Suva, the capital of Fiji is a sophisticated and sprawling urban metropolis and has earned the reputation as the political capital of the South Pacific and most recently as the unenviable volatile cauldron from which Fiji's unstable political identity was forged from.
With its citizenry reading like the world map, Suva's character is suave and of course as sophisticated as any other capital city in the world. If there is any hint of its British colonial history it has not been retained in its character as much as in its buildings. But that too is fast disappearing.
Suva's earliest history as a township began in 1870 when a group of Australian settlers from Melbourne settled on the peninsula and tried to etch a living from its soil by cultivating cotton and sugarcane.
Naturally the peninsula has small strip of coastal flat lands that is ridged by hills starting from Pratt Street where the Catholic Cathedral now stands going around Toorak, the whole Rewa Street and Flagstaff area before dropping back gently into the Laucala Bay area.
The town area as we know it now used to have three streams. One is the Nabukalou Creek which still exists, another which flowed down Pratt Street and empties out into a small lagoon where the Westpac Bank headquarters now sits.
The third one runs out into the sea where the Government Buildings currently sits. These two creeks do not exist nowadays as it was covered up to make way for roads and buildings.
In 1873 two Australian merchants Joske and Brewer planted sugarcane stretching from the edge of Nabukalou Creek right down to the edge of Thurston Gardens. They also planted cane in the Laucala Bay area.
This is the very same Joske whose name with which the volcanic plug seen across from the Suva Harbour has been baptised with.
The two gentlemen also built a wharf at the site of the old town hall which was a beach back then and it's now known as the Vineyard Restaurant. A total of 460 acres of land was used to plant cane but the enterprise turned out to be a failure.
The Australians were the dominant settlers in early Suva and while the British were trying to establish their administration of Fiji as a crown colony, they dominated life in the new capital.
The story of Suva becoming a capital began with the limits of expansion in Levuka because of its towering geography and coupled with the losses encountered by the Australian settlers in Suva.
But it was a lucky choice considering that Galoa Bay in Kadavu and the site of the Nadi International Airport were considered by the Levuka based government as possible places to replace Levuka as the colony's capital.
A Colonel W.T Smyth finally recommended Suva to the British Government and it was officially made the colony's new capital in 1877. The move from Levuka to Suva was only made in 1882.
The task of designing the lay-out of the new capital was given to Colonel F.E Pratt, an engineer by trade who unfortunately has been criticised for the way he designed Suva.
This however can be attributed to the lack of funds to re-design a more expansive town layout and also that Colonel Pratt was not the one who planned the town in its entirety. His surveyors W. Stephens and Colonel R.W Stewart allegedly had a hand in the planning.
The town lay with its boundaries limited to one square mile was described by the Suva Times as Albert J. Shutz wrote in his book Suva - A History and Guide, "the new newspaper, the Suva Times wondered why every building in the line of streets should be forced into acute angles, why one block should have an elbow-like corner pushing into the side of its neighbour, why the plan of the streets general should be copied from the crude designs of the school boy maze."
"We have very limited treasury.
"We cannot afford to raise splendid edifices, to make boulevards, to lay out parks and create an outside paradise while at the same time we provide for every material comfort that mankind demands. The brilliant effects of the Empire are not to us. As for the streets, they exist nowhere save on the map.
"Indeed, on the plan, Suva appears to be a neat and picturesque town, well laid out; with a creek running through the centre of it, and a broad beach extending in front. We see that Gordon-street and MacGregor road, and others, all so carefully traced out, that we might be forgiven for expecting to find names engraved at the corners, and the houses duly numbered.
"But, as everyone knows, the reality is very different. The unfortunate pedestrian flounders through mud and slips over soapstone; and in many places would have great difficulty in telling whether he were on the street or off it," the Suva Times continued.
This was how the town started and the way it looked and the buildings built in it made it look more like a town out of an American wild west cowboy movie with its architecture and arrangement.
Before the turn of the century and before Hendry Ford manufactured the first motor car the mode of transport in early Suva was horses and rickshaws.
There was a tramline that also ran through the middle of the city which was used to ferry goods to and from the pier in hand trucks.
One of the town's most famous streets, Cumming Street was previously said to be a low-lying swamp extending most of the way from Marks Street to Ellery Street and a former refuse dump.
Cumming Street was reclaimed in the early 1900s, and gradually the street developed into a commercial area and it was commonly known as All Nations Street until a deadly fire destroyed most of the buildings on the street in 1923.
The street then became the Suva Market for more than twenty years until it moved to its present location.
In the 1920s the street became the entertainment centre of the capital with its yaqona saloons, brothels and curry shops known as Lodges. Shopkeepers, tailors, barbers and cafÃ© owners mingled among the entertainment.
Probably the capital's longest boulevard Victoria Parade was originally a one-sided street with the seashore bordering the other side of the street.
It was a narrow street and only extended in 1914 because the Grand Pacific Hotel was built at the far end of the town.
There is a book for all the names of the streets in the town area but many of them were named after British colonial officials.
With the colony firmly established and Suva's reputation enhanced as the seat of the British rule in the Western Pacific, the white picket fence culture and all its nuances started to appear and dominate the landscape in Suva.
But the town's first ever suburb Toorak was originally an estate owned by Australian C.A Huon whose son later sold it to Joske of the sugar factory fame and it was mainly a residential area for Australians and Toorak was modelled after its affluent sister suburb back in Melbourne.
It is one place in the immediate Suva area where you can find streets intersecting at right angles and designed to overlook the town area below.
Another early suburb was Domain which was known back then as 'The Domain' and home for high ranking colonial administrators.
The town starts to expand and soon extensions were made to the town boundaries with Pender, Clarke Street, Pender Street, Carew Street, Le Hunte Street, Duncan Road and Denison Road.
This area of the town was simply known as 'The Extension'.
All Suva landmarks were built during the colonial period with the oldest, Thurston Gardens established in 1881.
Originally called the Botanical Gardens it was started by the colonial secretary Sir John Thurston which was recorded to be located at a slope between Waimanu Road and the Immigration Depot.
The site was marked with a naturally formed cave and to this day, with the amount of building and re-building that has taken place already, it is hard to identify where this area is.
Thurston Gardens were moved to its present site in 1913 and changed to its present name in 1976.
A drinking fountain, the clock tower and the bandstand were all built by Henry Marks, a wealthy Australian businessman as a present to the town.
The Grand Pacific Hotel built in 1914 was the pioneer of the tourist industry in Fiji and perhaps the Pacific as the legends spawned from its service and amenities made the Grand Old Lady the envy of other nations.
Designed to reflect the first class accommodation in ships back in those days, the Grand Pacific had the reputation for changing the standard of accommodation in Fiji. Lifting it perhaps three, four or five bars higher than the then standards.