Category Archives: Papua New Guinea

Winter for Snowbirds

During the dark, dreary days of winter, I dream of all things tropical: sand, sun, waves, animals, and jungle. I can no longer deny that I’m a snowbird at heart. It would be easy enough to take a morning detour from my office and end up at the airport, if only I had a ticket. Sigh… one day soon. At least I have plenty of memories to draw from in the meantime.

Christmas day in Madang, Papua New Guinea

A snowbird is someone who travels to a warm country while it’s cold back home where they live. Just as birds fly south for the winter, Canadians like my husband and I jet off to warmer destinations in the winter months. It may be true that most snowbirds are already retired from their careers, but who cares? Warm winters suit me just fine, thank you. Even better if we can skip the commercialism of Christmas.

My husband and I have both been bitten by the travel bug and we’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot together already. We did a 4.5 month trip around South East Asia—through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Laos—just 6 months into our relationship, and we loved it so much we couldn’t wait to go back. Our return trip to Laos two years later was our first true Christmas away as snowbirds.

A Christmas poinsettia growing naturally in the jungle.

We had a wonderful time in Laos during our first trip, and our fondness for the friendly little country remains today. The colourful town of Luang Prabang is a cultural oasis settled deep in the jungle-covered mountains and surrounded by the life-giving Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Here we visited the Royal Palace,  swam in the amazing Kuang Si waterfalls, learned to cook some local dishes, and admired row after row of brightly coloured textiles in the markets. The history and culture here are so thick that the town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Laotian Christmas Tree

For our first Christmas away as snowbirds we returned to Luang Prabang. We remembered the lay of the land immediately, as though we’d never left. We spent the next ten days in paradise relaxing, sunning ourselves, and washing spring rolls down with frosty Beer Lao’s in the early afternoons. It was exactly what we had come for, and to make the trip even more memorable, my husband proposed! Can you blame me for wanting to go back again right now?

New Guinean Christmas tree (and Santa's hanging by a noose!)

For our honeymoon we went on another soul-warming adventure to Australia and Papua New Guinea for six weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. We flew from island to glorious island with extended stays in Madang, Kokopo and Lissenung Island. Now that we’re in the darkest, wettest days of winter, I dream of Lissenung the most.

Snorkelling near Lissenung Island, Papua New Guinea

Lissenung is a small resort island located in the Kavieng province of Papua New Guinea and the resort only accommodates around 14 guests at a time. Run by husband and wife couple Dietmar and Ange Amon, the resort is a world-class destination for scuba diving, though truth be told we didn’t go there for the diving. We went for the ultimate escapist experience. For a time we were just two people on a tiny speck of palm fringed sand, a mere dot in the great big sea of blue. We were also a seriously long way away from our home in Vancouver, Canada, where holiday commercialism was in full swing. Sure we thought about our family and friends while we were half way around the world celebrating the holidays in the sun. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. It seems that once you’ve experienced a Christmas as a snowbird it’s really hard to go back!

We didn’t get to flap our wings to any exotic locales this Christmas, but no matter. This year we brought the palm tree to us!

Our Christmas palm tree

I wonder where our next flight of fancy will take us? Perhaps… India?