11/13/2009 05:30:00 PM

Port Vila - amazingly sparkly clear blue water, even in Vanuatu's busiest city.

Hi everybody! We just got back from a wonderful 10-day holiday in gorgeous Vanuatu. The weather was great, the people were so friendly and the kids were super-duper cute! I am suffering a bit from the post-holiday blues, but I shan't let that get in the way of blogging! There was lots of sun, lots of swimming, and of course, a lot of good food! We ended up taking 9GB of pics (come on, don't act surprised!), so this is going to be spread out over a few posts. First up, an introduction to the lovely country of Vanuatu, and its capital, Port Vila.

Before I went, I knew very very little about Vanuatu - in fact, I chose this holiday destination quite impulsively, after seeing a Vanuatu tourism ad on the back of a bus which featured a gorgeous beach. I have always wanted to visit the south Pacific, and with flights being so cheap right now and the Aussie dollar being so high (wahoo for eBay!!!), it was the perfect time to go. Because I wanted to have a totally relaxing holiday, we spent the whole time in the capital city of Port Vila on the island of Efate, rather than travelling around the islands. We stayed in a wonderful resort 5 minutes out of town - blogpost to come!

Streets of Port Vila. The Fung Kwan Chee shop reminded me a lot of Penang, and proves my theory that no matter where you go, there will always be a little shop run by a Chinese dude.

Port Vila was a lot smaller than I expected, the main part of town being situated on a 1 kilometre long stretch of Lini Highway. The rest of the island that we saw was mainly jungle, hills, villages and bumpy bumpy roads.

During my pre-travel research and whilst on holiday, I quickly learnt that Vanuatu is made up of 83 different islands, with only 2 main cities - Port Vila on Efate, and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. The majority of the population still live in villages, and there is a lot of beautiful and contrasting countryside that can be explored - waterfalls, beaches, rivers, volcanoes and more.

Above: Post office. Below: Street.

Between Vanuatu's 83 islands the different villages speak over 115 separate languages (not dialects), making Vanuatu one of the most culturally diverse countries on earth. This doesn't include the English and French languages brought by the colonisers. Understandably, this makes communication difficult, and over the years, the official language of Bislama was developed so that everyone can communicate with each other. It is a form of pidgin English, and to English speakers it can look quite funny. For example...

Sign up to Digicel and get your Fri Tok!

Whilst Bislama is the official language, pretty much everyone we met also spoke English (and sometimes French) - the Ni-Vanuatu learn both at school - so there was no problem for us Aussies getting around. (And pretty much ALL the tourists there are Aussie!) Because I love languages though, I did buy a book about Bislama - "Evry samting yu wantem save long Bislama be yu fraet tumas blong askem".

Apart from languages, another thing I love is beer! Tusker is the local brew and it was deliciously refreshing and available everywhere. 550VT at our resort, 450VT at most cafes, 200VT at the supermarkets. (You can google what the exact exchange rate is, but when we were there, 550VT was approximately $6 Aussie dollars).

Tusker blong yumi! Me wantem Tusker!

I'm not quite sure why I've got my elbows pointed out so far - either to get more sun, or because I was about to try and lift that giant beer, haha. Does anybody know where I can get Tusker in Australia?

Getting around town was really easy, as the bus system in Port Vila is awesome. The buses are just minivans with a "B" at the start of the licence plate, and they are everywhere.

Just hail one down and tell them where you want to go. There is no fixed route, and they just drop passengers off at their chosen destinations. It may take a while with a few diversions, but you'll get there in the end. Most rides cost 150VT, although it'll cost more if you want to go somewhere far out of town. If you're worried about getting charged too much (very, very unlikely - all the bus drivers we met, and the Ni-Van people in general, are super-nice!), just check how much the ride will be before you get on the bus. It's not like you'd have to wait long for the next one!

Some buses look new and sparkly!
Don't forget: Pem nomo ol seken we yu toktok!

But most buses are quite run down, some without any perceivable suspension, and with alarming (but still usable) doors without interior panel...

We never had a problem getting a bus even late at night, and our drivers were friendly and knew the city really well. Most played reggae or island-ified pop songs as they drove.

Speaking of reggae, this Lucky Dube guy was everywhere! (Well, not literally, he passed away a few years ago). I'd never heard of him, but he was really popular and there were posters of him everywhere. In the shops there were more of his CD's than Bob Marley! I bought one of his albums for my bro, who is a bit of a reggae fan.

Although we ate mainly at restaurants and did our food shopping at the breathtakingly wonderful Port Vila market (so wonderful it gets its own post), we did visit the Au Bon Marché supermarket, right next to the market. I can't go overseas without visiting a local supermarket - I find them so fascinating.

There were heaps of expensive imported goods - the top right picture looks like any Australian supermarket shelf. I couldn't resist buying the Hansel biscuits. They are soo hot right now.

One of our favourite finds was the Olympic Take Away, on Lini Highway, right behind El Gecko restaurant. This locally-run joint was one of the few places open on Sunday, and makes the best cheeseburger ever. Whoda thunk it?

Above: Wahoo with chips, 750VT. Below: Cheeseburger, 550VT. (Chips cost extra, approx 200VT).

I wasn't enthused about going to a takeaway joint for lunch, but most places were closed and we were hungry. However, this place was great and we were sooo impressed! The wahoo fish was super-fresh, the chips were hand cut, and the cheeseburger was dee-licious. (We were soon to find out that *all* the beef and seafood in Vanuatu is super-fresh and local). Juicy patty, finely grated proper cheese, crusty bun. Wow. We came back twice.

Between Lini highway and the water is a nice strip of parkland, where many locals (and some tourists) sit and chillaxify.

I totally want to borrow this little guy's boat-bike thing.

Local guys playing ball game (balls, bocce?)

In this area is the very cool Nambawan Cafe and marketplace. The cafe is popular with tourists, having a good range of pizzas, juices and smoothies, and free wireless!

It also has a great view.

The little marketplace next to the cafe sells the usual touristy stuff - sarongs, wooden souvenirs, hair braiding and so on. But please, don't get your hair braided if you don't have proper Islander hair - you'll just look like a douche.

More Vanuatu posts to come!

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  1. It looks so gorgeous. I'll admit now that I had never heard of Vanuatu, but I've looked it up now - see, reading people's blogs is educational as well as fun!

    I totally agree with you on having to visit supermarkets in any foreign country. I love them.

  2. ah...welcome back to reality! LOL Looks like you had a ball- esp next to that huge beer bottle.

    9GB of pics..oh deary. Yes, exploring markets esp overseas rocks. (although can get carried away)

  3. Lucky, lucky you! Looks absolutely stunning. I always like going to supermarkets when I go travelling too :)

    The buses remind me of the ones I rode on in Fiji. A little nerve-wracking...hope you conquer those post-holiday blues :D

  4. do look happy with your beer!

    i stopped in vanuata once on a p&o cruise...unfortunately it wasn't long enough for me to see all the things that you got round to seeing. do look forward to reading all your other posts!

  5. Hi. I agree Vanuatu is beautiful. Which resort did you stay @? Le Lagon? Le Meridian or Coconut Palms(or one of the other ones?)?
    P.S. Hope you get over the blues!

  6. Hi Elizabeth,

    I actually stayed at Breakas, on Pango beach. It was absolutely lovely!

    xox Sarah



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.