Our most recent trip took us to Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) in the South Pacific; more specifically the island of Efate, where we stayed a short walk from the Capital, Port Vila.
This was a Holiday a long time in the waiting, and became a combined late 10th Anniversary trip, we celebrated Noëlle's Birthday while we were away, it was our Christmas, and a celebration of the end of my studies and Graduation.
The people of Vanuatu are a wonderful and friendly people. I have to say that out of all the different places I have travelled, that the trips we have done to developing nations have been the most eye opening and humbling to me. Like many tourist locations, Vanuatu tries to keep the poverty that so many live in hidden from the average tourist. But take a few steps off the beaten path, a look a little further into the rainforests and you will see happy children living in conditions where we would not even consider keeping animals in the 'West'. It makes me appreciate more fully how much I have, but also what we may be missing by not just slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life.
Noëlle & I love to use local public transport, shop in local markets, eat food made by locals where they profit, and get out of the hotel and resort locations. It makes us happy when we can't see any other tourists, as it means we are seeing the country.
We had great fun exploring the parts of the island and local areas. The whole week there was 'Krismas' (Bislama spelling) in the park - there was live reggae on stage, local families everywhere sitting on the grass and enjoying it all, Christmas lights in the palm trees, stalls and food tents all run by the locals. We went their most evenings and ate at various food tents where we knew the food was good, local home made food, and where we knew all the money went straight back in to the locals pockets. We would walk back to our hotel each night past all the other tourists eating in the overpriced and foreign owned restaurants, knowing we'd soaked in the real atmosphere of the island.
One of the highlights of the trip were our dives off Mosa Island/Tranquility Island. Noëlle loves diving, but last summer wasn't able to do any diving due to Balin cooking. You could see her huge smile a few minutes into our first dive through the regulator. We hired a local nanny called Esther to come to the island and look after Balin while we were diving. Esther didn't speak much English, but Balin doesn't either, so they got on fine :D
Oh, and Noëlle was especially happy to make friends with the hotel kitten, especially as someone stole our kitten a few weeks ago :(
There are more photos from our trip on Balin's page here, and also different ones on facebook here.