“Change” May Change Where You Want To Live - Notes From Tonga - by Robert Bryce

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Article for Wave
July 13, 2009
Things are changing all over the world now.

“Change” May Change Where You Want To Live - Notes From Tonga - by Robert Bryce

The economic domino effect that started in America has been knocking them down in about every country tied to the world’s economic and monetary interchange system. The big question is; “When does the fat lady sing?” If this singing event is the signal that it is over, we are in trouble for she hasn’t even arrived back stage yet.

Some countries are more negatively affected than others in this “meltdown.” Interestingly, those countries least active in international trade, who weren’t even wholly dependant upon an internal money system will feel the heat the least. Tonga is such a country to be least effected, but it is not entirely exempt. However, perhaps and uniquely so, its favorite appendage, the favored Vava’u Island Group is exempt from this economic coup.

Vava’u is the popular reef protected island group of Tonga that attracts ex-pats and tourism like none of its other island groups. There are good reasons for that. Vava’u has all of the qualities that qualify it to be designated as truly paradise; blue lagoons, emerald islets fringed with white sand beaches and crystalline azure placid waters. It is located at 18 degrees south latitude for perfect weather and 450 miles east Fiji . Vava’u is a tsunami proof, stable rising island group (not sinking) and it is the home of the Humpback whales who breed and bear their young within these protected island waters. The Vava’u Island Group is also a haven for the many world cruising yachts that navigate the South Pacific islands. Like the whales, they enjoy the safe and serene lake-like waters created by the huge protective reef system that encircles these island jewels. And in these times of economic considerations, Vava’u is cheap to live and at a higher standard than most of us were used to in our homelands. So living in Vava’u, we are not sacrificing anything but traffic, smog, lost freedom and future trouble of incalculable potential.

All of the classic storybook qualities are present in Vava’u. Nature has gone out of her way to create the epitome of a business and residence haven for people, yachts and whales and without the menace of her poisonous creatures, for there are none that can harm you in Vava’u. A child walks through the jungle barefoot with no fear of snakes, poisonous insects, nor even one dangerous critter of trepidation, and the natives are friendly. Hence, it is becoming more popular with ex-pats from around the world and because of Tonga ’s easy to qualify residency visa program, virtually everyone seems to qualify.

Now, I know this all sounds too good to be true; and it is. I left out the only menace in Vava’u, which is the same we have anywhere in the world—people—the good, the bad and the ugly. However, with more than good luck, we have only two really bad ones and maybe two runner-ups. Otherwise, out of less than a couple hundred expats, all’s well with mostly very kind, gentle, considerate and loving folks, including many families with children of all ages. The invitation for more to join is still out there, but will be one day limited to only those with a vested interest in the place. Securing a position in Tonga now makes sense for any concerned about their future in their old “melting pot” which looks like it may finally be doing just that—melting and going to pot.

These next statements may be a bit premature so I won’t go into all of the unpopular reasons why folks should be looking to bail out of their “changing” homelands, but save this article to refer back to when it finally hits home. A few days on the Internet looking up stuff (truth movements) you never thought possible, and you may just experience enough logical doubt about “hanging in there” and buy some insurance to secure a safe haven outpost in paradise. Just because we are born somewhere doesn’t mean we have to live there, especially when it is caving in. Even Bre’r Rabbit got out of the briar patch.

Just in case there is any truth to what you find on the Internet, it has all been thought out here in Vava’u and in the best interests of those who might want to make sure they are fully covered. For those who aren’t in that group of concerned citizens, there is nothing wrong with having a lovely retirement home in paradise, even if the “meltdown” isn’t really happening. In any event, it would be wise to live where you have “more food than people” and your own healthy garden, plus where the community has an adequate shared food master garden and basically endless supply of unadulterated nutrition, to include fresh fish, etc. Vava’u is that place and there is such a community in paradise being set up now on a large island close to the mainland island, where supplies of all things are abundant. Lots there are anticipated to be selling on the highland and over the water for under $5000 USD each. In Tonga , the term “sell” when referring to land is not accurate since land here cannot be sold, only leased. 99-years, renewable, is what this island community will see for terms for these lots.

So, what about houses? Of course, you may build any mansion you want from any materials, and all are available in town or they can be imported. In Vava’u, there is a little more freedom with regard to construction permitted and one can take advantage of the non-permanent exemptions where some rather wonderful prefab or “Yurts” are welcome. Check out yurts ( http://www.yurts.com ) for an alternate kind of tropical home—quite interesting and from between $5,000 and $10,000 USD. http://www.versatile.co.nz/index.cfm/1,70,html/Homes has homes from under $35,000 USD. So, there are many options for building a home, right down to the native style fales that have been used for thousands of years, and still used today. Life is more interesting when you get out of the conventional box, literally.

All things considered, Vava’u may have the answer for those folks who aren’t ready right now to make a significant financial decision, but wish to secure a lot cheap over the water with a grand view of the island group and for speculation or for their own future use. Some who heard about this through the grapevine are opting for several lots. More on this project when the final papers are approved and when they can move forward with their offer.

Meanwhile, back in the main Vava’u town of Neiafu , shopping centers are opening, not closing. A new quaint little center was just finished and rented out the day it opened, save for one restaurant space with a splendid view of the harbour below. You wouldn’t know this restaurant space was available if you stopped by, for the place is packed on its dining veranda. A popular restaurant has opened next to it, but was intended to be a small cafe operation. Business is so good at the café, customers spill over into the restaurant veranda and tables had to be set up there to accommodate the café. A real chef from Germany , with a personality from some movie I can’t place, came in and set up shop next to the vacant one. He cooks up a terrific meal and cheap, so cheap and so good that some of the competition reported him for unfair competition—just to give you an idea of how pioneer minded some of these folks still are. His comment to it all is; “I weel just lowered my priceses ifs they complaint again.” We all hope he gets another complaint for this brawny personality will do it. Someone might just rent that place next door and charge a small fee to eat there for free. Then serve alcohol since our German, oddly, doesn’t even sell beer. (a hint for some business minded player)

The point being, business is booming, generally, and getting better as more visitors and yachts are coming to Vava’u to spend their money. Whale watching and swimming is a big draw to Vava’u, one of the two places in the world you can actually swim with the whales. Of course, diving, snorkeling and just plain swimming off the many beaches is all part of the attraction, especially when a small boat can readily traverse the inter-island waterways between those beautiful and largely uninhabited islands. The islands beckon a little exploration as you near them, some with ancient but friendly native villages.

Disney could not have set up a better theme park. On your own, you can rent a boat, head out for a day of adventure and stop by a real native village that, without electric or any modern conveniences, still cooking with fire, people live a rather simple, safe and secure and as they did hundreds of years ago before money and Bwana. The natives are friendly, as Captain Cook dubbed these islands, and as you walk through the village they will send their children out to invite you into their homes, some for a mutual curiosity interest and some to sell hand made tapa cloth made right there in the village. To watch them make tapa is mind-boggling. Spend a day on one of these islands and you will come back with an education in herbal medicine, food cures, philosophy and a new perspective on where you came from and what was the purpose.

For more on Tonga, just ask Robert.

Robert Bryce: info@southpacificrealestate.to