Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Alright, well, before Tiffany’s mom arrives and we do the bungalows / hi-life thing, we have a few days to stretch our legs and explore Papeete on our own. It’s been quite some time since our last big city experience, so we were interested in what there was to do in Papeete. First thing: there are no mid-range hotels in this city, at least not any that we could find. You are either rolling big or living in a hostel. Being as we were going to spend time in the 5 star secluded resorts when Tiffany’s mom gets here, we decided to spend our days “in the city.”
After a night’s rest and a typical French Polynesian breakfast of half a fresh baguette (heaven!) jam, tea and orange juice, off we went to see what we could find out.
Oh hey, see that giant gouge on Greg’s left thumb? Important note: Boats bite. Watch your digits.
Speaking of boats, you are not going to believe what we ran into in downtown Papeete.
Who says the Coast Guard doesn’t get around? On an aside, for those of you who don’t know, the US Coast Guard does not just operate “off the US Coast.” There are Coasties right now working all around the world. From protecting oil platforms in Iraq to delivering supplies to remote science stations in Antarctica to maintaining buoys in Guam and performing search and rescue throughout the Pacific, while conducting counter-drug and counter-terrorism operations throughout the Americas (yes – North, Central and South), your US Coast Guard gives you a heck of a lot of bang for your tax buck. Just thought you should know.
Before we go too far into the local culture, let’s take a moment to wrap up a subject we had not realized had not been concluded yet: the pearl market.
Remember how before we were expecting a bit more…um…presentation factor when we went to the pearl farms in the Tuamotu? Right, well we weren’t supposed to actually see that part. (Not our fault, no one told us 😉 We were supposed to come to Tahiti first because that’s where all the pomp and circumstance around the selling of pearls is. It’s funny to look at these strings of pearls being sold for hundreds to thousands of dollars and to think that, possibly not too long ago, these pearls were being harvested by a guy in a tin hut wearing a t-shirt and sandals.
By seeing it all backwards we have “parted the veil” on the industry. That and pearls don’t really do it for us and according to the merchants, it’s not unusual. Fact: People from the countries of Asia buy the overwhelming majority of the pearls produced in Tahiti. Well, the overwhelming majority of the pearls produced, period. The major Polynesian pearl companies only go to Asia to sell because they will get an enormously better price than anywhere else in the world. Interesting how one culture can prize something so greatly that it is the driver of a global market. We realize the irony that we are saying this since we are American…