Having recently returned from a week in Tonga, it saddens me to have to let you know that not even the remote island of Tongatapu is immune to the global pandemic known as J1B1 – commonly referred to as Bieber Fever.
Tongans have long appreciated music and will happily sing all night (as we discovered while trying to get to sleep one Thursday night). But they’re more gospel than pop followers, and are more likely to be singing in a church hall than a karaoke lounge. But J1B1 is infectious and health authorities in Tonga (some dude at the FuaÊ»amotu International Airport who sprays all passengers with disinfectant as they step off the plane) truly underestimated the viral nature of Justin Bieber’s lyrical genius and infectious beats.
Wandering up one of the main streets of Nuku’alofa (I knew it was a main street because traffic was going both ways) I passed a dairy (which must also double as holding cells for the local police since they’re covered in steel bars) and blaring out was the virus kid himself – Bieber. Interestingly, and unlike a lot of viruses that can exist in various strains, Bieber Fever is really only one strain, and that’s of the ‘Baby, Baby’ variety. It’s probably because that’s also the most deadly of the JB viruses known to man, effective at over 50ft and often before you have time to react, you’re infected.
You could panic at this point and make desperate motions for medical assistance but this is pointless for at least two very obvious reasons: (1) Bystanders are also infected and will only view your motioning as a signal that you are another convert to pithy pop songs and (2) anyone viewing from a safe distance will assume you’re simply doing the Beiber Fever tribal dance that tells everyone you are a committed devotee of the 2 year-old manufactured pop prince. They won’t realise you’re in the throes of a Bieber death roll that keeps turning you until you stop fighting it.
Fortunately my encounter with the virus was brief and I displayed only mild symptoms – sudden onset of bad hair, a hankering to watch Lizzy McGuire and an unusual desire to admire my baby-smooth skin whenever possible. But the locals seem to have caught it bad and it’s starting way too young, as you might be able to see in this undercover video clip, and another one.
While it might seem a lost cause there are good people fighting this pandemic with a cure. Well it’s kind of a cure. The idea is to mock the virus so hard that it curls up and dies all by itself. Let’s just hope and pray it works.
More to Tonga than Bieber
Aside from the brush with Bieber Fever, the rest of our holiday in Tonga was a great adventure. We spent the week at Nanisis Place. a fantastic place to stay in Nuku’alofa if you’re wanting a central base to plan your activities from. From there we drove the length and breadth of the island (which can be done in about 40 minutes, and that’s driving at the self-imposed 40km/h speed limit), visited isolated beaches, being awed by the power of the blowholes, surfed Ha’atafu, watched amazing sunsets, were blown away by ridiculously talented fire dancers, snorkeled the reefs and spent a day out at Pangaimotu island, along with about three other people (this is their busy season).
It’s an incredibly diverse country (well kingdom actually) with a fascinating culture, friendly people and enough church bells and chickens to keep you up all night. Two thumbs up for adventure but if you want a swim-up bar, Club Med bathrobes and Long Island Ice Teas I’d recommend you go to Bora Bora instead.