Port Moresby

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(1) Port Moresby as seen from an airplane

What About Port Moresby?

Having posted dozens of photos about Papua New Guinea, I was just waiting for one of the readers to ask something like, “What about Port Moresby, what can you show or tell us about it?”.  If it did happen, I would have probably blushed (if blushing can be done in a blog) and admit that I have nothing much to say about the country’s capital except that I felt unsafe there and I found the place outrageously expensive; and I have nothing much to show but  the images I took as I flew in and out of the place or from the windows of my office or hotel room which were both located many floors above the ground.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(2) A closer view of the on-going huge reclamation works with a yacht club and hotel complex almost complete

It’s not easy to photograph and learn more about a capital city whose notorious reputation makes strolling around as a typical tourist-with-an-expensive-camera sound more like a death wish.   Crime rate in this city is staggering.  Rape and murder are rampant with the murder rate reportedly three times that of Moscow, and 23 times that of London.  Raskol gangs terrorize the streets and control large areas of the city.  The local police force appears impotent and is accused of being responsible for many of the atrocities.  The 60-90% unemployment rate and the unproductive land around the city are frequently cited as the root causes of all these troubles.  If this sounds shocking, Google Port Moresby and you’ll find many more horror stories about the place including being one of the 10 most dangerous cities of the world and  being the worst place to live in among 130 world capitals.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(3) The city faces the Gulf of Papua and is strategically located between Australia and Southeast Asia

Serious Risks

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(4) My office building as viewed from the front of my hotel

Furthermore, the office I worked with took these security issues very seriously and provides a lengthy security briefing requiring extreme caution for new-comers.  For example, my hotel was almost literally just a stone’s throw away from the office (photo on the left) but it was a must that a secured vehicle fetched us every morning and brought us back every afternoon.  An office vehicle had to bring me to the airport one early morning and I was shocked to find out that private security personnel were following us in another car.  I was, of course, quick to conclude that the security escort was intended not necessarily for me but for the glitzy SUV I was riding.  Still not convinced, I secretly ventured out of my hotel premises into the open city streets one weekend, pretending to be just another man on the street (of course I did not wear anything fancy or carry something that would attract attention such as my camera).  Thankfully, I did survive the little adventure and was able to get a hearty lunch from a Chinese restaurant but some diners I befriended confirmed the security advice such as don’t walk around alone even at daytime — if you do, don’t show that you are new in town, stay away from certain areas of the city, etc., etc.  That finally convinced me that the office’s security precautions were justified and that I was lucky to be spending most of my time in the province where security conditions was much better — most of the time, at least.

Hopeful Trends

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(5) Boats in the gulf as viewed from my office window

But the city is not without potential and it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t get good photos of it even from lofty vantage points.  Port Moresby is strategically located between Australia and Southeast Asia, the reason why the Japanese Imperial Army made it a prime target in World War II, and it was already an important trade center even before Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby claimed the land for Britain in 1873.  The country is rich in natural resources, including huge deposits of gold and copper and the currently being developed liquefied natural gas, and, albeit very slowly, this redounds to some development in the capital.  Huge construction works are visible when driving around and/or flying in and out of the city — some hopeful indications that conditions in the city may still improve.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(6) Residential areas in the hilly portion of the city

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(7) Colorful houses on stilts along the coast

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(8) Weekend crowd at the seawall as viewed from my hotel window

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(9) Downtown Port Moresby as viewed 13 floors above the ground

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(10) The side of town where my office is located

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(11) Vendors and their colorful umbrellas along a city street

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(12) Afternoon sky as viewed from the office

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(13) Luckily, my hotel has this pool and spa area where I could spend most of my free time

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

(14) Daybreak over the Gulf: There is hope for the city.

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