1:30 hour to Guam, late
afternoon. A huge line for immigration – a couple of huge planes from
Japan must have landed. They all looked and pointed at Johanne. A
white, red headed girl. The immigration officer was quite nice and
surprised that we had an ESTA; there are probably not many countries
out here with ESTA. We were picked up by the hotel Holiday Resort & Spa, right
at the beach. Swim in the pool, spaghetti at the hotel restaurant and a
quick look at the beach. Nice hotel and the room was 116$ incl.
transfer and breakfast.
Breakfast at the hotel (included)
and to the beach. And what a great beach. The water was crystal clear,
shallow and there were fish close to the beach. Not many tourists –
only Japanese. I swam out towards the reef, and not until halfway out
there started to be corals – shattered with small fish. There was a
current, especially a little of the beach. Check-out at 12 and rented a
car with Nippon car. They were very thorough about conditions, like you
have to drive on the right and this symbol means handicapped parking –
and you cannot park here. 60$ for 6 hours.
A visit to a mall, where Anders went missing (found him, eventually), lunch, the northern circuit, visiting South Pacific Memorial Park – the last stand of WWII on the island. Two tour busses came and they only saw the memorial for 5 minutes, failing to go down the stairs to the Japanese caves and tunnels. The airbase occupies most of the northern part, and we saw some really big bombers take off and land. South to Asan beach, where the invasion took place.
We arrived to Saipan, welcomed by our friends Randy and Cheryl, who escorted us to our hotel. A pleasant evening, though there had been some air holes coming with the short flight from Guam (the children enjoyed it, Birgitte did not…). Rented a car from Alamo – 60$/day and we were upgraded. We stayed at Summer Holiday Hotel for 60$/night.
Randy and Cheryl met us for
breakfast and took us for a trip – we went to Obyan Beach where there
were a few people snorkeling and diving. It was on the south coast with
good views to Tinian. There used to be a hydrofoil boat from Garapan to
Tinian, but it is long gone and you can only go there now by plane. I
had thought it would be interesting to go there for a day trip to see
the Atomic bomb pits, where the bombs for Hiroshima and Nagasaki were
loaded. We could see where the north field runways would be – during
the war (after the invasion), 2 planes took off every 45 seconds with
bombers against Japan. Randy has a hobby locating old war remnants and
locations, so we went to see some of the places he and a friend had
found. They use most Saturdays with metal detectors and machete in the
jungle and it was amazing how many things they had found; nobody has
ever searched the area – bones, lots of ammunition (unexploded), knives
etc. He has marked some of the paths to caves or lookouts, so he showed
us some of the caves and finds. I found it very interesting. On the way
back, we stopped at the beach of the invasion where there still are two
tanks in the water. Further out there were 3 army supply ships - huge -
ready for where they will be needed.
We relaxed a bit in the afternoon and later we drove 15 minutes to the north of the island (yes, it is short distances), the northern point. If you have seen Windtalkers with Nicolas Cage, you’ll remember that they land on the south west, and moves north and the final battles are in the far north. The cliffs are called Banzai cliffs and families jumped to their death there when the Americans came there – fearing death would be better. We were the only ones there and the many monuments witnessed about it being a special place. The sun was not quite down, so we drove a bit further to the cliff behind – Suicide Cliff, where many Japanese soldiers committed suicide by jumping down the 300 m vertical cliffs. Nearly all 30.000 Japanese were killed during the 3 week war, many here at this cliff.
Thursday evening is a special evening in town with a market and lots of food stalls. We enjoyed two hours with Cheryl and tasting barbeque and other stuff together with all the Japanese tourists. It was very relaxed and we all enjoyed it a lot. There were different entertainment groups (local boys and girls dancing). All closed down around 9. There is just one area in Garapan where all major hotels are clustered and all shops and Karaoke bars are located.
Planned to go to Mt. Tapochau in
the morning, but up too late so went to the museum – but it was closed.
The government can only afford to pay for 4 days a week, so most
government places are closed on Fridays.
We saw Randy's office and a couple of the war relics he had found. Most of them had been re-burried. The children were thrilled to see the jail and for getting a Saipan Marshall badge.
Managaha Island. A small island off the northwest coast, immensely popular with the Japanese – and with good reason. It was captured after the main island and there was heavy fighting here. We started off from the Hyatt beach where David took us out there – a 10 minute ride. Before we had bought sandwiches from Subway and brought a couple of beers and water. The trip was 60$ for us, and we could just say what time to go and come back. Entry fee was 5$ per adult. It was a tropical paradise island, perfect temperature with a little wind, sand beach and blue water. Corals right off the beach, so after lunch we spent much time snorkeling. Lots of fish and Japanese in the water, but still, we found a quiet beach almost to our selves. The corals were not doing that well, but nice fish, also some big ones. The children saw many and were happy. Even a small reef shark at the pier. The four hour went quickly and at 16:00 the island was empty. We were the last ones off at 16:30.
Wonderful dinner at the Hyatt in the evening with Cheryl and Randy; great buffet – everybody was happy.
After breakfast we went to the
‘mountain’ Topochau in the middle of the island. The last part was
unpaved, but our high car could make it almost to the top. The highest
mountain in the world, measured from the sea bottom. Disputed, though,
since it is not directly to the bottom (Mariana trench), but as an
arch, so the Hawaii mountains are higher. Views of the whole island and
a few descriptions of the battles for the peak and the nearby Purple
ridge and Death Valley that took a long time to clear. Returning to
Denmark, I finished Leon Uris' Battle Cry, where the last scenes are
from the battle of Saipan, and the bombardment here from Topochau. Also
clear view of Tinian - see the picture below.
Back to check out from the hotel, and we continued on to the memorial of the war, a National Park of the US. Nice descriptions of the battle, but few finds. As Randy and I agreed, it would be even better if they had a display of all the finds, but they had told Randy to leave the things in the ground (to rust and disappear). After a Subway sandwich, we went to Randy and Cheryl to enjoy a couple of hours with the children swimming in the pool and a cold beer.
Flight to Guam and the airport was closing down at 20:00 as the other evening, so not much to do while waiting for the 22:30 flight to Yap-Palau.
In Yap, we were told that there was the body of a dead soldier on the plane, and that the guard of honour and the family had to deplane first. We could see the coffin being unloaded. Many Micronesians have been soldiers in the US Army and in the airport of Guam there were pictures of all those dead – Palau, Yap, Marshall, Guam and other Micronesian islands.