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Archive for the ‘Papua New Guinea’ Category

19 Feb – 3 Mar 2000: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 

A friend of mine once described Papua New Guinea (or PNG) as the country with “prisons inside out”. What he meant was this crime-infested country has so many rapists, murderers and robbers roaming freely on the streets while the good citizens are locking themselves up at home to be safe. Many people attribute the high crime rate to the high unemployment rates and the extreme poverty following its peaceful independence from Australia in 1975. So, imagine how edgy we felt after receiving a two-weeks assignment in Port Moresby, the  capital and largest city of PNG.

But make no mistake, Port Moresby is a beautiful city along the south-eastern coast of the Gulf of Papua. The Motu-Koitabu natives has been inhabiting this place for centuries until it was discovered by the first European Captain John Moresby in 1873.

For our safety, the company houses the team in a service apartment, fortified with barbed wires and iron-clad gates. We were free to do whatever we want inside the premise but it was a “no-no” to be even one minute outside the gates. We were happy to comply with the safety standards except for one problem – this is a “self-service” apartment where we had to do our own breakfast and laundry.

The company also assigned a company car for our use and we were repeatedly reminded about the “car safety” drill: Board the car quickly and lock the car instantly once you are inside; and at all times, no loittering on the street! We do not carry our valuables except for a credit card and some cash (and please remember to have just enough cash to please the robbers if we ever encounter one).  But finally one day, we drove up the hills and took the courage (or perhaps for the thrill of it) to snap some pictures outside the car. What a pity! This is such a picturesque country, yet almost everyone is deprived of its scenery.

On a Saturday afternoon, our localised colleague, Chew, brought us to the weekend craft market. It’s very safe here, he assured us! It felt good to have some fresh air on the street again and despite the assurance, we were still on our toes.

I bought this beautifully craved wooden dolphine from this friendly vendor and a hand-made shell necklace for JL from this old smiley lady…

All popular restaurants are common targets by the robbers here. To ensure that customers remain safe and maintain a great dining experience, these restaurants have strong metal gates, guarded by local security officers, armed with loaded rifles. So, when we are dining, the restaurants actually keep the gate locked! And it’s the same at the major shopping centres and supermarkets. One evening, we decided to reward ourselves by patronising a popular local Japanese restaurant. It was a quiet, posh place with great teppanyaki. We were enjoying our green tea ice cream when the lights suddenly went out! It was followed by pure silence for one complete minute. In the total pitch dark, we just did not know whether it was a genuine black-out or we should be heading out to the door. At this moment! That minute seemed to last forever…As our uncertainities deepened, the lights came back to reassure us…Phew!

Here’s a picture of a better dinning experience at the Roundhouse…

On the last day, we did a final tour of this city before I headed off to the next desination – Sydney. As the automobile circled the city centre and swirled along the winding coastal roads, the quiet city was bidding goodbyes with a slight drizzle.

And I recalled several day ago, I saw a big rainbow across the blue oceans. Somehow I hoped it symbolizes the colourful and beautiful future of this country. My sincere wish!

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