Chuuk

Chuuk, formerly known as Truk is one of the Federated States of Micronesia. It is the poorest of the four states and certainly the dirtiest compared to Pohnpei, Yap or the Marshall Islands. Chuuk is known as the worlds best place for wreck diving. The US bombed the Japanese Navy during Operation Hailstorm in World War II sinking some 60 ships and planes. Tourists come to Chuuk for diving as the main island of Weno offers little else for the visitor.
Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, church, Pacific, island, travel
Chuuk State is a beautiful atoll on the surface. Lush greens, swaying palms and a beautiful lagoon make it look like the ideal tropical paradise. However, it is hard to get past the filth on Weno; which is the main island and where the airport and hotels are.
Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
I was told repeatedly before I came to Chuuk that it was very dangerous and impoverished. I was told that the young men from all around the islands of Chuuk State come to Weno for work but there are few jobs. So, many live in poverty and are angry about it. So fights and stabbings are common. I am happy to report I didn’t see any of that in my two nights on Chuuk and everyone was quite nice. However, a few things did bother me.
Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
First, the islanders should be ashamed of themselves for the appearance of Weno. It is absolutely filthy. There is trash everywhere. People just walk or drive along and toss their garbage wherever they please. There are a ton of abandoned cars all over the island-more than I have ever seen anywhere else. Also sewage goes into the lagoon.
Chuuk Airport, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
Speaking of sewage, the main road through town is not paved and they are building a new sewage system or so they say through the middle of the street. Apparently landowners don’t want the sewers under their property. That is all good and all but it means that the main road is dirt, pot holed and disgusting. (Note that in my pictures I am trying to show the beauty of Chuuk and not show the filth)
Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel, Truk Stop Hotel, view
That all said, I stayed at the Truk Stop hotel in the center of town on the lagoon. It was pretty good, it had a decent restaurant and was really pleasant at night on the lagoon. Everyone we came into contact with was super nice including our driver and land guide, Harry. He drove us around the whole island and was as embarrassed about the islands state as we were appalled at seeing it. However, he did give a great tour and was a great guy.
Japanese Lighthouse, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
The only thing really worth seeing on land is the old Japanese Lighthouse built for World War II. After paying some random person who apparently owns the land $5 a head to go; it is a treacherous drive up some of the worst roads you’ve ever seen and then a 10-minute steep hike to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is pretty filthy and not maintained at all. However, it does offer the best views of the island and the lagoon; which were really nice. That was pretty much it for sites on the island. Make no mistake, people come to Chuuk for what’s underwater.
Japanese Lighthouse, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
I went on an early morning snorkel/dive trip to a bunch of different wreck sites. All in all, Operation Hailstorm was the largest Naval loss in terms of ships in history. The US bombed from above and surprised the Japanese. The lagoon is an underwater museum to these sunken relics and makes for some awesome snorkeling and even better diving.
Gun, Japanese Lighthouse, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
Chuuk easily has the best wrecks I have ever seen snorkeling. I saw three sunken ships; two were broken in half and each with the masts still in tact and covered in coral. I also saw a zero fighter plane upside down about 3 meters below the surface and got to go down and touch it. It was very cool!
bunker, Japanese Lighthouse, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
The snorkel trip was easily the highlight of the trip to Chuuk. I actually had a really nice time on Chuuk, even though this article may sound harsh. I was just very disappointed in the way the Islanders treated their own beautiful island. It looked like something out of West Africa in terms of quality of roads and amount of pollution. It’s a shame because the other states of Micronesia are so nice and I have never even heard of any issues with the locals.
Japanese Lighthouse, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk, Pacific, island, travel
I likely will never go back to Chuuk to be honest but it does offer great wreck diving and snorkeling. I really hope they clean up the island and the poverty situation improves.

Comments

  1. Sad to hear about the pollution in Chuuk especially because it looks so nice in pictures.

  2. I have actually heard of Truk before but didn’t know it was called Chuuk too or instead apparently. I have been to that part of the world in Guam but never made it over to Micronesia and I wish I had. Which of the islands is your favorite in Micronesia?

  3. I have also heard it’s dangerous in Chuuk and that all the kids dress like rappers!

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I am an elementary ESL teacher with a first grade student whose mom is from Chuuk (and only speaks Chuukese). We’ve been struggling to help this student be proud of his heritage, and your pictures have given us something to show him and his class. Although it’s probably a good thing he can’t quite read all of your post yet….Compared to Kansas, your pictures make Chuuk look absolutely amazing. Thanks!

    • Thanks Becca and good luck with the student and I hope this can help him a little bit and maybe shed some light on his homeland for his classmates and you too! Thanks for sharing!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Becca – I spent 3 years in Chuuk and could share with you many ideas for this child. Despite the narrow view point of this writer and his 2-day experience, I met some of the most generous and kind people in my life during my years there. It is unfortunate because this post is a clear example of why its not great to judge a book by its cover. And if you can see past the trash, which many could argue is largely the fault of westernization, the island has much more beautiful things to offer than a lighthouse. Chuuk is also a collection of islands. I also speak the language fairly well if that would be of help to you. Take care. – Steph

  5. It’s weird that these pictures look so nice but you’re saying it’s really filthy there. Good for you for at least showing te beautiful side of the island even there is a lot of poverty and crime.

  6. I haven’t been to Chuuk but have been to Yap and Pohnpei. They are both fabulous as you have noted. That’s too bad to hear about the state of the island but again, you go there to dive. Glad to hear at least the wrecks are good!

  7. Mali John says:

    Kosrae is the other state, right?

  8. Those are some amazing pictures you got there.
    I’m chuukese and i havent been there since I was child
    & I’m sorry if you had to deal with some jerks there (trust me
    thats one of the reasons that keeps me from going back home) lol
    Anyways thank you for the pictures.

  9. Blaze Wolf says:

    Beautiful photo’s!
    Thanks from the Garden Island of Micronesia -POHNPEI

  10. Ngang Tipuk says:

    By any chance did you forward your article to the Chuuk State Government? It might be an eye opener to the government and its citizens. Sad. I’m from this island and it wasn’t that bad when I used to live there. We tried our best gettting all the high school kids together to clean up the island on the weekends, to lead by example, but I guess the gesture didn’t make any difference.

  11. Alex Plum says:

    Hi Matt. Thanks for posting this article. As the (self-proclaimed?) youngest American to visit every country, I’m a little surprised you have such disdain for the “filth” that plagues Weno. I bet if you lived there for longer than 2 days you’d have an appreciation for the massive difficulties that face Weno as a municipality that also seats the state government. If you had visited any of the lagoon or outer-islands, you would know that Chuukese people do take deep pride in their homes, their land, and their surroundings. Seeing an urban center that is over-crowded and dramatically and very sadly under-funded is not a reflection on Chuukese people who you say should be “ashamed of themselves,” but is in fact a reflection of a rapidly Westernizing economy with traditions and cultures trying their best to shift and adapt but still straining under the pressure.

    Instead of judging them, I’d hope that your travels would have taught you to look deeper, have compassion, and not be so quick to lash out with your writing on Chuukese people who live in Weno. Your two days there hardly qualify you to speak as you have on the subject, no matter what you saw and your opinion. I’ll hope you are more judicious in the future.

  12. Emily Ferron says:

    Hello There. Or should I saw Ran Annim, which means greetings in Chuukese, the island language where you visited. First of all, I spent two years on the island of Weno and I have ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT for this piece of garbage. How can you possibly get to know culture or a place and call it such harsh words when you were there for TWO DAYS!! I am sure you would have spent much less time there however, the plan schedules did not match up to your timely pleasure. I believe you are a very ignorant person judging a culture and its people and not educating yourself. Your judgements are completely incompetent and I wish you would have sat down and actually discussed issues of social justice and poverty with these LOVELY and FULL HEARTED and WELCOMING individuals that inhabit these islands instead of placing judgements and blame on them for their situation.
    I work at a university and I know my students would trend more lightly then you have. They would not come into a culture and nation they do not have any experience or education around and not make judgements. YOU and YOUR LACK OF EDUCATION FOR THIS PLACE and your JUDGEMENTS are what is wrong with Americans going abroad and making judgments. If you want to hear about someone who has had lived experiences and spent many years in this place, I would be happy to introduce you. Don’t judge a place you do not understand, wait to be shown.
    This is a horribly, insulting article and I hope you learn that your ignorance only perpetuates the assumptions that western culture is allowed to judge another. Also, you are a WHITE, MALE who has the CLASS MOBILITY to travel, therefore, check you PRIVILEGE at the door sir. Oppression exists and your ability to assert your dominance continues to oppress not only the beautiful Chuukese people. But all people across the world. Also, you complain a lot….where are your suggested solutions??

    Note: I have also never seen a more welcoming, beautiful, and loving culture then those in Chuuk. The people of Chuuk are examples of how we should all live in regards to loving each other and finding joy in every moment of every day. If you are pissed about a little trash, where are your solutions to fix the problem? Tell me one place on that island you would create a trash dump. Its 2014 idiot, don’t you think if there was a solution it would have happened by now?

  13. Emily Ferron says:

    Also, many people that I was in Micronesia with all seem to be “awaiting moderation” for their comments. Way to go and continue to only show comments that do not create dissonance with this article. Great portray of how media is biased and one sided. My students will be thrilled to discuss this in class in regards to not what to do when you visit other cultures.

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