The capital city of the Western Highlands Province, Mount Hagen, is a bustling commercial hub full of colour and contradictions as the old meets new. As the third largest city in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with a population of around 100,000, Mount Hagen is experiencing rapid growth and change brought about by the success of coffee and tea plantations. Surrounded by lowland rainforest and alluring cloud covered peaks, the city has been described as the wild frontier of the highlands and offers curious travellers a few hidden gems.
One of the things that draw people to Mount Hagen is the local Saturday Markets. The kaleidoscope of fresh fruits and vegetables from across the province are displayed with such care, it could rival that of a large supermarket chain. And it’s not just fruit and vegetables; you will find everything from live chickens to local crafts such as highland hats, traditional bilums and even basic clothing. As a tourist, you will be met with curious yet friendly stares and I have found that the locals are more than happy to pose for a photo or let you photograph their stands. The markets are notoriously busy and while it’s certainly not necessary, tourists can take a guide or are able to hire a keen young local to help carry their bags for the price of a couple of Kina. They may even help with your purchasing, as being able to speak a few phrases of Tok Pisin can go a long way.