PNG Betel Nutters

When Singapore President, Lee Kwan Yew, announced a ban on spitting and chewing gum in the early days of his leadership it was deemed to be a social impossibility because the habits were so ingrained in the local population. Thirty years later Singapore is regarded as one of the world’s cleanest cities.

The recent initiative of Port Moresby Governor Powers Parkrop to ‘clean up’ his city by banning betel nut chewing may well have had its antecedents in Lee Kwan Yew’s success.

Prior to Governor Parkrop’s announcement it was hard for visitors to Port Moresby to have anything kind to say about a squalid city surrounded by lawless settlements within a barren rain-shadow area. Local markets, footpaths and roads were drenched with gobfuls of crimson betel nut saliva.

Purveyors of the habit were easily identified by the deep red stain of their teeth, or what was left of them, and their lips. To a westerner betel nut chewing and the random distribution of the saliva it produces is about as gross as it gets.

To Papua New Guineans betel nut chewing is a time-honoured custom. Offering a guest a chew of a betel nut is akin to offering a cup of coffee in Australia. Indeed, the betel nut is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world after nicotine, alcohol and caffine. It is chewed by up to 20 percent of the world’s population in Asia and the Pacific Basin. Its use has been traced as far back as 2,000 years.

The habit comprises a betel leaf or fruit, ripe areca nuts and slaked lime processed from coral, sea shells or mountain lime. The cultivated species of the areca palm and the betel vine are normally used. Areca nuts are hot and acrid and have aromatic and astringent properties. Chewers may enclose the nut in a betel leaf along with a little lime; or the lime may be applied directly to the inside of the cheek with the aid of a spatula; or the bean of the pepper may be dipped directly into the lime before chewing. The various combinations are put between the teeth and the cheek wall, pressed with the tongue and sucked. The mucous membrane thus irritated gives local pleasure, which is reinforced by the action of the mixture as a cerebral stimulant.

Besides providing the chewer with a mild ‘high’ and a sense of well-being it also has the effect of sweetening the breath and relieving stress. The offering of betel nut is a sign of good manners and engenders harmony.

The custom is firmly embedded in PNG culture and may take generations to change. However every great journey starts with a single step and Governor Parkrop will now be hoping to emulate the success of one of the greatest leaders of our time – President Lee Kwan Yew.
Sabung Ayam
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Visit Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) – Travel to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
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Port Moresby is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, on the southeastern coast of the Papuan Peninsula of the island of New Guinea. The city emerged as a trade centre in second half of the 19th century. During World War II it was a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43 as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from Southeast Asia and the Americas.

According to a survey of world cities by the Intelligence Unit of The Economist, Port Moresby is one of the world’s least livable cities (ranked 139 of 140 cities rated).

Although Port Moresby is surrounded by Central Province, of which it is also the capital, it is not part of that province, but forms the National Capital District.

See in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
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Port Moresby Nature Park (formerly The National Botanical Gardens) A must for the visitor. Located next to University of Papua New Guinea, it has some amazing examples of PNG wildlife such as birds of paradise, cassowaries, tree kangaroos, multiple wallaby species, and many other native bird species. Lush, tropical and well kept gardens. A great break from the dry, dusty surrounds and bustle of the capital city. If you are lucky you might catch a wedding while you are there as some locals like to conduct the ceremony in the gardens.

Port Moresby Golf Club A nice golf course located right across from the government buildings. The prices are quite acceptable for visitors. Be careful, crocodiles inhabit the water holes of the golf course. The main building has a nice restaurant where one can have lunch and have a few SP beers (South Pacific beers) after a round of golf.

The Ela Beach Craft Market Run by the Ela Murray International School and held on the last Saturday of each month, this market brings together local artifacts from all over Papua New Guinea. An easy way to get some beautiful carvings, handwoven baskets, or any of a number of other things to bring home as souvenirs.

Touaguba Hill Perhaps not so much to see, but this is where the ambassadorial residences are located and is also where many of the well-to-do expats and locals live. There is a nice view from the top of the hill overlooking the centre of the city and the ocean.

Moitaka Wildlife Sanctuary, Sir Hubert Murray Highway. The Moitaka Wildlife Sanctuary is now closed for re-development.

Hiri Moale Festival. This takes place on the weekend of PNG’s Independence Day in mid-September. The centrepiece is a race of up to 100 traditional Lakatoi canoes, recalling the sea voyages undertaken by the Motuan people from the Port Moresby area who exchanged sago and clay pots with the people of neighbouring Gulf Province. The departure of the canoes from Port Moresby’s Ela Beach is really spectacular. The Festival is the city’s main cultural show with traditional performances, as well as the canoes.

Do in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
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Scuba Diving A number of reefs and wrecks are within close proximity to Port Moresby and diving can be arranged through day vessels or on nearby Loloata Island (which has its own dive shop). There are a variety of sites and depths for all experience levels.

Sabung Ayam