Everything you need to know about Lae
Don’t be put off by the negative things you might’ve heard about Lae … they may well not be true. Like anywhere else in Papua New Guinea, if you exercise common sense, you’ll soon see that Lae is a thriving town with a unique history and culture – and, if you look close enough, a natural beauty to rival anywhere.
PMV buses are the cheapest and most convenient way to get around, with the main stops located in Top Town, Main Market and Eriku. The city’s new ‘Meri Safe’ bus program offers safe transport options for women.
For added security and comfort, private transfers can be arranged with Guard Dog (guarddogpng.com) or ESS (esspng.com) security companies, which offer transfers to and from Nadzab Airport.
Lae is also the gateway to the Highlands, and offers the only road access to Wau, Bulolo, Kainantu and Goroka, all breathtaking journeys, albeit on bumpy roads.
Take a stroll through the Lae Botanical Gardens (laebotanicgardens.com), once recognised as the most beautiful botanical gardens in the tropics, thus giving Lae its nickname of the ‘Garden City’. There are over 400 native and exotic plant species on display, as well as an RAAF C47 plane from World War 2.
For a look at pristine tropical gardens, a visit to the Lae War Memorial is a must. Managed by the Australian Government,
it is a touching tribute to the servicemen who died in PNG during the war. Lae is also the last place American aviator Amelia Earhart was seen during her 1937 circumnavigation of the globe. A memorial on Markham Road pays tribute to her legend.
Salamaua is a narrow isthmus an hour outside of Lae. It’s a quiet sanctuary consisting of local villages and holiday houses. Excellent snorkelling and diving can be found within the harbour with banana boat transfers leaving daily from Voco Point (near the Lae Yacht Club).
Two hours from Lae by boat are the spectacular Tami Islands. A haven for anglers and divers, Tami is abundant with lively corals and varieties of reef fish. A small guesthouse is available and private charters can be organised (lgfcpng.com). On your way to Tami, try your hand at fishing the Huon Gulf where everything from large billfish to small pelagics are caught.
Held each October, the Morobe Show showcases the agricultural, industrial, commercial and cultural aspects of the Morobe Province. Attend on the Sunday to watch the sing
sings, where nearly all of the country’s 22 provinces are represented through stunning costumes, songs and dance.
The Lae International Hotel (laeinterhotel. com) is the city’s premier destination for conferencing and functions, with facilities capable of hosting up to 800 people. Crossroads Hotel at Nine Mile offers a more intimate space, with excellent catering and access to Nadzab Airport (tel. +675 475 1111).
The Markham Valley, which traverses Morobe Province from east to west, is often called the food bowl of PNG, and a visit to Lae’s main market is where you’ll find the region’s freshest produce.
A range of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as local clothes and crafts, are on display from Monday to Saturday.
Lae’s main shopping district is located in
Top Town, where retailers such as Papindo, Big V, Foodmart and Lae Sports Store are located. The Brian Bell complex on Montoro Street is home to over 20 specialty stores, including Trends Beauty.
For sweeping views and modern facilities, look no further than the Morobe Hotel on Coronation Drive (hotelmorobe.com). The hotel’s new Garden View restaurant is the place to go for elegant Chinese dining, while the cafe is a cosy spot for coffee.
Further up the road is Lae Travellers Inn, a budget option (tel. +675 479 0411) with comfortable rooms and a small restaurant serving Western and Indian cuisine.
For something more elaborate, the Lae International Hotel has a range of short and long-term accommodation options, with two restaurants, a bar, swimming pool and gym.
Lae’s best Chinese Malaysian food can be found at Bunga Raya (tel. +675 472 7177) where you can slurp on delicious laksa while devouring oodles of noodles. In the centre of Top Town is Lae City Hotel (laecityhotel.com), a convenient location for lunch or dinner with a mix of Western and Asian delights on offer. Go for the baby back ribs, where a generous serving of delicate pork is dished up with chips and veggies.
The town’s freshest salads and creamiest milkshakes can be found at Chigi’s Coffee Shop (chigis.com) inside the Brian Bell Complex, an excellent meeting spot for coffee or lunch.
The Lae Yacht Club (laeyachtclub.com.pg), or ‘yachtie’ as the locals call it, is the town’s liveliest joint. Quench your thirst with a cold SP beer as you overlook the surrounding Huon Gulf, while locals regale you with their tales of life in Lae. Or, for greener pastures, a drink at the Lae Golf Club (Bumbu Road) will have you gazing at a lush 18-hole course, considered one of the best in the region.
Tranquil waters … Salamaua Harbour, an hour outside Lae.
Showtime … a sing-sing group at the Morobe Show.