Sunday, June 20, 2010

I’m on a boat…what? what?

PHOTO: The interim ferry getting ready to leave for Tongatapu.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to experience the new interim ferry from Vava’u to Tongatapu. It was a sixteen hour journey, but the Malaysian boat Ajang Subuh did not disappoint one bit. Surprisingly, I was flabbergasted by the cleanliness and efficiency of the entire transit. It left Neiafu harbor at 4:00 PM Tuesday and arrived at Nuku’alofa at 8:30 AM Wednesday exactly.

Why did I take the boat? Well, living in Tonga you have to learn how to be flexible. Originally, I was scheduled to fly out of Vava’u Monday afternoon but that did not happen. Due to the plane crash incident of Chatham’s Pacific (no one died), the entire airline was grounded as their license was suspended by the Tongan government. As a result, this caused quite a ruckus with inter-island travel for tourists and locals. Many people missed their connecting international flights out of TBU. Luckily, the interim ferry was scheduled Tuesday and I was determined to get down to Nuku’alofa one way or another.

After receiving my refund from Chatham’s, I bought a ticket for the boat for $93 TOP. Travel on the boat was so much cheaper than a one way flight ($283 TOP). In addition, the new boat also offers eight beds for those who prefer to travel in style. Ironically, the planes resumed service that same evening. Oh, well.

PHOTO: The main cabin, the captain's deck, and people sleeping on the top deck.

The main cabin offers seating for about forty people. All the seats reclined, but are situated in awkward locations. There simply was not enough room to get in and out of your seat if you are not next to the isle. On the contrary, the main cabin was well ventilated with a plasma TV that showed different programs throughout the voyage. My only negative comment was the people were throwing up everywhere. Often times after passengers threw up; they placed their vomit infested plastic bags on the floor which ultimately overpowered the ventilation system. As a result, I slept on the top deck where it was much more comfortable. Furthermore, the toilet facilities were amazing. There was no shortage of toilet paper and it was very clean.

Throughout the entire journey I ran into a lot of friendly people and crew of the ship. It was quite an experience to travel via ferry boat from Vava’u. The waters between Vava’u and Ha’apai were pretty rough. I was feeling a bit sick, but watching the horizon and some Dramamine pills helped. In the end, I would rate the entire experience 8.5/10. I recommend it for budget travelers with strong stomachs. The waters from Ha’apai to Tongatapu were not bad. It was only between Vava’u and Ha’apai that made me question why I rode the boat. Bon voyage!

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