Travelog: Papeete, Tahiti

Travelog: Papeete, Tahiti
Tahiti was the first island in French Polynesia I've visited. To the fact that I was flying from Sydney, Australia on board Air Tahiti Nui - French Polynesia's flag carrier - my experience about French Polynesia started mid-air and before the plane touched down in Papeete, Tahiti, I already had a glimpsed of what this most fantasized destination is all about.

When Tahitian air hostesses began serving French Polynesian inspired foods and assortment of goodies mid air, my French Polynesia experience has started. Though the taste of the in-flight meals being served was very foreign to my tongue, foods were superb and that was a luscious preview of the destination. In-flight videos highlighting the beautiful lagoon enclosed beaches, the over – water bungalows, the elegant black pearls and the warmth of the Polynesians were in the same way significant must-see prelude of what I was about to see and experience after touching down.

Air Tahiti Nui
The whole duration of the 8 – hour flight from Sydney was totally smooth and the view from my window seat was amazing – clear blue skies and the plane hadn’t even went through thick dark clouds. That was a conforming sign of fantastic weather French Polynesia is enjoying all year round. I always prefer aisle seat every time I fly but for that flight I opted for a window seat so I can gaze through the porthole and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful islands of French Polynesia during the descend. But I miscalculated the time difference between Sydney and Papeete – I thought we would arrive Papeete in broad daylight. So finally I arrived Tahiti and my fantastic and momentous French Polynesia adventure kicked off.

Tahiti is the gateway to the unpretentiously most fantasized islands of French Polynesia. Where all international flights arrived, Tahiti is the entry point for everyone coming from various parts across the globe. One must travel first to Tahiti before reaching to the other islands of French Polynesia.

Travel magazines over and over describe this remote group of islands in the middle of the South Pacific a “hidden paradise”. Actually, at first I knew not much but just a vague picture of what French Polynesia truly is but the moment I stepped on board Air Tahiti Nui, I knew there was a lot of exploring and discovering to pull off on this secluded holiday destination in the South Pacific.

Debarking from the plane after that 12-hour flight from Sydney not to mention the 6 hours flight from Manila and the big zone time difference, I was already drained of energy. But that lively sound of the ukulele played by Tahitian locals at the arrival gate was very invigorating, so there I was feeling alive again.

Before clearing from the immigration, I was wearing a petal of that heavy scented tiare flower on my right ear. I got it from one of the Tahitian ladies at the arrival gate. It was not until the next day I realized that I should have worn it on my left air. From the hotel staff where I checked in for the night I learned that by tradition, it should be worn on the left ear if taken and on right ear if still available.

The next day I went for a brisk walk from the hotel. Judging at the friendly faces of the locals I met, one would always feel safe and secure in Papeete. Close to the harbour are church, banks, hotels, shops, restaurants and bars. Normally during working days, shops in Papeete are closed by 5:30 PM, so if you plan for some shopping don’t go there after 5 PM. On Saturdays, shops and businesses are open until noon but some shops remain open until 2 or 4 in the afternoon. Sunday is a family day for Tahitians. Mostly, locals spend this day for outdoor family activities after attending church services. So during these days, all shops are closed for the entire day.

French Polynesia has many islands often referred to as paradise islands with the most enthralling marvels of nature. To experience paradise, one must travel to the remote islands of French Polynesia where beautiful beaches and lagoons are found. But nevertheless, beaches along Tahiti’s coastlines are still worth visiting. Normally, beautiful private beaches owned by hotels does not allow outsiders from getting in, unless you stay there as their guest. Access to private beaches owned by locals maybe possible. Just always wear a smile in your face when you ask permission to get access. Tahitians are friendly and nice people, so I believe you can get into their privately owned beach at no cost. But if you are not lucky enough, you still have the last option – to the public beaches.

French Polynesia is generally a warm place. So in Tahiti, light clothing is suitable to wear. And to be more fashionable, I would suggest the wearing of Tahitian signature of clothing - light clothing with floral imprints. The weather seems reasonably friendly for whole year round. For half of the week, the sun may shine brightly and perfect for sunbathing, water sports and other outdoor activities while for the other half, the sun may be pretty shy. But at times, sunny weather may persist for the whole week too.

Home to several lagoon enclosed islands, French Polynesia is a remote destination in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. So remote that getting there is expensive. But because of its pristine white sand beaches and paradise-like remote location, tourists fly to French Polynesia certainly to experience paradise and escape from the hustle and bustle life of the city – well, at least temporarily.

To the fact that I was flying from Sydney, Australia on board Air Tahiti Nui - French Polynesia's flag carrier - my experience about French Polynesia started mid-air and before the plane touched down in Papeete, Tahiti, I already had a glimpsed of what this most fantasized destination is all about.