Malo e lelei!
I’m constantly planning to go somewhere, this is a fact. But I’m still amazed how sometimes I ended up somewhere that has been totally out of my radar 6 months before. Like my surprise trip to South Africa last year and now, here I am in Tonga, sitting at my personal tree house.
Tongatapu or the “Sacred South” is generally the starting point of visitors to Tonga. After about 30 hours of flights and layovers, I arrive at the capital city of Nuku’alofa. I’m here to get on Infinity Expedition boat, but I also wanted to see a little bit of the land so I decided to arrive earlier to look around. I spent one week in Tonga capital, Tongatapu and Eua.
Tongan people are friendly, like in the Philippines. They give me curious look being a foreigner, but have a ready smile when our eyes meet. There are Chinese in the island, mostly grocery store owners, but other than there, you don’t see them. Not in the market, coffee shops, nor the beach.
I was lucky to come on a long weekend and that my host Debra, who I found though Airbnb, has the time (and willingness) to show me around Nuku’alofa. It’s small so we were able to cover many places like the Royal Palace, the Royal tomb, the Cathedral, the wharf where I’m going to hop on the Infinity.
There is a big Saturday market at the ferry wharf where they sell 2nd hand clothes from Australia, New Zealand, knick-knacks from China, and some PX goods from the US. It’s beside the fish market where they sell their catch of the day. You get a plastic bag with variety of plate size fishes for 10 TOP (210 PHP). There’s also plenty of Tuna and it’s what I’ve been eating everyday for a week.
The city is noticeably clean and the road is free of rubbish. Even at the Saturday market where they sell food. I see some workers picking up the trash every where. I’m not 100% sure but I was told that these are the prisoners who are let out during the day to pick up trash. Interesting.
On the same day I get to sort out my bank and cellular needs. Again, thanks to my helpful host.
Banks and ATM in Tonga
There are 2 huge banks in Tonga, ANZ and Westpac. ATMs are available in the major islands of Tonga. Maximum withdrawal in the ATMs in Tonga is 900 TOP (19,000 Php, 420 USD) and a charge of 12.5 TOP (262.83 PHP, 5.85$) on top of your bank charges. Ouch! Credit cards are accepted in many shops, some charge 5% surcharge though.
Mobile data internet available in Tonga
There are 2 cellular companies in Tonga: Digicel and U-Call. I had 2 people told me differently which is the better network, so I decided to get Digicel because this is the roaming partner of Globe, and it seemed like a bigger company. There are Digicel Top Up station everywhere. Data internet is quite expensive 36 TOP (757 PHP or 16.82 USD) for 2 Giga of data, but the service is good. While only on 3G, it is not intermittent like in the Philippines! Maybe it’s a small island but so far I’ve not experienced any dead spot.
Island of Pangaimotu
Tongans are very serious about Sabbath. Absolutely no work is done on Sundays, not even laundry nor cooking. Tongan people go to church on Sundays and spend time with families. Many different Christian churches are represented here in Tonga. For people who don’t go to church, you can do a small island resort day trips. They have the Fafa, Atata, and Pangaimotu.
Which we did, we took the 10min dingy ride to the Pangaimotu Island Resort. It’s worth while to see while there. Food and drink has to be bought from the Big Mama resort in the island. Big mama. The sun was out and the water was crystal clear for swimming and snorkeling. The island is so tiny that you can walk around leisurely along its perimeter in about 30 minutes. The scene is beautiful.
Monday was the Emancipation Day, a national holiday in Tonga. So we did a small road trip across the Tongatapu island visiting tourist spots.
The most remarkable for me was Mapu’a Vaea, blowholes in the coral reef in Houma. What a long stretch of coral reef with an amazing fountain show. It’s very hypnotic, I could stay there watching the display the whole day.
There are several other view decks around the island including Thomas Cook Landing and the north west point where you can see breaching whales during the season (we did not). We hang out at a nice beach resort called Liku’alofa for some lunch and swim at their swimming pool in the water, and then finally ending the day at the famous site Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, a sacred kind of structure from the 1200’s at the eastern side of the island.
Here are some more photos during the day.
For Tuesday, I contemplated on going on the boat or go to this “amazing” island everyone is talking about. I have to go to Eua everyone said. Dive in the Cathedral. So I googled it and I decided I should go for it. Infinity doesn’t leave until the 13th. So I hopped on the boat the next day.
Visa To Tonga?
Filipinos needs visa to visit Tonga. Follow the link for info on how to apply Tongan visa in the Philippines.