Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?  I am part of a community who is attempting to travel to every country in the world.  According to the United Nations there are 193 countries.  So far I have been to 117 countries which sounds impressive, until you realize I still have to travel to 76 countries.  It is believed that less than 200 people have traveled to every country in the world, making it more of an exclusive club then those who have traveled to outer space, who number over 500.  There is a very active and passionate group of individuals who are on a quest to enter this august club.

There is a heated debate on what counts as visiting a country.  A passport stamp, sleeping overnight, tapping your foot over the border, airline transfers, a travel experience?  There is no universal governing body dictating the rules of what defines a visit.  But the online community of country counters passionately argues their position, and often it evolves into arguments and insults. 

Read about the insults and death rates I received after the publication of this post.

My personal rules are quite flexible.  But my one rule is I do not count airport transfers.  To me that is cheating.  I do not need to stay overnight … I never slept over in Monaco or Lichtenstein both of those were day trips to these micro-nations. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

I didn’t even sleep over in Monaco

I am missing many passport stamps, for instance once you enter the EU and transit to another country you typically will not get a stamp.  I even counted Montenegro which I visited by accident.  I was driving from Kosovo to Albania and entered the country when I got lost.  And I also count Macedonia.  I entered the country from northern Albania and drove down the west side of Macedonia and reentered southern Albania to visit Lake Orchid.  The roads were better in Macedonia so this saved time.  But I did have some travel experiences.  My muffler fell off in northern Albania on some rough roads and I had it repaired at a service station somewhere in the middle of Macedonia. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

Macedonian craftsmanship

And before exiting southern Macedonia, I stopped in at a petrol station where I hung out with the gas station attendant and friended her on Facebook before entering Albania.  

After New Year’s in 2018 spent in NYC, I had planned a 3 country Pacific Island trip before I settled back into Bangkok.  I was to start off with 5 days at the Hilton Resort (a free stay courtesy of a lot of Hilton points) in Fiji, relaxing at the pool and taking some snorkel/boat trips.  After that, I was to visit Vanuatu, spending a couple of days in the capital of Port Vila, but the highlight was to be a visit to Tanna Island.  Tanna Island is home to Mount Yasur, an active volcano, where you are able to walk up to the rim of the crater.  And a finally a visit to Solomon Islands where I was going to learn about WWII history.  A lot of fighting took place on the main island of Guadalcanal. 

The trip started on a sour note.  My flight from Boston to Nadi, Fiji was canceled due to the Bomb Cyclone, a viscous snow storm which shut down Boston.  Instead, of leaving on Thursday after NYE, my flight was rescheduled on Sunday.  My five nights in Fiji were truncated to a brief two nights. 

It was a quick two hour direct flight from Nadi, Fiji to Port Vila, Vanuatu. 

I boarded the back entrance of the prop plane and squeezed myself into my seat.  Within moments of the flight departing, the muscles in my chest started to convulse.  And when I say chest, I mean the left side of my chest.  I started sweating.  My breath was short.  Was I having a heart attack?  Was this the end?  I focused on controlling my breathing and my sweating ended.  The muscles in my chest were still clenched.  It was a scary feeling.

The flight arrived and I made my way through the molasses-slow immigration line. The Port Vila International Airport was more bus station than airport. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

I whipped out my iPhone and snapped a photo of a large sign advertising emergency medical evacuation near the immigration line.  I wasn’t quite sure what my future might hold.

I found a taxi and navigated my way to my hotel, thick humidity set in.  I arrived to my hotel room, after puffing up the stairs.  I snapped on the AC and plopped down on the bed.  I reasoned maybe I had simply pulled some muscles in my chest.  I just needed some rest.  I stared at my surroundings.  The room was tiny, only 120 square feet, bathed in white with several tropical flowers scattered about, placed by the housekeeping staff.  The only furniture was the bed.  Seventy dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to.    

After a couple of hours, I started Googling.  “Best hospital in Port Vila”.  “List of Port Villa hospitals”.  The results were not very comforting.  Port Vila is not known for its medical tourism.  I searched for the US Embassy in Port Vila, looking for their advice on medical options.  Vanuatu is so insignificant, the US did not bother opening an Embassy in the country of only 250,000 people.  Diplomatic services were provided by the Embassy in neighboring Papua New Guinea.  This is what the US Embassy wrote: “Hospital and medical facilities in Vanuatu are limited.  Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for their services. In the event of a serious illness or accident.”  Not exactly comforting for any potential open heart surgery. 

I reasoned if I was not better the next morning, I would need to cancel my snorkel trip and find the hospital.  I slept fitfully but awoke to discomfort.  My breath was short and the tightening on my chest was painful.  I ambled to the lobby and requested a taxi to the hospital.  The staff member smiled and suggested I could simply walk.  Location, location, location.  The hospital was only five minutes from the hotel. 

I puffed down the road to the Vila Central Hospital. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

The early morning sun was already peeking out.  I passed a road crew, weed-wacking the grass in front of the hospital.  I approached the simple one story structure and spotted the Emergency Room entrance.

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

I pushed open the doors, and my optimism and hope was abruptly stifled.  The entrance was humid with no AC; three locals sat silently on some chairs leaned up against the wall.  I stood momentarily waiting for some medical staff to assist me.  I waited a bit more.  Then I slid my head around the corner.  I then spotted a darkened room with the word Cashier on the window.  I spotted a man sitting in the office.  I poked my head in and asked if there was someone who could help me.  The man disappeared and reappeared with a uniformed man with a light beard.  Was he a doctor? A nurse? A technician?  I never found out.

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

My … ?

He led me to a room thankfully with AC and directed me to lay down on one of the beds. Was the bed stained or a unique design on the sheets?  The room was dirty, the floors marked with dirt and spots of blood. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

He slid up my shirt and started shaving my chest (and we had just met).  I was about to have my first EKG. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

My first EKG, not quite the same as getting a postcard

He asked me some routine questions and slid several pink pills into my mouth.  I noted he was not wearing latex glove.  He blasted a sneeze and a moment later grabbed another pill.  “Open your mouth, and put this pill under your tongue”.  I kept my mouth closed.  He asked again, and I reluctantly opened my mouth as he slid the pill under my tongue with his sneeze covered hand.  Next he was checking my blood pressure and heartbeat.  His conclusion was my heart was healthy.  He speculated that I was having acid reflux or some sort of other gasto issue.  He handed me four packets of pills, told me to return to my room and rest. 

Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

Pill time

I was unconvinced and concerned.  I paid the bill, 3000 Vanuatu Dollars, also known as $28 dollars.   

I returned to my room, started researching the medicine as best as I could with the weak wifi.  I popped the pills and spent the whole day resting in bed; hoping I would get and feel better.  I binged Peaky Blinders from Netflix which I had thankfully downloaded prior to the start of my trip.  At dinner time, I felt better.  I was breathing better and the pain in my chest subsided.  I walked over to the hotel restaurant munched on a chicken sandwich.

I had a decision to make.  The following morning I had a flight to Tanna, a neighboring island.  I was to spend two nights here, visiting the volcano, snorkeling and visiting some local villages.  I was feeling better.  I had already paid for my flights and hotels.  And I was excited for this part of the trip.  I also didn’t want to cancel the trip since I had practically planned out my entire 2018.  It is not simple of cheap to travel to this part of the world.  I didn’t want to waste my time over a false medical issue. 

But the risk was also greater if I traveled to Tanna Island.  In Port Vila I had witnessed the lack of medical facilities.  Tanna would be even worse and I would be even more isolated from professional medical help.  I reasoned if I was feeling OK, I would travel to Tanna.  I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac. 

Morning came and my fear grew.  I wasn’t feeling better.  In fact, I felt worse.  It was difficult to breath and my chest felt squeezed.  I grabbed my iPhone and opened my Skyscanner App.  I needed to leave Port Vila and get some medical help.  Quick.

After some research I booked an $1100 ticket to Bangkok.  It was going to take 24 hours and was three flight segments.  I found some shorter flight with a duration of 18 hours but it was over $3,000.  Even in my concern, I was too cheap to buy the ticket.  I figured at this point another six hours would not make a difference.  

So I flew from Port Vila to Sydney, then Sydney to Guangzhou, then I landed in Bangkok.  It was a long series of flights with two long connections.  Upon arriving in Bangkok, I headed to my apartment dropped off my bags and decided to shower.  It has been two days, and I figured if I croaked I wanted to be a good smelling corpse.

I then sped over to Bumrungrad International Hospital, an internationally accredited hospital.  I had been here before when I injured my leg in a tuktuk accident in Cambodia.  I knew the service and competency was good.  I spent the next eight hours receiving a battery of tests including my first CAT scan. 

The conclusion of the staff: completely healthy.  Yet, they had no explanation for my pain or shortness of breath.  So now what?  What happens the next time I get sick on the road?  Will I think it is a non-issue and travel-through?  Or will I pack my bags and head off to the nearest hospital?

And have I really been to Vanuatu?  I spent two nights on the island…but my experiences were relegated to the hotel, the airport, and hospital.  Not much of a trip.  But time and money are finite resources.  Do I go back?  

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39 thoughts on “Have I Really Been To Vanuatu?

  1. April

    Some people go for medical tourism and count that as a country. Some people go for humanitarian aid and don’t see the outside of the hospital walls and count that as a country. You’ve been to Vanuatu and have a story to tell. It counts. You can go back later and see the volcano. Your health is the most important. Glad you’re still with us! 😉

    Reply
  2. Richard Toscano

    Ric,

    It probably was just a anxiety/panic attack. It happened to me a couple of times before or during trips. After batteries of tests during two emergency visits and even a heart procedure, it was just due to anxiety (which I never get). When the same feelings now occur, I close my eyes and breath softly and frequently and after a short time, all is well. Whereas the worry compounds everything, raises the blood pressure, tightens the chest etc., and makes everything worse.

    Richard

    Reply
  3. Nareg

    Oh, wow, Ric – that does not sound like a fun trip at all.

    But you made the right decision for sure. I’m glad you’re feeling better. Keep an eye out for future symptoms, needless to mention.

    As for the question of whether or not you visited Vanuatu, I’d say the answer is definitely, “Yes”. To me, travelling to a country means experiencing a new place, a new culture, interacting with people with whom I’ve never interacted before. Even if it was a different experience and you didn’t check everything off your list, it was a veritable adventure.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Vanuatu – 117th CountryGlobalGaz

  5. William

    Sounds like you experienced more than most of us. Glad you are ok. Normally I would suggest no trip to Vanuatu is complete without a heavy dose of Kava. Tanna is a real trip and reason enough to go back.

    Reply
      1. George Liplip

        Kava is wonderful and Vanuatu kava is some of the best. I’m glad you are healthy. It sounds like your trip got off to a stressful start with the bad weather in Boston and it just went downhill from there. I’m sorry if Vila was a sharp contrast to that luxury Hilton resort in Nadi.

        Re: no AC. Vanuatu is a developing country. The aircon that they have is primarily to cool tourists.

        Re: weak wifi. Next time you’re in the South Pacific, grab a Digicel sim card for your phone. Cellular data is way faster and more reliable than hotel wifi.

        Re: “3000 Vanuatu dollars.” You mean 3000 vatu? Dude, you used to work for Lehman Brothers. If you’re gonna travel to new countries for fun, at least learn the name of their currency?

        Reply
        1. Ric Gazarian Post author

          Yes, I did not try to drink Kava, does not sound too appetizing, but when in Vanuatu …

          Not my favorite trip, but you can not control everything when you are on the road.

          I will try harder in being more precise with my foreign currency 😉

          Reply
          1. George Liplip

            Just glad you are healthy! If you ever come back don’t be afraid to try kava. It’s not for the flavor. It’s about friendship and relaxation. Look for lights hanging outside nakamals in Vila every evening. 150 Vanuatu Dollars will get you a nice shell of the finest beverage on earth 😉

  6. Matt

    Bula from Fiji.

    I was in Vanuatu same time as you, at Coco Beach resort.

    My question is why did you not just fly to Sydney with some of the best medical care in the world on top especially Cardio ??

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Fair question…and I even flew through Sydney on my way to Bangkok.

      I debated getting out in Sydney, but my home is in Bangkok, and decided I wanted to get back there, where I have family and friends.

      Hope you had a great trip there.

      Reply
  7. Mark

    I would say that you have been to Vanuatu. My goal was to reach 100 countries and thereafter I’m not on such a mission but my rule was that you had to sleep there for a minimum of one night so, although you didn’t see the place as intended, your visit still qualifies in my books. Glad it was nothing serious with your health and frustrating that you had to cut your trip short as you did, but I would say you did the right thing in getting back to decent medical care rather than continuing.

    Reply
  8. Richard

    what a great post! I’m glad to hear you are ok. I think it must have been altitude sickness from Port Vila. it must be like 5 feet above sea level, am I right 🙂

    I’m sure you are secretly happy to have such a story, but only because it turned out ok! I love the podcast and now started looking at your blog for advice, as I’m heading to the South Pacific (though I think Cook Islands and Tonga for now)

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Yes, altitude sickness. 😉

      Always in the back of my mind, id I am in a less than good situation, I do think, oh what a good travel story this will be.

      I wish I could help, but have not been to either island. So far, Yap, Palau, Fiji, Easter Island, and sort of Vanuatu 😉

      Let me know how the trip goes.

      Reply
  9. Giovany Tiasinmal

    Good you are healthy and still breathing.

    You just portrayed a really bad picture of Vanuatu as a country. In your post, you have not appreciated a single thing about Vanuatu. If you think Vanuatu is the worst country you’ve been too then never plan a return trip. You got sick even before you arrived here and not while you were here. I assume the medication from the local hospital worked and solved your breathing. Next time if you want to book, look for rbnb or Booking.com, you will find better accommodations. We receive thousands of tourists each year and 90% of them would remember something good about Vanuatu. Learn to appreciate what’s around you. thank you

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      No where in my post did I blame Vanuatu for my sickness, so I am not sure why you made that comment.

      And, no unfortunately the medicine that was given to me in Vanuatu did not help. That is one of the reasons why I left.

      And no where did I say Vanuatu was the worst country I have visited. And I agree, I have been to the country, but I have not seen the country. That was the point of my article.

      My only point of criticism, is the hospital would not be considered to be a top tier health facility if benchmarked against developed countries, which is quite understandable, since the country is so small.

      I hope to go back and visit the places I originally intended to visit.

      Reply
      1. Jessie English

        Hi Rich this is the true vanuatu https://www.facebook.com/groups/yumitoktok/permalink/1937562299612060/

        They are uncivilized people who do not understand written english. I understood exactly that you were not attacking vanuatu but they don’t see it that way. They hide behind the fact that they were voted the happiest place on earth despite that being years ago and despite the fact that the measure was only in developing countries and based on their attitudes towards their economic struggles…ie they are happy even in the face of extreme poverty. You have been and based on the public response to your article I wouldn’t return. You should read the other blogs from heaps of other tourists that get ripped of by tour operators, and bus drivers , their bus drivers cause massive disruptions with tourists that arrive and I mean they have brawls right in front of tourists…theyve even been known to grab tourists and man handle them to take their taxis or swear at tourists if they dont ride with them. Even cruise ship operators have drastically reduced their visits to vanuatu because of the way they treat people. I would prefer to tell the entire world to leave them in their corner. They need tourists like you and I yet they don’t know how to treat people. Trust me the above is everything I experienced myself in less than half an hour of being in that God foresaken country. I was about to hop into a taxi when another taxi driver grabbed my bags punched my taxi driver and took my bags to his taxi. As if id really hop into a taxi with him. Than my taxi driver and the other 1 had a massive brawl. I gathered my things and walked straight back to the cruise ship (along with other passengers that witnessed this horrific display) but that’s not even the HIGHLIGHT we decided to notify law enforcement and THEY HUNG UP ON US we thought that the line cut out but we called 4 times and as soon as they heard my voice they would hang up, I mean the local law enforcement doesnt care why should anyone else?! Their law enforcement sucks their hospital and medical facilities suck their public transport suck and their attitudes suck most of all. Instead of taking criticism and making it a better place they bully tourists. I will NEVER return to that ratshit place. Trust me I’m not the only 1.

        Reply
        1. Ni-Vanuatu who has better English than Jessie English

          @Jessie English :

          Thankyou for a highlighting a real issue concerning the fighting. between the taxi-drivers and the bullish behavior some of them possess. I have witnessed first hand the events you describe HOWEVER

          To generalize the net worth/value of the country on a group of individuals is ludicrous and is a gross mis-representation of a country. What if I rocked up to King’s cross Sydney and said ” Ah-Australia and it’s 20million people is a country full of drunkards, pimps, prostitutes, violent brawlers” or If I went to the projects in inner-cities in project areas like Brompton, Brooklyn in the US and said ” Ah- The US and it’s 300+ million people are a bunch of crackheads, gang-members, prostitutes” You see my point?

          You rocked up for 30 minutes, to a single suburb Star-wharf( out of 20: Nambatu/Nambatri/Ohlen etc) of a single island ( 82 left) and parade your opinion as representative of the whole of Vanuatu and it’s 250,00 people. Say What?Your summary sounds as credible as a primary school homework ( that and the fact you use “sucks” as an adjective. 4 times)

          Not to mention the fact you are utterly racist ” they are un-civilized people who don’t understand English” Well surprise, Jhonny I understand English and 60% or more our population does. The other 40% either speak French/ Bislama or island dialects. We aren’t expected to only speak English, we aren’t England or Australia mate

          Yes we need tourism, we are a developing country that is poor ( by dollar standards) but are rich in values,land custom and tradition. Tell me again how you contributed to our country’s economy in the half-an hour ( your own words) that you graced us with your bigoted presence? And you say that we ” need you” in Vanuatu? For what? To buy Coca-Cola and crisps, a quick taxi ride in that half and hour you were in Vila? No Thanks, glad to see your back leaving.

          Proud Educated Ni Vanuatu who knows English, French, local dialects one of many)

          Reply
  10. Michelle

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’m so sorry to hear about your medical issue when you arrived. 🙁 We’re very glad you’re still with us! 🙂 Yes you have been to Vanuatu 🙂 But I hope that someday if you ever visit our beautiful Vanuatu again, you will have the most wonderful time and be ready for the adventures that Vanuatu awaits to show you.. Stay well and be well! Takecare

    Reply
      1. George Woosantapaliplip

        Do you scuba? Dive the USS President Coolidge. Up for a hike and an overnight camp? Visit the volcanoes on Ambrym instead of Yasur.

        Santo has the other hospital in Vanuatu, right up the hill from the Coolidge. Ambrym has, uhhh… well, they have good kastom medicine (including kava, naturally.)

        Reply
          1. Smol George Liplip Nomo

            There’s a bit of a rivalry between Tanna and Ambrym. Sometimes it spills over into who has the best volcano. Ambae kinda stole the show last September, triggering an island-wide evacuation. It’s a little calmer now. Might be worth hiking on top just to see the aftermath of the ashfall.

            Timing a trip to Ambrym or Tanna during Rom or Toka (respectively) is great fun. Big kastom dances. Cooler weather than January, too. Tanna takes Toka very seriously and the whole island just parties nonstop for a few days. Rom is a bit more sombre, but don’t be scared. Tourists are “immune” to nakaemas.

  11. THOMSON PAKOA

    Do come back again. Do not let that little thing scare you. And to die doing what you like to do is the best think because you die happy

    Reply
  12. Terry Roberts

    Glad you are okay but I would like to bring important information to you and future travelers to Vanuatu. We have the best Aussie trained serious trauma Paramedics in Vanuatu. Promedical and Promedical Rescue have assisted in many cases. They have a fully trained crew who rotate on a regular basis. They have Rescue Vehicles Ambulance including available on the ground. air ambulance for serious medi vac.We have a private Hospital with a full time medical Doctor, We have a very experienced French Doctor and a number of others. We also have one of the best Dental Practices and Medical center equal or better than anywhere else in the world. The have the very latest equipment and technicians are top professionals. Its called Novodental and Novomedical. I have lived in Vanuatu for twenty years as an expat and have needed these services so I know personally they are second to none. It is unfortunate that where you were staying did not inform you of these services available. Or that maybe you didnt ask. ? Anyway I hope you return to Vanuatu again sometime and feel more safe a comfortable with your experience now that you have first hand knowledge from someone who knows. Best Wishes in your travels.

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Hi Terry: Thanks for this information. And I am glad the locals have access to excellent medical care.

      I am not informed of the level of medical facilities in Vanuatu. Is it safe to say, that the hospitals in Sydney, Boston or Bangkok might have better, more modern medical facilities?

      I noted advertisements for emergency evacuation aviation services to get people off the island. I am not aware of inbound medical tourism to Vanuatu.

      So it appears, I am not the only one who has left the island to receive medical care. Would that be true to say?

      Reply
  13. Pingback: Vanuatu’s Heart: Full Of Love Or Hate?GlobalGaz

  14. Kim

    I have just come across your blog/article following some very nasty comments you received recently on vanuatu social media via facebook. I have seen your replies to most of them. I hope you are feeling much better now and that you know what caused your discomfort during your trip. For someone who grew up in port vila and is now residing in Australia, i think of how privileged we are to have first class medical facilities either here in oz or Boston or bangkok as you mentioned. I commend you on your observation of the facilities of vila central hospital and sharing your experience. Health facilities and services is still a pressing issue in the developing world especially in Vanuatu. Everyone is entitled to their opinion as you have mentioned but some of those comments by people wishing you dead etc were plain stupidity, disrespectful and not necessary, and I am ashamed of how some locals have reacted. They are simply not like that – just some who have only discovered the power facebook has without it’s face-to-face confrontation. However, like some of those citizens and readers of the article, I found the article somewhat displeasing and unfair (yes the truth and fact does hurt, we sometimes don’t like to admit and become very defensive of our home and people). Yes, the way in which you described your experience was very upfront and very ‘in your face’ and thats ok, some locals didn’t like that given their comments, again the whole defensive attitude but this is no excuse to explain their comments. If I may ask, what was the purpose of this particular piece? As I read it, it is just another article that outlines the poor health facilities and practices we ALREADY have and know in Vanuatu. When in fact, you could have used this piece more positively or wrote it more positively. It could have been a very powerful one too. It could have helped a NEW traveller/tourist to Vanuatu if it was a more informative one, so if they found themselves in a situation as such, where they could find help apart from vila central? Perhaps promedical (I’d be happy to share a link should you need it)? What to possibly avoid, perhaps admitting in your article that walking to the hospital is not very ideal even though it was 5mins away and especially given your condition of chest pains and discomfort at that time. Perhaps an appeal (if you would like to wear the developement practioners hat) or an action to government or an organization or draw in the fact of personal hygieve? to somehow help our health industry in the Pacific (however this may be) instead of just bagging it and being somewhat naive in a way. There are a few expatriate doctors and privately owned clinics (again happy to share should you need it) from Australia, France and New zealand some of which are locals who have studied in some of these countries.
    Im only assuming you’re an american, Living in bangkok? I apologize if I got that wrong too. I just find those who have their own travel blogs and websites and experience in travelling to some of the remote countries have such a great platform to not only inform the public of the problem or issue (which you have done tremendously) but also possibly share your research of ‘best hospitals’ during that trip and possibly what that research lacked, what googled lacked! and little more before you wrote this article and the article following it.

    As an outsider reading your blogs and IF I was a new traveller to Vanuatu, I would think again of visiting the country simply because your description of your experience has just scared the living life out of me! And I wouldn’t want to pay all that money just to visit a hotel, hospital and airport. I think the article was unfair if I may add, shining yes some truth about the facility but also having very limited positive comments to share without the courtesy on your part to research on what other options you possibly could have had coming away from it all, instead another downgrade of vanuatu’s poor health facility. This in fact answers your title of your blog. You have not visited Vanuatu. And I hope you do. It was very unfortunate for you and I sincerely hope you have recovered and well.
    Vanuatu has so much more to offer, not just the unfortunate medical facility and services that we have, but historical sites, the people, fresh food, the market that opens 24hrs everyday excluding sunday, snorkelling in some of the most crystel blue beach and white sand, the wildlife, nature, greenary, culture and their way of life. You have not even tried their Kava and it packs a punch so beware lol. I hope you do visit vanuatu and I can only hope that you write a more positive and fresh but still truthful blog once you have visited this place I have called home. 👍🏽 Can’t wait to read about your second attempt to visit Vanuatu, and hopefully this time it will be positive.

    Reply
    1. Ric Gazarian Post author

      Hi Kim…thanks for all of your thoughts. You ask, what was the point of the article? The point is summarized in the title. “Have I really been to Vanuatu?” This was a tongue and cheek summary of my trip, debating if my visit to Vanuatu even county as visiting the country since I was not able to snorkel in the beautiful oceans, visit Mt Yasur, or get to meet people in the local village on Tanna. Obviously, when I got sick all of these plans were canceled.

      I am sorry if you feel some of the article is “unfair and somewhat diapleasing”. In general, I was presenting my experience which were based on facts.

      So when I wait in line for an hour to pass immigration. I describe that as slow as molasses. Some of the people of Vanuatu were insulted that I wrote this. Is this a fact, opinion? From my perspective I am commenting on my experiences to paint a picture. How angry and defensive are the people of this nation, if this is considered an insult to Vanautu?

      I comment in one sentence that my room was small, 120 square feet, and to me expensive for the room. Again people, took umbrage. I am basing my comments on my experience in staying in hundreds and hundreds of hotel rooms from Paris to Ouagadougou. I am painting a picture of my experience for my readers. Why would the nation of Vanuatu wish me death for this comment?

      I understand that Vanautu is a small developing country. I was not expecting Harvard trained doctors or the latest MRI from GE. But, I was 100% discouraged and disapointed when I walked into the emergency room. It was filthy and dirty. That does not have anything to do with first or third world nation. That is poor training and management. Clean the floors. Wipe the dirt and blood off the floor. The medical care person did not adhere to basic medical tenants. Wear gloves, wash your hands. So maybe the people of Vanautu should focus on the shortcomings of the medical care facilities of their country than worrying about my comments. Maybe people should demand that hospitals adhere to better standards for what they control.

      I am not sure I agree with your statment that potential visitors would be scared to visit Vanautu after reading my article. Many people visit remote developing countries with an expectaion of risk. Informed people reazlize that medical options are going to be limited. Any risk to Vanuatu’s future tourism is quite evident. Simply read the comments of the locals who have commented on my post – grandfathers, teaches, government workers – literally wishing me death or violence.

      There is an incredible irony that many of the commenters profess to live in the happiest country in the world while in the same breath hope that I die a violent death.

      I realize you shared a balanced and well thought out comment with me and I appreacite it. But in the same light, I do not consider my post a “hit piece”. It is a fact based account of my expericne for 48 hrs. It seems like the commenters are extrememly defensive, angry , and suffer from some sort of victimhood.

      My final thoughts, I would encourage you to speak to some of the commenters as thoughtfully as you did with me. Wishing me death for commeneting on my small hotel room or that I was concerned that the medical staff not washing his hands does not seem like a reasonable reponse in my opinion.

      Reply
  15. Jessie English

    @Ni-Vanuatu who has better English than Jessie English:

    You may think you know better English than me, but your comment above is full of grammatical errors and misspellings. In saying that, I never said I was better at English than anyone. I’m sorry if I hit a cord with you because of my surname. But you sir, need to go back to wherever you received your “English” education because the biggest part of the English language is also the grammar. This is why the English language is often misinterpreted by people who’s English is their second language.

    Next, I will address the issues in my original comment and yours. I HATE Vanuatu not because of the 1 incident. You are completely right, if I based my distaste for you country upon that 1 incident, I am an idiot. But it wasn’t just that 1 incident. It was the follow up calls to the Vanuatu Police department that didn’t address this issue, it was the fact that even the staff on the cruise ship mentioned that this was the reason why they decreased their trips to Vanuatu. A lot can be said about a country that does nothing to address something that is threatening the industry that Vanuatu so desperately needs. I didn’t mean Vanuatu needs me…I meant Vanuatu needs tourists. And you do. Unfortunately, there’s nothing else going for Vanuatu besides the tourism industry to keep you afloat. You’re so educated, what do you think will happen to your country if tourism ceased to exist and not 1 tourist visited your shores? As much as you and every other Vanuatu person would like to think you could cope…you will not. Your country is already $400+ million dollars in debt to China. So you cannot afford to lose the tourism industry. My comment was, they need tourists like you or I. Again your limited understanding of English has misinterpreted this comment. It was an example I was giving because I was a tourist, and so was Gaz. Hence my comment stating “like you or I” for the comment to mean ME it would have read: “they need you or I as tourists”

    Back to the reason why I dislike Vanuatu. So there’s the fighting on the wharf, the lack of compassion from the Police force and now also all the negativity that your country men show. Those comments about Gaz are disgusting. And it’s not just a few, it’s nearly the entire thread. THAT, is what I dislike. If I read an article about my hospital being in such bad shape, I would be EMBARRASSED to be from that country. And trying to figure out what we could do to make it better. But that’s the difference between being civilized and not being civilized. Some people that have traveled the world and been to many countries have never seen or heard of such negativity, neither have I, so yes I can make assumptions and assessments of your country based on my experience with Vanuatu. I have yet to have a positive, truly positive experience. PS land custom values and tradition DO NOT make a country great or even remotely good, it’s not furthering your country 1 bit. In fact I would say that is what is holding Vanuatu back.

    It’s great you know limited English, probably limited French and your local dialects will get you know where in the world outside Vanuatu so it was probably useless that you learnt it.

    Again I will never ever be back to Vanuatu. I’m glad that you are glad to see my “back” leaving (I think this was another 1 of your many English phrases).

    Proud, English person, like a real English person that understands English and grammar as well.

    Reply

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