Monday, July 21, 2014

First Impression of Tonga

This is just a rolling observation report - so bear with me. Tonga seems to be a fairly sedate place. It reminds me very much of a rural town in the 1950s.

By right it should attract the same number of tourist as Fiji - but it scarcely brings in 1/5 of Fiji's revenue.h

There seems to be a lack of direction in Tonga. I think people here ... Singaporeans would say "sleepwalking". Maybe the inertia is due to the laidback island culture fostered by a strong hold of the Christian religion which does foster a tendency towards fatalism. ie. "whatever will be will be" and the end result nothing happens.

There are not many businesses operating here in Tongatapu. There are no spas, therapeutic massage centres catering for tourists etc.. just about a few generic cafes and the better restaurants are run by hotels. There should at least be one traditional massage centre - in the past Tonga had a tradition of remedial massage therapiesto aid in sleep. But nothing. Even the local hotel employs a Chinese national to be a masseur.

The "its ok" mentality extends to cleanliness as well. What I don't understand is why there is so much trash lying everywhere. Not just alcohol bottles, confectionary packaging, plastic containers, aluminium soft drink cans... the drains are over filled with natural waste, mud, plant debris... there are also sunken ships in the harbor, rusting hulks that haven't sailed for years are laid up by the wharf rusting away, a massive long barge weighing thousands of tons lies sunk at its mooring. Can't they see that it just clutters the harbor for visiting ships?

Meanwhile the domestic Tongan airline is using non-approved FAA planes - which are also non insurable. Apparently its a gift from a foreign government but no one seems to have thought about the astronomical cost in servicing the planes.

But the ice-cream here is great - imported from NZ and cheap.

Fish is also very cheap. Tuna, Mahi-mahi, billfish, sailfish abound in these waters. However there are signs of overfishing - the fish stock is getting sorely depleted and the markets here are selling smaller fishes each year.

Surprisingly the main telecom office has high speed fibreoptic internet rated at 2mb a second. I managed to clock 1mb/second download. And it cost US$2 an hour - unlimited data. However the office has a plague of mosquitoes... they are everywhere!!!

But the people are friendly, pleasant - they remind me of the Malays. They have an affable quality about themselves. A lot of the buildings resemble old Malaya too - wooden built houses, wide verandas.

One other thing I found disappointing.The quality of the crops here are limited - they have coconut, sour mandarins, taro, tapioca, giant sweet potato, passion fruit, pumpkin, pawpaw (an inferior papaya)... I was a bit sad to not see more variety - like mangosteens, dokoo/longkong, Malaysian papaya. rumbutans, more varieties of sweet potatoes... For this you can't blame the local populace who have not traveled. However, the govt officials - esp the leaders and their huge entourages - who have traveled far and wide should be aware of the outside world and should do more.

I don't see why more (tropical) crops aren't being planted here - its something the govt should be doing more to help improve the lives of its citizens.

That's all for now.

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