Half an hour’s drive north of Nadi, LAUTOKA is Fiji’s second largest city and an important port. It’s a surprisingly low-key affair – the city centre doesn’t feel any bigger or busier than Downtown Nadi, with most of the 53,000 population living amongst the light industrial suburbs. Although there is little to admire architecturally, Lautoka is a good place to wander, with plenty of leafy avenues and diverting Fiji-Indian stores and market stalls – the latter a far cry from Nadi’s touristy souvenir shops.
The organized city centre is laid out in a grid pattern with one-way streets, flanked by beautiful tree-lined Vitogo Parade and parallel Naviti Street. A walk around this one-square-kilometre centre takes in the majority of shops, the municipal market and an impressive mosque. Opposite the mosque, there’s an endless parade of fashion stores along Vitogo Parade selling suits, saris and costume jewellery. Most of the shops along Naviti Street sell a bizarre array of odds and ends, mostly cheap imports from China, but you’ll find plenty of colourful fabrics sold by the roll as well as tailors who can make you up clothes at bargain rates. Across Naviti Street under a Brutalist concrete dome is the Municipal Market, one of the most spacious and least claustrophobic markets in Fiji.