After arriving in Tonga in the night, I walked through the dark streets of the town in search of food, but was more curious about the city itself. Arriving in the dark gives you something to guess for the next morning, and I was up and out early to see with my own eyes where I actually was. Even though I had to take care of some practical stuff, I also deliberately took different streets, to quickly get a feel of the city. It is easy enough to walk around in, with several landmarks to give you further hints. One of the first things to visit were the royal tombs, or Mala'ekula, where the members of the royal family are interred. They occupy an entire block, and are not accessible for the public. So I had to be content with a distant view, from where I could see statues of the various members, and the jaguars that are their symbol. In the middle of the grass square, there is a platform on which the graves and statues are placed, but even with a good zoomlens, the details of the tombs could not be seen properly.
Just next to the tombs stands the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, supposedly with an interior worth seeing; I never saw the door open, so I had to live with the exterior view of the square towers and the red, pointed roofs, and the stained glass windows.Curious about the waterfront, I walked there, to find that it is not a really developed area. There is a boulevard with a walkway covered by trees; there are patches of tempting turquoise waters just off the shoreline, surrounded by a low surf, belying the presence of reefs just close to the coast. I walked to the harbour area, with a small handicraft market, the Chinese embassy, the fish market with a small port with boats, beyond which I found high piles of containers waiting on a quay. But this is already out of town. Back in Nuku'alofa, I was mostly content with just cruising the streets, where gingerbread houses still stand, all on their own plot: it is a spread out town. At the same time, the spacious streets create a relaxed feeling.
The main sight of the city, however, is the Royal Palace. When I approached it for the first time, and saw a guard next to a high, black gate with the letters G-V-T (George V Tupou) on the outside, I felt a little intimidated, but a friendly chat with the guard followed, in which he invited me to stick my camera through the fence to take pictures of the palace, and suggested I walk to the back to have better views. Indeed, the small wall running just alongside the seaside fence offers a free view of the striking facade of the gingerbread, Victorian style palace with its white walls and red roof. Apparently, the king does not reside here, since major renovations are under way, but the royal appearance is palpable anyway. After visiting Vava'u, I returned to the capital, and paid a visit to the Talamahu market on Saturday morning; a bustling block of sellers of vegetables and fruits, with big yams and palmtree trunks, and inside, also a section with Tongan handicrafts. With some people walking around in the traditional Tongan straw skirts, it was yet another local experience, in line with the city itself, the atmosphere was pleasantly relaxed.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Nuku'alofa (Tonga). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Nuku'alofa. Read more about this site.