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Friday, February 7, 2014

So Far Away, But Still America!

While talking with another airline employee we met in Palau he recommended a place to us named Saipan.  He said the cost was not too high, it was pretty quiet, and the beaches were beautiful.  In addition, and surprising to us, Saipan is part of the USA.  The place has a lot of history, and aside from the beaches, was going to be a learning experience for both of us.

Curiously United Express has a handful of flights to the island of Saipan from Guam.  It was only a half hour flight and along the way we flew over the island of Rota and the historical island of Tinian where the Enola Gay took off before dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.

We spent four days on Saipan before making our way back to Guam.  Both islands reminded us of what Hawaii must have been about 40 years ago.  Guam was much more developed than Saipan and unfortunately, way too expensive for what we had budgeted.  The culture of the Chamorro and the Carolinian people of these islands also resembled that of the Hawaiians.  The language on the other hand resembled a mix of Tagalog (Filipino) and Spanish.
This sign welcomed us at the airport.  Everyone was chewing it on Palau and in Saipan, from grocery store clerks to police officers and they had the stained teeth to prove it.  
We had rain most days, but on this one the sun was out and we took advantage of it.
Amy enjoying the waterslide.

Me having a workout in the hamster ball.

This was a view from our room.  The shipping vessels stayed there the whole time.
We spent some time using the hotel amenities before we rented a car and ventured out.  Almost everywhere we went the food was too expensive, so we bought some groceries and prepared what we could in our room.  The weather wasn't always bright and sunny, so we had to spend some time indoors.  It was nice to have a TV again in our room although the feed from Guam was unimpressive.  It was still welcomed on those rainy days.  One of the nights we were there the hotel had a buffet put on by local vendors.  For five dollars we bought some tasty local Chamorro (native people) food and some asian treats like dumplings and sushi.  We then ate outside listening to an excellent singer sing a combination of Russian and American songs by the pool.  Since Saipan and Guam have their own immigration laws the Russians are able to travel there without a visa.  In addition to the Russians, we were in town just before the Chinese New Year, so we were the minority among our asian neighbors and our Russian friends.
Visited the WWII memorial behind the national park.  3000 American soldiers lost their lives on the Northern Mariana Islands which Saipan is a part of.
This was the last Japanese command post right outside of Garapan, Saipan.
An old Japanese tank that was in front of the last Japanese command post.
Although beautiful, these locations (above and below) were the infamous locations where 8000 Japanese soldiers and civilian residents committed suicide.  The Japanese told the civilians that when the Americans came that they would cause great personal harm to all, so many opted to take their own life.  Many of the suicides were the soldiers that were instructed to kill themselves in honor of their country before capture by the Americans.
This is a photo of suicide cliff.
This is a view from on top of the suicide cliff.
Bird island is another tourist attraction on the island.
These objects in the water close to the coastline were military tanks.  On the right you can make out the tank gun sticking out of the water.  
Unfortunately the weather stuck around with us for our 3 day visit in Guam.  The beaches on Guam were much better than in Saipan.
It was still hot out while the rain poured down.
One of the highlights of the trip to Guam was our visit to the Chamorro Night Market.   I didn't try these baby octopus on a skewer, but the vendor said they were tasty.
Here I am selecting my plate lunch items for $9.
Not sure what it all was, but I do know it was delicious.