Nuku Alofa

Tonga as an independent nation cannot rely on subsidies from a colonial mother and walking through the streets of its capital you notice that the country is poorer and less developed than e.g. French Polynesia. This has pleasant side effects for us cruisers: there are stands with local produce everywhere (5 paanga = 2 Euros for a bag of fruit or veg), incredibly cheap eating places (2 Euros for fish and chips or a curry) and minibuses go by every few minutes (there are still enough passengers that don’t own cars…). The city centre is neat and pretty and the suburbs of Nuku Alofa with small houses and gardens in between stretches out over half the width of the low island of Tongatapu.

The Polynesians here speak Tongan (Malo e lelei means hello), they are friendly and helpful to visitors and hitchhiking is easy (e.g. on Sundays or in the evenings, when there are no buses). They dress mainly in dark colours (new and surprising to us after the colourful Tahitian outfits with flowers everywhere), many women wear long, black dresses with ornamental, woven belts. The traditional outfit of the men consists of a dark shirt and a long dark skirt with a lightbrown pandanus mat wrapped around the hips. On Sundays all actvities are forbidden–except visiting the church (once or twice), the Christian religions rule the island strictly.

This week the Heilala festival takes place with a military parade to celebrate the king’s birthday last Monday (a good opportunity to see dignitaries in their best outfits) and the Miss Tonga contest (open to the public, several evenings). We expected some dancing, singing and celebrating going on in town, but apart from the Miss Tonga aspirants doing slow dances with graceful hand movements and a choir in the background there doesn’t seem to be going on a lot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.