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guam: where east meets west
Warm, turquoise waters, lush jungles, intriguing island culture, cosmopolitan shopping and a plethora of historical sites await the traveler that makes the trek to Guam.
The island is an endearing mix of Asia, 1960's America and exotic Pacific island. Hosts Julie Conover and Mark Jennings venture into the little traveled parts of the island to swim in waterfalls, cha cha with the locals at the Wednesday night fiesta, hike with a medicine woman, and meet a refreshing group of teenagers passionate about preserving their Chamorro heritage.
For the history buff, Guam's WWI and WWII sites, both above and below the sea, offer a vivid depiction of the battles in the Pacific.
Get Your Bearings in Guam
Guam sits between Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hawaii, vaguely. More specifically, it is the largest of the Micronesian Islands, and is perched right next to the deepest point in the ocean - the Mariana Trench.
The main resort area is called Tumon, and is where most of the tourists stay. Tumon is a beach playground - lined with umbrellas, chaise lounges, and all sorts of water toys, while the strip behind the resorts is action packed with duty free shopping, restaurants and even an aquarium!
Because most of the package-tourists never leave Tumon, the rest of Guam is a ripe fruit waiting to be plucked by the independent traveler. Rent a car to tour the island and you will find much to see - historical sites, small villages, magnificent scenic overlooks, jungle hikes, water falls, swimming holes and a chance to meet the locals at every turn.
Get Your Kicks in Guam
Let's see, where to start
Diving and snorkeling are certainly one of the main attractions in Guam.
There are wreck dives - both planes and ships, reefs, abundant sea life and the Mariana Trench - the deepest point in the ocean.
You can even dive a WWI and WWII wreck in the same spot - one right next to the other!
The water is warm year round, so even an easily frozen wimp like me can snorkel without a wetsuit.
Boonie Stomping in Guam
With an American military base on Guam for over 50 years, you are bound to have some pretty experienced pilots to give you and exciting aerial look at the island.
The all American jet ski is ever present, and of course you can't have a beach resort without a banana ride!
If you are into more quite enjoyment of the sea, there are kayaks to rent and sailing cruises.
SOUTH ISLAND TOUR
The main attraction here is Jeff - The Man, a real Guamaniac with stories of the famous rock and rollers that have done shows here. In the restaurant you can try Chamorro specialties or Greek food - I have no idea why the Greek food, but it's really good, and one of the healthier choices on a typical Guamanian menu!
(There is plenty of wonderful seafood in the nice restaurants in Tumon if you want healthy).
Get Cultured in Guam
Guam is a funny mixture of a sultry Pacific Island, with a distinctly Asian flavor, that seems to have fallen off the time machine in 1960's America. Neighborhoods of modest, single-story homes, painted in bright shades, family picnics in the park featuring Spam, fried chicken, beef brisket and sashimi (raw fish - a Japanese delicacy). A simple life, centered around family and friends. (Guam also has strip malls, mega-stores, glamorous duty free shops and fast food chains just like the mainland - I chose to ignore that part of the island!)
Every Wednesday in the capital, Hagatna, there is a "fiesta", aka "the night market". It's a combination of flea market, exotic smorgasbord and a tea dance. Stands offering Korean, Thai, Filipino and Chamorro foods, Mom and Pop cha-chaing in matching polyester shirts, kids learning to line dance, and the local teen hotties, who told me the best guys to dance with are the old men!
They were right! My partner was an 80 something Pearl Harbor survivor - and he definitely had a few moves to teach me!
If you know how to cha cha, or just like to shake your bootie, you will have a blast strutting your stuff with the locals at the Wednesday night fiesta!
The indigenous people of Guam, the Chamorro, have inhabited the island for over 3000 years.
Historians hypothesize that strong currents and trade winds blew voyaging canoes from Malaysia and Indonesia into Guam, where the settlers lived undisturbed until the 16th century.
Tumon Bay In the early 1500's European explorers, beginning with Magellan, arrived on Guam. The ensuing three hundred years as a Spanish colony left a deep impact on the island.
With the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in the 1600's, Catholicism became an integral part of Guam's culture and today each village honors a patron saint.
As with all indigenous cultures, the Chamorro population was decimated by disease carried by the Europeans - it declined from an estimated 100,000 to only 5,000 by the late 1600's, leaving primarily women who intermarried with Spanish and Filipinos.
Chamorro language, primarily spoken by the elderly, is now peppered with words derived from Spanish. There is a movement afoot today to save the Chamorro language and culture by teaching the children about their heritage. Visitors can enjoy the results of this effort at the Gef Pago cultural center in Inarajan.
Guam dancers In 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American war, Guam came under the control and protection of the U.S. In 1941 the Japanese launched a coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor and Guam. They managed to hold the island for 31 months, until U.S. forces were able to recapture the island. There are many interesting WWII sites on Guam that illustrate the heroic battles of The War in the Pacific.
The island remains a strategic territory for the U.S. military and an American base occupies a large chunk of the Northern part of the island. Technically, Guam is an "unincorporated territory" of the U.S. Guamanian's became American citizens in 1950, but the island's population is still an interesting medley, primarily made up of native Chamorro, Filipino, Micronesian islanders and "mainlanders" who have settled here.
For more information on Guam:
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