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 Best Vegan Eats in Suva

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Best Vegan Eats in Suva

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, vegetable Manchurian

We’re back in the Bay! First impressions are that it’s cold, crowded, and there are just not enough sunlight hours to keep us going. However, everyday is getting a little easier and our focus is becoming clearer. We’re staying with our parents in Livermore and we’ve both started working in Oakland leaving us with a bit of a commute. This brings us to the challenge of balancing our work days to find time to cook healthy meals. For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been spoiling ourselves eating out at Ethiopian and Vietnamese restaurants. We even found some amazing vegan South Indian dosas in Berkeley that made us think of Fiji.

We feel empowered by making delicious food at home that both saves money and is generally healthier. However, there are a few select restaurants that we like to treat ourselves to from time to time. When we're staying in or around Suva, our go-to restaurant is Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant in Sports City.

Govinda

Govinda has a cafeteria-style setup that allows you to pick a large variety of dishes. Each dish is about $2FJD or less, allowing you to choose a large variety. Many of the curries are vegan, though some to have dairy, so be sure to ask.

Dal, bitter melon, bhindi, jackfruit, Eggplant, vegetable Manchurian

We love that the selection varies from day to day, and we've never left feeling hungry or disappointed. Our favorites include:

Dal soup- They offer two types of dal lentil soups; a south Indian dal that is thick and savory, and a Gujarati dal that has complex sweet/sour taste we can’t get enough of.

Dosa with coconut chutney- On Thursdays and Fridays, Govinda offers made-to-order dosas. A dosa is a South Indian rice and lentil crepe that is filled with curry (potato/aloo) and served with an amazing spiced coconut chutney. Honestly we can’t get enough of these! A dosa can easily be split between two people and is served with dal.

Dosa

Jackfruit curry – We had jackfruit curry at our wedding because we absolutely love it. We laughed at how many people asked us if it was pulled pork or chicken; it's just a surprising texture for a fruit. The jackfruit curry at Govinda does not disappoint.

Okra/Bhindi curry – I could enjoy okra prepared just about any (vegan) way. I love the simple, bhindi curry offered at Govinda.

Eggplant/Baingnan curry – They offer a few different baignan curries at Govinda, and all are delicious.

Bitter melon/Karela curry – Bitter melon (bitter gourd) was new for both of us, and we found it to be, well….bitter. But in the sense that bitter is a necessary taste and balances and complements the sweetness of the dal or the tamarind chutney. It’s also highly nutritious.

Curry

Pumpkin curry – We feel that pumpkin is the most undervalued vegetable in the States, and we love the variety of dishes that feature pumpkin in Fiji. Govinda makes a simple pumpkin curry that hits the spot.

Chana Masala- A classic chickpea curry with potato. It can serve as a main to balance the lighter, greener curries.

Spinach Bhaji – We can’t resist ordering this one when we see that a fresh batch has just come out. The fresher or hotter this is, the better it tastes.

Green Bean Curry- A really simply, yet tasty bean curry.

Vegetable Manchurian - This Indian Chinese dish is hard to describe. It features grated cabbage and carrot in a textured ball- imagine sweet/sour flavor and a crumbly texture- yum!

Jack preparing his plate

And don’t forget to order:

Roti- Their roti is superb- round, soft, and breaks apart perfectly to scoop up the curry.

Samosas- I tried really hard to not eat too many samosas in Fiji, just in an effort to limit fried floury foods. But on the rare occasion I did eat a Govinda’s samosa, I enjoyed every bite.

Tamarind Chutney- A nice sweet chutney that brings out the flavor in everything.

Roti, salad and tamarind chutney

We tend to eat a lot and $20FJD gets the both of us a filling lunch. The lunch rush brings in a diverse group including USP students and local professionals. The earlier you can make it for lunch, the better, as the variety narrows throughout the afternoon. The ownership and staff are amazing and make visits here even more enjoyable. They even fill large to-go orders if you ever have an event to cater in Suva.

So next time you’re in Suva, go to Govinda- if we’re in town, we’ll probably see you there!

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

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Charlot's Black Christ Mural in Ra

Jean Charlot mural

When you picture beautiful frescoes in historic cathedrals your mind probably wanders to a European city, and not Fiji. However, we've been aiming to see Jean Charlot's mural of the Black Christ in the Ra District of Fiji for some time now. On our way back from Nadi last week, we made it happen! Along King's Road in Naiserelagi village in Ra, there is a sign for St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission. Following the sign towards an uphill 5-minute drive leads directly to the Church that is home to the beautiful artwork. We knew right away that this was the right church, based on the descriptions we'd heard. No other cars or people were around; just yaqona (kava) lying to dry in the sun out front.

St. Francis Xavier's Catholic Mission Catherdral

The cathedral was open, so we removed our shoes and let ourselves in to see the frescoes we'd been eagerly anticipating. The cathedral itself is built in the same manner as the Catholic church on Taveuni- a stairway entrance leading to high vaulted ceilings with stained glass windows and ibe (ih-mbay; Fijian woven mats) covering the floors.

Stained glass windowsWoven mats covering the floor

The set of Jean Charlot's three frescoes was everything we'd hoped for and more. The Black Christ and Worshippers mural is the center piece over, measuring ten feet by thirty feet; and to either side there are ten by twelve panels; one of St. Joseph's Workshop and the other of The Annunciation.

Black Christ and Worshippers

St. Joseph's Worshop

The Annunciation

These pieces were painted in the early 1960s, and his style reminds us of the work of muralists Diego Rivera, Hale Woodruff and Thomas Hart Benton. We are so inspired by the multicultural aspects and empowering nature of the centerpiece; looking closely you will notice Fijian, and Fijian-Indian cultural traditions seamlessly integrated into the mural. Traditional offerings are being made on either side of the Christ figure.

Black Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detailBlack Christ detail

Jean Charlot has painted murals throughout Mexico and in Hawaii. As we head back to the States- we'll make a serious effort to view more of his work in the region.

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

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Best Place to Eat on the Coral Coast

EcoCafe menu
Our first (and second!) meal for the new year was at EcoCafe on the Coral Coast, just past Votua village.  We stayed at the Beachouse for New Years, so it was easy access for us to visit for lunch.
EcoCafe sign
Eco Cafe is a family operation run by Degei and Fabianna. The couple has brilliantly blended his Fijian and her Italian traditions of food and beverage. The setup is an open-air building made from bamboo thatching and natural materials.
cafe owners, Degei and Fabianna
EcoCafe
EcoCafe
The cafe sits on a beautiful beach, so while waiting for our food, we walked down to the water and watched the kids take their surfboards out.
Surfing
EcoCafe

We love the fact that they do not offer or allow soft drinks in their restaurant; this is a rarity in Fiji. Instead, they make to order a variety of fresh fruit juices, coffee and teas. Our favorite was the ginger and lemongrass tea. We also really enjoyed the lemon juice and mixed fruit juice.

Tea and fresh fruit

Their Italian menu includes wood fired pizzas and pastas, and their Fijian menu has a variety which includes  a vegetarian section. They require advance notice on all Fijian dishes, as all of their ingredients are fresh, including the coconut milk which takes a bit of time and work. We hope they continue to offer the Fijian menu as it's a big part of what makes this place so special.
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EcoCafe menu
We ordered the Steak Baignani (eggplant) in miti (coconut milk with onions, tomatoes and chili) and Ota (Fijian wild fern) in miti along with a variety of root crops including dalo, tivoli, and kumala. All of the food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.
Steak Baingani and Ota Steak Baingani
The family lives on the property, and the restaurant is open from 11am-9pm everyday except Wednesdays.  EcoCafe
We have been driving between Nadi and Suva a bit lately, and we have found this to be a great place to stop in for tea or coffee and a beautiful beach view to break up our trip. This is such an inspiring place and we would love to see more like it in Fiji!

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Kula Eco Park

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Kula Eco Park

Musk Parrot

We visited Kula Eco Park with our parents last week. Kula Eco Park is named for Fiji’s brightly colored rainforest bird also known as the Collared Lory, and it focuses on the preservation and protection of Fiji’s wildlife. The 28-acre park is located in the Sigatoka area on Viti Levu, between Nadi and Suva. Kula Eco Park Kula birdsThey offer self-guided tours daily, and guided tours are available with advanced booking. We enjoyed taking our time with the self-guided option through the picturesque coastal forest. The admission cost of $30 FJD per person is the sole source of funding for the park, and it also allows free environmental education for visiting school children.

Kula Eco Park is the only captive breeding facility in Fiji for endangered indigenous species. They have focused on breeding Fiji's Peregrine Falcon, Fiji's Yadua Taba Crested Iguana, Fiji's Ground Frog, and Fiji's newly discovered Monoriki Crested Iguana. Their program aims to breed and release healthy populations back into their natural environment.

Jack with the Fijian Crested Iguana

Kula Eco Park also has a Wild Rescue Rehabilitation Program, through which they house injured, sick, orphaned, or smuggled animals, including those who cannot be released back to the wild.

Fiji Hawk

When we visited, there were staff members who showed and provided information on the Fijian Crested iguanas and Pacific boas. They explained the Fijian Crested Iguana lays her eggs and then leaves them unguarded in the forest soil for 7 to 9 months, opening them up to introduced predators. At Kula Bird Park, they have been successfully breeding the iguanas to release them on sanctuary islands.

Alise with the Pacific Boa

Fiji’s natural balance has been upset by a number of introduced species. The mongoose was introduced to Fiji to control the non-native rats. However, with no natural predators, the mongooses have taken over Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, causing the extinction or severe decline of native ground-nesting birds and reptile populations. The Cane Toad was introduced to manage insects, and it can now be found in large populations throughout the Fiji islands.

Jack and Pacific Boa

The park features cockatoos, hawks, falcons, and fruit bats. The fruit bat, also called the flying fox, is only indigenous terrestial mammal in Fiji, and it is one of our personal favorites. While at the park, we learned that unlike insect bats, they rely on their sense of smell and excellent vision. Our perspective on bats completely changed after we looked after an orphaned baby bat on Taveuni. He was like a flying puppy- incredibly social and affectionate. The bats Kula Eco park are older, but very social and interested in meeting everyone who passes by.

Joey, our flying fox friend from Taveuni

The musk parrots, kula birds and a few others are in large enclosures that visitors can walk through. They also have a marine area of soft coral and reef fish. They have a couple of Hawksbill Sea Turtles who will be released into the wild in the near future.

Fijian Musk Parrot

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Throughout the park, there is signage with information on the plants and animals. Many signs tell how the individual animals came to Kula and their plans for release into their natural environment. Kula Eco Park has also created a traditional medicine display based on the information in Dr. M A Weiner, Ph.D’s book “Secrets of Fijian Medicine.” They have 12 native plants on display, with plaques identifying their medicinal uses.

Soft CoralReef fish

Cicada

We highly recommend visiting Kula Eco Park and supporting their efforts. The park is open from 10am to 4:30pm 7 days a week, and is only closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Read more about the park on their website or on Fiji's tourism website.

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Brochure Designs for Paradise in Fiji

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Brochure Designs for Paradise in Fiji

3 fold flyer

We have just completed our contracts with Paradise Taveuni, and we are spending the next couple of months with family on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. Jack has completed a plethora of projects for the resort, and we're excited to see the printed materials and products. Here are some samples of brochures Jack has designed for the resort. They will be used for promotions within Fiji, Australia, the U.S., New Zealand, and other locations.

3 fold flyer 3 fold flyer2 Dive Brochure Resort Brochure

Wedding Brochure 50 percent specials

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Weekend in Qamea

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Weekend in Qamea

This is our last month on Taveuni and we're trying to do and see as much as possible. The first few months flew by so now we're trying to make every second count! We spent this past weekend on the nearby island of Qamea.

We stayed at Maqai Beach Eco Resort. The resort offers a dormitory as well as private tent-like bures on the beach. The room cost ranges from $30 FJD/night to $180 FJD/night. A meal plan is mandatory as there are no shops or restaurants on the island and that runs an additional $85 FJD/night. The trip was a bit of a splurge for us, but ended up being totally worth it!
Breakfast was continental and featured a range of fresh fruits and muesli. The lunches were amazing and our favorites. On Saturday, we had pumpkin soup, cassava, and charred eggplant in coconut milk with peppers and onions. On Sunday we had dahl soup, poori and vegetable curry.

In between meals, Jack prepped coconut for us. We had both fresh coconut and coconut cooked in the sand.
The surroundings were beautiful- a pristine beach that catches beautiful sunsets on, and a tropical rainforest behind it. There are parrots, doves, wild pigeons and other winged beauties flying around.
We spent the days surfing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, and doing handstands on the beach. They offer surf lesson and I would have definitely taken one had we had more time. Jack gave me a quick lesson instead; I didn't manage to stand up but I had alot of fun trying! Jack caught some nice waves. Jack also taught me to skim board on a paddle-board which was awesome.

Snorkeling gear and kayaks can be borrowed free of charge, so we went out for both a few times. We don't have a beach at Paradise Taveuni, so it was exciting to spend the weekend running around in the sand. It was a trade-off though, as the snorkeling is much better at Paradise, where you jump right into a tropical aquarium.
On Saturday night, we sat around the kava basin, and enjoyed some Qamea yaqona (kava). We really enjoyed sitting with the staff and the other guests. Una, Bale and Vili were fantastic hosts and they made our stay extra special. Jack and Vili drank from a giant bilo that could hold 5 regular bilos. While having the mix, we also enjoyed music- they shared some original songs which were beautiful to hear.
Overall, we can't say enough good things about Qamea and Maqai Beach, so we'll add this to our list of places to come back to!

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Rabi and Kioa

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Rabi and Kioa

Kioa

Yesterday, we went to the islands of Rabi (RAH-mbe) and Kioa (key-OH-uh). We went with our coworkers to offer sevusevu to the villages that may be hosting Paradise guests in the future. Sepo and the waka

Jack mixing kava on boat

Even though the islands were only an hour or two away, it felt like we were travelling internationally. Both islands are home to people who were relocated from other Pacific islands. Their languages, building styles, and cultural traditions differ from what we’ve experienced in Fijian communities.

Rabi

Our coworker, Atu's wife is from Rabi

We visited Rabi first. Rabi has four villages, a town area, and a guesthouse for the occasional tourists. We visited the town area, which is pretty far from the villages.

Rabi jetty

The people of Rabi are originally from Banaba Island (aka Ocean Island), a solitary raised coral island near the Equator that today is politically a part of the Republic of Kiribati. The British Phosphate Commission (a joint British, Australian, and New Zealand enterprise) carried out phosphate mining on Banaba Island from around 1900 to 1979, and subsequently stripped away 90% of the island’s surface. After World War II, the Banabans were told they could not return to their homeland as it was uninhabitable, and they were relocated to Rabi Island in Fiji. A series of injustices and coercion predicated the relocation.

The four villages on Rabi Island are the same as the four that were on Banaba Island. We found that there were no chiefs, as in Fijian villages, and they do not do the Fijian tradition of sevusevu. We experienced Banaban music dancing during the catholic church celebrations in Wairiki.

Banaban dancers

The Banaban people have worked to preserve their identity. They also share their culture and story of displacement through their own website.

After Rabi, we visited Kioa. Kioa has only one village that is adjacent to a beautiful white beach.

Kioa

Polynesian canoes in Kioa

Kioa

The people of Kioa came from the Vaitupu atoll in Tuvalu. The first group arrived to Kioa around the same time as the Banabans did to Rabi, however they came under very different circumstances. Some of the men in Vaitupu assisted the Americans during World War II and used the money they made to purchase the uninhabited island of Kioa. They bought the island as a solution to the potential overcrowding of Vaitupu, and a small group of people made the journey to become the first Kioans.

Bridge on Kioa

Kioa

Sepo carrying sevusevu from the boat

The sevusevu we offered there was understood and welcomed. Kioa also has a website.

Some of our Paradise team in Kioa

It was really exciting for us to experience the diversity within Fiji.

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Views from Matei

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Views from Matei

Taveuni view

Taveuni, the third largest island in Fiji, has a total land area of just 169 square miles (434 square kilometers). Yet, the challenges of transportation (untimely buses, rocky roads, work schedules, etc) keep us on the south side of the island, usually at the resort.One weekend we did manage to get out for a lovely getaway to the north side. We went to see our friends, Keni and TC in Matei. It was only about an hour’s drive from the resort, and well worth it.

Keni, Jack and TC

We met Keni and TC in the states- he is Fijian and she is American. Jack first met them about 10 years ago, when Jack was working at Peet’s Coffee in Oakland. Jack was wearing his sulu vataga to work, and Keni was waiting in line. Keni spotted the sulu vataga and yelled “BULA!!!” The rest is history!

Keni is from Taveuni and this is where he and TC met. They currently live in Oakland but still have their home on the northern side of Taveuni. When they came to Taveuni, they invited us up to see their beautiful home and the surrounding area.

Keni and Jack

Even though it's relatively close, the north side of the island has a very different coast. It was actually our first time stepping on a sandy beach since we’d been in Fiji! Down where we are, there are volcanic rocks, but no sand.

Matei Beach

Keni and TC took us out kayaking to a nearby island. The views were absolutely breathtaking!

Kayaking Taveuni

They also hooked us up with a supply of some of our favorites: uto (breadfruit), jina (bananas), papaya and bu (coconut)!

Fruit

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Visiting Vuna

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Visiting Vuna

Vuna children

This week. Paradise is full of dive groups, so we'll be leaving the grounds temporarily and staying at a BnB in Vuna village. Most of our coworkers live in Vuna village, about a 50-minute walk south of the resort. Vuna overlooks the ocean and Vuna reef, which is a top diving spot. The local children also enjoy the surfing by Vuna. Vuna reef sign Vuna view

Jack, Sepo and fam

We've previously visited after work for kava and music the other night. We took a sevusevu, dried and un-pounded root of the yaqona or kava plant.

Vuna visit

Music is a huge part of Fijian culture and it’s always amazing to be around. Jack has been joining in with the guitar and is learning many of the songs. We'll be sharing videos of some of the beautiful music soon!

Children serenading

Vuna children

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Bouma Falls Daytrip

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Bouma Falls Daytrip

Bouma Falls

We’ve just completed our first week of work at Paradise Taveuni! Check out the Paradise blogpost Jack posted here: fijiresort.blogspot.com Paradise Taveuni is located on the Southern Side of Taveuni. We made our first day trip north to Bouma Falls with five kids and a group of resort guests. It took a couple of hours by car, with stops along the way.

Taveuni views Our first stop was the beautiful cathedral, which is celebrating 150 years next week.

Cathedral

Our next stop was at the International Date Line. Here we were able to stand in today and yesterday.

180 Meridian Then we made it to Bouma Falls. There were three waterfall stops and we hiked to the first two.  The walks were beautiful and good exercise. The water was very cold, but it felt refreshing after the journey.

Jack jumping at the falls Jack and Alise at Bouma Falls

On the way back, we stopped at the natural waterslide. The water here was warmer…or maybe we were just acclimated by that point.

Natural water slide

It was a nice, full day and the kids were knocked out for the trip back. We’re looking forward to exploring more of this beautiful island!

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Travel Week

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Travel Week

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Bula from Taveuni, Fiji! This week was a long one, full of travel. Sunday, we flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) then to Nadi, Fiji (NAN). Packing food is always a challenge for us, but luckily we’ve found a go-to gem in LAX. It’s called “Real Food Daily: Organic Plant-Based Cuisine” and it’s in Terminal 4, where American Airlines is. Real Food Daily

We stumbled upon it when we were coming back from Fiji last December. They serve large portions of fresh organic vegan meals with toppings like cashew cheese and avocado.

LAX Bowl and Southwest Salad

We had the LAX Bowl, the Southwest Salad and a bottle of water and the total came to around $40. It’s definitely steep (airport prices!), but the portions were huge, and held us over through our 11 hour flight.

We arrived in Nadi on Tuesday morning. We caught a bus from Nadi to Suva and spent time with family on both sides. We spent Tuesday night on Jack’s parents’ farm in Naitasiri and then flew out of  Nausori (near Suva) airport on Wednesday afternoon. The plane had 7 rows, so we sat right behind the Captain and First officer.

Our plane

View from the plane

We arrived into Taveuni’s Matei airport late Wednesday afternoon and met our coworker who drove us to the resort. We arrived after dark so we weren’t able to do much exploring.

Matei airport

Thursday morning we woke up and were able to see the beauty of the resort. I’m pretty surprised at how cold it is. Luckily, Jack had me pack a hoodie and a cardigan; otherwise I’d be freezing! We've jumped right into work so we’ll be getting organized and posting more soon!

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New adventures

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New adventures

Savu Mural

IMG_7950 Bula family and friends! We're excited to announce that we will temporarily be moving to the island of Taveuni in Fiji!

We will both be working and living at Paradise Taveuni, a resort on the Southern side of Taveuni. Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji, known as the Garden Island for its flora. Jack will be working as a web developer, and Alise will be teaching the resort owners' children. We could not have dreamed up a more fitting opportunity!

In our free time, we plan to explore vegan food options and growing and composting in Taveuni. We plan to create art, inspired by our experiences. We also plan to do a good bit of exploring, swimming and diving. And of course, we will take heaps of photos and journal along the way so that we can keep this updated.

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We'll be taking a break from our Etsy shop but our art and jewelry will still be available in a few locations. Contact us for more details!

With new opportunities come uncertainty, and we’ve been consistently working to embrace the changes and transform our fears into loving situations. We’re blessed to have such a strong support system of family and friends. Alise’s parents are caring for our pup Zoey in California and Jack’s parents are looking out for us in Fiji.

We fly out in July. Until then, we are living and working in the East Bay, getting Zoey settled in with Alise's parents. Stay tuned for updates!

Love, light, and lolomas!

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