IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
There are things over which we have no control. They have been encoded within our DNA from the time of conception, and these genetic markers determine a whole range of things in life from the color of hair to longevity. Being Scottish, my forebears have encoded frugality into all those who proudly trace their family tree to those of the likes of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace. Being frugal was necessary because Scotland has never been the easiest country to eek out a living, especially back in the days prior to North Shore oil or Scottish whiskey.
Therefore, Mother Nature placed within all those of Scottish origin a fine, frugal standard of living-less someday we might come up short and starve because of spending too lavishly. For example, I have a business suit that is over a dozen years old. My wife calls it "dated" and claims that I have gotten my money's worth out of it many times over. I call it money-smart and prudent and besides, I have no control over being cheap.
You can imagine my chagrin to discover just how extremely expensive traveling in the South Pacific is. Sure, it is a long way from anywhere else but so is Tibet where my wife and I traveled the previous summer. Tibet was a bargain in comparison to Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia. I can bite the financial bullet when it seems reasonable. You travel a far distance; it will cost you. However, the South Pacific is unseemly to a Scot. For example, one French Polynesian luxury is the over the water bungalow-an opulent hotel room built over a lagoon. In some resorts, a night in one of these bungalows will set you back $500-$1000/person. No lie. Back in the States, that is a monthly mortgage payment on a really nice house. Because I write about travel, I am able to get nice discounts on lodging and spent a couple of nights in one of these extravagant examples of conspicuous consumption. Nevertheless, it is nice to go snorkeling by merely going outside your bungalow and climbing down the stairs to the azure blue water teaming with fish.
For those that don't want to miss a moment in their over the water hotel room, room service will bring you your meals in a floral laden outrigger canoe-for a price. My discount didn't provide for that service, and I didn't even ask what the cost was for this over the water service. Nevertheless, French Polynesia is a wondrous paradise with off the wall hotel prices.
If you take your food in the traditional manner-in a restaurant, it is too very expensive. The average continental breakfast in resorts on Tahiti, Moorea, or Bora Bora will empty your wallet of fifty dollars every morning. That was hard to swallow and caused me to consider starting my diet while on holiday. Lunches and dinners were proportionately just as bad. However, if your hotel is near a town, you can eat at local restaurants or pick up some food at a grocery store, which will save you a little.
Our itinerary called for us to be in Bora Bora, the crème de la crème island in French Polynesia, for New Year's Eve. We had spent Christmas Eve on Easter Island and wanted to be somewhere special as the old year passed and sang Auld Lang Syne. As we flew into Bora Bora's airport, I said to my wife, "Let's find out what the hotel is planning to do for their New Year's Eve celebration." Well, this got my Scottish DNA all in a knot. The hotel was planning a really big bash. They were going to close their restaurants and all the guest would be invited to the restaurant described in the hotel's materials as "one of casual elegance."
I figured that this evening might cost $150 a head. Since this is going to be the last time that we would be in Bora Bora on New Year's Eve, I would swallow my Scottish senilities and go all out-this one time. What was I thinking-a couple a hundred bucks? For 60,000 CFP or $600, I could show my wife a dinner that she deserved. Well, she might have deserved it, but she and I didn't wine and dine with the obscenely wealthy of the world as they ushered in 2003. Instead, we went into town and bought three loaves of French bread, Camembert and Gouda cheese, four diet Cokes, three Kit Kat bars, cookies, and potato chips. Once we got our New Year's Eve food supply back to the room, we partied late into the night in our private pool in our secluded garden villa. We called it a night around 9-we aren't as young as we once were.
I was emboldened by the certain knowledge that my forbears agreed with my frugality in French Polynesia. And we did have a great New Year's celebration!