|Ponds with gorgeous lily pads surround the Village Arts area.|
Prior to visiting most venues we diligently check online reviews, mostly on TripAdvisor, taking negative comments lightly (except for flights and hotels) knowing full well our expectations may be less than others on a one or two week vacation/holiday.
When we read reviews about the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour, a round trip taxi fare of FJD $10, USD $4.67, we realized it certainly warranted a visit regardless of the comments from online reviewers. Here are few reviews we read:
“I think it was originally designed for big things when Pacific Harbour was expanding, but seems a little run down. It’s a mix of tourist shops and local businesses. Worth visiting just to get out of the hotel for a day.”
“But not much in Pacific Harbor anyway, so if you’re in the area, it’s worth doing for lunch or coffee. There is no real “art” in the Arts Village…Just a couple of touristy shops and some cafes.”
|A view across the lake of the Arts Village.|
Sure, it’s a touristy location with many local wares, handmade crafts and flower printed shirts and dresses. Sure, it was run down and unlike any mall, one would find in more modern communities. However, we found it charming and befitting Fijian culture.
|Inside the courtyard of the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour.|
The shop owners were hungry for business when we only spotted a dozen or so other visitors in the two hours we spent wandering about the fairly good-sized open-air mall, wandering in the shops, sharing-friendly and warm “bula” with every passerby.
We purchased two decks of playing cards for a total of FJD $16, USD $7.47, the only items other than a few food items we purchased at the Indo-Fijian market which was our final stop in the Arts Village.
|This is the Fijian bell, the lali, carved from the trunk of a tree often used to alert villagers to church services and other events.|
Susan, the property owner, had suggested we stop at the vacation home rental office located in the Art Village for the company that manages this property in her absence. We needed to schedule the weekly cleaning person, discuss the rate, and thought it would be good to say hello.
We met with Richard, who has lived in Fiji all of his life. We took a seat in his office in air conditioned comfort and chatted for a bit. We arranged for the cleaning person to come this and each Friday, adjusting for the date when Christmas falls on a Friday. The cleaning rate is FJD $30, USD $14 (the exchange rate changes daily) for the full day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
|Spas and salons are plentiful and affordable in Fiji.|
At most, the cleaning person will be here for three hours since we keep it clean, but we’re thrilled the pay the full rate. Goodness, in the US it was USD $30, FJD $64 an hour, not the full day! The longer we’ve lived in Fiji, the more we understand why many retired foreigners decide to settle here with free medical care, reasonable priced restaurants and groceries, and low cost for most services.
|Here’s the buffet offered for Christmas day lunch. We’re dining at this restaurant on Saturday. If we like this establishment, we may book it for Christmas day as well. At FJD $55, USD $26, this may be an option for many in the area.|
Hoping to fill in the blanks in our grocery list, we were disappointed but not surprised to be unable to find 10 basic food items on our list. The bottom line is that we’ll have to travel the long drive to Suva once every 10 days to buy groceries. Good public transportation and low taxi fares could easily eliminate the need for a car.
|Another dining option for Christmas day which has few options suitable for my diet but may appeal to Tom for its “basic” holiday meal. I’m always willing to compromise. Priced at FJD $95, USD $45.|
The taxi fare for the round trip (an hour each way) to Suva is FJD $120, USD $56 which includes a two-hour tour of the city and one hour of waiting time at the market. At most, we’ll make two trips during our remaining time here, taking advantage of the touring time seeing many of the sites in the bigger city.
|With apartments above many of the shops, this occupant is airing pillows on a sunny day. We spotted a few clotheslines on the grounds.|
Once we were done at the Arts Village market, we still had to find tomatoes. We’d driven by a few vegetable stands to no avail. Once in the market, a kindly helper pointed to a nearby stand outside the Art Village where he assured us we’d find tomatoes.
|Most products were reasonably priced including handmade crafts.|
After filling our Costco bag with three heads of brown and beginning to spoil head lettuce at the market we’d hoped to find more lettuce elsewhere. Lettuce is not a popular item in Fiji. Overall, we’ve had to forgo lettuce salads with dinner since our arrival over three months ago.
|Koi in the pond.|
After calling our new driver Freddie to pick us up, who requested a 10 minute lead time, when we didn’t get an answer, we wandered across the road to the vegetable stand purchasing 10 perfect medium tomatoes for FJD $5, USD $2.33.
When we made our way to the bench at the taxi waiting area, we called again. This time Freddie answered arriving in 15 minutes apologizing for the wait. Fiji time. No complaining.
|The walkway from one area of the Arts Village to another.|
Overall, we found the Art Village charming and worth a visit for anyone in this area. Most likely we’ll return weekly to purchase roasted chickens from the “roasted chicken store” and to dine at one of the several casual restaurants. Checking menus at each restaurant we discovered many options suitable for my diet.
|Upon entering the above walkway, this coconut fell from a tree landing in front of our feet. Good thing we weren’t further along and didn’t get hit in the head, always a concern when walking near coconut trees.|
The recently cleaned pool on yet another sunny day is calling us. Once done posting and hanging the laundry outdoors, we’ll lounge and finally swim in the pool, the first time since our arrival.
Aside from the difficulty in finding some food items and the ants which we continue to work on, we’re content. The house is ideal and is as comfortable as we’d hoped.
Photo from one year ago today, December 9, 2014:
|Here’s our visiting family of four from left to right, Jayden 10, Nik 15, TJ, and Sarah. We couldn’t stop laughing when we took this shot at a local stop in Pahoa one year ago. For more details, please click here.|