A Delightful Transit Lounge, and the Long Flight Home

We only had a 18-hour layover in Tonga, from about midnight to 6 pm.  Compared with sitting in a transit lounge for a few hours, it was quite a nice time though much too short.  It would be nice to go back to Tonga sometime and to check it out in much more detail, including some other islands.

We spent the night at Keleti International Resort, a humble beachside string of bungalows about halfway from the airport to town.  The shoreline here is absolutely stunning, a series of overlapping cylindrical rock formations that extends about half the south shore of the island.  They look like Mammoth Hot Springs, except they’re about 10 meters off the beach.  As the waves crash into them, water jets up from various nooks and crannies.  The effect is even more intense at high tide.

We had a day to explore Nuku’alofa before our evening flight back home.  It was mostly a shopping opportunity with various souvenirs and some bright shirts.  Dinner back at our little hotel was delicious, the last raw fish and coconut milk of the trip, as well as some cooked fish served with some native leaf (grown at the chef’s house) with taro as a starch (the other hotels generally never served that).  It was nice to have a little more actually local food.

The flight back was a little annoying.  The plane arrived about an hour late, and then everyone arriving from New Zealand deplaned, regardless of whether or not they were continuing on.  Finally we boarded and flew the short distance to Apia in Western Samoa.  Once again we were all herded off the plane so that we could go through security and that they could check the empty plane cabin, which apparently is required before any leg ending in the United States.  After another wait, we got back on and flew to Los Angeles, about a nine-hour flight.  The inflight entertainment system on the Air New Zealand 767 was definitely the most advanced one I’d ever seen, with the largest widescreen displays and random access to 32 movies (several old ones included) and scads of music, New Zealand television shows, and games.  It functioned quite well (except for one gentleman a few rows up from me:  I saw a little penguin at the top of a screenful of text, presumably some version of Linux completely rebooting).  The flight-tracking map application was a little stupid, though — a system which was otherwise that good should have had a map with fewer flaws and much more configurability (language, what views to see, etc.).  Arriving at Terminal 2 Border Inspection at LAX took 40 minutes in line before reaching the passport guy, but things went very quickly after that.

Now we’re spending a few days in LA, so far mostly around Venice.  Maybe we’ll see the Getty Center tomorrow; we got close this afternoon after using a real laundromat washing machine for the first time in a while, but $15 for parking for two hours seemed a little pricey.  We’ll try to spread it over more hours tomorrow.  We felt a little baited and switched, because its website says the museum is free.