Everyone loves a 2-for-1 deal. I know I do.
Well Bik II is the very best deal you can find for a family vacation.
The nature of Bik’s tidal locked orbit has created two drastically different climates. One side features permanent daylight and the other is eternal night. Desert at one end, ice caps at the other.
Now, while the dark side of the planet is off limits to the public, Starshine tours actually allows you to explore the desert on your own with the aid of a robotic drone. After donning their viewing helmets, you are in full control and the sensory systems are top of the line. Even with the sensitivity turned way down, you can feel the sand whipping at your skin and the wind attempting to blow you off balance.
Seriously, do not take these tours lightly. I was caught in a sandstorm and my drone was thrown around until I had to rip the helmet off before I ruined it…
But accidental thrill rides are not why Bik II is listed among the Cluster’s most sought after vacation spots. That’s not why Travelnauts put me up for the week.
No, as you move south towards the dark side of Bik, the climate begins to even out and you reach the pleasant band. This is what people come for. There are numerous resorts set up along the equatorial ocean and it’s unbelievable.
Imagine the perfect beach day.
Now imagine that day never ending.
Seriously, my first day there, I got down to my chair at noon by my watch’s time and didn’t leave until well after midnight. The sun hadn’t moved at all, but I had built up a healthy tan.
It’s hard to wrap your head around at first, but you can really lose track of time waiting for the sun to set. Even the shops run around the clock.
The entire economy is set up in shifts to accommodate the huge amount of tourism from all over the cluster. The same shops are open all day, but usually with different family members taking shifts to sleep. I asked a young bartender how they dealt with the constant sun and learned that the locals have a secondary eyelid, thick and opaque, that shuts when they sleep. An evolutionary holdover from before subterranean colonization. Me? I just make due with the industrial sun shades in my bungalow.
Then there is the dark side. With temperatures well below freezing, any unprotected organic body would completely freeze in minutes. Again, all activity is done with drones, but they aren’t used for tours. These bots are used to maintain thermal energy plants that exploit the roiling subterranean activity and use it to power everything from the above ground resorts to the sprawling underground city inhabited mostly by the poorer locals. But we’ll get into that later.
First, let’s dive into what you all came for. Food.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of fish going on. With an entire ocean feeding one small band of the planet, there is always a large supply of freshly caught seafood.
My favorite meal was at a beachfront cafe called “Danmier Van” (Green Coast in the local dialect). They had an enormous monfish that had been brought in early, and they did the butchering live from a small stage set up out front. The visual of a huge, bronzed local, cutting massive fillets as the waves crash behind him took my breath away. I almost felt like I needed to pay him for the show. Although after he was done, he went back to warming his seat at the bar, which quickly dispelled the magic.
Most everything is a variation on fish and fruit, although, if you’re brave enough, you can try the sand peppers that are brought down from the desert. A young couple on their honeymoon goaded me into trying their “Mon Ceran” at dinner my second night there, and it was hours before I could taste anything else.
Below ground, in the city of, Bi’ik (which I’m told is the original pronunciation) it’s a different story. They still eat fish, but the majority of the fresh stuff is out of budget for the majority of the citizens. What you’re left with is a multitude of shops, each with a specialty stew made with economy in mind.
Each shop will buy in bulk and use everything in order to make massive cauldrons of stew. The custom is to move past with a group of friends, everyone picks a stew, and then you sit where you can and enjoy a meal together. I’m told that getting a bowl with the heart or the liver is good luck, but, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the chosen ones.
Honestly, while the planet is gorgeous, and I completely understand why people will spend outrageous amounts to get here, the food is nothing special.
As a tourist, I had a blast, but as a food blogger, I found myself wanting something more. The locals seemed confused when I insisted that there must be some other kind of food. All they could provide were Pinnens, delectable, but bite-sized birds that live in the trees dotting the beach. Even after 10 or so, there was still this nagging hunger that I had to satisfy with more fish.
Bik II is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been. It had been on my personal travel list long before I began getting paid to travel. The view from the beach, looking out at the dark side of the planet, was hard to wrap my head around. I understood what was going on, physically, but my brain was just so confused by the scene that I spent hours just lost in thought.
The locals are some of the friendliest that I’ve ever met, even while I was bumbling around their city getting lost. They were eager to hear about life off planet, and groups of children would follow me around, ready to hear me describe the day and night cycles that most other planets experience.
Would I go back? Absolutely.
Would I recommend it to people looking for exotic gourmet? Ehhh, probably not. You can get comparable fish at most large markets.
Definitely a must visit, just don’t expect your taste buds to be blown away. Unless you try the sand peppers.