NADI & DENARAU
My Indonesian friend Lina has been living in Fiji for three
years and, maybe because she is the survivor of many a
Jakarta traffic crush, or perhaps just fearless when it
comes to approaching trucks, she steps off Nadi Town's Main
Street and makes a dainty stop signal to a big,
pulls up with a squeal of brakes and she takes me by the
elbow to hurry across the street. Nadi Town got its first
pedestrian crossing with a traffic light earlier this year,
she is telling me, although I can't see it.
driver and his passenger lean out and yell: "Bula". This is
a word one hears in Fiji hundreds of times a day and it
means hello (not "Look where you're going, you idiot
pedestrian"). Even the most curmudgeonly of tourists ends up
saying bula all day long and grinning like a loon in Fiji.
If there is a friendlier, more greeting-obsessed destination
on earth, I haven't found it.
Nadi Town is
the settlement closest to the airport on the main island of
Viti Levu. It is easily bypassed on the way to the sleek
resorts of Denarau, which is fast becoming such an
all-embracing enclave that many tourists don't bother to
venture back across its causeway to explore Nadi Town and
the nearby port of Lautoka. Denarau provides a great
lifestyle for Fiji Island Real Estate investors however
there are many other opportunities available in Fiji for
Island Homes, Resorts, Condominiums and luxury waterfront
To be limited
to Denarau with its properties for sale and resorts,
shopping center and more is all the home ownership possible
in Fiji would be a shame, because even a few hours strolling
in Nandi, perhaps
enjoying the buzz of its Saturday markets, provides a window
into everyday town life, particularly of the Indo-Fijian
approach: Stroll the
seven-block Main Street, down one side and back on the
other. At the southern end is Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami
Temple, regarded as the biggest Hindu temple in the southern
hemisphere. It has intricate carvings and is painted in
candy pink and joyous blue. Modestly dressed visitors are
welcome to walk about and watch worshippers offering bananas
and lighting musky incense.
fossicking: In stacked-high
supermarkets and emporiums there are quirky bits and pieces
to buy, such as enamel plates and bowls in pastel colors
from Big Bear on Main Street, ideal for picnics and less
than $F1 (75c) each.
shopping: Jewellery stores
such as Anita on Main Street glitter with gold jewelry
made in India and Singapore: matched sets of necklaces and
earrings, simple gold bangles stacked like sets of quoits,
rings set with colorful semi-precious stones and dazzling
22ct gold bangle, finely etched with scrolls and leaves, is
priced at $F700 but I have a feeling that if I were in the
mood, some serious seated "negotiation", discussion of my
finances and bottles of lemonade with compliments of the
management could ensue. It feels like a Delhi or Mumbai
store but with none of the pushiness.
Bollywood moments: The
latest song-and-dance sari-rippers are shown at Galaxy
Cinema on Ashram Road. Lina says it is reasonably clean and
air-conditioned, which in itself is a blessing. (The
humidity this April day is so high that we hop from one
air-conditioned shop to the next, even when we don't want to
buy. Which is why we spend 15 minutes inspecting pairs of
men's running shoes the size of pieces of occasional
furniture in a clothing store with arctic temperatures.)
too, at Little India, adjoining Jack's Fashion on Main
Street, where there are twirling stands of sari lengths in
jewel colors, some flecked with silver or gold thread, on
special for $F15.
is not great (a synthetic mix, I think) but the patterns are
so gorgeous that tourists around me are scooping up the
fabric, no doubt with cushion covers and summer tablecloths
bejeweled slippers and sparkly bags, too, all at low prices.
Tappoo, on the corner of Ashram Road, the top
floor is stocked with full Indian skirts and gold-edged sari
lengths from $F29.
Jack's Handicrafts has the franchise when it comes to
Fiji memorabilia, and amid the tack in its mall-like corner
emporium are carved kava bowls that can be adapted to myriad
uses (from diminutive salt containers to robust fruit
dishes), fierce-looking wooden war clubs and "cannibal
forks", woven placemats and baskets, coconut-shell wares and
Look for CDs
of Fijian songs, bula shirts with hectic patterns and pretty
sulu wraps. Noni juice, touted to promote vitality and
sometimes known as South Pacific Viagra, is $F20 per liter
and, appropriately, tastes like medicine.
Be sure to
declare shells and wooden or woven souvenirs to Australian
Customs. Also show any item covered in paper pressed with
fibers or petals, such as wrapped soap or notepads.
Obviously cannibal forks and reproduction weapons are not on
sale at Nadi airport as they would have to be carried as
hand luggage – oops.
home wares: For cushions,
quirky ornaments and the inevitable array of Balinese and
Javanese statues and carvings, have a rummage at the large
South Seas Treasures emporium (2 Queens Rd). On a much
smaller scale, at the Westin Resort Denarau's arcade (about
10 minutes by car), Cocoon Home sells key rings hung with
coins and shells, cotton tableware brightly patterned with
frangipanis, and island-style jewelery.
coffee break: Zig Zag Cafe
adjoins Prouds (a department store selling lustrous black
pearls from Savusavu, watches, perfume and make-up; also
with a branch at Nadi airport) and has a menu of
Fijian-grown coffee, fresh juices, pies and deli-style
sandwiches. Republic of Cappuccino at Sheraton Denarau
Villas (next to the Westin) has fabulous muffins and lattes
(and internet terminals); there's a branch at the airport
lunch: Daikoku is a very
good Japanese restaurant on Main Street and part of a
franchise that includes branches in New Zealand and Sydney's
Double Bay. There are teppan tables for more elaborate
meals, but a quick lunch here of, say, miso soup, rice,
tempura, pickles and green tea costs less than $F20.
However, the exterior is off-putting, with a heavy sliding
door reinforced with grillwork and shuttered windows.
There's no sense of what lies beyond and the wood-paneled
decor is gloomy. About 2km north of Nadi Town is a
McDonald's if you must be unadventurous: packs of fried
chicken, not burgers, are the biggest sellers.
dining: At Saffron
restaurant in Sangayam Road the waitresses are wearing red
Punjabi pants, long white tunics and red diagonal sashes.
They are all young and pretty, possibly sisters or cousins,
and look like a troupe of Misses India. Lina and I are here
for dinner and the lighting is low. When one of the beauties
appears at my elbow with a tray of what look like grains of
food, I wonder if Saffron deals in the world's smallest
appetizers. Just before I make a complete fool of myself I
realize the specks are adhesive bindis, so Lina and I choose
the most decorative and the waitress dots them on our
mock-maharani style, we order a veritable feast of dishes
(and are asked if we want mild, medium or "Indian hot"), and
each is exceptionally good, with main courses averaging $F14
(up to $F42 for rock lobster marinated in lime, yoghurt and
garam masala); a dessert of mango kulfi comes in individual
pots with pull-off lids, like partyfavours.
There is a
tandoori kitchen – the chef can be seen flipping and
finger-spinning roti bread like a vaudeville juggler – and
the premises are spick-and-span. Lina tells me Saffron
restaurateur Eugene Gomes also runs the nearby
brasserie-style Chefs, and everything is linked, as seems
inevitable, with the Jacks conglomerate.
food in the wild: It's all
very well to order crab masala at Saffron but if you want to
catch and cook your own, it's best to join John the Cannibal
on his "crab and culture tour". I'm not able to get a
booking but am told the three-hour excursion (book at hotel
tour desks) with the self-appointed cannibal (wearing a
woven coconut-fibre skirt and wielding weapons) and,
sometimes, his son (Junior Cannibal) is great fun and you
get to eat the mud crabs.
Fiji freshener: The
Pure Fiji range of body lotions, bath products, sugar
scrubs and soaps has been a huge success and is found in
many resort guestrooms and spas. Soaps (about $F4) in
fragrances such as coconut, pineapple and starfruit make
inexpensive gifts: available at Prouds, Jacks and smaller
stores. Pure Fiji's latest brand, with similar packaging and
products, is Reniu: it's based on cold-pressed coconut oil
and includes a few extra fragrances, such as wild gardenia
and watermelon. There's a limited array at Nadi airport
shops if you don't want to carry purchases.
DENARAU Island, 6km west of Nadi Town and about 20 minutes
from the airport, is built on reclaimed mangroves
overlooking Nadi Bay.
the mainland by a causeway and developed in the enclave
style of Queensland's Sanctuary Cove or Bali's Nusa Dua, the
Denarau estate has developed into a self-sufficient
satellite of hotels, residential villas, marina, golf and
racquet clubs, and shopping village.
two properties here – the main, pink-painted resort and
neighboring Sheraton Denarau Villas (with a new lagoon-style
pool and units equipped with a laundry and kitchen, ideal
for families) – while its Royal (which was The Regent years
ago) has just been rebranded as a Westin after an extensive
Where once it
was all dark woodwork, brown-patterned tapa cloth and orange
bedspreads, the new Westin look is light and bright.
guestrooms feature the hotel group's trademark Heavenly Beds
(think sink-into bedding and pillows galore), double-head
Heavenly Shower, flat-screen televisions and trimmings of
series of new pools, lily ponds lit at night by flares,
revamped public areas and a fabulous Heavenly Spa, pictured,
its high-roofed treatment bures, with ceiling fans and
pull-down rattan blinds, set amid gardens, lap pool and
new neighbor is the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, with the
South Pacific's longest lagoon pool, chic dining options
such as a sushi bar and tandoor oven at the alfresco Salt,
top-to-toe therapies at the Mandara spa (even
teeth-whitening treatments), and 296 sea-facing rooms with
flat-screen TVs, beachy colors and contemporary decor.
has family rooms with a queen bed and two bunks with play
area, plus a Turtle Club providing lots of junior
activities, water slide and a children's buffet at the
shuttle bus, with thatched roof and open sides, nips between
all the resorts. Hilton and Radisson are opening on Denarau
and sales of villas with private moorings or golf course
views are booming; this is definitely Fiji's premier
More info here.