We arrived in the southern island of Tongatopu as our point of entry into the Kingdom. After our formalities were handled, we began our exploration. The city center is a short walk from the docks. Along the way there were a dozen street vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables including melons, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, bananas, and more. We decided to wait to make our purchases until after we visited the main produce open air market.
The Royal Palace
The wooden Palace, which was built in 1867, is the official residence of the King of Tonga. The palace is not open to the public so all we could get were photos from the fence. No guards were present and frankly it looked like a large, well-maintained hotel.
The Royal Tombs
Only Kings and Queens of Tonga can buried in the Royal Tombs which are also closed to the public. But they are located in the heart of the capital city.
Royalty at its Best
The King’s birthday was early July so many places of business had “happy birthday your majesty” signs up. There were also lots and lots of purple banners, fabric, ribbons, and bows draped over the front lawns of homes and businesses. This was beacuse the King’s cousin passed away.
Across the streets are many large signs showing their love of the king.
The photos used as the cover photo is a picture of the Royal Palace in the “country” The princess was rumored to be staying there a few days after we visited.
Next to the Internarional Dateline Hotel is the famous Tonga Clock where time means nothing. Because in Tonga, time can be anything you want it to be.
There are so many churches in the city center. It seems like every block had a church but I am sure that is not the case. I was drawn to the very large gothic looking churches. The stone church below was destroyed a few years ago by a massive storm. Now it sits slowly deteriorating and it is so very sad.
Ha’amonga Trilithon – Stonehenge of the South Pacific
The Ha’amonga Trilithon is a mysterious 11th-century stone arch that is made up of three large slabs that are about 5m tall and 6m long. TEach coral limestone slab weighs approximately 30 to 40 tons. Because of its clear resemblance, it has been nicknamed the “Stonehenge of the Pacific.”
The name means “Maui’s Burden” in the local language, and as the stones are too heavy for humans to handle, it is believed that the god Maui himself brought them from ‘Uvea (Wallis Island) and constructed the monument. They now reside in a small roadside nature reserve.
Archaeologists, on the other hand, generally seem to believe that the Ha‘amonga was built by an early 13th-century king as the gateway to his royal palace, Heketā. Otherwise, it has been suggested, it might have been used for astrological purposes. These theories are unconfirmed, however, and the origin of the huge trilithon remains a mystery.
Our guide tells us that this was a gateway to a very ruthless king’s home. Once you cross through the gateway you see three paths. When the sun rises on the far right path it is going to be a very long day. If the sun shines on the middle path it will be a normal day and the far left path will be a very short day.
The large boulder on the upper right corner was the resting place for the king. He sat at near the bottom and it is rumored his head touched the indent toward the top (making him close to 4 meters tall). The middle image is the old burial site that was never used for this king.
A few local artists were selling their crafts at the stonehenge. Too bad we coud not buy anything.
Captain Cook’s Landing Place in Alaki
The last place we visited was the landing place for Captain Cook. It sure is a prety bay. You can see why Captain Cook returned here several times.
We had a great time exploring Tongatopu with our driver Olini who also helped us get gasoline. It was a short 3-hour tour, but we sure did pack a lot of stops and sites into that time.
Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events. This blog post occured toward the end of July 2023. Check out our last blog where I highlight the Kingdom of Tonga.