Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora is not an island, it's paradise, according to my son. Just being there makes one forget about the outside world. Such beautiful surroundings in a calm lagoon. One can never get tired of looking at the marine lives there. Colorful lagoon fishes,stingrays, moray eels, humongous sea cucumbers, and sea urchins, to name a few. THE place to relax and do nothing. The overwater bungalows at the Intercontinental Bora Bora are just amazing. Contemporary decor with wonderful views from the bed.
We went into town (Vaitape) one day. It has one main street that runs thru the town, dotted by black pearls and jewelry stores on both sides of the street. It was end of the month which happens to be payday over there. The local supermarket were crowded with people stocking up on groceries. Lots of baguettes, meats, poultry, cheeses, dairy and deli products, vegetables and fruits, juices, drinks, etc. Prices are actually comparable to those found here in the States especially on their imported items.

Baguettes at local supermarket

Aerial view of IC BB with overwater bungalows in the lagoon and beach on the Pacific
Ocean side.
Sunrise at Intercontinental Bora Bora

OW bungalows facing Mt. Otemanu

Free kayaks and wedding canoe at IC BB
Overwater bungalows at IC BB- huge bedroom and living room with sundeck to jump into the lagoon anytime you want. Just lovely.

Mt. Otemanu

Local residences

Resort on a motu

                                               Quaint beauty of Matira Beach                                                         

One of the best sunset we have seen was at Matira Beach in Bora Bora. Beautiful sandy beaches where the  locals and tourists hangout to enjoy the sunset. Loved walking barefooted in the supersoft, fine sand.

End of day at Matira Beach

Sunset at Matira Beach

We went shark and ray feeding tour one day. The sharks were 3 foot long black tips reef sharks. They look ferocious but actually, they are quite tame. Our tour guide and his family (wife and their children) took us out by the reef by boat. Then, he threw a long rope into the water to tie to the side of the boat, marking the territory where we would stand and watch the sharks. As soon as the ropes were thrown out into the water, the sharks started to gather around waiting for the tour guide to feed them sardines. Funny thing is the sharks kept to their side of the rope. Not once did they invade our side of the rope.
Next, the guide took us to another spot for ray feeding. Just like the sharks, as soon as the boat stops and the guide jumped into the water, the rays start to gather around as well. They are super friendly, flapping around us, sucking and feeding out of our hands. It was fun.
The guide also took us lagoon fishing the local way. No rods, just fishing line, hook and baits like pineapple, roast beef, cucumber, sardines. If that doesn't bring up the fish, the guide's son would dive into the water and catch the fishes by hand. That was something. It's like the fishes knew him. We caught a few that the guide later grilled for our lunch.
Lunch at the Motu Tapu was excellent. We had the whole motu (small island) to ourselves except for another couple. There were clean bathroom and bbq facilities. The guide's family had prepared poisson cru, cucumber salad, steaks, fragrance fried rice with ham, tuna steaks and fruits. Needless to say, we're stuffed. Lovely people, lovely place, paradise indeed.

                                                                                       Adorable sting rays

School of lagoon fishes at IC BB

Shark feeding tour

                                                  Blue jack- good eats                                                               


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eating out in Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora

Not a good idea to be in Papeete, Tahiti on Easter Sunday as it is a holiday for the locals there. We spent three hours wandering around downtown Papeete, the waterfront area, even walked to Paofai, spent half an hour in the shelter dodging a thunderstorm, went to a local church to catch their Easter Sunday service and yet we were bored at the end of it all. None of the stores were open except for 2 restaurants. Either they were closed for the holiday or they close early on Sundays like their municipal market that closes at 8am on Sundays.

We had lunch at Le Retro- an open air French bistro/cafe (one of the 2 restaurants that were open). My husband decided to order their special of the day on the menu board that was written in French which he had no idea what it was. Keep in mind that we don't speak French. The wait person who speaks little English tried to explain to my husband something along the line that it is a very special sausage. Indeed, it was. When the sausage arrived, I could smell a waft of poo-like aroma coming across the table. Within minutes, flies started to gather around. My husband looked at it suspiciously before taking a couple of bites and finally, gave up. What he ordered was andouilette- the king of all sausages. It's made of pork and chitterlings which if not prepped properly yields a very strong poopy smell. It's an acquired taste, I'd say.

                                             Shrimps and scallops with puff pastry, Moorea

                                                Shrimps and scallops in saffron sauce, Moorea

                                               Duck fillet in mango vinegar sauce, Moorea

Eating out in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora is expensive. It's easy to pay $180 usd for lunch for 4 at any restaurant with 3 entrees and 4 drinks. Cocktails run $15 to $20 usd easily. Even at the roulottes (Tahitian style food trucks), we'd spend $50 usd for a plate of mediocre fried rice, a plate of fried noodles and one order of thin steak. It's not cheap.That's why when we asked our taxi driver which restaurant does he go to for local food, he replied, "None, we only eat at home. It's too expensive to eat out." This is the driver who gets paid by the restaurant to chaffeur us from our hotel to the restaurant. It makes me feel guilty for eating at the restaurant since that dinner costs us almost $300 usd for the 4 of us. We could get the same dinner with better quality for half the price here in LA. Another taxi driver tells us average pay per month there is about $1500 usd. Going out to eat at a restaurant is a luxury for most. That's why most patrons of the restaurants that we visited seems to be tourists or foreigners living there instead of locals. Food prices at the supermarket are comparable to the prices here as most food products there were imported from other countries, predominantly France. Good thing we had the meal plan included in our stay at IC Bora Bora.

Foie Gras at the Reve,  IC BB

Veal at the Reve, IC BB

Braised duck leg with rice pudding, BB
However, in Moorea we did have one lunch at Chez Vina, a food shack extended from the owner's house. It's the closest food place (10 minutes walk) from IC Moorea where we were staying. There we had breadfruit chips, poisson cru, curry shrimps, baguette sandwiches and fish in tahitian vanilla sauce. The food was good but not cheap for a food shack. Plus, they have free bananas for all hanging at their entrance. The whole time we were there, the neighborhood kids would drop by and grab the bananas as they like.

Caught in the act

Breadfruit chips- taste like taro chips, Chez Vina
Curry shrimps
Poisson cru- raw fish in coconut milk



Monday, May 23, 2011

Tahitian vanilla paste

Bought this Tahitian vanilla paste from a supermarket in Bora Bora. Almost the same price as if I had bought it here. The aroma is strong and heavenly. I use 1/2 tsp of the vanilla paste in place of 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Works great in mango salsa and sauces for grilled seafood and fish. Will try it in baking recipes later on. Brings back fond memories of Bora Bora.

 Mango salsa with tahitian vanilla paste:-
5 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced chunky
2 medium sized tomatoes, peeled (or unpeeled) and diced
1 tbsp of cilantro leaves
juice from 1 lime
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped finely
1/2 tsp of tahitian vanilla paste
1 tbsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours before serving. Great with chips or grilled fish.

Tahitian vanilla paste sauce for seafood and fishes:-
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 lb of unsalted butter
1 small shallot, chopped finely
1/2 tsp of vanilla paste
1 pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add in shallots and saute until aroma is released. Stir in the wine, saffron and vanilla paste. Then drizzle in the heavy cream a little at a time, stirring occasionally. Bring mixture to a slight boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and let sauce reduce slightly (about 30 minutes). Season with salt and pepper before serving over seared or grilled shellfish and fishes. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Moorea, French Polynesia

After stoppping over in Papeete, Tahiti, we took a ferry to Moorea, an island that gives me a small town feel all over. We got there on a Sunday and stayed for 3 days. Of course, most stores and restaurants were closed on the days that we were there.
We had rented a car for a day to circle the island (51 square miles). We went to a plantation at the agriculture school (Lycee Agricole). They give you a map and a pamphlet indicating the different plants and trees that you might encounter along the way. The map shows markers indicating locations of the trees/plants and the pamphlet lists the descriptions of the different flora and fauna in the plantation. You can find various tropical fruits like pineapples, papayas, mangoes, avocadoes, grapefruits, citrus, and flowers like hibiscus, bananatree flowers, tiares, etc. We got confused with the map and pamphlet since some of the markers were missing and some were randomly marked like marker 34 sits between 32 and 33. Go figure.
Anyway, it reminds me a lot of my grandpa's country place on a smaller scale especially with the free roaming roosters, chicks and hens. But, I think that's not the reason that we stopped at the plantation as it wasn't originally in my plan. We actually met a very nice guy, Richard, who took us up the trail above Belvedere Lookout, explaining to us the different plants along the way like the banyan trees, ferns and young ginger. It was worth the 10 minutes hike up the trail as the view was stunning.

                                Mt. Mouarua or "shark tooth" from Belvedere lookout
                                     Opunohu bay, Mt. Rotui, Cook's Bay
                                        Banyan trees on the trail above Belvedere Lookout

Next, came the idyllic Cook's Bay. It was delightful to be there at noon as the sun is at it highest point, thus rendering the water many different shades of blue. Loved the sand on the white beach as it was supersoft and clean.

Idyllic Cook's Bay

Cook's Bay 
 Having seen Cook's Bay, we decided to have a picnic at a scenic spot along the coastal way. We dropped in at a local supermarket for ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit juices and snack. Costs us about $15 usd. We also bought a papaya, pineapple and coconut from a road side stall for 500 francs (about $6 usd). Cheapest lunch we had for the whole trip. Drove for another 10 minutes and we came upon the mesmerizing Toatea Viewpoint. Couldn't get enough of the turquoise water with the view of Temae Beach in the forefront and Tahiti island in the background. Perfect spot for a picnic with the best view ever.

                                                    Shades of blue, Toatea viewpoint

Sofitel resort from Toatea viewpoint

Tahiti island viewed from Toatea Viewpoint
 After lunch, we popped in at the Tiki Village hoping to do some look around. Unfortunately, they were closed for the day. A lady there told us to come back later in the evening for their dinner and show but we were just not up to it. We decided to drive further to see if we can find a spot for fishing since we had brought along our own fishing rods. We saw some locals swimming in the water where there were lots of small fishes. My kids tried for 30 minutes but no luck. Heading on to Le Petit Village, a small shopping center with internet cafe and gas station, we stopped by a boutique looking to buy powder blush (I forgot to bring mine on the trip) but instead, bought a pack of  fresh Tahitian vanilla beans. I have no idea how long the vanilla beans had been there but it smelled good. The gas station is the last stop for us to fill up the tank before returning the rental car at the resort.
We had stayed at a premium beach bungalow at the Intercontinental Moorea. Having a patio to hang out, take a nap, enjoy the sunsets and look at the stars in the sky plus your own beach access to the water make for a wonderful stay. Nice beach with calm water makes it a great playground for the kids. They were in the water every day to swim, kayak, snorkel, looking for fishes with their underwater camera and just being silly kids. My son didn't think that any place could beat this resort as we were leaving. But, Bora Bora proved him wrong. That's another post.  Enjoy Moorea's sunsets.

                                                  Beach in front of our bungalow                  

Bird enjoying the sunset

 Sunset view from bungalow

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Municipal market in Papeete,Tahiti

Happened to be there on Easter Sunday morning. The place was already bustling with activities. It's a two storey building with downstairs being the wet market with fish stalls, meat and polutry stalls, vegetable stalls and food stalls at different corners. Upstairs was supposed to be dry goods area selling local arts and crafts. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sundays. This market reminds me very much of the central market in my hometown.
Municipal market, Papeete
Street scene outside of market

Colorful tomatoes, peppers, brinjals

Breadfruit, cucumbers, green leafy veggies

Green onions, limes, cucumbers, lettuces

Sweet pineapples, cantaloupes, watermelons

Bananas, taros, plantains

Bananas, rambutans, papayas

Colorful reef fishes

Chinese style BBQ meats

Chinese dim sum for breakfast