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Sep 05
What will you find in Tonga?


The Kingdom of Tonga is the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow.

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First of all, we found the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel. Situated on the Waterfront in Nuku'alofa with 122 guest rooms. We enjoyed lunch around the pool.

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The Visitors Information Centre is located 1 block from the Tanoa Dateline Hotel and well worth a visit. We saw all the town sights by completing their recommended 2-hour walk. These sights included the Convention Centre, Parliament, Churches, the Market and the Government Ministries. This poster is at the Ministry of Finance building. Tonga is a Kingdom, and the King is featured on many billboards.

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The Royal Palace is the official residence of the King Tonga. Nuku'alofa's white Victorian wooden Palace was erected in 1867. The Palace is not generally opened to the public. The present King George VI and his family do not live at the Palace. Instead, it is used for official functions and to house the Royal Archives.

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A close up of the palace gates.

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Mala'e Kula is the area of the Royal Tombs. King George Tupou I, was the first to be buried here in 1893.

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Churches are everywhere. Wesleyan, Catholic, Mormon. This is the Free Church of Tonga, opposite the Royal Tombs.

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This is the Catholic Church. On Sundays, everything in Nuku'alofa is closed. Even taxis don't operate. We went to the Wesleyan Church at Nukunuku village. The service lasted over 1 hour and was all in Tongan. The singing was amazing. We were acknowledged as guests and everyone shook our hand at the end of the service. A very special morning.

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A typical shop. There are no department stores. The Langafonua Handicraft Centre was well worth a visit. It sold traditional tapa cloth, baskets and local wood carvings. The Talamahu open fresh produce market is also a must see. We marvelled at the fruits and vegetables and enjoyed the taste of great local coffee

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Don't miss a Wednesday or Friday evening tour at Oholei. This tour runs from 5:30 - 10:30 pm and includes transfers, dinner and a show. Total cost was $55.

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Fafa resort, Tonga is environmentally friendly and extremely well run. Activities on the island include bush walks, snorkelling, kayaking, feeding the parrots, massages and just relaxing. The resort has it's own bar and library.

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Where the buffet menu was served at Oholei. Food was cooked in an underground oven on heated rocks and included sucking pig, fresh fish with coconut cream, yams and taro, seaweed and a range of other delicious delicacies.

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The dining area at Oholei. There was sand on the floor, banana leaves as table cloths and banana stems were used for plates. These were later fed to the pigs.

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The entertainment after dinner at Oholei was in the cave next door to the dining area on the beach. There were traditional Tongan dancers and men performing a fire show. A 6-year-old boy even participated in the fire dancing.

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The blowholes stretch 5 km along the coast near the village of Houma.

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The blowholes are known as Mapu 'a Vaea. They are so powerful they really are spectacular.

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The blowholes were formed as the coral limestone was eroded over time by the seawater, it created cavities through which the water bursts. The water can reach heights of around 30 metres due to the pressure difference between the seawater and the air within the cavity.

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It is said that the Tongan name Mapu 'a Vaea came from an ancient chief who mediated here for hours. It is a popular place to be at sunset and great that they haven't yet developed an entry fee.

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Our 2 bedroom fale on Fafa Island. Each of the 13 guest fales are just steps from the beach and are located separately to each other ensuring privacy.

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Our beach chairs at the end of our garden at Fafa. So relaxing and very tranquil, I can just picture myself back there now.

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This is the bushwalking track on the 18-acre palm covered atoll of Fafa.

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Many Tongan families have their own piece of land that they refer to as their bush. On this land, they companion plant many vegetables. The giant taro is planted to break up the soil. The soil is then hoed into mounds and yams are planted. Sticks are used to lift the yam runners off the ground. It is all very clever and productive. The vegetable stalls all around the island are amazing.

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Samantha the masseuse travelling over to Fafa. Massage is one of the relaxing activities that can be enjoyed on the island.

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Fafa's transport boat that is used to ferry guests to and from the island. The island is 7 km from Nuku'alofa. The ride takes anytime between 20 minutes to 1 1/4 hours if the tide is low.

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Vuna Wharf at Nuku'alofa. Each morning fishermen bring their catch to Tu'imatamoana Fish Market which is located at this wharf.

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Deck in front of the open-air restaurant at Fafa resort. If the tide is high you can overwater dine on this deck.

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Bust of King George IV at Tupou College

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Church Hall at Tupou College. This is an all-boys school founded by Dr Moulton in 1866.

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This is the honour roll from 1902, inside the Church Hall at Tupou College. Steve that I visited in Tonga, has his great-grandfather on the list, his name was Molitoni Finau.

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Fafa Island Resort is a 4-star property located on an 18-acre palm covered private island. The island is owned by a German family. 

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Fafa island is surrounded by a clear turquoise lagoon and white sandy beaches.

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Maroon Shining Parrot, also known as Kata Koki. These birds were introduced from Fiji. Eight of them nest on Fafa Island .

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Purple swamphen. Our messy thief. We left our Fafa welcome coconut drinks on our veranda table to the delight of this hen, who then pooped all over our table.

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The major tourist attraction for Tonga is swimming with whales which takes place between July and October when the mother whales come into these waters to calve.
A maximum group of 8 swimmers are taken in a boat 12 km from Nuku'alofa before being fitted with wetsuits and flippers. The search then begins for a tail or a squirt of water to find a whale and her calf. Once the boat gets within 10 meters of the whale, swimmers are instructed to roll into the water and swim beside the whale. The huge calf usually swims above the cow. Each swim lasts around 5 minutes. This procedure continues throughout the day. On our day tour, we had 8 swims as well as lunch on a deserted island. 

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Jul 25
Vanuatu

​Fire Dancing

Flaming fire sticks were the centre of attraction at the Coconut Palms Resort for Gai and Georgina. 

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They totally enjoyed their exciting entertainment free, with their meal at the resort. These Fire dancing groups regularly perform at many of the resorts at Port Vila, and are not to be missed!

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Pango School

Pango is a village with over 2000 residents on the South Eastern Peninsular of Efate.

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These pictures show the local school and their play equipment.

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Swimming in Vanuatu

Most beaches in Vanuatu do not have lifeguards, however, Gai found this beach on Efate at Pango that does.

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There are plenty of water sports to keep you busy, on your holiday. You can swim, snorkel, dive, kayak or surf. The water temperature stays warm all year, and there are the most amazing coloured fish and coral to see.

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Some precautions to be aware of when swimming in Vanuatu:

  • Sharks are not common; however, they have been spotted around the main island of Efate
  • Sea Snakes should be avoided; Vanuatu visitor's guide states they are non-poison and cannot open their mouth wide enough to bite, however, they are not willing to test the theory
  • African Snails are very pretty, but should not be picked up as they have toxic slime
  • Reef shoes are also advised to avoid coral cuts and urchins
  • Finally, don't forget the sunscreen! According to the Vanuatu Visitors guide if you do become sunburnt, women may find moisturiser beneficial, however, they suggest men try Viagra, to keep the sheets off at night.


We have found Vanuatu one of the most beautiful and relaxing places to visit and would love to hear about your experiences.


Jul 20
Vanuatu

Ekasup Cultural Village

Gai and her beautiful granddaughter took off to Vanuatu in April 2017, to relax and enjoy a peaceful holiday, but most importantly so Gai could come back and tell you all about what experiences are best suited to what you are looking for in your next holiday. 

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Awarded Vanuatu's Best tourist attraction for two consecutive years, Ekasup Cultural Village is situated only 10 mins drive from Port Vila. Upon arrival to Ekasup Village, there is a short walk through the tropical forest, the Chief welcomes you to the village in his native costume. Georgina had a special greeting and photo time that you can have too. 

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The tour took about 2 hours to complete and during this time you gain an insight into the cultural and traditional systems of Melanesia. This covers how they use native products for medicine, and how food is caught and then preserved without modern aids such as electricity.​

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One of the particular talks were about the rules of the Village, you will soon discover what a different world we live compared to this village. Gai thinks this is definitely well worth going to experience this for yourself.​

Jun 10
Eating out in Vila

The restaurants in Vila are arguably as good if not better than Australian dining. Poulet fish, a kind of red snapper with very white flesh without many bones is a local specialty and delicious. We enjoyed this for dinner at Paradise Cove. These fish had just been caught off shore by local fishermen.

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​Coconut crabs are a species of terrestrial hermit crab. They have an acute sense of smell and feed on coconut palm leaves. Several restaurants in Vila have ban them from their menu in order to conserve them. However these were still on the menu at Café Du Village. We did not try them as from previous experience they are bland, usually covered with lots of sauce and they are expensive.​

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This was my lunch special at Café Vila, Nasama Resort. Once again Poulet fish. Some restaurants have a fantastic view as well as good food. This was dinner at sunset at the Exotic Thai restaurant over- looking Port Vila harbor.​

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Jun 14
Tanzania

Gai travelled to Tanzania with The Africa Safari Co. in May. She travelled with 5 other great agents and Brodie as the exceptional host. Each night in the Serengeti they stayed in tented camps and enjoyed sundowners at the end of each day. Stay tuned for the exciting things they saw.

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Gai on the famil. Arusha is the gateway to safaris in Tanzania. It is a small pleasant airport right next door to the Arusha Coffee Lounge where we spent our first night. Great accommodation.

Arusha is where we left our vehicle and excellent guide George. Stay tuned for what we saw in Tarangire N.P., Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. We saw all.

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Elephants eat up to 300kg of food in one day which consists of mostly grasses but they also eat leaves shrubs and branches. Their favourite tree is the acacia but they also like Marula berries off the marula trees.

Elephants skin feels rough to the human hand. The folds and wrinkles in the skin trap moisture which slowly evaporates to cool the elephant. When elephants are over heated they flap their ears so blood will flow through their ears and the air will cool their bodies. Another method of keeping cool is bathing then covering the skin with dirt which dries to a mud cake. There are over 150,000 muscles in an elephant’s trunk.

An elephants gestation period is 22 months. They usually only have a calf every 5 years. Elephants can live up to 70 years but most die around 56 years.

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While Gai was in Tanzania, she found this great little gift shop. It is called Green Steps - Flip Flop Recycling shop in Stone Town. Thongs washed up on the beach from India are used to make toy animals- elephants, crocodiles, and giraffes.

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Clever key chains made out of leather and beads. They look like the Muslim women who are the majority of people in Stone Town.

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Apr 28
Safari in Botswana

Jackie has not long returned from an adventure in Botswana. She has photo's from the Okavango Delta to share with you. These are taken from the plane as they fly into Botswana.

The Okavango Delta is an immense waterlogged oasis, alive with elephants and birdlife adrift in the middle of Kalahari sand.

During winter in the Kalahari, when the sun has baked the earth bare and turned the desert to its driest, water fills the Okavango, transforming the floodplains into a Noah's Ark of African wildlife.

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Jan 28
Food in Shanghai

There is such a vast difference in the food we eat in Australia to what is eaten in Shanghai, here are some of the dishes that Gai ate when she was there.

Let's start with the one that would turn most Australian noses up, anyone for cricket on a stick?

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These little fellers are put on sticks and cooked by the open grill and considered a delicacy. 

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This is Quail eggs cooked in ash at the markets in Zhujiajiao. A 1700-year-old water town with small rivers and old bridges. A popular destination for lunches.

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This Jia San Soup Dumplings is what Gai had at the Life Fashion Resturant in Huangpu, Shanghai. It was delicious she said, she would like one now!


Nov 21
Returning to France

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In September this year, Gai returned to France and the village she lived in as a child, Chantilly. This village has 11,000 inhabitants and is 50 kilometers north of Paris.

Chantilly is the home of many racing stables and is famous for its beautiful Chateau which houses an art collection second only to the Louvre.

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Whilst at Chantilly Gai stayed in the middle of the forest at the Chateau de Montvillargenne Hotel. This chateau was built by the Rothchilds in the late 19th Century and is set in 15 acres of parkland.

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Each morning the racing horses in work gallop in the forest. Here are some of the horses returning to their stable in the village.


Nov 07
Vietnam

Rex Hotel A monument to Ho Chi Minh City's history.

During the Vietnam war the American Information Service made its base at the hotel which soon became the favourite haunt of US officers and the scene of daily press briefings to foreign correspondents. 

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Roof Top Bar at the Rex Hotel

The most popular and famous bar in Ho Chi Minh.

During the Vietnam war, this bar hosted the 5 O Clock follies.

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The Breakfast room on the top floor of the Rex Hotel

A magnificent spread.

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In traffic.

The girl on the back of the bike was holding on to a huge stack of plastic chairs.

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Bitexco Finacial Tower

This is the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh with 68 floors and a heli-pad attached.

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Chaotic Traffic

This is typical traffic in Ho Chi Minh, they drive in all directions.

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Electrical Wiring

Electrical wiring is the same, it goes in all directions.

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Gai Riding in the Cyclo

This is one of the popular tourist pass times in Ho Chi Minh.

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A cruise along the river

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Sep 12
Shanghai

Gai has been off traveling again. This time the destination was Shanghai. 

First on the list was the Oriental Pearl Tower, at Pudong Park in Lujiazui, Shanghai.

This tower is a staggering 468 meters tall, with a glass floor viewing platform.

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The Oriental Pearl Tower is pink during the day but changes to many colours at night by lights.

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This is the view from the Oriental Pearl Tower. One level had a solid floor then you went down steps to the level with a glass floor.

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This is the view through the glass floor. I left my foot in the picture to prove I did it! I certainly didn't like it!

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This is new building near the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is famous for its skyline.

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There was an amazing atmosphere at night created by lights.  All the boats that went along the river were lit up which added to the ambiance.

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