Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 18, Tonga!


Tanja

25 December 1997, Tony’s guesthouse, Nuku Alofa, Tonga:
So both transport and lodging turned out not to be a problem, we were shanghaied at the airport. Tony’s had good reviews in Lonely Planet, and we were also recommended to stay here by someone we met in NZ, but what a creepy, worn-down place! We’ll check out as early as we can tomorrow morning. The flights were smooth, first 2 hours 40 minutes to Fiji, then 1 hour 10 minutes to Tonga. Only met friendly people so far.

Ørjan

After a good night’s sleep in a good bed, we headed to the airport in Auckland. The bus cost 7 dollars and we got there a bit early so check in was not open yet. Our first meeting with the airline was not a good one, a rude stressed-out check in person is not a good first impression. We had to pay 20 dollars airport tax directly to the airline, something I did not know. The plane was a spanking new Boeing 737, same as Braathens have in Norway. We flew 3 hours from Auckland to Fiji, they showed the new Men In Black movie, and that made the flight seem shorter. The airport at Fiji is quite small and basic and almost empty, well it is Christmas morning… The flight from Fiji to Tonga took only about an hour. Very basic airport, I felt we were landing in a coconut field. We were a bit nervous that there would be no taxis or transport available since it was Christmas, but we did not need to worry. We were shanghaied by a lady that represented Toms Guest House and it would cost only 20 dollars for the both of us in a double room. We were a bit disappointed when we arrived, in Lonely Planet there were only good words about Toms, but it seems like Tom has had better days. I am now on the bed in the room listening to big band music from the room next door and dogs barking on the street, and there are plenty of dogs here. We will move accommodation tomorrow; this is no good. And I need to talk to Royal Tongan Airlines about flights to Ha’apai island.

Tanja

26 December 1997, Breeze Inn, Nuku Alofa, Tonga:
What a place we stayed in last night! Couldn’t even stomach myself to get washed this morning, there were hundreds of ants in the sink, and the bathtub was full of dead and living insects, and lots of mosquitos were flying around in the middle of the day. Worst place we’ve ever stayed at, even worse than Gili Trawangan and Geoff’s Place. Got our backpacks on and literally run away from the place, first to Tonga Royal Airlines, to check the possibility of an agent ticket to Haapai, but they weren’t very friendly there at all. They didn’t have any agent tickets, knew nothing of the fax Ørjan sent before we left, and said we had to wait for the supervisor who’d be working tomorrow. The only flight tomorrow leaves at 7 a.m. however, none on Sunday and Monday was fully booked. So, it will be too late, think we leave from here on Saturday. Then we tried the Tourist information office, but even though it said it was open it wasn’t… And the bank. So, there we were, hungry – hadn’t eaten, no place to stay, and back and bellies were aching from the weight of the backpacks – exhausted! Luckily, we found a nice place to stay – read about it in Lonely Planet. Double the price compared to Tony’s, but well worth the money. Am sitting outside on the terrace now in a garden filled with flowers and palms overlooking the sea.

Doesn’t seem too nice to swim here though, a big reef just by the waterfront, and quite murky water. We’re in the capitol, which doesn’t really look like a city at all. Luckily, we found a supermarket that was open, so we finally got to eat. Maybe safest to cook ourselves, don’t want to get any stomach problems again. Feel like proper tourists again, people are staring at us, maybe not so strange – haven’t seen many other tourists so far, so probably not high season. Met a Swedish couple who’d been the only ones apart from two other people on Sun Island. A bit nice too, that there aren’t too many tourists here, will probably be different in Fiji. Hope Tourist information will be open tomorrow so we can find a place to stay by the beach for a few days. The locals seem a bit reserved and sceptical towards us. The royal palace is situated close by, looks like a villa in Oslo – a big wooden house.

Tongan palace
Ørjan

After a restless night with howling dogs and an aggressive cockroach the size of a whale we ran out of Toms the next day! We found that the whole city of Nuku Alofa was closed due to Christmas, so we were not able to exchange any money or travellers’ cheques. The people at Royal Tongan Airlines were not very helpful and seemed like they had PMS or massive hangovers the whole bunch. No flight to Ha’apai was available they said, and that was a bit of a downer. The map in Lonely Planet was a bit erroneous so we had trouble finding Seabreeze Inn, but we were pleasantly surprised at only 40 dollars for a double room with bathroom and a nice view, and it is quiet around here, bonus! We walked back to the city centre where a few shops were open, we did some shopping and went back to the hotel for dinner and an early bed.

27 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We packed our stuff and went down to the city centre to visit the tourist office. We got talking to a girl that told us about the Good Samaritan hotel and that there was a free shuttle bus there at 13:00. We decided to go there, it was on the other side of the island with a great sunset she said. We walked to the Air Pacific office, and they were very helpful in helping us change our tickets back to Fiji at 03:00 on the 1st of January. And they did it for free! The bus to Good Samaritan was a small van that stopped every 500 metres so the 15 minutes it was supposed to take took double that. The hotel had no beach as such, but it was possible to swim in the ocean. We got a small hut, like a dolls house in the garden. It had ample space and a nice view over the garden and the sea for only 40 dollars. The sunset was amazing from the huge deck in front of the restaurant. We had some great food from the restaurant, it is a shame that they do not have a communal kitchen, it will be a bit expensive in the long run to eat at the restaurant every day. We ended the day with drinking the local Kava brew, it tasted like muddy water and made my lips go numb.

28 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Breakfast was a disappointment, ants in the tea, and ants in the breakfast cereal. The rest of the day was spent in hammocks between the palm trees, reading and swimming in the sea. Tonga is a place to just relax and do nothing. We are both getting a bit too excited to travel home again, even though we are lounging in hammocks under palm trees.

Tanja

29 December 1997, Good Samaritan Inn, Tonga:
Just got back from a shopping trip in town, free transport every day from here. Extremely hot and humid today, so pretty exhausting to wander around. Went for a swim, then a shower, so we could cool down a bit. Nice just to be resting a bit in bed now. Have been here since Saturday 27th. Were picked up at the post office and driven here. Quite a nice place, a resort of sorts with a restaurant, entertainment, pool table, TV and so on, situated right at the sea. We’re staying in a small Fale, i.e. a bungalow, on the beach, from which I’m looking out onto the Pacific now. Amazing sound when the waves hit the reef, especially during the night, sounds like thunder. A bit difficult to swim, the reef is going all the way in towards the beach, and it seems to be low tide all the time. We’ve found a couple of sunbeds though and a nice spot underneath the palms in the shade. Have met an Australian couple, and a grandmother from Sweden. No cooking facilities, and the restaurant is quite expensive, but we only pay USD 15 per person per night, we have to share toilet and shower, but that’s ok. Have rebooked our tickets so we’re leaving two days before scheduled, at New Year’s Eve, or rather January 1st at 3 a.m…. No, point in staying any longer, maybe we’ll leave Fiji earlier too, but that might be difficult, hope Fiji is nicer than Tonga. If we follow our current itinerary, we’ll stay there for about a week. Sent a fax to Beachcomber Island from the Tourist information today, hope we’ll get a good deal there. Starting to long for home now and am counting the days. Feels strange and wrong when we’re in a place most people would love to be.

Ørjan

There is a courtesy bus from the hotel to Nuku Alofa so we took it into town to shop some groceries and drink so that we do not have to eat at the restaurant every evening. The market was cool and very vibrant. The Tongan people are colourful and very very large! Sent a fax to Beachcomber Island to check if we could get a discount. I am a bit worried how we will get to the airport for our flight in the middle of the night and how it will be landing at Fiji at 04:00 in the morning. Relax, relax, relax…

30 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

Basically, just relaxing. We have sorted transport to the airport just after midnight so that we can celebrate New Year’s eve as the first people on the planet. Got talking with a Swedish lady called Susanna who had been to India, New Zealand, and other places just by her own, she was 60 years old, what an inspiration!

31 December/1 January, entry from Ørjan

After having packed and relaxed some more we went for dinner with Mick and Carla from Australia. Not many people in the restaurant and bar, so we played a bit of pool. I had a 4-course dinner with lobster, it was good, and it was only 15 dollars. Midnight was a bit on an anti-climax, being used to fireworks, here there was nothing. We sat in t-shirts and shorts by the ocean drinking beer until we had to leave for the airport at 01:00. We checked in but had to wait 20 minutes for the lady who collected the airport tax to come to work. We took off at 03:00 and got dinner on board! When arriving in Fiji we had to set our clocks one hour back, so it was in fact 03:00 when we landed. After customs seized our noodles, we exchanged some money and ventured out into a very hot a damp climate. We had been recommended a place called Sandalwood Inn and after a bit of searching we found a courtesy bus to the place. We had only one thought when we got there, sleep! It was 05:00 and we slept until 14:00 and went to Mc Donald’s for a meal. We lounged a bit by the hotel pool, the hotel itself was nice. Tomorrow we will get up a bit earlier and see if we can get hold of Beachcomber Island.

We remember Tonga as a bit of a let down, we had hoped to go to one of the smaller islands that we had read about in Lonely Planet but that was not possible. The small hut on the beach was nice, falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves on the reef was something special. In addition it is easy to read that we both feel a bit homesick and find it hard to appreciate the places we are staying in…

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: Fiji!

Categories:Around The World 1997, TravelTags: , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. I must admit I loved Tonga – but then I was staying with people I knew. It was “the King’s Birthday” and the whole country went on a picnic!

    Liked by 1 person

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