Don't Miss in Madang
To fully appreciate the lifestyle of many residents, visit Bilbil, a village in a lush rainforest known for creating the clay pots that once were traded up and down the coast. People live in thatched homes made from the sago palm. Many still cook outdoors over fires. Pigs and chickens, both highly valued, have the run of the place -- sadly so do dogs, which tend to be underfed and underappreciated. You'll notice that many of the villagers, including children, have teeth and tongues stained red from chewing betel nut, which has narcotic qualities. During events arranged for tourists, women and men -- including Bilbil's chief -- produce a "singsing," an exhibition of traditional songs and dances. The women, wearing grass skirts made from the highly functional sago palm, also demonstrate how they make their clay pots. There are generally a few wares for sale as well.
If you want an unusual experience, you might like the Balek Wildlife Sanctuary, home to a sulphur spring that bubbles out of a cave in a limestone escarpment. You might spot turtles and fish. While it is within hiking distance, check with your cruise line or the Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau whether that is a wise choice at the time of your visit. The bureau may be able to recommend a guide.
The Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau, located on Modilon Road, near Coronation Drive, has a small but informative museum that showcases PNG's rich past with a terrific collection of artefacts: carved canoe paddles, a bamboo fishing net, stone axes, spears, masks, body ornaments, clay pots, drums used to send messages from one village to another and a tribal leader's chair that once adorned a "spirit house" where young boys were initiated into manhood. There's also an exhibit about the country's existence under German rule, and, more recently, as an Australian protectorate. PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975 and operates today as a constitutional monarchy that's part of Great Britain.
Madang Resort Hotel, PNG's oldest hotel, exudes a lot of Old World glamour with stunning views of the Dallman Passage and 10 acres of lush, landscaped tropical gardens. The gated resort is often the setting for shore excursions featuring a musical and dancing pageant with dozens of participants in traditional dress. Let's just say it feels a little more like Disneyland than Bilbil. Contact the resort well in advance to check whether you can get a resort day pass to use the facilities when your ship is in port.