TONGA – GANGSTERS PARADISE
The view from the plane going into Tongatapu’s tiny airport was charming. The ocean crashed onto the island’s rocky shores where acres of planted palm trees lined the flat grassy earth.
Our minds flitted with tantalizing thoughts of deserted sandy beaches, with them taking there part in the romantic picturesque vista, drinking sweet coconut milk and lapping up the rays. We both got a strange first impression upon landing on the sun drenched runway. There was a definite jolt of the culture shocks as we adjusted away from the highly westernized societies of the last couple of months. Unexpectedly though, voices were traced with an American twang.
We were open to suggestions about a place to stay as we hadn’t booked ahead. Our preference was to check places out on arrival as many of the ones in the guidebook didn’t have a good description.
We wondered if it would be similar to India with its hotel touts surrounding the outside all scouting for business. As expected a couple emerged from the small gathered melee out front, approaching with a picture waving sales pitch.
Julie was a local woman who followed the traditional big build. She had a painted on smiley face, bubbly sales personality and her constant chatter encouraged us to tag along with her even though we were immediately struck at the expense of the rooms.
We just hoped the standard lived up to the price. We lugged our bags into the open doored mini van where Julie pulled herself into the front seat and swivelled around to face the us, beginning to speak tourist info style as the big hulk of a driver drove out of the car park.
“I’ll be your tour guide” Julie enthused, “Anything you want, any trips you wish to take, or tickets you may need for the outer islands, come and see me and I will be able to do everything for you”.
We nodded, while half listening and half peering out around us. It was ironic that the first sight visible and touched upon by Julie was the half built, once to be luxury and now derelict, hotel near the airport. A breeze from the open door of the bus kept us awake as we traversed the mountain less Tongatapu, which means sacred land or sacred south.
The banana plantations and coconut palms were dominant features amongst the foliage that was the general backdrop for such sights as the culture centre over looking a lake, a well heeled golf course, and the island’s prison, all on the approach to Nuku’alofa. Death was a strange affair here with the clusters of cemeteries decorated in bunting and flowers splashing bright colours around the graves while family members were traditionally required to dress only in black for six months with a thatched mat called ‘Ta’ovala’ that wrapped around their waist and legs like a sarong.
“Don’t be afraid” Julie whispered with a mothering smile, “This is just a custom of many generations”.
“That’s unusual but very interesting” we commented, not really knowing what else to say as fear never entered our minds, but instead having a flash of Queen Victoria in her black for years or how people in the west dressed for funerals.
The grand royal tombs situated in an open park were highly noticeable as they entered the main town. Julie busily pointed and commented on different buildings like churches, schools the national arena, which the king dedicated to the queen.
It seemed like the town hung about watching from the dusty streets. There was a rundown feel half like the ghetto with leering youths holding onto their pants by the cracked curbs. It was small scale though and less intimidating for it but the tone was there to be heard.
“You’re lucky you came with us because there are some foreign owned guest houses and they tend to rip you off” Julie smacked indignantly, triumphantly stepping out as we arrived at ‘Sandyboyz Hotel’.
We followed as she showed us the accommodation. They woke up with a jolt, wincing at the sight of a very basic windowless room.
“How much did you say this was again?,” Miko asked to make sure the T$90 Julie quoted was right.
Julie reiterated that it was indeed T$90, approx 26 pounds. Flabbergasted, we didn’t see the logic especially since the room we had just came from in Auckland was only 11pounds more. It was OTT.
“Have you any other rooms?” Miko posed the question as if by wishful thinking Julie would offer a standard of room to match the dollars.
“I’ll show you ‘super deluxe!” she offered.
“Sounds more promising she thought before remembering how some Indians define ‘super deluxe’ and guessing it would be the same here then.
With its ply board walls and lack of natural light the only thing different with this room from the last was the single station TV and ironing board! Too exhausted to argue we accepted the room for one night after agreeing it would be the same price as the other. This really wasn’t a haggling country. The guide book stated that Tongans see bargaining as rude. One wouldn’t mind so much if the quality was available but the rooms were done on the cheap.
“I noticed the bar next door on the way in”, Knox started before asking, “Is it noisy?”
“No, not noisy” Julie replied.
We hoped to get out of the dirty old town the next day and on the agenda was Eua, the rugged mountainous island just a short flight away. Unfortunately the guide book prices were way off the mark as we were quoted excessive fares from Julie as well as other travel agents.
We decided to find our feet on Tongatapu and see how the feel of the islands grabbed us before we shelled out money to go to a place whose beaches appeared too rocky to use.
We were both tired and the noise reverberating from the bar, escalating through late afternoon until the early hours, didn’t help. Even with polyfilla in our ears we would still have heard the vibe pumping from the bar next door and over spilling into the reception area a doorway away from our room.
Maybe this is why costs were extortionate as just a 2 foot walk into the bathroom and there you have it, ones own private dance floor! It’s just a pity that the atmosphere revolved around the same two songs that were played over and over and over and over! An early night wasn’t in order, but we stayed reasonably relaxed as we looked forward to our discovering adventure.
Voices pierced the paper-thin walls at 8 in the morning but the room was so pitch black that we thought it was still night time and the drunkards were staggering back to bed after their evening fill.
We got themselves together quickly eager to move on. Out in reception we mentioned about the racket to Julie, who knowingly hung her head as she proceeded in trying to charge us more than the agreed price. She must have forgotten eh!
The road bumped us on up the west coast. The guidebook was a couple of years old and we thought a few more places might have propped up during the intervening time.
In fact the opposite was true and the taxi driver didn’t seem to be clued in on the situation or certainly wasn’t going to talk about it if he was. He drove us to the first map point that opened up to a lovely ocean scene and a crop of derelict, overgrown buildings crumbling as a testament to a lack of tourists.
The second resort was open but its depilated state almost mirrored the first. The shacks really did need its name sake, ‘The Good Samaritan’, to carry it to be nursed back to health or at least give it a clean.
In the end the only option was to go with ‘Otu’haka Beach Resort’, Julie’s choice, as we found out the owner of the next guest house had been arrested that morning and the only other place at this end of the coast was Aussie owned with prices in Australian dollars.
Out’haka was an ‘improvement’ on the others but the standard rickety chalets were basic, dark, cob-webbed, with holes in the walls and dirty linen that didn’t exactly say much for the word ‘improvement’.
We’ d only been in Tonga a day and a half and already we had discovered that you don’t get much for your money.
At an overpriced T$75 a night we could have cried because at the moment this was not the South Pacific dream we’d expected. At least though we had negotiated the use of the kitchen into the price, although we were still left to question why so much? Was it the island seclusion?
That argument didn’t seem to fit as there was a heavy influence from western society and its dash for cash. The best thing about the ‘resort’ was the gardens that were young, fresh and led down towards the beach that had us wondering would this be the picture of their dream?
After consuming a feeble toast and omelette breakfast that was less substantial yet double the price, over 6 pounds, as the same in the UK. We walked over the lawn passing a sign stating that non-guests had to pay T$2 to go on the ‘public’ beach, and through the palms to check out the view.
It wasn’t the brochure images with rubbish strewn on the coral sands of this narrow sprawl. Unfortunately the ocean wasn’t particularly good either for swimming, as the terrain underwater was heavily influenced by the inner coral reef that protected the land, which made frolicking in the water a no-no because of the many jagged edges. It wasn’t the worst beach on earth, but definitely not tl paradise.
Once settled we took a walk down the lane to organize a few supplies. It became quickly evident that a 30 minute bus ride in to Nuku’alofa would be required the next day.
The villages only shop was an unattended ply-wood box with bars across the counter that looked like ‘Old mother Hubbard’s’ gaff, where the shelves had that austere look. One didn’t get the impression that it had been a bumper day of business.
As we made our way back up, we chatted to the head teacher of the primary school, on the corner of the lane. Max was a friendly and enthusiastic man, who was full of the hidden culture and local knowledge of the island. He was interested to hear where we was from and found common ground in the subject of rugby, Tongans national sporting passion.
Max invited us to speak to his class some time during our stay, and because of our TEFL qualification we were excited at the prospect and opportunity to do this.
We set aside the Monday coming as the optimum day to visit. In the meantime Max offered to give the us a tour of the sights.
For dinner we had to see about buying a meals worth of veggies and rice from Dan, the owner.
He give us a price and hung around while Knox cooked, giving Knox the chance to engage in conversation and find out the costs of goods at the market.
The subtle move paid off as Dan had no option but to give a true reflection of market costs. It was a surprise to discover that the veg sold to us had then doubled in price and when challenged with this fact, Dan backed down reluctantly to reduce the charge.
The tone was set though, adding to the fact that this US educated man didn’t even have the courtesy to introduce himself on first meeting with his paying guests. In deed welcoming was not a good word that would fit the description of the greeting we received.
The next morning we had a damn good lie-in, the only disturbance was the bloody cockerel that doodledoed his heart out, but we conked out again as the rain lashed the alarm clock back into the undergrowth. When we got up and went into town we made straight for the market.
It looked like there was a food shortage as the large warehouse was filled with bare wooden tables that yielded very little fresh produce. Imported New Zealand goods stocked the shelves of the towns supermarkets where prices were driven up. Even with this, we were shocked to find the same bottled water bought in the supermarket was half the price of that sold in our so called resort, which considering tap water wasn’t suitable for drinking meant that 12 bottles of one and half litres bought in town saved us over 30 dollars.
Laden down with food and drink that would enable us to remain self-sufficient throughout the week, we checked the net for Cook Islands accommodation before making our way back to Out’haka.
Our shopping, we found, was to the chagrin of Dan and his wife Loni.
In Tonga the senses rang and tingled, bombarded by the negative vibe that seemed to flow close to the surface barely disguised. There was a very hoodlum feel around the main town as bored teenagers spilt across street corners listening to hip-hop and rap, thumping from ghetto-blasters as they leered from behind dark shades in their loud and brash bling. Sometimes there was that menacing feel as one crossed their path.
A lot of these young adults had already been to the US, or had relatives who worked there, and one could definitely see the influence. It seemed the younger generations enslaved themselves in the pursuit of music, clothing, food, fashions and television of the western world. It would be unfair to say that everyone exuded this feeling as there was courtesy such as people giving their seats up on the bus to the more needy, the lady in the stationary shop who offered Miko a seat while she waited, or Max who had a genuine enthusiasm for life.
Unfortunately disillusionment lethargy, boredom and a desire to be somewhere or something else invaded the atmosphere like a polluting cloud. The burgeoning weight of debt on the locals economy undoubtedly played its part in destabilizing peoples lives but on the flip side of the coin there was plenty of good sized houses, not least the large modern abode of their hosts that sat in full view of the run-down shacks they let, and even a healthy majority of the smaller houses viewed were in a decent state of repair.
The recent tremor of the earth quake also had an un-nerving effect, although no damage was caused and living in the midst of the Pacific ring of fire certainly wasn’t a new phenomenon to the population.
The islands identity crisis rose up in the eyes of us as we invested in the opportunity to discover the kingdom. The strive for monetary wealth nurtured a greedy attitude in some as lives were filed with gluttony.
The example of Otu’haka’s beach resort, where accommodation was made up on the cheap, providing their guests with an atrocious abode that Dan and Loni obviously wouldn’t accept, while at the same time charging excessive rates as they strove to make money fast, was a very negative trait.
The traditional culture was in our line of view but it was being drowned by the saturation of the outside world creating a nation of followers bewitched by a false ideal because the ‘western worlds’ biggest exports are probably the least healthy and fulfilling.
Tongatapu certainly wasn’t poverty stricken like so many other parts of the world, as well fed people, a host of modern churches and the afore mentioned housing with well maintained gardens testified, but many of the population didn’t seem to appreciate their position. It was disappointing to sense this feeling of self pity especially, after experiencing the deprivation and squalid conditions that millions in India have to endure.
“Oh, I feel so full. Do you ever get that when you eat too much you feel sick?” A greasy mouthed Loni complained as she licked the sticky fingers of one hand while rubbing her bloated belly with the other.
She was sat outside the kitchen, idle as she often appeared to be. A whole pig had been roasted on the spit for lunch and it was obvious that she had gorged herself on it through the afternoon, leaving the left over carcass on one of the work benches.
“Okay if I use the kitchen?” enquired Knox, nauseated by the sight of the carnivorous gluttony. He chose a different bench and got on with things. Just as he finished cooking, Dan popped his head through the hatch.
“Did my wife explain to you about the kitchen charge?”
He asked in his Yankee accent attempting to be cool about the situation.
“Yes” Knox answered, his mind easily picking up on Dan’s not so subtle tactics and aiming to nip the attempt to extract more money from us in the bud.
“But we brokered a deal that the charge would be incorporated in the negotiated price of the room for a week”, he fired off sharply.
This simple truth didn’t seem to sink in, as Dan choose to ignore the fact and ploughed ahead.
“$4 would be a fair price don’t you think?” he asked, “Gas is very expensive, your using the Utensils and you don’t buy breakfast or lunch here” Dan drawled on trying to suck Knox into a heated debate. This wasn’t going to happen.
“Look Dan, An agreement is an agreement” Knox cut in putting the facts to him. “We have a deal and you were there when your wife explained that deal so are you now going back on it?”
The retreating path was laid before him as his only course of action and Dan reluctantly backed down as he slunk off scowling and bubbling under the surface.
We wondered why he would even try such a thing and we both felt the taste of our Tongan experience sour a bit more.
Maybe we called Tonga’s number wrong but it all added up to us bringing forward our departure date for the Cook Islands, which would give us only 9 days total stay in Tonga, although before we left, we would try to dig deeper into the culture.
Since arriving in Tonga the weather hadn’t been up to much but on a dry day when the sun chased the clouds, we made our way to the coral beach and had a relaxing time watching mother hen and her chicks pecking at the insects on the grassy sands.
There was a scenic air as the vast Pacific Ocean broke on the reef fifty metres out. It was hard to lie on the white sand heavily mixed with chunks of dead coral as flies buzzed around.
There was an interesting break out about a km beyond the reef’s perimeter, where the relentless deep blue crashed waves, sending spray high into the air for no visible reason.
We presumed there was some land or rocks jutting up just below the surface like a small island.
Miko had a tsunami flashing through her mind.
A ‘friend’ of Loni’s appeared. We had presumed she was local but was actually a Fijian called Mary.
She pointed out the phenomenon in the ocean, stating that she could not remember seeing it before. She shared her concerns about the strange activity in the water and intimated that it might have something to do with the recent earthquakes and tsunamis. The boxing day disaster in the Bay of Bengal/Indian ocean a year and a bit ago was still fresh enough to have people alert, especially as two weeks earlier a quake had happened out to sea in the locality.
Mary told us the story of how she had roused the owners and guests a couple of days ago that a tsunami was coming after hearing bits and pieces of a news report. She neglected to hear that it was a training exercise for an early warning system and the panic she caused was needless.
However later we found the real story from an elderly local gentleman.
“A big reef sits under the surface out there and the locals call it ‘Haka Tabu’ literally meaning “reef, don’t go”.
The man explained how dangerous it was and that it had claimed the lives of fishermen who didn’t heed the warning. The mechanics of it is that water hits the reef from all sides, being sucked in, and forced up several metres in a whooshing spray.
The rest of the afternoon we played with the dog, who Loni and Dan claimed to own. He was a playful pup, whiskey in colour, full of energy and had a fetish for nibbling ankles.
We noticed him before but hadn’t really got close. On this occasion we discovered a nasty gash about 12 cm long grooved into his throat. For now it had scabbed over but it did cause concern so we approached Dan and Loni about it.
Matter of factly Dan responded by saying,
“The dog’s hurt his own self by trying to get free when we tie him up. He’s running wild.”
Unbelievable! Isn’t that what pups do?
‘Sugars’ nerves were wreaked around his owners as he cowered, which was no surprise because of the cruelty.
We asked if Dan had sought attention for the wound and was told that the dog had been thrown into the sea to let the salt water heal it up.
We didn’t like the sound of the treatment and wanted to keep an eye on him.
On the Sunday we met Max at the end of the lane. This was our chance to delve deeper into Tonga’s history.
We loaded up his car and headed for a more ancient look at Tongatapu’s culture, and the archaeological site of Ha’amonga, A’ Maui, near the village of Niutoua. Like a piece from Stonehenge these three limestone slabs created a doorway five meters high.
We listened intently as Max related the story. The twelve ton stone trilithon was built during the region of the 11th Tui’tonga, Tu’itatui, king ‘strike the knee’, in the 13th century. This grand structure acted as a portal to lead one the short distance to Esi Maka, Faa’kinanga, ‘stone to lean against’, that served as the king’s throne, which allowed him to sit with his back to the stone to be safe from assassins that may strike from behind and with a long stick he could fend off attacks from the front. The lush green foliage gave a natural peaceful backdrop, adding presence to this historic man-made structure.
Other than natural marvels, Tonga ’s history was a lot more modern and, even with its undoubtedly Polynesian style, life had been heavily influenced by European ideals.
In 1773 near the village of Pelehake, Captain Cook landed by the site of a great banyan tree. It was called Malu Malu, ‘Afuli Langi’, because its tree spread all the way to the ocean giving such a thick cover that when people stood under it the branches prevented them from seeing the sky.
Max pointed out the tree that grew there now and explained, that although big, this was just an off-shoot of the original. This landing left a profound mark on the development of Tonga and it was now on the world map, which led to the introduction of Christianity and a whole new way of life. It was Cook who gave the name the Friendly Islands.
It was time to fast forward to the last 150 years and view a small part of the Royal family’s dynasty. The sick king, ‘Taufa’ahau Tapou IV’, wasn’t in residence at the royal palace, as he was in hospital in New Zealand, but they took a ‘not too close’ look at his residency. It certainly was not on the grand scale of Buckingham Palace but this colonial mansion still spoke of wealth and was more befitting for the islands kingdom. The building stood out with its tower in the middle and the colouring of an ash surrounding veranda and red roof.
The large gardens gave it that stately air with the majestic gazebo proudly sitting out front. One couldn’t get in to investigate more and privacy was ensured by a tighter security caused by certain pro-democratic protests over more recent times. The royal tombs also within limits of Nuku’alofa could only be viewed from the surrounding iron fence, sat in the middle of its large square lawn. A huge concrete plinth supported the structures of several graves and give prominence from all angles as people passed through their daily routines. It took traditional Polynesian clothing to get past the gates but it was easy to see these tombs, which date back to the late 1800’s, from the roadside.
On the way back to Otu’haka, Max talked spiritedly of looking forward to the next day when we would speak to his class. We had prepared a plan that would fill an hour with the kids to tell them who we were, where we were from, and where we travelled to.
Max suddenly slowed the car to point into the branches of a few large trees that sat at the back of a cemetery. Hanging upside down was a troop of very familiar creatures.
“Flying foxes”, Max informed. But what ever name you give them Miko knew they were ‘just bats’ and her skin crawled as she slid down the back seat.
It had been a pleasant informative day that had opened our eyes to a deeper side of Tonga and we were happy that this genuine man had been their guide. It was all set for us to call into the school after the beach, the next day.
We found we lay-in a lot here. It was difficult to get up in the place and we kind of had the hope to pass the time quickly, which wasn’t good, as we were on our holidays and every moment should be savoured.
There was always an underlying question of what kind of proprietors would make their guests feel this way?
This is the hospitality industry, not the hostility industry! Different screaming matches could be heard from the house, including one were Dan cursed his mother for trimming his son’s hair. It was evident that Dan had a temper as he pushed his weight around like a bossy toddler.
The atmosphere around was drab and gloomy, even with the respite at the beach. We were restless like the flies that buzzed around us as we lay contemplating life.
What lesson had to be learned here in Tonga? One of the places we saved dam hard to get to. Hopes of paradise had been dashed, leaving an intense disappointment, yet if family and friends heard us back in the UK, they’d probably call them ungrateful so and so’s but we did not honestly think we were.
Was it wrong for us not to accept mediocracy and be true to our feelings?
Monday morning saw ourselves in town to tie-up a few loose ends. A positive reply from Vara’s in the Cook Islands assured us of somewhere to lay our hats for at least a couple of days on arrival, as well as a free pick up from the airport.
Wicked Campers were silent but that wasn’t a surprise.
We fed our stomachs with a delicious breakfast in a European café called ‘Friends’, which had a smart but relaxed feel.
The next night would be our last, so we sought out ‘Nerima Lodge’, to leave us half way to the airport for the flight to the Cooks.
Instantly we could see it was a lot fresher as the owner showed us around, with her fatty dog following.
The guesthouse was simple but spotless and the friendly welcome of being invited to stay for a spot of lunch made a refreshing change, though it was ironic that this lady owner was a Tonganised Japanese.
Happy with our successful morning we hopped on the bus in good time to get back for the school talk. It turned out to be the wrong one, even though we had said our destination to the driver, and it stopped about halfway to were we needed to go.
We had no choice but to get off and wait for another as it turned back in the direction of town. It was quite a number of miles to Otu’haka so walking wasn’t an option. We just hoped another bus would come within the half hour.
A nice old Tongan man offered us a seat on the wooden bench outside his tiny shop, chatting while introducing his three loyal dogs.
Conversation brought us to the price of accommodation and he informed us that a house could be rented in Tonga for T$50 a week. He shook his head and laughed when we told him what we were paying.
“75 dollars a night for a dirty, basic hole!”
With 45minutes gone, and still no sign of a bus, we realized, that we were already late for the talk. With no phones, we had no option but to wait.
The gentleman continued on, proudly explaining that he had been to New Zealand, Australia and the US on his travels, while most of his family now lived in New Zealand. He was happy to stay in Tonga though, as he didn’t like the rushing around but rather preferred the sedate pace of life that his homeland offered.
It was nearly an hour and half before we were back on a bus and on our way to Otu’haka. School was out when we arrived and we were extremely disappointed, as we told Max of our hassles, to have missed the opportunity we felt eager to take.
Sugar, Otu’haka Beach Resorts, one saving grace, was causing the us more and more concern.
The wee guy was only a few months old, like a boxer, he was very boisterous yet lovable. His ‘naughty’ behaviour, such as pulling clothes off the line, put him further in the bad books of Dan and Loni who spent too much time lazing around rather than giving him a little bit of training. He hated being tied up on the short rope and being well-fed was no consolation to his lack of freedom.
For the first few days of our stay Sugar had been free and running around like a mad banshee and thankfully his throat was getting a rest.
He was a hard spirit to keep down, but his injury and treatment would have Animal Rescue teams the world over, confiscating the dog and bringing litigation against the owners. We had been appalled by the callousness shown by Dan.
For the next couple of days this normally sociable canine was not about. As we returned through the quiet resort to the shack, we found him behind the house tied to a tree going stir crazy. This was his continuous prison as punishment for pulling washing off the line.
It was a heartbreaking as the dog would whimper and cry getting no attention from his supposed owners. His tail beat steadily and excitedly as we petted and talked to him.
A rubber hose had been cut and placed over the rope to ease the injury and this seemed the only concern that was shown by Dan and Loni.
On our last night at the resort a storm raged outside with loud wind howling and rain lashing for many hours. We were worried about our canine friend. In the morning the forlorn pup was found at the end of his tether, soaked, shaking and pie-eyed as we approached. He’d been out in the open all night and was just left to take the brunt of the weather. His wee tail wagged and he docily rolled over for us to pet him. We shook our head at the abomination before heading to get a shower.
This was all too much for Miko to bare and she went to rap on the owners door. Loni was sitting as usual watching TV, and she didn’t get up at first until Miko directed that she come out and talk.
She explained about her dislike of what they were doing to Sugar but Loni just ran off excuses about how it was the Tongan way.
“Sugar is naughty”, “I don’t have time” Blah, Blah, Blah. “It’s only a dog!”
It became clear that they’d got Sugar for their toddler and now they didn’t want to care for him because he was too much trouble. She went and got her power tripper hubby, Dan and he tried to be smart and say he’d release Sugar later.
“I don’t trust you to do that, Dan” Miko told him outright.
The fireworks sparked and one could see Dan was finding it difficult to remain in control. His true colours showed through as that famous temper of his rose to the surface.
Loni started by saying, “Ah, sure we eat dogs in Tonga!” before Dan hurled abuse at the top of his lungs.
“Don’t go near that fucking dog, it’s my dog and I’ll treat him how I want. I’ll get the police if you fucking touch it.” He raged.
“I gave you fucking people good discount, get out of my fucking face and off my fucking property!” he stormed before slamming the door in Miko’s face.
She was aghast at his fury but expected nothing less from him and she knew she’d been right to defend Sugar. She marched back with the sound of Dan’s ranting and raving in the distance to convey the discussion with Knox.
We were both glad when the taxi came to exit us out of the horrible place. Dolour swept through us as we watched Sugar trying to dig his way free from his imprisoned state.
“Did you have a good holiday?” the taxi driver asked.
If it hadn’t been for Sugar we would have laughed.
“No!” we echoed as he pulled out to the mocking of Loni and her cronies. The friendly Islands had turned out less so and we were glad we only had one more night before taking the merciful flight out of there.
It was a pity the attitude of the resort stunk but we were positive in our dealings, not letting the rudeness get them down, and pushed ahead with the travels.
It really wasn’t a moment too soon, getting out and heading back to Nuku’alofa, where we stepped into a much more homely atmosphere with a pleasant greeting from Naoka and her friend Manisa.
We tired the ears off our hosts concerning our disastrous Otu’haka Beach Resort story over some tea and toast. Naoka was astounded by the behaviour but it wasn’t the first time, by far, that bad reports had come out of the place. She laughed out loud in an “I don’t believe it” sense when we told them our room was never cleaned and how Dan had complained about using his ‘expensive’ gas and utensils.
Naoka was in hysterics, as she told us gas was so cheap and the bottle she had for her guests in the kitchen upstairs usually lasted for a whole year!
She empathized with our position and cooked up a plan that we should write to her friend the Hon. Fineasi Funiki, Minister for Tourism in Tonga. While also giving us the website address for the local newspaper.
With a nice crisp piece of A4 and in our best handwriting, we aired the complaint of our stay along with our concern for Sugar, that Naoka could personally hand deliver to him at a meeting she was to attend.
Closing them down would be good but most of all we wanted Sugar to be saved from the hell he had the misfortune to be in.
This was an e-mail sent to the local newspaper that enclosed a copy of the letter sent to the Toursim Minister.
To Whom it may concern,
I have enclosed a letter we sent to the Ministry of Tourism which you may find of interest. It is about our experience in Tonga, and our thoughts about some accommodation in the area. We would be interested to here your thoughts on the matter.
We have just spent a vacation in Tonga and unfortunately the experience prompted us to get an earlier flight out of the kingdom.
We spent our first night at Sandyboyz Motel and one night was enough. The standard was low and the noise level high (both from the bar and reception). We were also told by ‘Julie’, the tour guide who picked us up at the airport, that the foreign guest house owners charged too much and had a low level of room standard. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t until our final night at Nerima Lodge that we found the opposite to be true.
We spent a week at Otuhaki Beach resort. I understand the prices being left to the individual owners of guest houses but basic standards of accommodation should be adhered to. The welcome at Otuhaki was cold and unfriendly from the start and the accommodation wasn’t of a good standard of cleanliness. I found the bed and its linen to have a clear smell of damp and mustiness, and cockroaches and mice were a common sight in the room. The owners kept trying to ask more money even after we’d reached an agreement on price. This made our stay uncomfortable and we were glad to leave. We had to endure 7 nights. This would have been shorter if other accommodation along the beaches, of a better standard, was available.
We were also upset by the owners cruelty being shown to ‘their’ young dog, which was tied up day and night. The dog was distressed, had a gash on his neck and needed care and attention . When we approached to discuss this matter and how they treated the dog, we were shouted at and told, (i quote) “Not to go near the f**king dog”, and to “get of his f**king property”. We were shocked by his temper and it tainted our view of Tonga even more.
I would not recommend this resort to tourists and it puts Tonga in a very bad light. It doesn’t encourage people to come back and therefore actively discourages tourism growth within the nation.
Knox Moore and Miko Sun