*Ding! Ding!* <Lights come on and someone is speaking French over the intercom>…
My groggy self pulled up my Air Tahiti Nui eye mask to try to comprehend what was happening. The long announcement in French was actually quite short when subsequently delivered in English. It was time to wake up and have breakfast! Our flight from LAX to PPT was supposed to be roughly eight and a half hours long and we would be landing in Tahiti at… 4:45AM. Ouch. Nonetheless, we ate a little something (I think it was pancakes) and had coffee and attempted to regain a normal level of consciousness. We were mildly successful but also slightly cranky. After breakfast, I could REALLY feel the “cotton” on my teeth…a common occurrence when flying long distances over long periods of time. I recommend having a Colgate Wisp handy. It is small, easy to pack and alleviates the travel yuck-mouth problem quickly.
By the time we landed at Papeete, Tahiti, the sun was up and shining. This was at 4:45AM! It was quite warm and humid, even that early in the morning. There was no jetway so we exited the plane down a flight of stairs and then walked to the airport building. Once inside, we realized inside was actually outside. It was an open air building! No AC. We were in a long line to go through immigration and customs. I was cool with it. Why? ‘Cause I was going to get a TAHITI stamp in my passport! Yes!!!
Stamped passport in hand, we made our way through the small airport to find the Tahiti Legends counter. Tahiti Legends works with our travel agent, Tahiti.com. The reps there were friendly and spoke decent English. They welcomed us and gave David and I flower leis and helped us get to Air Tahiti ticketing. Here’s a very tired, kinda frazzled and wrinkly-eyed me with my pretty lei sitting in PPT airport.
BTW – Air Tahiti Nui does the international flights and Air Tahiti does the puddle-jumper flights amongst the islands of French Polynesia. With that being the case, our next flight was going to be a much smaller plane so we had to check our roller bags. We did so, then rested with some drinks and a snack. Our layover in Papeete was FOUR hours, so we had time to kill. I found an ATM and used my Capital One card to get cash (XPF, the French Pacific Franc). Capital One is one of the few cards that does not charge any international fees and provides excellent exchange rates. Two other tips: 1) make sure you know your pin before you go and 2) make sure your pin doesn’t start with a zero. For some reason, some ATMs in French Polynesia don’t recognize a zero as the first digit of a pin number!
McDonalds was in the airport and I was really excited to see the menu. Why? Because McDonalds in other countries has foods that are highly indicative of the cultural standards…meaning it was gonna be weird! …and guess what? There are NO burgers at the Mickie D’s in Papeete, Tahiti! Instead, you can order a “CroqMcDo”!!! It’s a toasted cheese and ham panini. We did not partake of the CroqMcDo but apparently it is supposed to be quite yummy.
After waiting seemingly forever, it was finally time to board our plane (a small turbo prop) to Bora Bora. Note: there are no assigned seats. Basically, you line up, go outside, climb up steps, board the plane from the rear and sit wherever. Here’s an important tip: sit on the left side of the plane. You will have an ideal view of Bora Bora as you approach the island! During the hour flight we were served a small but refreshing glass of cold pineapple juice.
About 45 minutes into our flight we were able to see Bora Bora appear through the clouds. (Pardon the propeller.)
We were already mezmerized! Look at the aqua-blue water and all those over water bungalows!!!
We landed at Bora Bora (BOB) airport at 9:45AM and once again, went down a flight of stairs to exit the plane. This airport is teeny tiny! To give you an idea, baggage claim consisted of a metal shelf where workers unloaded bags from a trailer pulled by a garden tractor. No joke! We found the representative for our resort, Le Meridien, and she welcomed us warmly and gave us another set of pretty leis. Just outside the airport is a dock where the resort ferries await. Our bags were loaded on to the boat and soon we were off! Here’s a photo of David and I, exhausted but happy to finally be on the last travel leg of our journey.
The boat ride lasted about 20 minutes. When we arrived at Le Meridien, we were welcomed by live Tahitian music at the boat dock. We were then brought to a check-in area where we took care of necessities and were given a refreshing island cocktail. Nice! BUT we couldn’t check in yet. Check-in isn’t until 1pm and we arrived a shortly after 10am. UGH! Fortunately, the resort has “transitional rooms” where you can access your luggage, shower and change. We freshened up in one of those and then made our way to the pool bar to hang out. After a while of chillin’ and idle chit-chat at the bar, we went to check on our room….and low and behold, it was ready early!!! We loaded up onto a golf cart and were whisked away through the pathways of the grounds and then down a long dock that stretched out across the water. Overwater bungalows flanked each side. At the end of the dock we finally arrived at our home away from home!
Ours was #326, a premium, end-of-pontoon, overwater bungalow. What makes it “premium”? It is at the end of the dock, has a larger deck and an unobstructed view of Mt. Otemanu, which is the remnants of the volcano that created the island of Bora Bora. The below video was actually taken by David toward the end of our stay, but I wanted to show it to you now so you can see what our accommodations looked like.
After we were shown our room, we acted like kids on Christmas morning. There were many exclamations of, “Whoa! Look at this!”, “Oh, no WAY, LOOKIT!”, “Dude! Check THIS out!” Much of the excitement had to do with the huge glass floor in the middle of our bungalow. At the time of this writing, Le Meridien has the largest glass floors out of all the overwater bungalows in French Polynesia (and was also one of the deciding factors for us staying there.) Also in our room was a nice bottle of champagne provided by the resort to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary!
Below is a clip I posted on my Instagram. I put the filled champagne glasses on our glass floor so you could watch the ocean waves and the bubbly bubble simultaneously (and listen to a bit of Bob Marley 🙂 )
Of course, next up was swimming. We were so tired but we didn’t care. We wanted to play! You’ll note I’m wearing a snorkel. More on that later… Anyway, I’m saying something like, “Happy anniversary! Epic, YOLO trip of a lifetime!” and David said, “Except there are water spots on the lens” to which I said, “That’s OK!” Goofballs, we are.
After swimming, we were quite lazy and somehow ALL the champagne disappeared. I think that might have been my fault… maybe, possibly. Actually, highly likely. 😉
Nonetheless, as evening approached we got dressed for dinner. We had made reservations at Le Tipanie restaurant. This is the main restaurant at the resort and is right on the lagoon. Dinner was expensive. In fact, all meals at the resort are exorbitantly expensive. It is because the overall majority of food has to be imported to French Polynesia and has to come from long distances (just think about how long it took us to get there!) Over time, we got more savvy with meals so I’ll have some tips how to best deal with that in a forthcoming post. Anyway, we had a lovely, candle-lit dinner and were entertained by all the friendly “wild” fish in the lagoon who were begging for scraps. Little did we know we’d be swimming with those guys the next day!
After dinner, we headed back to the bungalow. It was still early but we were sleep-deprived, jet-lagged and just plain worn out from all the excitement of the day. The bed was extremely comfortable and we passed out, happy and full of gratitude to be in this amazing part of the world.