A little history and geography for those that aren't too sure where Tonga is. Tonga is the sole remaining kingdom in Polynesia. It is located between Fiji in the west and the Cook Islands to the east, with Samoa to the north and New Zealand to the south. Complete independence came in 1970 after years of various levels of association with Britain. There are about 170 islands with 134 of them uninhabited. Tonga is made up of 4 island groups starting from north to south: Niua group, Vava’u group, Ha Pai group and Tongatapu group, where the capital is. So far we’ve only explored the Vava’u area. New Zealand and US troops were stationed in Tongatapu during World War II and Tongans fought along side the Kiwis in the war. They have all the modern amenities here, ATMs and very slow Internet.
The main town in Vava’u is Neiafu. Its the only place with stores. The Tongans you meet are friendly and seem to work in a lot of the establishments and run a nice vegetable market 6 days a week. Most of the small businesses seem to be owned by Chinese (the grocery stores) and by-ex-pats from NZ, Australia, US and Germany (everything else – restaurants, hotels, tour companies).
A local man walking down the street and a woman walking up with the traditional dress that includes a pandanus leaf woven mat, called a ta’ovala, worn wrapped around the waist.
This is the vaka Gaualofa, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe. This one is from Samoa and has a female Tongan captain. Seven of these vakas were built and sailed all over Polynesia and as far east as San Francisco to demonstrate the old Polynesian navigator’s ways. If you get a chance, look up the documentary film Te Mana o Te Moana – The Pacific Voyagers that covers their passages. It’s well done. More info here: pacificvoyagers.org