Dateline: Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Paradise still isn't found-again. I first went to Tibet hoping to find Shangri-La. But alas, paradise wasn't found amid the Himalayas and Communism. Leaving South Asia without finding utopia, I decided to try my luck in the South Pacific. Having spent three weeks searching for the most fascinating islands south of the Pacific's equator: Easter Island, Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, I am saddened to inform you that paradise hasn't been pinpointed. Erehwon remains ever elusive.
Here is a synopsis of my search: Easter Island was lovely in many ways. There was a cool, dry breeze that blew across the island nearly all the time. There isn't an air conditioner on the island, because they aren't needed. However, once you see the moais, the great stone heads that mysteriously litter the island, there isn't much else to do or see on this diminutive island.
The next stop was Papeete, Tahiti, which gets far more press than it deserves. Papeete is a city of 150,000 and looks like a French equatorial colonial headquarters-which it is. It is just a semi-seedy tropical town with a French accent. Although, if shopping makes you feel like you have gone to heaven, Papeete's central market is a small piece of paradise.
The island of Moorea is just off the coast of Tahiti and is a small step above it larger neighbor. It is more rural and less rush-rush atmosphere and is devoid of any traffic congestion. As with all of French Polynesia, all the multi-starred resorts are manufactured places where developers have created man-made enclaves of paradise. Moorea has its supply of these lovely places to enjoy the sea, sand, and sun.
Bora Bora, the crème de la crème, of French Polynesia, is also quite heavenly. It is the best known island for luxury and natural beauty. My wife and I spent New Year's Eve on Bora Bora. If you are looking for an exciting place to usher in the New Year, Bora Bora should be near the top of anyone's list.
However, in all of French Polynesia, air conditioning is required. While it is not extremely hot, it is extremely humid. Any exertion for more than a couple minutes will make you feel that you have been in a tropical shower. Speaking of showers, it does rain-often, several times a day. However, the rains come and go very quickly.
Then there are all the warnings in travel guides about mosquitoes. When my wife and I got to our over-the- water bungalow, the bell-boy demonstrated the proper use of our room's mosquito device. In all fairness, it should be mentioned that we didn't experience even one bite during the entire trip until our last day when I was bitten, but there must have been a reason for the warnings.
Another problem with these contestants for paradise in the Pacific is the prices. Unless you don't choke on paying more than $50 for two continental breakfasts, you will find the French Polynesian entry into the paradise search a tad bit pricey. If I were to immigrate to French Polynesia, I would have had to find an extremely well paying college teaching position, and I didn't notice any colleges or universities there. So much for my becoming a scholarly American ex-patriot in French Polynesia. Excluding the tourists, French Polynesia is quite poor and most of the people struggle to get by.
While we had a lovely time in the South Pacific, I will have to continue to search for the ultimate paradise. Perhaps, I am looking in all the wrong places-the obvious ones. Maybe paradise will be found in a less well-known location. I have been mulling over doing a writing trip to Indochina: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. If that trip doesn't work out, there is also the allure of Mongolia that pulls at my quirky travel nature. Before I sell either Indochina or Mongolia to my wife, I will have to come up with another proposed trip that exudes comfort and leisure before a hardship-ladened journey back to Asia. That was my modes operandi for getting away with Tibet, Nepal, and India. I promised her French Polynesia if she went to South Asia. I fear that I will have to do a trip to Paris for Indochina or Rome for Mongolia if we ever head back to Asia in my never ending quest to find Shangri-la. Oh well, I guess a sacrifice like Paris or Rome would be worth it, although I just know that paradise won't be found in any part of the EU.