Back in grad school, my friend Jason — who has a talent for pinpointing insecurities and emotions you didn’t even know you had — once asked me, “Do you ever have this feeling that they’re going to catch on to you? That they’re going to realize you’ve been faking it all along?”
I didn’t think I’d had that feeling before, but once he said it, I recognized it immediately. (Which is why Jason’s a good writer and possibly a hypnotist.)
I was reminded of that feeling once or twice at The Four Seasons in Bora Bora. For those of us born in a certain region and raised in a certain economic bracket, a place like The Four Seasons can be a bit overwhelming. And every once in a while I found myself expecting a security team to show up to escort us off the property. “Okay, Wheaton. The charade is over. Back to the trailer park with you. They’ve got a six-pack of Miller Lite and a box of wine waiting, we’re sure.”
But the beauty of a place like The Four Seasons is that they never make you feel like that. In fact, if you ordered a box of wine or a six-pack of Miller Lite, they might very well put a staffer on a boat and tell him not to come back until he had acquired the items for the very distinguished guests in over-water bungalow 306.
Oh, did I mention we had an over-water bungalow? We did. And it was everything the photos make it out to be. In fact, of the four places we stayed, we had over-water rooms at three of them (thanks to a couple of upgrades). But more on that later, possibly in another blog post, because really, Bora Bora deserves its own.
Bora Bora, after all, was the main objective when Cara and I decided to get married and do the honeymoon all in one shot, just the two of us, no stress, no mess. Bora Bora is, probably, the main lure to French Polynesia these days. Tahiti has a nice ring to it, but it says something about Bora Bora (and the other islands) that Tahiti is seen by a lot of travelers as simply a place for an airport layover, where one switches from the annoyances and stress of international air travel to the almost casual experience of Air Tahiti’s inter-island flights.
We had our minds set on Bora Bora and, on the recommendation of friends and a travel agent, were going to throw a couple of other islands — Moorea and Tikehaus — in as well. We also decided, over a year ago, on two weeks and The Four Seasons. Because if you’re traveling to the other side of the world, you might as well make it count.
TIP: For something like this, I strongly suggest a travel agent. I don’t know that I ever used a travel agent in my life before. Who needs a travel agent when you’ve got Kayak? Well, we did. It took me thirty seconds of thinking about figuring out Air Tahiti’s flight schedule before I was like, “Screw that.” We went with a young woman named Caroline Bracewell at Easy Escapes Travel, who we found on the interwebs. Never met her. And, yes, I did have a moment of sheer terror two weeks before we left that we had been completely scammed out of thousands of dollars by some dude in Eastern Europe. But she exists! And was very helpful.
PRO TIP: Pay before you go! Well, the travel agency is going to make you do that anyway. And I’m sure you’ve got credit cards and all that fun stuff. But, man, are these places expensive (and so far, there’s not much of an economy travel scene in these islands). Since we started planning this a year in advance and since we weren’t shelling out tens of thousands of dollars on a ceremony and a reception featuring rubber chicken and an open bar, we were able to pinch pennies here and there and have all of it paid off — like actually paid off the credit card bill with real cash money — before we went. Which takes off a lot of stress once you get there and get the second round of sticker shock from some of the resort prices. (We didn’t do all-inclusive.)
So, anyway, after a flight from New York to Los Angeles, and a flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti — Caroline secured us the two seats next to the window, so we didn’t have to sit in that hellacious middle row between an old lady with sixteen bags of weird food and a screaming baby — we hopped yet another flight to Bora Bora. It was a lot of flying. Some folks spend a day in Tahiti before connecting, but we aren’t some folks.
Finally, we landed at the Bora Bora airport, where we immediately began to notice The Four Seasons experience.
Bora Bora’s airport is on an island.
–Hey, Ken. Bora Bora’s an island, so of COURSE the airport is on an island!
Shut up, smart-ass. Bora Bora is a series of islands. The airport is on its own small island, also known as a motu. So this necessitates travel by boat from the airport to the main town or to the resorts. The other resorts had boats of various sizes. They all looked like perfectly fine boats.
The Four Seasons had boats that looked like they’d just come out of a 1930s boat yard. They looked like Chris Craft, but who knows? I don’t. I know it had brass and a lot of hardwoods and they gave you a cold towel to wipe the travel cooties off your face and a bottle of water.
Fifteen minutes later, we were at The Four Seasons. Sadly, it was a few hours prior to check-in and our bungalow was not ready. So we walked the grounds, then went to the bar, where we experienced our first sticker shock. We knew all about the prices. We’d been warned. It didn’t matter. How expensive were things? Let’s put it this way: Midtown Manhattan prices suddenly seemed not only reasonable but cheap. But it’s the price you pay for luxury (and for importing goods onto an island paradise and, more importantly, exporting the garbage off of it to be dealt with elsewhere. Where? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!)
Then we walked the grounds again. Then had another drink. Then started to crack just a little bit. We’d been traveling for well over 24 hours. No shower. It was hot. We were nasty. And … then a nice woman pulled up in a golf cart and whisked us to our room, over-water bungalow 306. The cart ride took a little longer than I was expecting. Turned out we were on the eastern-most pier, a little away from reception and the pool and the restaurant and the bar. I was a little concerned at first, but this turned out to be preferable. The walk was much shorter than the cart ride felt (especially for someone who just ran the marathon — didn’t think I was going to let you forget that, did you?).
And our view was great. The most expensive bungalows are those with a view of the lagoon and Mt. Otemanu and friends. We had a beach view, but because of where we were, we had a legitimate beach view: sand, and in the distance another motu. Had we been on the west pier, we’d have had a view of the resort. A little farther out on the east pier, in the distance we would have seen the St. Regis.
Not that any of this would have mattered, mind you. When you’ve got an over-water suite that is, as Lonely Planet says, a “masterpiece of understatement,” you just shut your hole, drink your complimentary champagne, gawk at a place bigger than your own apartment, wonder how many people can fit in the bathtub, and then go out on the deck and say, “Holy shit” about a hundred times.
Things to do at The Four Seasons in Bora Bora: lounge, laze, relax, eat, swim, snorkel, walk, gaze in wonderment, stare into nothing, stare at everything, work out (hahahahahaha), eat some more, eat a lot of fish, also eat the best chicken fingers you’ll ever have in your life, have a boat drink, have a local beer, have about sixteen gallons of fruit juice, read, kayay, paddle board, sleep in the king size bed with the incredibly soft linens, fall asleep every night out on the deck on the incredibly soft lounge chairs and, finally, judge the people who came all this way and then decided to drop $39 a day on WiFi and proceed to keep their noses shoved in an iPad or phone for entire meals. Oh, and get married, which we totally did.
If you get bored with that, there are excursions off the resort. Jet-ski tours, snorkeling with manta rays, snorkeling with regular old rays who might be insecure because of all the attention manta rays get, snorkeling with sharks, diving, hiking, going to eat at restaurants on the main island and other things.
We did some of that, as evidenced by the photos above or below or wherever I decide to stick them. The excursions we’d arranged were all scheduled for after the wedding. We didn’t want to get horribly sunburnt or seriously shark bit and then look like total idiots in our wedding pictures, all three-toned and peeling and full of shark-bite-shaped stitches. So we took it easy. We did a lot of taking it easy on this trip.
The water around the over-water bungalows is beautiful, clear as a pool and the bottom white sand. And white sand typically means a whole lot of nothing going on. The occasional ray swam by and there were a few fish at night (who had to be bribed with bread). Swimming here was great, snorkeling here was sort of boring. But no worries! The Four Seasons has a couple of its own lagoons, including one in which they’re growing coral (very slowly), which attracts fish. It’s fenced off on the lagoon side and on the ocean side so that you don’t have to worry about monster sharks getting in like in Jaws 3(D). We spent hours just tooling around in these lagoons checking out the fish.
We did not use the pool. There is no need for a pool in a place like this. The pool was beautiful, sure. It looked inviting at times, but still, we’d prefer the lagoon.
We did some kayaking. Did some paddle-boarding. Took one night time trip to the main island to eat at Bloody Mary’s, which is this supposedly legendary place that everyone has to go to. (Totally overrated and, for a tourist destination with really cheap drinks — especially compared to the resorts — completely lifeless. Felt like we were at a wake.)
Oh, we got married. Did that too.
And went on two snorkel excursions. But in the interest of breaking things up, I’ll stick that in another post.
After eight nights of luxury living, we had to leave Eden. It was a weird feeling, all the depression and stress that comes with knowing your vacation is coming to an end, but then realizing, “Hey, I’ve got more vacation once we leave here!”
It was hard leaving Bora Bora and The Four Seasons, but up next was Moorea.