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Suva – not a tourist mecca – but tropical

Suva – not a tourist mecca – but tropical
TRIP Report: First Time in Fiji

But – the capital of Fiji

For most tourists to Fiji, Suva is not on the menu. The major gateway to Fiji is via Nadi – and the airport reflects that. Nadi is the transit point to most of the islands and resorts.

But Suva is bigger than Nadi and is also the governmental capital. And it has more smilling infectious, giggling Fijians.

It sits around a pretty harbour with a sunken ship (as of May 2017). Apparently, the Panama flagged vessel became a bit lopsided during loading – and the obvious happened:

Suva – pretty enough

Unfortunately Suva is not that pretty, but fortunately, it’s not too big either.

The overwhelming sense is of something a little rundown. Without being unkind, there is not a lot to see, but there are a one or two surprises – the most notable being the museum.

We opened our copy of Lonely Planet, and sort of followed their recommended route in reverse order. Well, when I say ‘followed’, I am not sure that is entirely accurate. Throw together four strong-minded individuals, and one guide, and see if they stick to the route! So we started from the hotel, which is across the road from number 8 – roughly, and headed towards the top of the page – which takes you into the commercial heart of the city.

The weather was very pleasant – a little overcast, but it is the tropics and a balmy ~26ºC.

Albert Park is just over the road from the Hotel and is covered in sports grounds, Rugby being a national religion.

Right next door is a set of Government Buildings, and even at lunchtime, that lawn out the front gets taken over for games of football.

Further up the road, we passed the Suva City Library and the little laneway to the Suva Olympic Swimming Pool.

Ratu Sukuna Park sits between Victoria Parade and the harbour. Unfortunately, the water features were not working and looked as if that had been their state for quite some time. But at least you can see American aid money working hard.

A Floating Restaurant

If you head down a jetty from the park, you will find Tiko’s Floating Restaurant. With seafood its specialisation, and its environment being a boat, it’s not for the sea-sick. We had an evening meal here, and although it will not make anyone’s top 10 world restaurants list, the food was good, and the service pleasant.

Handicraft market and scam

Past the park, and towards the water, you will find the Suva Curio & Handicraft Market. It looks a bit like an old multi-story carpark, but it does have a good range, and the sales pressure is Pacific in nature. A wide smile, a welcome, and encouragement to buy. If you are not interested, then you can walk on by. If you pause and inspect, then depending on the sellers’ entrepreneurial spirit, you may get some pressure – but nothing like what I have experience in some parts of Asia, or Egypt and Morocco.

You will be told by people who come up to you just outside, that it is ‘not a good market’, and they will take you to a more authentic market where ‘everything is made by villagers, and the money goes straight to the village’ Yeah sure, and I was born yesterday. I can’t actually say that if you said yes, you would be kidnapped and taken to some dive full of Chinese manufactured souvenirs – or a shop on the outskirts of the town – but I think that’s a pretty good guess.

If you keep on going, then you’ll hit a sort of canal – actually a creek, Nabukalou Creek – with a pedestrian walkway down one side, with shops and food outlets.

We sort of departed the route – too many cooks supervising our route! – and ended up outside the Catholic cathedral.

Next up is the Reserve Bank of Fiji building with its new teak rendering of the bank’s Tagaga logo erected in 2015. Its quite arresting, considering it was modelled initially with a chainsaw.

I don’t quite remember where this was, and we didn’t go in, but I think this restaurant is of note:

Fiji Museum

The highlight of our wander around the streets of Suva, was the Fiji Museum. The museum is put together on a shoestring, with some priceless pieces, and enthusiastic curators, who will gladly explain anything in the museum. It’s not a big museum, but you can easily spend 45 minutes looking through some of its extraordinary exhibits. I was sufficiently intrigues to forget to take photos, although they are not only permitted, they are almost encouraged. The most impressive aspect of the museum is the hall full of royal boats, particularly the Ratu Finau Tui Nayau – a gigantic ocean-going canoe.

I did get this shot, of a hat that I definitely want.

Teppanyaki in Fiji

We visited most of the restaurants listed in most of the tourist guides. None was really exceptional, but there is quite a variety, including this strangely appropriate Daikoku teppanyaki bar in Suva. It was a refreshing and tasty way to spend a lunch. You could have the full-on teppanyaki performance, delivered by ethnic Fijian’s or as we did, just order a few things like tempura and chicken katsu from the menu. It was a little highlight.

Final Words

I wouldn’t put Suva high on any desirable destination list, but if you are there, it can be enjoyable and there are things to do and see. The Museum is a must, and so is the Handicraft Market. You can find solid restaurants, but nothing outstanding outside of the resort hotels and in particular the Grand Pacific Hotel.

Would I go back? No. But if I had to spend a night there on the way to somewhere else, or go there again for a meeting or a conference – I’d be fine with that.


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