Saturday, May 13, 2017

[PORT MORESBY] A Papua Kinda Staycation


The thought of visiting Papua New Guinea was highly hypothetical at first. I knew I needed a way to get back to Manila from Australia, and a cheap Cebu Pacific flight via Sydney seemed to be the perfect idea and the cheapest alternative. Nevertheless, I toyed with the idea for a while despite the lack of prospects. The Wikitravel page already warned me that the flight tickets alone would already be expensive on their own, and that I wouldn’t be seeing a lot if I opt to just stay in Port Moresby.


As my journey back to Manila drew nearer, I decided to just book the flight tickets anyway. From Queensland you can fly to Port Moresby via Brisbaneo on either Air Niugini or Qantas. The travel time is around three hours. Having been interrogated by both New Zealand and Australian customs, I expected the worst. Wikitravel even warns you specifically about extortion once you land in Papua New Guinea. And then there is the issue of the visa on arrival thing. Will they honor it?


Lucky for me, I didn’t experience any of these nightmare scenarios I’d been conjuring in my head prior to landing. The immigration officer only asked me the usual questions before putting the free visa sticker on my passport. The normal length of stay is 60 days for Philippine passport holders. The customs officer just collected my form and gestured me to head to the exit. I immediately obeyed. The next thing I knew, I was already at the Digicel counter buying my sim card.


That was yet another worry of mine. None of the Airbnb options for Port Moresby had WiFi, so I assumed that internet connectivity must be really difficult. I was more than satisfied with Digicel, though. I had no issue with coverage and I was online the entire time I was in Port Moresby. Calling the taxi recommended by my Airbnb host, I waited for around half an hour before he picked me up. The drive up to the hills did not take more than 30 minutes. And there I was standing in awe before the view in front of me.


The picture on Airbnb couldn’t have been more accurate. The enviable location of the house on top of the hill provides a really impressive panoramic shot of the bay. As the sun was ever so bright frying us in our own sweat at almost 40C, the glistening effect of its rays on the surface of the water was just a sight to behold. I knew my Port Moresby excursion would be eventless to say the least, but that view totally made up for it, along with the unparalleled hospitality of my Airbnb hosts.


Erica told me that whenever she had guests coming over, they would just sit on that balcony and drink or smoke all day while enjoying the view. As for me, I chose to at least see some of the few tourist attractions in the capital, but I guess I was just unlucky. Honda, the family friend/taxi driver, drove me around Moresby on a Saturday to see the Parliament and the Museum beside it. Neither one was open that day, but I was still fortunate enough to witness some local activity there: a political talk and a picnic.


But even the locals admit that there is nothing much to see in the capital. To appreciate the natural wonders of the country, you have to venture out to the provinces. The problem is you need either a lot of time or money to do this. Air travel is not cheap, while doing it by land requires a great deal of time that some people just don’t have. Maybe the best way to maximize the returns of your expensive flight tix is to remain in the country for the whole two months they will give you. That way, you get to explore! Well, not me.


We opted for a detour at Ela Beach, which has seen better days. Construction is ongoing for a building intended to be completed before the APEC summit to be held there in 2018. As such, the beach side quarrying has affected the quality of the water and sand, although locals still flock there just to chill. The neighboring Waterfront Mall does not seem to provide beach access, while the Yacht Club next to it is only open to members. The view from there is not that cool either, so I’d say skip!


There is a nature park of sorts close to the parliament, but we no longer went because I wasn’t in the mood for animals and plants. The heat was paralyzing, and I was already contented with my plan of just lazing on that balcony and admiring the view. I have to say that it is one of the few moments in the last few years in which such a view served as an effective stress reliever for me. If I paid that much for a two-day staycation that gave me peace of mind, then it’s absolutely worth it in my book.


I’ve been told time and again by almost everyone I met, upon discovery that I’m from the Philippines, that Filipino soap operas and films are popular in the country. I was surprised at first and dismissed it as a mere attempt to make me feel welcome, but seeing them firsthand confirmed that these audiovisual exports of ours do indeed command a significant amount of following among the locals. The odd thing is that they are dubbed entirely in English. It is only when I heard the names of the characters that I was able to verify it.


For my Sunday flight back to Manila, I had the choice between a morning one on Philippine Airlines or a late afternoon one with Air Niugini. Not only are there many Filipinos here, they are also said to defy the OFW stereotype because they tend to own businesses. In short, the locals work for them, instead of the other way around. Isn’t that great? Overall, I am satisfied with my country #61. It might have been short and not as eventful, but I really appreciate the experience. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

http://s208.photobucket.com/user/ihcahieh/library/PORT%20MORESBY%20-%20Port%20Moresby
[PORT MORESBY] A Papua Kinda Staycation
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgi5HWxAmomYtl3aEA5VgbOCU41I6IW35

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