grow up, I want to travel far to see the rest of the world,” he said, with a glimpse of hope in his clear eyes.
After a day’s travel on Tokoriki island, I went back to Momi Bay, where the most incomparable natural scene happened to take place.
I arrived back just as the sun set in the sea, with warm rays of light dyeing everything a golden color, from the nearby cascades of clouds and the surface of the sea, to the flying birds far away.
It was the perfect moment to fully soak up the dim, glamorous and gentle golden light and look back on all my memories: I recalled the smiles of Acraman and Veta, the first rainy day, and the world where I could really leave all my worries behind.
The Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay in the South Pacific Ocean provides an escape from life’s worries.
From top: Over-the-water villas stand between the sky and the sea. A swimming pool in the open air assumes a golden hue in the twilight.