Tonga: Arrival

It’s finally time for Tonga! I’ve been dying to go to some of the pacific islands since moving to New Zealand, so when my boyfriend and I found flights for $380NZD (250USD) return, we had to jump on it.

Since my last post I’ve finished my most recent contract with Auckland Council and started a new full time job which is more related to marketing. Woop woop! I also get free train rides which is baller. I’m not just saying this because my new boss has the link to my blog and will most likely see this. If you’re reading this Mary….. heyyyy!

We arrive at the airport way too early. I’m a little nervous about travelling with my UK passport and Canadian accent, as I’ve been told you are supposed to carry both passports at all times. My Canadian passport is currently in a pile somewhere in Wellington, waiting to process my NZ visa extension, so I had to come with just the UK.

Somehow going through security Ches doesn’t hand his declaration card to the right person, and the officer meant to be checking our boarding passes makes a joke about making him walk back to hand it in (not an absurd request). I then try to offer up our electronic boarding passes and he just chuckles and waves us through. Kiwi security cracks me up.

Once we’re at the gate our names crackle through the loud speaker.

Am I about to be deported?

No, now they want to see our boarding passes. Apparently we and another 3 passengers were the only 5 that checked in online. I’m confused, but ok.

We board a mostly-empty plane, and yet there’s a woman whose seat is right next to ours. She is definitely wearing a necklace made of chocolate bars. I don’t ask why.

I fall asleep almost immediately, but Ches stays awake and is offered snack after snack after snack by this adorable woman. He eventually accepts a coffee cake, but declines the tomato sauce that is offered with it.

She is later seen dipping her sandwich in into her coffee. I’m disappointed that I slept through this.

We arrive at Fua’atamotu International Airport, where there is an outdoor viewing deck for family and friends awaiting the arrival of their loved ones – all shouting, singing, and waving as we approach the airport. The airport which looks more like an elaborate shed than an international connection point.

Our first mission is to find an ATM. I convinced Chesney it would be better than exchanging our money in New Zealand before we left …. but now I’m not entirely sure there’s an ATM at this airport at all. The arrivals and departures gates are side by side. I don’t know what I expected really, but now I’m worried we won’t be able to pay for the shuttle into town.

Chesney, having been secretly skeptical of my claim that we’d be able to find an ATM immediately, brought 25NZD with him. Rude, but also thank you cause we need it.

It should be noted that there is virtually no information about Tonga on the internet. Some of the tourism websites don’t look like they’ve been updated since 2003, and I only found a couple useful blog posts before getting here. I read something about a shuttle for 20TOP per person (13NZD, 9USD), and am determined to find that instead of forking out for a cab.

On our quest to find the currency exchange desk we find….an ATM. HA! Eat your $25.

We pull some pa’aanga (TOP is the short form yet the currency is called pa’aanga. Don’t ask I don’t know) and go to find this shuttle. It becomes apparent quite quickly that the shuttles only come if you’ve arranged one in advance. We’ve come in at 8pm which is the last flight to arrive. A taxi driver calls our hostel and gives me the phone to prove we have no choice but to catch a ride in a car, and charges us 40TOP (26 NZD, 18USD). So basically, the cost of the non-existent shuttle. Oh. True.

He gets us safely to our hostel where we are greeted by a bubbly young woman who’s got to be about 20. She lets us settle in and gives us a tour, and it becomes clear we are the only people staying here tonight. She offers to drive us into town to get some dinner because she’s so lovely, and we have no idea where we are. She also gives us a spare Tongan SIM card for my phone so we can call a cab later. Bless her.

She drops us on “the strip” which seems to be about 4 or 5 bars long. 2 of them are empty clubs blasting beats at full volume; one even has a visible stripper pole.

We opt to eat at a quieter restaurant, but have allowed ourselves to deviate from the budget and sit down somewhere nice. It’s our first night and we want to celebrate! Two of your largest local beers please! For dinner we order bbq ribs and ota ika, a classic Tongan dish. It’s raw fish in coconut milk with some mild chillies and what I assume are finely chopped red and green peppers. A little like ceviche, really. Needless to say it’s all delicious.

We decide to wander down this “strip” and have another beer. For lack of choice and also because it’s hilarious, we sit down in a smaller bar with loud music and even louder lights. When I say loud music though I don’t mean club beats. I’m talkin’ Barry Manalow, and some slow reggae island vibes. The lights do not match. I’m epileptic and not effected by flashing lights….but tonight I might be. Hell, Chesney may have a seizure it’s so extreme. We can barely hear each other but sit outside enjoying out bottles of Ikale: “the first beer in the world, every day”, as the slogan reads.

The bar bathroom doesn’t have a toilet seat, or a lock on the door, BUT, it has a charging outlet in the stall. So it’s cool.

We call a taxi and pay 7TOP to get home (5NZD, 3USD)

I’ve been here for 3 hours and I already love it.

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