The Land Where Time Begins

It’s the first day of 2015 and what better way to celebrate the new year than to post pictures of my recent trip to Tonga. What’s the relevance of the New Year and Tonga, you may ask. Well, according to timeanddate.com and worldtimezone.com, Tonga is one of the countries that greets the New Year before the rest of the world. The first ones to usher in 2015 are Samoa and Kiribati (Christmas Island), followed by Chatham Islands and parts of New Zealand. Tonga falls in the third group, together with more parts of New Zealand (Wellington) and Fiji. I guess that’s why The Kingdom of Tonga is also known as “The Land Where Time Begins“.

Anyway, I flew into Tonga on the evening of the 27th of December (Saturday) and stayed until midday of the 30th of December (Tuesday). Yes, it was an extremely brief visit but I saw enough of the island to whet my appetite and now I’m wanting to go back again sometime later this year or perhaps next year.

General Merchandise Store on Saturday night
General Merchandise Store on Saturday night

Tonga is such a lovely place. The weather is warm without being humid, the breeze is refreshing, the people are oh so friendly, the food is sumptuous and the scenery is just divine! As I said, I arrived on Saturday evening so, sadly, I wasn’t able to see much of the island on that evening. I was told, while we (meaning me and the Siufangas, my friends whom I stayed with) were on the road, that in Tonga, businesses stop operating on Sundays. Nothing – absolutely nothing, not even sidewalk vendors, would work on Sunday because Sunday is a day of rest and a day for the family. People would go to church and then have lunch with their family. Bakeries, however, start selling bread at midday – but they won’t open earlier than that.

The following day, after feasting on pineapples, papayas and cream crackers with margarine and Marmite for breakfast, we went on our way and explored the island of Tongatapu. While driving around, the Siufangas pointed out that the speed limit is either 50 or 70 and that the island’s roads have absolutely no traffic lights. Drivers just know when to give way to another. They also said that not even buses run on Sunday and, since buses are owned by private individuals, they don’t follow a schedule. If the bus driver feels like having a two-hour lunch break, then he will have a two-hour lunch break. No questions asked (and the commuters understand this, they just find other means of transport).

We went to the city centre, then drove to the Royal Palace (even saw the King’s car and security detail leave for church), then we went to see the Blowholes (more on that on another post). The Siufangas also brought me to the Bat Sanctuary, we visited a few three-tiered tombs, dropped by the landing place of James Cook, and mysterious stone monument (ancient time telling device) before we headed off to ‘Oholei for a buffet lunch (14 courses, all of them were yummy!). We felt so exhausted and full after lunch we went back home afterwards. To make up for the horrendously big meal, we had a very light supper. 🙂

The following day, Monday, the Siufangas took me to the market so I could buy a couple of tupenus and “Tonga t-shirts”. Then we went back home to prepare for the name-sake dinner that the Siufangas were hosting that evening for three kids who were named after them. After a light lunch (we were making sure we had room in our tummy for dinner) we went to Keleti Beach for a dip. We were supposed to swim for an hour but I think we stayed on for two. The sand was so fine, the water was clear and … everything was just perfect. It was hard to leave! We had to, of course, because we still had to prepare food for dinner and that we did.

Photos of the last two full days below:

On Tuesday, I only had time to have breakfast and freshen up as we had to be at the airport at midday. I felt sad about leaving so soon because I knew there was still so much I haven’t seen but … since Tonga is just a 3-hour plane ride from Auckland, I’m sure I’ll be able to go back in the near future.

Fua'amotu International Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga
Fua’amotu International Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga

Malo ‘Aupito Tonga! Until we meet again!

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