You can find a number of ways to describe remote Madang, which is part of Papua New Guinea.
Exotic. Primitive. Culturally rich but economically poor -- grindingly poor.
But this impossibly beautiful spot in the South Pacific is earning a reputation as a tourist destination.
Madang Harbor is right out of a holiday brochure, with its manicured lawns, palm trees and thatched bungalows. You might see waterfront homes with helicopters out front. In contrast, boys in handmade outriggers - just as they have for centuries -- circle ships that call on Madang.
To visit slow-paced Madang is to step back in time. In many ways, this peninsula jutting into the Bismarck Sea has yet to join the 21st century. Perhaps that's not surprising given the fact that fewer than 20 percent of residents live in urban areas and nearly half are illiterate. Look at a map of PNG, as it's called, and you'll see few roads. In this mountainous, densely forested country, access is typically gained by air or boat. PNG, which shares its island home with Indonesia's West Papua, is famously known as the spot American aviator Amelia Earhart took off from in 1937 before her plane's mysterious disappearance.
Today, most of PNG's seven million residents live off the land. The country is known for its many tribes -- hundreds of them. In the highlands, PNG's most primitive region, tribesmen still use arrows, bows and spears. It is not far-fetched to say this is still a country barely explored both geographically and culturally.
Madang, as well, is defined by its tribes: remote mountain communities perched on ridges, river people who live in stilt villages and deep-sea fishermen from the coastal islands. The Madang region is known for its lush yet rugged beauty. There are 38 kinds of birds of paradise, for example, along with tropical rain forests, lagoons with a rich underwater life and plummeting waterfalls. If you hear screeching, look up. Fruit bats, or flying foxes as they are called, are common inhabitants of the trees, even in town.