A walk around Suva

Monday 10th August 2015

 

We started with a walking tour of the city to get a feel for the place and find our bearings.  We found we were staying just five minutes away from the Suva Municipal market, which was huge and full of the freshest fruit and vegetables we have seen in Fiji.  The 1930’s Harbour Front building we passed on the way seemed to have lost part of its roof, but was otherwise quite a handsome building.

 

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Suva market – biggest array of fresh fruit & veg we have seen.                  Wonder what happened to the roof?

 

The market is right beside the docks at Suva Port, so we ambled along the waterfront where boats of varying sizes were unloading their goods.  A Chinese fishing boat was unloading very firmly frozen fish. 

 

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This Chinese fishing boat is a long way from home!

 

The waterfront made for a very pleasant stroll as we looked out over the boats anchored in the main harbour at Suva, across to the hills on the other side.  We were walking on reclaimed land, as the water’s edge used to be a whole block further back.  We spent a while browsing in the Municipal Curio and Handicraft Centre, but other than a possible desire for a ‘brain picker’ – an ornamental tool not unlike a fork with which the cannibals used to pick the brains of their victims – we didn’t see anything we wanted to barter over.

 

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At the Handicrafts & Curio market.            (photo Experience Suva)                             A brain picker.

 

We wandered on through a park dedicated to Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, the founding father of independent Fiji,  and passed the Old Town Hall, a Victorian-era building with an ornamental wrought iron portico – now a Chinese restaurant.   Between this and the Suva Public Library, built in 1909 with funding provided by Andrew Carnegie, the US philanthropist, we found the Suva Olympic swimming pool.  Here we spent a nostalgic half an hour as we wandered around the pool which remains largely unchanged since it was built in the 1920’s.  It was like going back to my childhood days at Wimbledon Baths, with the changing room doors lined up along the side of the pool.

 

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Suva’s Olympic swimming pool, built in the 1920’s.

 

Our walk took us next to some grand buildings – firstly the Government buildings, built in 1937-9.  Parliament met here until a coup in 1987. Parliament now has a new and as yet unused complex in the suburbs. The clock tower is known as "Fiji's Big Ben." When it works, it chimes every 15 minutes from 6am to midnight. 

 

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Fiji’s Big Ben at Government buildings.

Across the road is the Grand Pacific Hotel built in 1914 by the Union Steamship Company to house its passengers on their stop-over in Fiji. The idea behind the design was to make the passengers feel they had never gone ashore, and so all the rooms were fitted out like staterooms, including saltwater bathrooms and plumbing fixtures identical to those on an ocean liner.  All rooms were on the first floor and guests could step out onto a balcony that looked out over the bay and ran all the way around the building, like walking around the deck of a ship.  The hotel had been unused since the early 1990’s, and had fallen into disrepair, but was recently refurbished and reopened in its former glory.  We enquired about afternoon tea there, but although they could offer tea and a cake from their patisserie, it wasn’t quite the cucumber-sandwich-with-crusts-cut-off affair we were thinking of.  They were happy for us to have a mooch around and look at the place, so we settled for that.

 

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The Grand Pacific Hotel.                                                                                                Fruit salad a la GPH.

 

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The back view with inviting pool, even if not Olympic size...                          The cleanest bathroom I have seen so far in Fiji!

 

From here we wandered through Thurston Gardens, formerly the Botanical Gardens, and now sadly not at its best.  We saw a couple of gardeners working at keeping the gardens tidy, so it was not overgrown and the lawns were neat and well-kept, but the pond was dry and its base and fountain crumbled, and the once ornate drinking fountain was broken.  It clearly needed some money and effort to revitalise it but was, in any case, a peaceful place away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  One wonders how much it is used and by whom – particularly when we saw a huge poster outside declaring it a ‘Senior Citizen Park’.

 

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An interesting root system – several trees intertwined?                  Not sure what this is (though I know what it looks like!)

 

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The clocktower in Thurston Gardens in memory of the first Mayor of Suva who was drowned in 1914.  Fiji Museum behind.

 

Next stop was the much-looked-forward-to Fiji Museum where we spent the next couple of hours learning some of Fiji’s history.  In the Maritime Gallery is the last ‘waka drua’ or double-hulled war canoe, in Fiji, built in Fulaga .  These were ocean-going sailing craft, usually larger than this one, and said to be very efficient.

 

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Ratu Finau - the last waca drua, or double-hulled canoe.                               Domodomo – a double-horned masthead from 1870’s.

 

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Rudder from the HMS Bounty.                                                                                   Club used by cannibals – this one has a tooth embedded in it!

 

Our final stop of the day was at Government House, the home of Fiji’s President.  We could only look at this from the outside as it is guarded by Fijian soldiers, but by luck we timed it just right to see the changing of the guard.

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Government House sits on a hill overlooking Suva Bay.                                  An armed guard stands at the entry gate.

 

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The changing of the guard at 16:00.                                                                         The new guard marches to his place and stamps his feet.

 

By now we were pretty much walked out, so headed back to the hotel.  A busy and tiring but very interesting day.