(These island computers don’t move as fast the NYC ones.)
Things I learned:
1) Always pays to have an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) and an American Express Starwood Card.
2) Splitting doesn’t only save money, but it also is a bit healthier.
3) Also, whenever possible, tell the hotel it is your honeymoon. You might get a dessert tray and a bottle of cheap champagne (in our case, Lanson) - which on a backpacker’s budget is like winning the lottery.
4) By signing up for an American Express Starwood Card, one gets 10,000 free points (which is equivalent to about two to three nights in an above-average hotel or one night in a mega Ritz-y joint). In a bind, it helps to talk your family and friends into signing up for the card and gifting you the points (thanks Mom and Michelle)
5) Friends are the best thing a budget traveler can have: thanks Susie for showing us around New York and being our free art expert at the MoMA, thanks Brooke and Chris for giving us a free dinner and your floor (if it was actually a Starwood, it would have cost way more than 10,000 points), thanks
Mom for e-mailing me every five seconds (my inbox is never empty), thanks Rachel’s mom (a.k.a. Mair) for surprising us with a free upgrade once we got to Sheraton Moorea.
Well, it’s my last day in Moorea. The Society Islands have treated me very well, and I even got to practice my French (parlez vous anglais?). This part of the trip did have its downs, though.
The trip to French Polynesia was nothing short of a nightmare. Rachel and I had to suffer through a slow, cramped bus ride to JFK, a taxi from terminal six to terminal four (also at JFK), B-movie ridden entertainment on Air Tahiti Nui (Premonition, Music and Lyrics, The Last Mimzy, etc.), six hours of taking shifts sleeping at the Papeete Airport (the ferry schedule and plane schedules really don’t coordinate), $23 cabs that only need to go 2 miles and a weird cab driver who drove us to his house to pick up his binoculars before taking us to the ferry dock (we thought he was a serial killer and almost jumped out of the car … you honestly had to have seen him).
But once we finally trudged into the
The Sunrise with the robes ...
I promise we are doing this trip on a budget.
lobby of the Sheraton Moorea, our lives dramatically changed. We were no longer Tanner Slayden and Rachel Frankel, but Mr. and Mrs. Frankel (she used her American Express Starwood Card to book the hotel for four days). Since it’s so hard to get to Tahiti in general and we got a free stopover, we decided to bite the bullet and take a little vacation before backpacking actually began. We reserved the cheapest room it had (a garden bungalow) for about $275 a night (which would have been about $400 if we didn’t book it so far in advance) and were planning to use the Starwood Preferred Guest card (which comes with the American Express Starwood Card) to get a free upgrade to an over water bungalow, which is about $800 a night. To our surprise, the upgrade cost about $180 - upgrades are usually free - and Rachel’s mom had already called, said it was our honeymoon and reserved two nights for us in the over water bungalow - the room can’t even be summed up into words, it was actually plopped in the middle of the Pacific.
Moorea really is unsurpassed in beauty. The water is crystal clear,
but also a billion different shades of green and blue. One gets the best snorkeling possible - fish, reefs and the occasional eel and shark are all around. The mountains and cliffs on the island are sublime and even more dramatic when they are bathed in clouds. When we had the over water bungalow, we had a back porch jetting out into the Pacific and got free snorkeling gear to trapeze right off our porch into the water.
There have been some downsides to staying in Moorea, but our backpacker sensibility carried us farther than we initially planned. Cost has been the biggest hurdle; this is definitely not a resort for backpackers or for budget travelers in general. But we only had two splurge meals: breakfast when we first got here (by that point we needed a real meal as soon as possible, Air Tahiti Nui’s supper and snack could only carry us so far) and one misguided adventure to an Italian restaurant called Alfredo’s, which I wouldn’t recommend. We have been splitting all of our other meals, which means a lot of pizza, since it is usually the biggest and cheapest thing on the menu. It is hard
to get a check below 2000 francs (see exchange rate - http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi), though.
I also get a free printed out copy of the New York Times every morning. The funniest little tidbits make me think of home: a weather map that includes North Carolina, a picture of a very excited App. State football player. But, overall, I’m becoming less interested in American news, and more excited about re-reading parts of Let’s Go New Zealand.
So this is probably the last post for a week, considering our trip weaving through the North Island of New Zealand is going to be a whirlwind. Stay safe and wish us luck!
PS -- You can check out pictures of the wonderful resort here -- http://www.sheratonmoorea.com/
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