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

China Daily - - HOSPITALITY - By CHINA DAILY

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.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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