Move along folks, nothing to see here J. Seriously, while not offensive or overly terrible, you didn’t come to see the sights of Wamena – there are none (with the exception of the gigantic cross…you’ll see what I mean). Fortunately, Wamena does provide a good base to launch your Baliem Valley mission. There are places to stay, places to eat, and stores to buy things. All basic, nothing worth writing about, but nonetheless adequate for what you need as a base to launch from. If you want to spend a couple/few days in Wamena, you could. Either way.
First, there’s an airport (new as of 2016), and thus conveniently providing an easy flight into the heart of the Baliem Valley – which is critical, obviously. The town is relatively small, about 30,000 people, which in Indonesia is pretty much a village. The best thing about Wamena is that it is entirely walkable. In fact, we walked from the airport to our accommodation in 10 mins, with our roller bags!
Places to stay: From all accounts on the internet, most places to stay in Wamena are overpriced, and low quality/value. I can’t say, because where we stayed was awesome! (see tips below). And obviously, I have no firsthand knowledge of any other place. So ya, I won’t go on, because I am simply going to strongly recommend you stay where we stayed. I cannot imagine a better place to stay in Wamena for launching your trip.
Places to eat: not much going on in terms of the restaurant scene, but again, if you are hungry and looking for a basic Indonesian meal, just poke around until you find something. Again, pretty basic, but you won’t starve.
Grocery stores: if you must do your grocery shopping in Wamena, you could, and survive (but see “food” section). There are basic little Indonesian shops here and there, and one “bigger” grocery store called “Ropan Market” (google maps knows it), which is as close to a grocery store as you are going to get.
Banks/ATMs: there are a few ATMs in town, so if you are out of cash, you should be able to get it. That said, I brought all my cash with me and never used one. So, your call. I would play it safe and just bring all cash with you. But don’t panic if you need to do it in Wamena. There are definitely ATMs.
Alcohol: it is very important to realize, that alcohol is banned in Papua. So, you cannot buy alcohol (booze) of any kind anywhere in Wamena (and certainly not in the villages). If you want a little wine with your meal, or little drinkie-poo before bedtime, bring it from wherever you are coming from. I am not telling you to do this, given the illegality of it, I’m just sayin’ J.
· If you stay at Hogorasuok, the full kitchen means you can buy (or bring) a few groceries and make your own food, which will almost certainly beat the food available on the street J.
· The street market on the main drag downtown (Pasar Wamena) is a fantastic source of fresh veggies. The ladies are friendly, and you can get everything you need to make a fresh meal.
· If you can avoid being there on a Sunday, that’s preferable because it’s old school, and everything is closed on Sunday (very Christian part of the world). We started and ended on a Sunday, which sucked. Try not to do that J.
· If you want to drink (i.e., alcohol), bring it with you from wherever you are coming from. Although, be aware that it is technically banned in Papua, and therefore illegal. Be discrete.