By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
Labasa town was established in 1922 and has a population of approximately 28,000 people. It is called the ‘Friendly North’ with good reason; it is home to one of the warmest, most welcoming people in Fiji. The indigenous people and the history they share with the descendants of indentured labourers are the pride of the town, with playful banter marking many interactions on the streets and from car windows—in both iTaukei and Fiji Hindi—eliciting big kailas (laughs).
Apart from the friendly atmosphere, the town has its own charm with an airport, cinema, malls and smaller businesses and a modest nightlife. Travel out onto the countryside for breathtaking scenery.
Pontoon Nite Club
If you’re in the mood for a good night out, head on down to the Pontoon nightclub right in the heart of Labasa town. The vibe is electric, the DJ’s music mix is set to keep your feet dancing all night, and the dancefloor, the light show, and the mood are just the right combination to make your night out a memorable one. They close at 1 am, and their security is always on the lookout to ensure your safety. Just keep in mind that if you are buying a jug of drink, the glasses are charged $1 to use, so many prefer to buy the bottles instead.
Kwong Tung Restaurant
If you’re in the mood for Chinese, Kwong Tung Restaurant serves the best Chinese food in town. The quaint restaurant serves tasty oriental Chinese dishes and other local favourites. They have some of the best service I’ve ever encountered, with dedicated staff for each section, chefs, fryers, kitchen hands, and a slew of waitresses who attend to you. They also have a genuine act of kindness in that when they see someone sitting alone, they spend a few minutes chatting with them and laughing.
The restaurant is always packed; if you are heading there, you can line up at the counter if you want takeout, but if you want to enjoy the full service, just grab a table and one of the waitresses will attend to you.
Labasa Handicraft Market
If you are visiting any part of Fiji, you can never leave without visiting the market, and Labasa is no different. The market is packed with spice vendors selling cinnamon, curry powders of all varieties, vegetables, fish, and fruits, as well as an art and craft space up the stairs that you must visit. The assorted mats and the kuta mats that the ladies from Vanua Levu are well known for are available, along with different baskets.
Grand Eastern Hotel
The Grand Eastern Hotel has an old-school charm and is conveniently located. The in-house Colonial Arms Restaurant is worth visiting not only for the menu, but also the wall of fascinating historical photos of Labasa town.
If you’re in the mood to watch movies, eat good food, or just browse through some shops, Gurbachan Mall has it all under one roof. It is situated in the very heart of Labasa town.
Take the scenic route to the outskirts of Labasa to reach the only nearby beach, then hire a taxi or rental car to explore the rest of Labasa. You will drive past some magnificent views of the mountains and a seabed of “kuta”, a special kind of reed that grows by lakes and is famous in Macuata as it makes beautiful golden mats or crafts. The private beach is worth a stopover to enjoy a dip in the ocean for just a small fee.
Nagigi Naag Mandir: the snake temple
Hindu worshippers across the globe come to visit and pray at this temple. According to their beliefs, a stone that is almost 150 years old and has the shape of a snake’s head continues to grow in their mandir. You can stopover to see this wonder before driving to Korovatu Beach, which is the next turn after Nagigi Naag Mandir.
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, April-June 2023.