Least Visited, Day 11: The Weirdest but Most Luxurious Hotel in the Solomon Islands

January 6, 2018
*bubble* *bubble* *glub*

Today we head out of Kiribati and we’re off to the Solomon Islands for the final part of this leg of the tour.

When we get to the airport in the morning, it’s raining outside, and along with the rain, there are about five dozen locals lingering outside of the airport doors. We’re not sure if they are checking in for flights or just seeing people off, but it soon becomes apparent that they are indeed just hanging out. We all check in for our flight except for Will, because he doesn’t have his passport and believes he left it in the hotel. Panic sets in, and contingency plans are made. He may have to go to the Australian embassy and sort it out as there’s no American embassy in Kiribati.

The rest of us go through security, where the machine is broken so the security staff is going through our luggage by hand and mostly trusting what we say is in each pocket without checking them themselves.

After security, I head to the bathroom, which is a temporary structure located on the tarmac since the airport is being renovated. The door has no lock and springs open if not held shut, which requires me to hook the bottom of it with my foot as I use my hands to pull down my pants, then squat with my remaining foot, then pull my pants back up all while still trying to keep my hooked foot pulling the door shut.

The airlines called out to have people begin to board, with no priority over certain sections of the plane, unlike in Nauru, which was very strict in boarding specific rows, and god forbid you enter the line before your time, you’d be sent to sit and wait like a child sent to the naughty corner.

We board the plane without Will and then… he comes on the plane with just minutes before our departure time! The hotel staff found his passport on the bus, where it had fallen from his pocket. Hooray! Later on, Alistair discovers that due to the US government shutdown, they have closed consular services abroad in many areas, so it would have been possible that Will would have been stuck for a very long time. Alistair warned us Americans on the trip: there is never a good time to lose your passport… but especially not this time.

We take two flights to get to Honiara, and while I am appreciating Nauru airlines’ commitment to the free flow of snacks, booze and water, it also leaves about a three minute window in the duration of the flight where you’re not trapped by drink or rubbish carts or required to be buckled in for takeoff or landing. Thankfully, my man Danko is on our flight again, and he was super friendly and amazing just like the first flight I met him on.

I’ve also forgotten to mention that in all the flights with Nauru Airlines, the flight attendants have been spraying insecticide, which I once thought was so strange while flying to Malaysia. After bopping around on Nauru Airlines for so long, I’ve grown used to this routine. I guess it makes sense for tropical island nations which are so much more isolated from other biospheres.

Eventually we arrive in Honiara, and to a much larger hotel than the ones we’ve been in so far. Our group appears to be the only one exiting the plane, so we speed through immigrations, luggage pickup, and customs.

Soon, we’re back out in the humidity and light drizzle. How refreshing! Mel, my friend from NYC, was joining us on the journey here and greeted me with a huge hug once we passed through customs. Our buses from the hotel arrive promptly and our adventures in the Solomon Islands begin.

I learn from the hotel staff sitting on our bus that the local language here is simply known as pijin, but it’s very similar to Vanuatu. I ask about a few particular words, and she tells me that some of them are the same, and some words here are even more English than they are in Vanuatu. I learn I can get by with Bislama here, if necessary.

We are welcomed at Hotel Honiara with fresh coconuts and free massage vouchers, the latter of which I was thrilled about. Since our flight arrived late and it was now close to 4:30pm, there was just a brief break before we headed upstairs for dinner.

Cute little nooks by fish ponds in the hotel

Fiberglass sculptures at the Honiara Hotel

This hotel is…peculiar. There's definitely a tropical theme, but it's marred by touches such as crystal chandeliers in the bar. There are giant tropical fiberglass figures everywhere, from fish to flowers to clamshells to creepy mermaids with real hair on them. An article about the hotel, written by an Aussie journalist that’s framed on the wall, explains how the eccentric owner is responsible for these creations, having designed them all and created them by hand. The two creepy mermaids are modeled after Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie, but he got the chins wrong, so they “became their own person.” It appears that we are the only guests in the entire place, which adds to its oddity, given that it’s massive. There’s even a funicular to lead from the first floor to the upper levels of rooms! There are posters and pictures everywhere reminding anyone, lest they forget, that this was where William and Kate stayed at some point in the last decade when they came to the Solomon Islands. Its old world charm is reminiscent of some soviet hotels in its slightly outdated luxury, and it’s overall a fantastically odd place.


Hotel bar.

We get dinner at the hotel buffet which is expensive, but I oblige just because no one else seems keen to venture out. At dinner, laplap (a typical Vanuatu dish) is available, so I encourage some in the group to try it. It’s unusually sweet, which maybe is what makes it slightly different here in the Solomon Islands. Overall, I’m a bit disappointed by dinner, because fish with coconut milk, laplap, cassava, pumpkin and sweet potatoes is a dish I would easily get in the village for free at a community event or only $1 USD at the school canteen, but here I was paying nearly 25 times the price.

Following our dinner, around 7:15, some girls put on an organized traditional dancing performance to more modern local music, which was entertaining. I was a bit bummed I had to depart around 8pm for my massage.

The massage was fantastic, a mix of Swedish and Thai, so it was very relaxing but certain parts were targeted. My foot has been bothering me for about a week now, so it was nice to have a massage at no cost.

I felt Zen post-massage, so I headed to the room for a shower and sleep. I learned that I was lucky to have left for a massage, since the dance performance bordered on 90 minutes and bored most of the group when it went past its prime, especially with all the audio glitches and awkward standing around.

Tomorrow is our first and last full day in Honiara, so we’re going to make the most of it with a local guide.