The first stop on my epic six week South Pacific adventure was in Guam USA. As most of you probably know, Guam is administered by the United States after we essentially took it from the Spanish in 1898. We then lost it briefly to the Japanese during World War II before launching a bloody counter-offensive that ended in over 24,000 US and Japanese soldiers dying on Guam before the US retook the island. Today the island remains extremely Americanized but strangely the site of such a large amount of Japanese casualties draws over one million Japanese tourists a year. Or maybe it’s because of all the duty free and fancy shopping.
Guam itself is a beautiful island with some awesome things to offer that I will discuss shortly but make no mistake, the island is a mecca for shopping and if you didn’t know where you were, you could be in any major wealthy city in the world with all the top brands. As I said, the Japanese come here in droves and they come to shop. As you walk down the main drag in Tumon and stroll by the stores you will see scores of Japanese holding shopping bags from Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and others. It is fairly nauseating but entertaining as well.
The hotel I stayed at the first two nights was the Sheraton, which is a beautiful property that has been completely remodeled, has 10 different shopping shuttles come by the lobby to pick up and drop off would be shoppers. The shuttle from the hotel I took to get into the main town of Tumon drops you off at the heart of the big fancy mall. Not only that but they make you come inside with them and get a shopper card to track what you buy and from which hotel you came. Also, you can’t easily escape the mall when they drop you off, you are caught in the center of it all and the nearest exit makes you walk through the whole damn thing. Also, the mall is open very late-like past midnight I believe. Aye! Anyway, back to the non shopping or Japanese tourist portion of Guam!
My first night I headed out after I landed to get some food and drinks after a 21 hour flight from New York. I had managed to sleep pretty well and even landed an upgrade so I wasn’t that jetlagged yet and I needed to walk around a bit. On the surface and if you ask the hotels where a good place to go is they will tell you Hard Rock Café or Planet Hollywood. So, with my tail between my legs I went to have a drink at the Hard Rock and it worked out pretty well. I met some really cool people, both locals and US military who were heading out on the town and knew the non touristy places so I happily joined them and had a blast. A little bar hopping led me to be on schedule for sleeping and made new friends. I was originally going to rent a car and drive around the island but my new friends offered to drive me and play tour guide so I couldn’t say no.
We first headed out driving south along the 80km or 50 mile loop of Southern Guam which is far and away the most beautiful part of the island to drive. There are a lot of great look out points and some of the most interesting historical markers are along this route including the War in the Pacific National Historical Park and Fort Soledad.
The War Park was very subdued and very cool because it didn’t have too much but you got the point, especially if you know the history. It was highlighted by an interesting flag display next to some heavy artillery marked by a Japanese, American and Guam flag (above) marking the end of the war and the peace that ensued. It was situated right on the shore.
Fort Soledad was even cooler though for a few reasons. First, views were breathtaking and the cannons were very well preserved (above) and made for some cool pictures. But mainly because of Big John (below) and his large steer. As you can see from the picture, he allows people to ride his big steer, even though it is apparently called a caribou on Guam. The steer was very solid and didn’t even budge when I jumped onto him.
Big John is a bit of a local legend apparently. He is a native and lives in a little campsite at the fort and sells fruit to tourists. He allowed me some free mangos which were pretty awesome and he was also very cool to chat with. He was busy discussing Guam politics and how some new representative doesn’t want him selling fruit at the fort. He was funny about it and basically started saying he would take him to court. The way I see it, what Big John wants, Big John should get!
As we continued around the island we stopped at Talofofo Falls which are their big tourist attraction. Let me say, they try to charge you $20 to enter the “resort” as they call it but if you say you’re a local it’s only $12, annoyed I paid it and entered the park.
First stop was the waterfalls which sucked (below). Second stop was this small dugout cave where some Japanese soldier hid in for 28 years after the end of the war because he didn’t know it had ended. He is apparently considered some kind of hero for his lack of valor and the site is marked as a treasured place. However, the walk out is OK but the site sucks too and you can’t go into the cave and honestly, you wouldn’t even want to.
On site there is also a shooting range where tons of rounds of gun shots were going off the entire time maing me nervous, also a pig farm where you can feed the filthy animals if you desire and a haunted house that I stupidly decided to enter because of the entrance being so inviting (below). It was dumb inside and very hokey but mixed with the gunshots and the pigs it made for an interesting Beetlejuice type experience that I cannot properly explain.
So after all those lovely sites we finally arrived at Jeff’s Pirates Cove which was simply awesome. I even bought a tee shirt. Jeff’s is apparently some kind of South Pacific icon that has pretty awesome food including the amazing kelaguen. It is essentially fish dipped in lime marinade and then added to tortillas and then dipped into spicy soy sauce mixed with chilies. It’s awesome and I was just happy it wasn’t SPAM. Guam apparently has a national obsession with SPAM and Tabasco sauce. While I never travel without Tabasco sauce and could put it on anything, I despise SPAM so anything else was good in my book. By the way they have Tabasco flavored SPAM here!
One other fun thing was there was a 13 year old Filipino kid who was there with his family and he started shooting baskets. He is apparently here for the Filipino National youth basketball team, so I played hoops with him for a bit. He was cheering for Lakers this year so we became quick friends!
After hoops, we finally made it back to the hotel and I literally just passed out of exhaustion and jet lag, which was good because it allowed me to wake up early this morning and get out to Ritidian Point (below) which is without a doubt, the best beach on the island and in my view, the top thing to see and do on the island. The long white sand beaches, I imagine will become second nature to me after this trip really gets going but it was so gorgeous nonetheless. If it weren’t for the searing heat and the lack of drinking water, I would’ve stayed all day. Seriously, the sun here is ridiculous, after two days I am already black. I can’t even imagine how unhealthily tan I’ll be in a few weeks. I’m going to have to start putting on 100 sun block or just hide!
Anyway, I am finally back in the hotel, I moved to the Westin tonight in a clever ploy to re-qualify for Starwood Platinum quicker and the view from my room is amazing as you can see below and the hotel itself is pretty nice, although the Sheraton is better and I have heard it’s the best hotel on Guam. I am going to grab some free food in the lounge here and then just relax.
I am waking up early to head to Saipan in the morning, where I am apparently being shown around by locals who are friends of the people I have met here so that should be fun and interesting. The truth is I have to wake up at 4:30am locally to catch the Champions League Final and then I will head to the airport! I am cheering big time for Internazionale as I despise Bayern Munich. I’ve had a blast here on Guam and I am thrilled to know it is much more than a huge air force base island and a shopping mecca. Stay tuned.