Country Stereotypes: Travelling to Papua New Guinea

August 24, 2017

early morning starts help avoid the traffic, the dust and heat | leaving Lae

Papua New Guinea isn’t usually a country that makes it onto many bucket lists and I’ll have to admit my trip there wasn’t a holiday. It was work coupled with an intensive introduction to the country. I was there for a week and spent time in Port Moresby (the capital) and Lae (the industrial hub of the country). I’m probably not alone when I say that a lot of what I knew of PNG was from the media, and these revolved around issues of crime and violence. Two days before leaving from PNG I was told of the rape of three female journalists in Port Moresby. All I could think was “really, did you really need to tell me this right before I head out there?”

being the industrial hub and with development taking place Lae tends to look like this 
The truth though is that I went to Papua New Guinea willingly, excitedly, with an open mind and without too much apprehension about the security issues. Coming from Fiji has somewhat hardened me to the media portrayal of many countries. Fiji after all seems to be all about Frank Bainimarama and there’s more to my country then Frank, and I was sure there was more to Papua New Guinea then rape! And there was, so much more. Papua New Guineans are friendly, their vegetables are amazing (agriculture started in PNG after all), there is a great sense of hope and optimism and the landscape is breathtaking.
local market | Ramu Valley 


We did have armed security presence during our trip, especially in Lae but this was a precaution. It was a work trip that gave us access to many dignitaries and the security presence was necessary. I felt like my movements were quite limited. I didn’t have the freedom just to walk across the road to go to the store or stop and chat with locals. Again, I think it was more reflective of the nature of the trip then the actual place. One of my absolute favourite memories was leaving the safety of our group and walking through the local market with one of our security guards. Sure he had a gun, but it was concealed in one of those bum bag type things and one of my men in our group said he looked over and it look like friends, talking and walking through the market. It was such a seemingly insignificant moment, in comparison to the fancy hotels, lavish dinners and influential people I had the honour of meeting, but a moment that was the highlight of this trip.

visit to Yalu village where the villagers talked to us about the challenges they face | Lae 


I still found enough time and space to take what I saw in and developed an understanding of the complexities the country and its people face. I’m so excited about taking my family back to PNG next year, and yes – I think I would still get security if we took Miss 10 but it’s a small price to pay to be able to experience a  country that many people tend not to go to. I have a few more posts but the truth is I’m struggling to get the words down. Is there anything in particular you’d like to know about the trip or PNG in general?
Do you know much about Papua New Guinea? 
Have you travelled to a country regardless of perhaps negative stereotypes? 

I’d like to thank my dear friend Clare from The Life of Clare who talked through and provided comments on an earlier draft of this post.  


  • Simona M

    Security issues are almost everywhere these days, of course you have to be careful, but it is too bad when it colors an impression. Glad that yours didn't. Gorgeous photos.


      Thanks Simona. I agree, you just have to be careful when you travel – and depending on where you live, at home too. I'm not saying there aren't real security issues in PNG because there are but there was also so much more to the country. Thanks so much for stopping by x

  • Alina Rădulescu

    Vanisha, I have PNG on my bucket list since I can remember. I am so happy for your experience. I really hope to someday have the money to visit the southern Pacific. There is a lot of speculation about common roots to Okinawan culture, so since studying here my desire has grown even bigger.
    Also, being from Romania I understand when you say countries are so different than their images. The images people associate with a country (especially in case of economically not so powerful countries) are sometimes perfectly random, if not straight offensive to the locals.

  • Jeni at Northern Rivers Dreaming


    I found your post very interesting and would like to ask – please, post more photos of Lae. I did some of my growing up in Lae, just before independence. I was lucky because unlike people I've met since who grew up in Port Moresby (where expat families lived in secure compounds) in Lae there was more freedom. As independence got closer things got trickier, but we were still able to travel around the country. Mum also allowed me to go to school in Lae, rather than the usual thing of sending your kids "south" to boarding school. I saw Lae through a child's eyes and adored it. I have blogger friends who live in Lae now and I know it's very different these days. But I'm still very glad I have those memories. So please, more photos, more impressions if you feel like sharing them 🙂


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