Tahiti - the biggest island in French Polynesia, and the kind that rap stars sing about. This was the gateway to my research programme in the adjacent island of Mo'orea. I visited it 3 times in total. The first time was for the first few days before moving to Mo'orea, the second was on a class trip, the third was when I was showing my squash team mates around before I left French Polynesia.
Tahiti is one of the islands in the Society Island Group in French Polynesia. It's capital, Papeeete, is the administrative centre of French Polynesia and is also the biggest city in French Polynesia. I think the one fact that startled me was that about 10% of the population is Chinese. Although I suppose I shouldn't be startled; the Chinese stereotype always reinforces itself - we always seem to fill the grocery shop and cheap takeaway food niche in every country.
My First Taste of French Polynesia
Our first 3 days in French Polynesia were spent on Tahiti, exclaiming to ourselves every 5 minutes that we cannot believe that we were actually there. Our hostel was aways from the city and near a beach, so we practiced snorkeling and for the others, getting used to the tropical heat.
Then, I stumbled onto this cool sign advertising and drink with a familiar name...
Class Trip to TahitiThe second time I ventured into Tahiti was on a class trip from Mo'orea. We took a quick tour of the island, first stopping on black sand beach to hear more about the history of French Polynesia.
We then made our way to this blowhole. I'm not exactly sure how this works, but the idea is a huge volume of water is forced by wave action into a tiny tunnel in the rock formation, and the air from the tunnel gets pushed up into a hole by the road, creating a blowhole/geyser like effect.
After that, we went to explore some waterfalls. The weather got a lot better by then, so we were allowed to swim around the waterfall. This was really a test of my water confidence as I was too short to keep my head above the water, but the water splashing from the falls made it difficult to see and breathe. I pretty much thrashed around until I got to the safer side rock walls of the falls. We were all battered by the water, but it was fun!
We had lunch after, and then a tour of more maraes (stone and coral dwellings of the Tahitians) and ended it off with a nice museum trip. While half my class went home to Mo'orea, some of us stayed back on Tahiti to couch surf. We were very fortunate to be taken in by Nat, who is an English schoolteacher and possibly the most hospitable person I know. She brought us to Carrefour for grocery shopping and we came back with lots of junk food. She even brought us to a bar and club nearby, and I have to admit I was not in the most fun mood that night; all I wanted to do was sleep after a long tiring day...
Squash Team Visit
Truth to be told, I was having a rough time in my last few weeks of French Polynesia. I was fairly stressed over my project, and I had a fight with one of my best friends. At first I was in a bad mood because it kept raining in our last week and I couldn't show my team mates who flew all the way to Tahiti to visit me most of the island as the weather kept us indoors.
I am really glad my team mates are spirit boosters. As it rained a lot, I brought them to the Papeete market and we also went for a drink that night. What happened was, aside from me being really drunk sleepy, we met a bunch of US Navy people at the bar and we had a good time trading stories and drinking together. The next day, for Thanksgiving, we were invited to visit their battleship!
It was definitely one of the coolest and most random thing to happen to me. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the battleship though. We got to explore many different bits of the ship, climb up ladders and even up to the helm! It was a great way to spend yet another rainy day.
Of course, all good things had to come to an end. We went to one of the beaches to look for food trucks, and were greeted by a gorgeous sunset (it stopped raining!)