Photo Credit: Department of Conservation

Tapa cloth makes a great souvenir of your visit to Tonga. The bark of the mulberry tree is stripped and then beaten into strips of about 12 inches long and wide. It is dried in the sun and then soaked in natural dyes. After this process, the thin strips are then beaten together to create workable cloth. The cloth is then decorated using natural paints, also extracted from the trees. The designs on the cloth are traditional, reflecting millennia-old Tongan culture. Usually there is a linear pattern around the border of the cloth and various floral emblems decorating the center. You can purchase these handmade products at many places around the islands of Tonga. You will also find tapa cloth at the main market in Nuku’alofa, the capital city. At this market, it is also possible to purchase many other great souvenirs, such as handmade jewelry and traditional carved wood.

Nuku’alofa is the largest shopping center in Tonga. Here, you will find the largest selection of products, many of which are imported. In general, stores close on Sunday. Prices in Tonga can be high (comparable to most western countries) due to its position as an island nation and the need for many products to be imported. Bargaining isn’t standard practice here.

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