I was keen to have a look at Lae on my first excursion outside Port Moresby, so I managed to work in a stroll around the National Botanic Garden which is located right in the city. I have always liked forests and lush vegetation, so the greenery of this large area, combined with the sounds of tropical birds and the humid airs made me really feel like I seeing something special. In the end, the trees that most fascinated me were the Pandanus 'Palms' as shown here. They are not actually palm trees, and are sometimes called 'screwpines' because of the way their leaves grow. Although I had previously seen above-ground roots on Mangrove trees, I was quite intrigued by the roots propping up these Pandunus trees - a feature it developed to help the trunk deal with the weight of leaves and fruits that grow at the top of the trunk!
The Botanic Garden has seen its ups and downs over the years, but starting in 1995 it has seen a resurgence as funds were allocated by the government for more landscaping, fencing, public facilities and enhancement of the plant displays.
Second Street, Nadzab Pg, Lae, 411, Papua New Guinea
Good for: Couples
This restaurant boasts a fusion Chinese-Malay menu. The quality of food is great overall, but I tend to lean towards the Malay choices. This place is about the food, not the atmosphere. The lunch specials are a great deal for those wanting a special feed on a budget.
Favorite Dish: The seafood rocks here...dry chilli squid and butter prawns; or go Malay with a Laksa, or anything Sambal. The Malaysian curry is also great.
In front of Chemcare and Huon Gulf Pharmacies, from Monday to Saturday, local crafts-people sell their wares. From bilums to baskets and necklaces to carvings there is a wide variety of items to choose from. This is the best place in Lae to buy bilums; local string bags (made using the same ancient method as the Aboriginies make Dili bags),...more
Brian Bell is the alpha and the omega of homewares in Lae. This is where you can get the best and the most expensive. If you are going into the field; Brian Bell is a Coleman dealer and you will find a limited selection of camping products. If you are serious about "going bush", do not rely on PNG suppliers for your equipment. Seasoned travellers...more
Andersons Foodland is one of 3 main supermarkets in Lae. It has a wide variety of locally available fresh produce and imported goods, and is a good bet for finding the food item you crave.You can also buy wine and beer (local and imported). This is a good place to stock up on toiletries and foodstocks on your travels. Rice , tea, sugar, milk (UHT...more
If you are new to PNG village travel: know that you will be a source of interest and entertainment to the local population. If you are expecting alone time...it is unlikely. Most Papua New Guineans do not cherish alone time - and they will want to make sure that you are not "lonely" while you are in their village. Expect heaps of questions about you and your family it is usually the major topic of small talk when you first meet people in PNG.
It is always a good idea to bring supplies from town. Here are some tips that might help you prepare:
- Expect others to eat 2-3 times as much as you
- Expect that many people will "appear" at meal time
- In the village people "make hay while the sun shines"; this means that your coffee and tea (and toilet paper) supplies will be depleted quickly with little thought for the length of your trip. So, if you want to make sure there is tea/coffee for you for the whole trip...hold a little on the side.
SAFETY: Generally, you are safer in a village than in town. Communities tend to take your security personally. Just do not roam around alone at night. If you are a man (traveling alone), stick to do what blokes do and if you are a woman (traveling alone) , do what the local women do. There may even be a time and a place to bathe - ask someone if you are unsure.
Cultural sensitivity: As mentioned above; if you are travelling alone try to "hang around" with people of the same sex or a mixed group. This is just how it is done and, in most cases, doing otherwise will just make your hosts uncomfortable.
Women: wear long shorts, loose trousers, or skirts that cover your thighs. If you plan to swim/bathe in the village have a wrap or board shorts to keep covered - yes, even in the water. If it is any consolation - you can go as skimpy as you want on top. In rural PNG breasts are for feeding babies and that is it [attitudes are changing in town and a more sexualised perception of women as portrayed in the west is becoming more common; this is in contrast to PNG tradition].
Couples: public displays of affection are frowned upon and make people uncomfortable.
Communication: Ask one qustion at a time and give time for people to answer. People can be unsure how to answer if they do not know all the information you ask for - or if you are asking for generalisations about the communities' attitudes or perceptions. For the most part, is considered inappropriate to answer on behalf of others without the mandate to do so.
The best approach: when you are in the village, just go with the flow. It is best if you plan to relax and follow the lead of your local hosts.
Luggage and bags:
Something rugged is best for PNG. Give leather a miss, unless you plan to use it very regularly...it is rainy here and leather gets moldy quickly.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: It is hard to get shoes here. Bring something robust that can handle wet weather if you are traveling here from June to August.
If you are moving here: BRING UNDERWEAR; as much as you thing you will need until your next trip out. You can buy it, but it tends to fall apart after one wash. Bring swimmers too.
If you are not squeamish or wildly picky, most other stuff can be found at one of the multitude of second hand clothing shops.
If you are coming here to work bring businesswear. Tip 95% of businessmen residing in Lae wear shortsleeve dress shirts and chinos.
Women should be prepared to keep their legs covered to just above their knees. Things are more relaxed in hotels and expatriate hang-outs; but short skirts and shorts attract not-so-subtle gawking from locals and expatriates alike. If you plan to swim bring a wrap to get to the pool - if you are in a village plan to wear the wrap or board shorts when you swim. Don't worry about your arms - uncovered is just fine.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Many namebrand shampoos come in small bottles in PNG, if you are looking to replenish when you travel. There are not many facial cleansing products available in Lae. The pharmacies carry "Olay & Nivea" products (+ "Nivea" for blokes) but if you are picky, or here for a short time, bring your favourite brand with you.
PAIN KILLERS: If you are from North America, Acetaminophen = Paracetamol in Asia/Pacific. Panadol (namebrand Paracetamol) is available in pharmacies, most supermarkets, and major hotel lobby gift shops. Ibuprofen is available in pharmacies. Remember that most stores close around 6:00 so it is best to be stocked up in case of late night emergencies.
Most basic medicines are available over the counter in PNG [see "pharmacy/doctor ALERT" below regarding antibiotics to avoid]
Photo Equipment: Film and film processing (from film and datacard/flashdrive) is available at local pharmacies.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Brian Bell (homewares department store) is a "Coleman" retailer; so some equipment is available. Torches/Flashlights of varying quality are available at most supermarkets and tradestores. Papindo Supermarket/Department Store, and Food Mart [upstairs] also has some basic equipment available, such as towels and bedding.
Miscellaneous: BOOKS: if you like to read and you are picky about your choices, do not expect to pick up the latest releases in PNG. If you are game to read anything and you are not adverse to second hand books; second hand clothing stores often have a stack of paperbacks for K1 or K2 a piece (less than .50 cents US). Second Hand Clothing stores with books: "Value Village" in Eriku, "Quality Clothing" in Top Town (in the Eddies Saloon Building).
Secret Women's Business: supplies for that "special time of month" are available at most supermarkets [Meds (an Aussie brand) and Obi (North American) can be found at supermarkets and pharmacies - it is rare to see "tampax" with applicators]. My advice: bring what you need if you are travelling. If you are moving here, bring a couple month's supply until you can locate what you need and stock up.
Pharmacy/Doctor ALERT: if you are Caucasian, be careful about being prescribed chloramphenicol (eye/eardrops, or oral medication) by doctors and pharmacists - it is widely used as an inexpensive and effective broad spectrum antibiotic here with no adverse effects in Melanesians (it is also widely used in Africa), but it has been shown to contribute to the onset of "aplastic anemia" in the caucasian population - and you don't want that. There are many other anti-biotics available, so go with something you recognise, rather than risking it during your travels.
Lae is located at the innermost reach of Huon Gulf and is the busiest commercial port in the country. The small curved road heading inland and to the south leads to Wau and Bulolo, where gold was discovered in 1926 but is now an area primarily noted for logging. Lae is at the end of one of the three 66,000 volt transmission line spokes coming out from the a major hydro dam in the highlands near Okapa, with the other two spokes terminating on the north coast at Madang and further inland to the west at Mount Hagen. As backup for transmission line problems, Lae also had a diesel power station that could supply most of the local load. Many of my trips to Lae simply involved picking up an Elcom Landcruiser and heading off on the Highlands Highway to reach trouble spots further inland.
Fondest memory: During my time in PNG (1979-82), the mostly sealed Highlands Highway was not a bad road to travel as it climbed up into the rugged central mountain ranges. However, this recent update from the US State Department paints a different picture: "roads are generally in poor repair, and flat tires occur routinely as a result of potholes and debris on the roadways. During the rainy season landslides can be a problem on some stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen. Criminal roadblocks have occurred during the day and more widely after dark on the Highlands Highway. Visitors should consult with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy before traveling on the Highlands Highway. Crowds can react emotionally and violently after road accidents. Crowds form quickly after an accident and may attack those whom they hold responsible, stoning and/or burning their vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of legal responsibility. Persons involved in accidents usually should proceed directly to the nearest police station rather than stop at the scene of an accident."
The last part about accidents is no different than it was 25 years ago - an Australian engineer I worked with in Port Moresby was badly beaten by a crowd after his company truck hit a pedestrian on a country road outside the capital city.