Taxi driver was quite chatty, which I later learnt was because he was hoping to negotiate with me to be my driver for the entire time I was in the country. Decided to pass on his generous offer, and in no time was at my hotel, the King Solomon. Online reviews of all the hotels in Honiara were rather mixed, so I decided to go with this one since I was told it had the most local character, and met my three C requirements: clean, cool, and comfortable. Well, the lobby was certainly festive at least:
Check-in was…interesting. No credit card asked for, no nothing, more of a here’s your key…enjoy. Um, ok. Unfortunately, the first room had broken AC and the second I tried was just marginally better. Decided to stick with the second, because the room was at least a bit larger. When I’d booked online, it was very unclear what the difference was between all the room categories, so I decided to book the cheapest one and hope for the best. It seemed based on the AC muck up I might have gotten upgraded, but it was hard to tell since the staff never wanted to say more than two or three words to me.
Spent my first afternoon just walking around central Honiara, and taking it all in. There really wasn’t too much to see it appeared, but it was one of those places where people watching was the highlight. Unfortunately, it was late Sunday afternoon so everything was closed, and that combined with the sweltering heat and humidity cut the afternoon short. I decided to decamp to the hotel pool, which seemed to be where all the local long-term expat residents congregate on Sunday afternoons and get absolutely trashed. I mean fall down drunk. It was a rather depressing example of expats behaving badly. I mean, I’m far from a teatotler but it always surprises me in some of the more developing countries just how much drinking / partying / smoking goes on in the expat community. Is it a case of “nothing else to do” or something else? Observations?
After pool time and a drink at the hotel bar, decided to stay in for dinner as I was advised nothing was open on Sunday evening really, and safety is a concern. Plus, I was told the food at the hotel was probably better than anything I’d find outside anyways. Seems some nights, the hotel does dinner and a performance. I was seated right next to the stage:
The King Solomon restaurant. I sat down for nearly ten minutes before I realized the staff had no interest in waiting on me and if I wanted anything I was going to have to go up to the front counter and order. The choice was some meat and potatoes dish, or pizza. The pizza was recommended online as being pretty good, so I decided to go with that:
Chicken satay pizza and a SB beer. Pretty darn tasty:
Gee, I wonder where the hotel stole…I mean got…their napkins from…
An observation on dinner..I was getting the impression that the Solomon Islands are kind of like Australia’s Thailand. There were two tables in the restaurant where groups of heavyset middle-aged Australian men (40s-50s) were having dinner with the Solomon Islander “girlfriends” who looked to be barely 20, if that. The poor girls were eating like they’d never seen food before, until in a few cases the men informed them they were done and going back to the room. Ugh. Honestly, it made me really uncomfortable and was rather depressing.
I ended up chatting briefly with an American guy who was having dinner alone, and he said that in many cases people come here for a few months for work, live at this hotel, meet local girls, and then end up staying for years in some cases. He said that the majority of the people at the hotel were long-term residents, several months minimum.
Onto more interesting topics, did I mention the hotel had a funicular for getting to the rooms? Awesome!
Slept in slightly the next day before going diving. The visibility wasn’t all that great, but dove two different World War Two wrecks that were easy dives from shore. Both gradually sloped down to between 110 and 130 feet, and were really cool to see. The first wreck was the Hirokawa Maru, also known as Bonegi I. It’s a Japanese transport ship of 6860 tons with an overall length of 508 feet. The bottom sits at about 160 feet, although we didn’t go that far down.
The second dive was the wreck of the Kinugawa Maru, also know as Bonegi II. This was a 436 foot long transport ship as well, with part sitting just above the water line. The stern sits in about 90 feet of water, so was really easy to explore. Overall they were both great dives, and I’m bummed I forgot to charge my camera battery so didn’t manage to get any pictures.
After the dives, grabbed lunch at a local cafe which seemed to be where all the wives of the local expats hung out. It was seriously like a ladies who lunch convention.
Back to the hotel, where I chilled out for the evening, had more pizza, and just relaxed since I was leaving rather early the next morning. The entrance to the hotel. Welkam!
Posing with the goofy lobby statue:
The next morning, settled the bill…which took nearly 30 minutes partly because the staff weren’t interested in moving quickly and partly because there were so many slips of paper to sort out and add up. Finally got things sorted, and it was off to the airport for a few relaxing days in Brisbane and Auckland before continuing with more island hopping!