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There is absolutely nothing going on in Tonga on a Sunday, and from what I saw, not much on any other days either. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the Lonely Planet introduction before my arrival: “Forget any notions of ‘fancy’ tourist service; everything here is authentic and subservient to religion. There’s nothing flash, no ‘Western comforts’, and everything can wait until tomorrow.” Of course, none of this would have bothered me if, for example, 1:) I could get something to eat on a Sunday (it was no thanks to Tonga that in the end, I didn’t go hungry) and 2:) if they could find some better way than writing an email to me on Saturday evening, in this country without internet, to tell me that my Monday morning flight had been rescheduled from 10 am to 6 am. 3:) If my ‘dear, sweet, beloved’ the telephone hadn’t chosen this precise country to one again play up on me (I don’t think Filipino LCD screens are the best quality, so now my new LCD screen was dying, just like the last one). Anyhow, I got the message at last and headed out to the airport at dawn on Monday morning. It was still dark, and the road to the airport wasn’t even illuminated. Confidence-inspiring. When I got there the airport still wasn’t open, though check-in should theoretically have started. Our flight, when we, at last, took off, held a grand total of five passengers, plus one stewardess and the two pilots. I was glad they switched the landing lights on because the runway can’t have been more than one kilometer long, right at the edge of the island. (2018)”

Practicals

Transport

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Tonga - oldie car - Elter photo

Accomodation

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Polynesia - Tonga - Nuku'alofa - Loumaile Lodge - Elter photo

Shopping

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Oceania - Polynesia - Tonga - souvenirs - Elter photo

Background

Destination in brief

Size: 747 km² (288.4 mi²)

Population (in 2020): 106,000

Capital city: Nuku'alofa

Official language: Tongan and English

Religions: 99% Christians (65% Protestant) 

Political system: hereditary constitutional monarchy - Tupou VI is the current king (2020)

Currency: Tongan paʻanga (TOP)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 770 USD

Most common surname: Latu

Geography

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Polynesia - Tonga - rocks - Elter photo

Climate

“I was there in January, which is the middle of summer, so it’s the hottest month. The average temperature is 28 degrees, and in the evening it doesn't go much below 22 degrees. Winter is, on average, 3 degrees ‘cooler.’ Temperatures warmer than 32 degrees or lower than 10 degrees have never been measured in the country, which appears very attractive at first glance. Here, however, there is a big BUT! It is as follows: the average humidity levels are is so high that they sap you of all energy. Especially if you’re a northern type like me. In practice, this meant that after the first shower my towel never dried out, and I had to change my soaked clothes several times a day. A fair question might be, why didn’t I wash my clothes? Well, it would have cost about ten dollars in the hostel for washing and drying one (!) batch of clothes. No thanks.” (2017)


History

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Polynesia - South Pacific - Tonga - Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon - ,,Stonehenge of the Pacific" - Elter photo

Tonga - Nuku'alofa - Mala'ekula (Tongan Royal Tombs) - Elter photo

Tonga - a memorial of the landing of Captain James Cook in 1777 - Elter photo

Polynesia - Tonga - deceased king Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. (1918-2006) - Elter photo

Nowadays

 According to an international survey, Tonga is one of the most corrupt countries in the world (2019).

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“On Sunday morning, something unprecedented took place: we went to Sunday Mass. Since everything stops on Sundays – the shops are not open, work is prohibited by law – we had to follow local traditions. In the morning, the great and small of the island put on their Sunday best and go to church. That is true also of rulers, prime ministers, and ministers. The most devout sit at the front, but in the back rows, there was a lot of furious Facebook scrolling. But, like experienced students, they knew when the standing and sitting parts were coming, and when to stuff their phones into their back pockets. The church is also the center of community life here, and after Mass, real-life Facebook began, as the old women enthusiastically shared the latest rumors. Meanwhile, the little kids waited with great excitement for the king to leave, and when that was done, they ran after his car, waving.” (2017)


Polynesia - Tonga - ships - Elter photo

People

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Polynesia - Tonga - lady - Elter photo

Polynesia - Tonga - head dress - Elter photo

Polynesia - Tonga - schoolgirls in church - Elter photo

Tonga - Bible reading in a Methodist church - y.m. photo

Attractions

Nuku'alofa

Oceania - Tonga - Nuku'alofa - wooden Royal Palace built in 1867 - Elter photo

Tonga - Nuku'alofa - Free Church (yes, that is its name), damaged by Cyclone Gita (2018) - The church is for followers (including the king) of the Free Church, a religious denomination of Methodist extraction - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Tonga - Nuku'alofa - Royal Tombs (fenced off) - Viktor Ohotin's photo

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