Night Out in Port Moresby

The first rule of going out at night in Port Moresby is: don’t go out at night in Port Moresby. Although we joke and complain about being cooped up behind razor wire in hotels elsewhere the country, in Port Moresby (henceforth called PM) it is pretty necessary. Our taxi driver put it best: “I give my passengers rules. The first rule is, never get out of the car. Once an Irish lady got out of the car to take a photograph of the parliament building. She got robbed. At knife point. At ten in the morning. And I had to risk my life to save her – the robber was asking his friends for help in killing me, but they couldn’t be bothered. NEVER get out of the car. NEVER.”

This little speech was delivered on our way out to dinner on our last night in PNG. The fact that the robbers are quaintly called “raskols” in Pidgin doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a very dangerous city, known as one of the least liveable capitals in the world. We were stuck in a dingy, expensive hotel and wanted to stretch our wings a little. We had also had a restaurant recommendation from an excellent guide we had met in the Highlands (hi Nitin!) and wanted to try out “Dynasty” restaurant – it is meant to be one of the best places in town.

Let’s set the scene a little. One of the first hits you get when you google restaurants in PM is a blog post called Lower Your Expectations; Dynasty is a cookie cutter Chinese restaurant. In a shopping mall. While we are not natural mall rats, the advantage of a mall in PM is that you can (you guessed it) put a high fence round the outside and ring it with paramilitary-style security guards. This allows expats to wander round relatively safely with a particular mixture of homesickness and nostalgia – a wistful longing for home, as they knew it in the late 1980s.

Dynasty did us proud. No Alexis Carrington-style shoulder pads, but an actual, true-to-life half-decent Chinese restaurant. It was a little empty, seeing as we went at about 6pm so as to get home before the streets got too lively, but we had our dinner, had our beer, called a reputable cab to take us home, and nobody died.

[Lucy in busy, bustling, happening Port Moresby]

While we on the topic of shopping, it was while we were wondering round the mall with our ice creams looking in shop windows (Jesus, what has happened to us?) that we noticed the prices of everything. For example, an iPhone 4 was on sale in a shop for just over US1,250. Some questions: who in PNG can afford to buy them at this price? What heinous import duties are lining officials’ pockets to jack them up to that level? What must the locals think when every foreign student backpacker who passes through PNG has one in his pocket? The mind boggles.

3 thoughts on “Night Out in Port Moresby

  1. Hi Guys,

    Thank you for your insight on Port Moresby (PoM). It is always interesting to see people writing about their adventures in PNG and what their views are vs. what they were told before coming here. Just a couple of points though (and I do understand you are tourists and therefore new to PNG. I was once as well).
    In the graciousness of most people tourists are recognised as they normally look a little out of place (not qite as relaxed as though who have been here while) and as such people will generally go out of their way to help them and make sure they have a safe and secure time (as much as humanly possible). That being said Taxi’s are never the safest form of transport; but sometimes a necessity anyway, simply because they carry money and are likely to be held up. A taxi with white people in it gets double points for a hit because they get the tourists and the driver, and sometimes the car as well. Generally organising a (more expensive I agree) plain coloured car and a driver is much safer as no one suspects it.
    Walking around. The driver is right. Don’t walk around the Parliament Haus. Only the raskols hang out there, and normally the good locals wont go near the place either for the same reason. Law and Order has a mountain of problems and that is all it comes down to.
    Walking around elsewhere though is generally quite safe depending on how you act. Dress down, carry very little money, no watches, necklaces or rings etc. and if you need to carry a camera, get a point and shoot which goes in a pocket. Carry a local mobile phone and have someone to ring (like the Hotel) in case there is a problem. I generally carry a two way radio as well (you can get them on eBay for $10.00). It doesn’t need to be programmed or talk to anyone, or even have a charged battery, but it looks the part and people think you have a direct line to your security company. I have lived in PoM and around PNG for the past 5 years and I regularly walk (alone) and have never been harrassed, even at 2am in the morning. Respect and Attitude and stopping to have a chat at the corner market does wonders for stopping people from trying to touch you. I was even breaking into a building at 2am in the middle of the City one morning (for good intentions) and the Police walked past me and looked strangely (yes I am white). I just gave them a wave and they let me go on my way climbing the fence. They wouldn’t let a local National get away with that!
    Now the Shopping Mall. I actually currently work here. The issue of the orange camoflague uniform has been raised a thousand times, but the contracted security company likes it and that’s how it stays unfortunately. Inside however we do try and keep it a family freindly place where everyone, not just expats can feel comfortable. As for the price of goods there are two unfortunate things here being a third world undeveloped Country. Firstly about 10% of the population can afford to walk in and buy 10 of the latest iPhones at a time with wads of cash they got from who knows where, hence why prices are inflated, because people actually buy the goods. Secondly this is common across the Country for all goods including basic food stuffs. There are all sorts of duties like shipping, wharf fees, more wharf fees because the container gets backed up and can’t be released, customs handling fees, duty fees (a minimum 10% on most stuff, but up to 150% duty on cars like small sedans), storage and warehousing fees etc. the list goes on. Then after all this is done there are costs like leases on the shop at around US/AUS $300.00 per square metre a month and power and water etc. Then they throw a whole lot of profit (up to 60% mark up) on top of the cost of goods and stick it on the shelf. I think it stinks, but at the end of the day who can actually stop the shop owners when people need to eat and they create a monopoly between themselves, especially when there is minimal manufacturing in the Country to try and combat it and manufacture locally.
    Just my views. I love this place. I’d never left my mother country before I came here and now I rarely leave PNG. I don’t carry a weapon, never have, never needed to.

  2. Keep in mind that K1,250 is only AUD$568, which is actually not bad for an iPhone considering what the previous poster has said about the cost of getting something into the country and actually on the shelf.

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