Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tonga's Abode Of Love

Looking for a place to go during a respite break in May, I recalled a long ago notion of wanting to visit Tonga, and experience the remoteness and culture that the cluster of islands that make up the Kingdom has to offer.

Just a 4 hour and 40 minute flight from Sydney, I arrived in the middle of the night into this Pacific Island gem with no concept of where I was. An airport transfer took me to the guesthouse I had booked for this arrival time, and when I eventually got to the other side of the island and Nuku'alofa, I was so grateful for the bed and the ability to get some sleep. I could have been anywhere!

The morning greeted me with seaside views, the lapping tide and a view of a rusted, ship hull in the harbour. After breakfast with my guesthouse family, I set out on foot to get a feel for the city I had reached in the dead of night.

I wandered past the harbour, past the market stalls of vegetables on sale and tiny BBQs cooking corn or chickens all along the main road, and took in the smells and sights of this new country to me. People were friendly, and curious about this traveler on her own, wandering about on foot.

Nuku'alofa is the capital of Tonga, and located on Tongatapu island - one of 171 islands in the Kingdom. Nuku'alofa means "Abode Of Love", and with it's small village feel, simple ways of living, and a church on every corner, it was hard not to get caught up in the happy-go-lucky feeling of the place.

Into town itself, I took in the sights of the main street and the quite stores. I walked through the Talamahu Market, before making sure I saw the handful of notable churches, all in close proximity.

At the top of the arc I was walking through the main streets of town was the site of the Royal Tombs, which are not open to the public, but through the fence into the vast park you could spot the statues marking the final resting place of Tongan Royalty since 1893 - starting with King George Tupou I, and including the late King George Tupou V, buried in 2012.

Just a little further along my walk, and back towards the sea, I found the Royal Palace, easily the most well kept building on the whole island. Set within lush green, and heavily manicured gardens, the simple Victorian style is now five times the size of it's original structure, but this royal residence is still the centre piece.

The place of governance and the home of the Kingdom's archives and history, this is the primary landmark of Nuku'alofa.

The weather was glorious, warm and noticeable fresh, clean air - the perfect way to soak in the sights of this remote, simple capital of the Tonga Kingdom.

Jouljet Notes
Getting There: Flight was from Sydney, Virgin fly on a weekly basis
Serious Tip: Have a local tell you about the Royal Tombs, as there are several stories worth hearing
Cost: Flight from Sydney was around $600 each way, night one guesthouse was around $60 and the middle of the night transfer was $20. Walking around town was free, and a local cab back to my guesthouse when I was done was $5
Time Spent: About 2 hours in total, round trip from my guesthouse on the outskirts of town, just wandering around on foot
Quirky Tip: Sitting in the little park areas in town and people watching was actually my highlight of this wander into town - the way to see the goings on of every day life in a place!

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