“Solomon bites the worm” – Mark Morris.
In my 30s, and with hindsight, I felt like my time in Australia (I arrived in my 20s) was a little bit naïve. I spent almost 2 years in the “land down under”, mostly staying in Parramatta (my heart felt home in Australia), Devonport and Poatina (where my Antarctica dream came true). Yet, for the first year on my Working Holiday visa, it is the ONLY time in my life where I spent 365 days in a row without leaving a country, without even taking a flight!! I was the worst country hopper and global backpacker ever and tried to make amends recently by including my visit to The Empire of Atlantium, but even then – that was on day one. I really didn’t visit “Oceania” at all. It’s a continent whose biggest two countries are Australia and New Zealand, the others are often neglected by tourists, myself included. The Solomon Islands would have to wait.
In Australia, I overlanded through 6 of the country’s 8 Provinces/Territories except for my trip to Tasmania (“we may never meet again”) which I went in by boat on the Spirit of Tasmania as a foot passenger and left 5 months later in my car on the same ferry. It was a magical time of my life of course, but I didn’t earn any backpacking spurs, I was there to work hard, earn money and backpack the excrement out of Australia. In Tasmania alone, I whackpacked over 30 cities, towns, villages or islands including Bruny Island and the West Coast Wilderness Railway. I left Australia for New Zealand on the last day of my first year Working Holiday Visa.
All of that fades into historical irrelevance when you realise I spent almost 2 years in Australia and a double brace of weeks in New Zealand and classed myself as an Oceania visiting backpacker. I lied. I’d never even been to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Nieu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Tokelau, Vanuatu etcetera. I was a novice in Pacific Ocean backpacking. But then in 2019, I finally made it to some (not all) of those Oceania countries, one of which was The Solomon Islands.
I knew little or nothing about this series of remote islands known as The Solomon Islands, other than they have a FIFA listed international football team, a decent rugby team, lots of islands, diving options, World War 2 history and a capital city called Honiara. It was time to find out.
Typically, I flew into Honiara and it was free visa on arrival (Northern Irish passport – Irish+British), after our time in three even less whackpacked countries – Nauru, Kiribass and Them There Marshall Islands. We stayed in the Chinatown district of the capital city, Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal in the country The Solomon Islands, which I will refer to often as “the worm biter”. Here’s a quick fire list of things I did in the worm biter’s capital (Solomon) that you could also do.
1.Watch the Sunset from the Central Market
Pacific Ocean Islands do well on sunrise and sunset. Get the brace in. We headed to the harbour at the seafront by the central market. While it didn’t blowdry our minds, it did at least provide a memory worthy of the first sun sinker over the worm biter. Half-sunken shipwrecks gleamed their ugliness upon a fish and cucumber market coming to the close of day. Your dream, can never earn enough.
2.Understand the World War 2 History
There might be more truth in the “Solomon bites the worm” phrase than first met your eye. It was here, in the 1940s that the Japanese invasion brought the Australians, USA-ers and New Zealanders into action. In 1942 alone, there were 18 bloody battles here. Read up on it and visit the Guadalcanal American War Memorial.
The Solomon Islands campaign was a major part of the Pacific War Battles during World War II. The campaign began with Japanese landings and occupation of several areas in the British Solomon Islands and Bougainville, in the Territory of (Papua) New Guinea, during the first six months of 1942. The bloodshed continued for 3 years, destorying land, buildings and claiming the lives of thousands.
3.Stay at the Quirky Honiara Hotel
In 2013, I stayed in the Eclectic Hotel in the wacaday city of Vank in rural Nagorno Karabakh, a country which many buck eejits believe doesn’t ordinarily exist. I loved the madness and randomity of the Eclectic Hotel.
In the intervening years, I’d also stayed in a few peculiar and obscure hotels and hostels, most notably I remembered the Lady Hamilton in Stockholm (Sweden), the Noclegi Rekord in Starogard Gdanski (Poland), the Hemingway Inn in San Jose (Costa Rica).
But here – the quirky Honiara Hotel felt like a magical kingdom straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, to read more about it, check my post on my stay at the Honiara Hotel.
4.Shake Hands With A Man Who Knows Queen Elizabeth II (Sir Thomas Chan)
When exiting my room (812) at the Honiara Hotel for the first time, I bumped intill a striking Chinese looking gentleman. This is no ordinary man. This is Sir Thomas Chan.
Sir Chan shakes my hand, later poses for a photo, takes time to chat and accepts my business card. He’s met Queen Elizabeth II four times, he is knighted by the British government as a Sir, and he was invited to a Royal dinner at Buck House in 2013.
Sir Thomas Chan is the brainchild, owner and personality behind the Hotel Honiara, easily by country mileage one of the coolest hotels in the world, certainly from my journeys.
5.Get a Solomonese Lady (or Man!) to Give You a Massage
I’ve had a fair few massages on my travels in different countries including Chinese style, Phillipeno style, English, Polish and even Moldovan. Here in the worm biter you can get a local lady to massage you.
6.Try the Best Local Hat-trick of Beers
Perhaps the beeraholic in me was gagging for a drop of Solomonese beer. The reason being that The Solomon Islands actually has its own beer! The other countries in the Pacific often import beer only so this was a novelty.
Our previous country hat-trick didn’t even have their own beer made in those countries. It was all exported, mostly Fiji Gold (from Fiji), VB (from Australia) and Bud Lightyear (from Untied States). Here in the worm biter, I was able to drink SolBrew, Canoe Lager (blue) and Canoe Lager (brown). SolBrew was the best in my opinion. I didn’t go out on the rip in the city at night so can’t really write about a pub crawl, but I did have a beer in three different bars (2 in the hotel, 1 in the airport!)
7.Pose With the Colourful Solomon Islands Flag
The worm biter has a decently coloured flag, blue, green, white and yellow. We posed with it a few times including down by the harbour with my Northern Ireland flag.
8.Admire the City View from Guadalcanal American War Memorial
Apart from just understanding the World War II history here, while at the Guadalcanal American War Memorial, the location itself provides that special viewpoint. Admire the harbour and the viallge life of the interior.
From here, you can see right down to the harbour in the north, and to the south the valleys and mountains of Guadalcanal island (which houses Honiara).
9.Visit some Churches
The Solomon Islands has a lot of churches and there are no shortage of services in Honiara, and the country in general.
10.Watch traditional Solomonese Dancing
It might seem like a gimmick but we watched the local dancing in the hotel, which was very impressive. If you have more time than us and are not on a 6 country in 14 days tour, you can also get out into the wild and see the dancing in a more rural surrounding.
This was just a quick tour of Honiara, well worth a visit and the capital of the 15th least visited tourist country in the world.
Here are some videos I made while backpacking in Honiara, The Solomon Islands: