Suva

Overview

Introduction

Fiji's capital, Suva, 135 mi/215 km by road east of Nadi, is on the southeast coast of the main island of Viti Levu. You'll need a day to see this bustling port city. Drive or take a bus up to Tamavua Ridge for a magnificent panoramic view and stop at the Municipal Market to shop for local goods (allow at least a couple of hours).

The market is a two-story Fijian experience that showcases the islands' unique multiculturalism. On the ground floor are the food vendors selling such traditional Fijian fare as dalo and tavioka—starchy staples. There are Indians selling spices and dried beans and other Asians marketing their own profusion of foods and spices. Upstairs is devoted to yaqona, the intoxicating Fijian drink also known as kava. In this vast space you'll find every variation of the plant from whose roots the drink is made—dried yaqona, pounded yaqona, whole roots, whole plants.

Just along the shore, a handicrafts market aimed primarily at cruise-ship passengers occupies a cavernous series of concrete garage-type spaces with goods spilling out of them. You'll probably be hassled by merchants there, but prices will be cheaper than in tourist shops or hotels. Bargaining is expected, within limits. A better source for souvenirs is the Government Handicraft Centre, just off Victoria Parade.

Once a month, the Police and Military Band goes all out for a special changing of the guard at the president's residence. (Upon arrival in Suva, check to see if the ceremony can be worked into your itinerary. If not, you can watch a less colorful ceremony every day just before 5 pm.)

By all means, walk down Victoria Parade and through Thurston Gardens to the Fiji Museum, which contains a wonderful collection of Fijian artifacts, as well as "relics" from the infamous ship Bounty (plan another hour or so). Suva has good restaurants, a few world-class hotels, shopping, plenty of nightlife and great prospects for walking tours during the day (the city's streets are unsafe after dark).

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