A tiny spot in the Pacific – Where America’s Day Begins.
There are no American tourists here. There are Americans – a lot of them. Air Force, Navy and Civilians. But we have seen no American tourists. Curious that.
Don’t misunderstand – there are a lot of tourists, all Japanese or Korean. It takes about 3 and half hours to fly here from Tokyo and about four and half from Seoul. But to fly here from Seattle you need to either go to Tokyo first, or Manila and it’s going to take about 16 or 17 hours or more.
Well that explains a lot.
But we are here. Just shy of the international dateline – Guam is where America’s day begins. On this tiny tropical island (13.5 degrees N) I feel like I’m in Hawaii, but without the bling. Sure there are hotels, geared to the Asian tourists with some nice beaches and LOTS of shopping and even Vegas style shows at the resorts. But most of Guam is more of a low-budget bar and nightclub scene, geared to the military. And massage parlors – where maybe you can get a massage but probably a lot more.
But look past these things and you find a remarkably beautiful place, with a fascinating history. The beaches we have gone to are mostly deserted. Stunning white sand, sparkling turquoise water and not a soul in sight.
We’ve walked through a nature reserve with thousands of butterflies, giant spiders and teeny lizards. We visited caves where ancient people lived and left cave drawings.
We climbed Guam’s highest peak Mount Lam Lam where local Catholics (75% of the population) make a pilgrimage each Easter.
We hiked along an ancient and sharp volcanic flow to a beautiful beach called Sharks Cove. No sharks but some of the prettiest blue water I have ever seen.
We took a drive to the south end of the island and up the cliff lined east side and enjoyed amazing views of the never-ending Pacific.
We saw some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed from our west-facing condo in the town of Tamuning. As the sun sets on this island the US Mainland is nearly a full day behind. It’s prompted the local slogan ‘Guam: Where America’s Day Begins’.
We visited Two Lovers Point, where the local “Romeo and Juliet” style legend of two lovers jumping to their death has created one of the islands busiest tourist spots. The Japanese love this kind of stuff and they swarm to it.
We learned about the ancient Chamorro people, their tribal caste system that goes back 4000 years. We learned that Magellan came here in the 15th century followed by the Spanish who occupied until the United States took control after the Spanish-American War in 1898.
On December 7th 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Japanese took control of Guam. For nearly three years the native people were held in concentration camps, tortured, raped and beheaded before US troops recaptured Guam on July 21st 1944 – celebrated every year as Independence Day.
Today Guam is an independent territory of the United States. Residents are US Citizens but they do not have a vote. Tourism and military are the base of the island’s economy, both which are thriving. It feels American – most of the time. Lots of familiar businesses, and yet, it doesn’t quit feel like the USA.
We found a delicious and eclectic food scene on Guam and we ate some amazing food. Chamorro comfort food is rich and hearty and similar at times to Hawaiian
food with lots of fish, rice and fruit as well as mashed potatoes and gravy and shrimp and octopus. We enjoyed Mahi-Mahi, bulgogi beef, ahi poke, pork skewers, tacos, Ramen, German food and takoyaki (octopus fritters). A varied and scrumptious blend of all the influences this tiny (30 miles by 12 miles) island has seen.
And we enjoyed spending time with family. Our reason for coming to Guam on the Grand Adventure to visit my niece and her husband. They have been on the island for a year. They have learned to like it despite the fact it is expensive and there are some quirks (no Target, my niece complains). Spending time with them was a joy, especially as we watch them prepare for their first baby.
So that was the real highlight of our time here. Everything else was fluff. Getting a family fix helps me focus on the coming ten weeks. Ten weeks until we return to
the Pacific Northwest for a two month visit. But meanwhile we have some more adventures ahead – starting with a month in Australia.
So stay tuned – the grand adventure continues.
Signing off for now from Guam – Where America’s Day Begins.