Guam, Saipan

Intro

This is a part of our 1½ months trip around the world in the winter of 2011 - visiting Baltimore [USA], Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Kosrae [Micronesia], Guam [USA], Saipan [Northern Marianas, USA], Palau, South Korea and Taiwan. We are Birgitte and Erik with our two children (5 and 7) - Johanne and Anders.

Continued from Kosrae, Micronesia


Tuesday 1.3 Guam

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.

landing GuamGuamsunset Guam

Wednesday 2.3 – Guam – Saipan

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.

bamboolast stand Guam
Asan beach

Thursday 3.3 – Saipan, Northern Marianas

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.

beachbombsecret artillery
Saipan beach with Tank turret
Banzai CliffSuicide Cliff
banzai cliffBanzai cliff
marketslush ice

Friday 4.3 – Saipan, Northern Marianas

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.

jailSaipanbomb
ManagahaAnders

i love SaipanFish

Saturday 5.3 – Saipan (Yap - Palau)

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.

TopochauTopochau/Tinian

Continue reading about Palau


Tips and trip planning


If you are traveling with Continental, the chance are that you will pass through Guam, and it is a good idea to take a day or two here - we were glad that we did. And the side trip to Saipan is even more worth the effort.

Traveling in the Pacific kind of narrows down to Continental Airlines and a couple of other odd options. The best list the this one:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=726510&start=32

We traveled on a 'round the world' ticket from Star Alliance - using the dream tool found on http://www.staralliance.com - select the 'book and fly' tab, press 'Start now', click the world map. A up to 16 legs costs about 4000$ for an adult and 3200$ for a child, but if you are visiting several islands, it can also quickly add up if buying single tickets.
Star alliance map

The Moon is the only relevant guidebook available, and it is getting 'old', but it was OK together with some internet search. You can find the Pilot Guides from Micronesia on-line and it includes Guam.
Battle Cry is a good book about the War - and it includes a few scenes from Saipan. Windtalkers is the obvious film to see. It takes place on Saipan.



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