Visitors Guide P
PACIFIC BLUE (VIRGIN)
Virgin Australia flies to Vanuatu three times a week out of Brisbane and back on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and occasionally has some fantastic specials (with good connections from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth). The friendly cabin crew will probably have Kiwi accents because the these planes are based in NZ and do side trips from Brisbane.
The competition, of course, is Air Vanuatu – when comparing fares, keep in mind that Air Vanuatu is a full-service airline (you pay for drinks, meals and luggage on Vigin) and if taking a side trip to Tanna or Santo, Air Vanuatu offers a discounted domestic fare for people who travel with them on the international leg.
The Pacific Dawn sailed into Sydney Harbour to make this her base in October 2007, passing just two and a half metres below the Harbour Bridge. This is a big ship!
The curved ‘dolphin-like’ shape is thanks to famous Italian architect, Renzo Piano – those sailing to New Caledonia can see his work at the Tjibou Cultural Centre and he designed the recently opened controversial ‘shard’ building in London.
With 11 decks the Dawn offers affordable luxury and plenty of space for up to 2050 passengers. It is 50% larger than the legendary Titanic – but there are no icebergs in the Pacific!
In December 2009, Pacific Jewel appeared on the horizon, offering two firsts: an amazing high-wire circus and trapeze arena on the top deck, and the largest spa afloat in the southern hemisphere. The Aqua Heath, Spa & Fitness Centre™ offers ocean-view treatment rooms for the ultimate in pampering.
There are more than 200 affordable balcony cabins, a world of entertainment, activities and dining choices. Pacific Jewel cruises year-round from Sydney to the Pacific Islands and New Zealand.
Port Vila is the only port-of-call where passengers can legally marry.
PACIFIC LAGOON APARTMENTS
Pacific Lagoon Apartments offer a budget alternative for a self-contained holiday.
The 11 apartments have two bedrooms, bathroom with separate toilet and a central dining/lounge area. With new management, a timely refurbishment and the addition of a swimming pool, they represent excellent value and are in a lovely location on Erakor Lagoon.
It’s just a stroll up the lagoon to Le Lagon resort or a kayak or ferry across to Erakor Island Resort. We lived in the house next door to PLA for three years and it is a lovely lagoon location and not far from Port Vila town.
Contact us regarding Pacific Lagoon Apartments
The newest addition to the P&O Cruises fleet, Pacific Pearl’s eleven passenger decks take entertainment and enjoyment to new levels.
Onboard Pacific Pearl, you’ll find an eye-opening range of activities and entertainment around the clock. From morning ’til night, there’s plenty of action! Her top deck features a giant LED Big Screen and an outdoor circus arena where amazing acrobatics are performed. Move inside and you’ll find 270 degree views and entertainment galore in The Dome; a great range of bars including MIX cocktail bar and pub-style venue The Orient; and spectacular production shows in the Marquee Theatre.
Palms Casino is part of the Holiday Inn Resort and has table games (blackjack, roulette) downstairs as well as poker machines (upstairs).
A versatile leaf, when dried it is used to make a penis sheath.
Based on the Westminster system parliament has two to three ordinary sittings a year (very ordinary, some world say). There is no Upper House and politicians occasionally change sides if they think it will get them into government. The perks in opposition aren’t as great. There have been about a dozen Prime Ministers in the last decade, some names popping up on several occasions.
Parliament House was opened on the 26 July 1993. The Chinese Government funded the building. It’s rumoured the Chinese built parliament in exchange for support for the one China policy but, of course, it’s only a rumour. It’s the building that looks like an oversized Pizza Hut up the hill from town with the entrance opposite the Cultural Centre.
As with travelling anywhere, look after your passport (leave at your hotel) and check before you leave home whether you have a six-month validity on your passport (especially children, as they get a shorten duration than adults). If you have trouble, contact numbers are under Consulates. The Australian High Commission is particularly helpful and efficient and, if it is necessary, can turn around a new passport in a couple of hours. The NZ High Commission doesn’t provide this service but should be able to provide a letter to allow re-entry into New Zealand if necessary.
A cover for US spies? Who said that?! The Peace Corps runs projects in rural areas providing teachers for education, including rural training centres, maths, science and computers, youth development, and development for small businesses and co-operatives. Peace Corps’s objectives are to provide assistance to the host country, to share cultures, and to pass that information to the people back home.
Vila has lots of black pearls, pretty little round things, to put on and into jewellery pieces. You can purchase pearls at Prouds, The Sound Centre, Shiraz Duty Free, Fung Kuei and Vanuatu Bijouterie.
Pentecost is famous for its land diving (see Naghol). This takes place every April/May. The island is also known for its ritual dancing, mat and basket weaving and symbolic sand drawing.
“You sure stink pretty.” All your favourites are available in Vila. A huge assortment of perfumes can be purchased duty free at the four main duty free stores, Prouds, Paris Duty Free, Fung Kuei and The Sound Centre. All are competitively priced and all carry different lines, so there’s an excuse to go to every store. Some occasionally offer 20% discount on top of no duty. Check prices before flying over – if Vanuatu is more expensive, purchase airside on your return while witing for the baggage to be unloaded.
Petanque (boules, bocce) is one of those great sports you can play with a drink in your hand. You will see locals playing in parks and along the harbour front and resorts will have a set you can use. Visit www.petanque.org if you want to get serious about the game.
Petrol in Vanuatu is expensive by world standards (at time of writing over AUD$2 a litre). The good news is, there’s not that far to travel – it’s only 140km around the island and within a 20-minute drive either side of Vila to the main attractions. In Port Vila there are a number of service stations with smaller outlets dotted around the island. In Bislama, petrol is ‘benzyne’.
There are three pharmacies in Port Vila, one French and two English. Both Healthwise and The Drug Store have excellent chemists and most items you would find in Australia or New Zealand. The Drug Store also has outlets at the airport, Le Lagon and The Holiday Inn resorts. They also accept Australian dollars at a rate well above the exchange rate but do not cash money.
Philippe Metois is Vilas’ famous photographer. He’s responsible for the spectacular and vibrant post cards you can see everywhere around town. He now has a dedicated shop where you will find stunning pictures taken over his many years in Vanuatu. His shop is situated across the road from the Rossi Walk and next door to chiropractor, Gerard Sariani. Next door is Top Shots, offering prints of your own photos and owner, Leith Campbell, is a good photographer as well. Michael McLennan specialises in wedding photography.
There are a number of lovely settings for a picnic. The base of Mele Cascades is nice – you can swim in the large pool at the bottom, there’s undercover facilities and there are toilets. You will have to pay here, but not the full Cascades fee if you don’t want to walk up to the falls. Eton Beach is another terrific spot (500vt per car) and again, great swimming, snorkelling, fishing with undercover shelter and toilets.
If you don’t want to pack your own picnic Café Deli or Au Peche Mignon can arrange gourmet picnic baskets. For a unique experience, Pascal Guillet from Vanuatu Ecotours can organise a gourmet picnic at your own private waterfall and swimming hole (Lololima Cascades). The photo is a lad swinging from Pascal’s ‘Tarzan rope’ at Lololima.
Pigs are like money and still play an important role in Ni-Vanuatu culture. They’re used in traditional ceremonies, in trade negotiations, and marriages. They are presented to the wife’s family after the birth of the first boy. They are used as a gesture of peace with the tusk from a pig’s head being used as a symbol of remembrance. Pig tusks are also made into armbands and bracelets, which can also be found in jewellery stores in town. A beautiful example of a pig’s tusk is at the Museum and Cultural Centre. The tusk was presented to Queen Elizabeth who in turn donated it back to the Museum for the people of Vanuatu. Ceremonial pig killing is part of custom and should be avoided if the occasion arises and you think it may not be a pleasant experience. It certainly isn’t for the pig as the dispatch is very rarely immediate. Tusks are represented symbolically in Vanuatu’s flag, currency, Air Vanuatu’s logo and on Tusker beer labels.
The police station is situated halfway through town on the top outbound one-way road, opposite the Mok store.
For emergencies call 22222 (even though one ‘2’ has been missing on the sign outside the police station for a number of years). Some locals may tell you it will be a wasted call (you may get a response in Bislama – “truk i nogat benzyne” – translated “the car hasn’t got any petrol”).
For those who read in Australian and New Zealand papers that disruption in police force would lead to a coup, it won’t. Things just don’t work that way in Vanuatu.
POPPY’S ON THE LAGOON
Poppy’s is on the lagoon (Seaside) and has extremely comfortable self-contained 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, two swimming pools (one is adults only) and a small private beach onto the lagoon. There are also spa bungalows for couples, a couple of rooms with facilities for disabled guests and some value studio apartments. The only negative is that it is a steep walk from the resort to the road to town but, hey, that’s what buses are for!
There is a nice little poolside cafe and store that charges good prices for beer and wine. Because of the location and the range of accommodation it can suit couples who opt to marry in Vanuatu and invite family and friends.
Contact us regarding Poppys on the Lagoon
The total population of Vanuatu is approximately 256,155 with about 44,000 people living in and around Port Vila. The population in the early 19th century was estimated at around 1 million, which decreased to 650,000 by 1870. In 1955, it fell as low as 45,000 due to diseases that couldn’t be fought with natural remedies and custom ceremony. While the population has grown, the life expectancy for the ni-Vanuatu is still low (reaching 50 in some parts is called a ‘good innings’). Age onset diabetes, and its associated illnesses, is a major concern.
This is a big no-no in Vanuatu (although there is a black market trade in videos). To give you an idea, the raunchiest magazines on the counter at Stop Press are Ralph or FHM. There are mainstream theatre release R-rated movies in the video shops, but certainly no pornography.
Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, the business centre and home to around 40,000 people. Located around one of the South Pacific’s prettiest harbours it’s an easy enough place to explore on foot and most resorts are only a matter of minutes away. The main street (one way into town from the airport) has duty free shops, restaurants and cafes, the street above has lots of Chinese shops.
Vanuatu Post with the help of the New Zealand government, went private in 2001 and has local and international mail and parcel services available through 36 outlets around Vanuatu. The main post office is situated in the main street of Vila and has all the usual services you’d expect from a post office and is very reliable. It opens 7:30 – 4:30 Monday to Friday and 7:30 – 11:30 Saturday mornings. There are public phones and fax/telex and Internet services. Phone cards can be purchased here. Other postal/courier services include DHL, TNT, UPS and Vila Agents, who are also an agent for FedEx.
Psst, wanna buy a postcard? Postcards are available in the main town (the post office, Goodies and the Drug Store have a good selection) and at the resorts. The most popular are the Philippe Metois cards depicting many local and always colourful scenes of Vanuatu.
I owned a Daihatsu ‘Tico’ – a shopping trolley of a car that had a sticker on the rear vision mirror that said, ‘everything in this car is indeed closer than it appears’. The only thing that stopped it disappearing down some of the potholes was if there was another Tico or two in there. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it can get close after heavy rain. If you’re planning to drive around the island, check road conditions first and go for something bigger than a Tico. The car rental companies will know the state of the road.
Australians may recall the Howard government’s ham-fisted attempt at writing a preamble to the constitution in 1998. The Vanuatu preamble was written at the time of independence (1980) and is worth recalling here for its simplicity and depth.
We, the people of Vanuatu,
Proud of our struggle for freedom
Determined to safeguard the achievements of this struggle
Cherishing our ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity
Mindful at the same time of our common destiny
Hereby proclaim the establishment of the united and free Republic of Vanuatu
founded on traditional Melanesian values, faith in God and Christian principles
And for this purpose give ourselves this Constitution.
Public holidays are nearly as prevalent as potholes and are sometimes called without much notice. If one falls on a Thursday, for example, the government may decide to throw in the Friday as well, just to get in the good books. The only months that don’t have public holidays are June and September.