Sunday, December 27, 2009

Touring Tinian...

Although I'd been to Saipan a number of times, I'd never been to Tinian. I've tried once before, but the ferry is a bit sporadic. This time, I took no chances. I called, emailed and asked everybody who'd know about the ferry. We checkout out of our hotel and did make it on.

This map isn't remotely to scale, but the layout is vaguely close...

Despite Anna getting sick on the boat (and missing the puke bag...) we got across safely. However, the boat was late by about an hour. So, even though we only had time for a 4 hour tour, it now had to be crammed into 3 or less hours. It's a small island, but that still cuts it close.

We had a tour bus lined up and after an unexpected stop off at their convenience store, we were off.

The famous See Bees did a bear share of development back in war time. That includes the layout of the streets which they patterned after Manhattan New York. Even the names are the same.

This bronze cast "map" is hard to see, but if you enlarge it, you will see a road map that you could almost overlay on Manhattan.

The first stop we made on the tour were the Taga Latte Stones. Latte Stones are believed to be used by the ancient Chomorro as housing foundations. These at the House of Taga are the largest known in existence.

For most people, however, they come to Tinian for the war history. That was certainly the case with my father. There are plenty of pieces of the war lying around. In most cases, there's no need to make anything nationally protected, the locals have seen it all and not enough people go there.

Blown out Japanese Bunker

This is the inside of the bunker. It must have been a pretty hot inferno.

The Japanese left this to honor the many that died there.

If someone from the the Mainland US knows about Tinian, then they know it because it is the island from which the Anola Gay took off to strike Hiroshima with the A-Bomb.

This is runway the plane took off from. We drove down the runway, but alas did not take off...

The plane was too low to the ground to load the a-bomb into the plane. So they had to dig pits to house the bomb, drive the plane over pit, and then raise it into the open belly. From hearing the story I expected to see a mild mannered dirt hole. Instead, I found this...

You have to hand it to the military, they don't do anything temporarily, even digging pits.

And before we knew it, our time was up. By the time we made it back to the ferry, we were the last ones there. The boat was waiting for us. Our tour guide handed us food and we had to take it on the boat with us. We got back to Saipan, ate the food and were very tired.

We had a bit of time to visit some friends I have that live there and then we were on a plane back to Guam.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saipan All Over Again...

I've been to Saipan many times in the almost 4 years I've been in Guam. I've not yet been bored with it. This was my parents first time there. Since I'd been there a few times before, I was able to play tour guide for them. We really only had one day in Saipan, but being a small island, that wasn't a problem.

The biggest problem for me was waking up on time. We got to the airport when it was still dark.

This was mom's first time ever on a propeller plane. She had to have a pic. And I snapped one of Anna while I was at it.

Before long we were looking down at Guam.

Upon arrival in Saipan, we checked into our rooms first. Oddly, the room arrangement had me sharing the room with my mom and my wife was to share a room with my dad. We decided to switch it up. Also, both rooms were reserved under the women. When we got to our floor we saw why.

How did we end up on the ladies floor? Well, anyway, we didn't plan on spending too much time in the hotel. My dad is a bit of a WWII buff, so we spent much of the day gong to memorials and war stuff.

And there is more to Saipan than war relics. We also saw the island famous Grotto.

A grotto is just a shallow cave. This one is also a swimming hole. The water in the Grotto can be tumultuous. We chose not to swim on this trip. On others I have gone, so here are some pics of the Grotto on previous trips.

Bird Island Sanctuary is surprisingly well guarded. Once you get close rangers attack with haste. But you can get a good shot of it from a nearby lookout.

All of the driving around and walking from site to site made us hot and sweaty. We made our way back to our hotel and took advantage of the clean cool pools.

Behind the hotel was the best beach, ever. The sand was too soft and perfect to be real. There was no coral or rocks to hurt our feet. The water was warm and only knee deep for a half mile out. You can't see us well, but Anna took of pic of me and my parents way out in the ocean.

When nighttime hit, we walked out and joined the community for their festivities. They were having some "Japanese Day" cultural night. We ate street food and enjoyed the trees made by the community out of trash. This one was made of soda cans.

In one day, we saw just about all we could of Saipan. Of course, there's always more to see, but we hit the highlights. Tomorrow, we'll wake up in Saipan, but the majority of the day will be spent in Tinian.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas '09...

After Christmas shopping, decorating and landscaping, my parents finally got to relax a bit in their vacation in Guam. We woke up and opened our presents. For some reason, 90% of the gifts under the tree were for Anna. Not that we didn't all get our fair share of gifts.

One of the things Anna got that she needed most was maternity clothes. She's been squeezing into clothes that didn't fit for a month now. I've tried to get her to go shopping for clothes, but she really does not like shopping. She was happy, however, to receive the clothes as gifts.

After the presents we contacted some friends of ours here who got us an all-day pass to the Hyatt Hotel's water park.

We were pretty hungry so my parents decided to have a treat first. We went to the fancy Christmas Buffet before we got wet.

Then we did what Anna loves best, "playing tourist."

Mom rockin' her Bo Derek beach body

And after a full day, we returned home to our new crock pot full of food. We had our Christmas dinner like a real family (except that I had the camera rolling...)

And rather than stay up late, we had to hit the sack. Tomorrow morning at sunrise we will be flying to Saipan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'round Guam...

The first day my parents were here we had the ultrasound. The second and third day we saw the island.

It started with a drive down south, stopping at all the WWII stuff we could find. My dad likes the war stuff.

Asan Memorial

This memorial is at Asan beach, one of two locations where the US approached when re-taking the island.

Dad's Ride

Caves and fallout shelters left behind by the Japanese are common here.

After some WWII stuff, we went to Tolofofo Falls. These are picturesque falls and also the spot where a Japanese soldier, Yokoi, lived in a homemade cave and hid from the war for 28 (or so) years. Some call him a hero, others think he was a moron. I'll let you be the judge.

And we also saw relics from the old Spanish rule.


This is an old courtyard in downtown Hagatna.

Spanish Fort

This is Fort Soledad, where the TV show Amazing Race filmed two years ago.

And, of course, we saw some Chamorro stuff. The Chamorro are the indigenous people of Guam. One of the most iconic symbols of Guam is the Latte Stone. These stones go so far back in Chamorro history that they don't have any actual evidence of what they were used for, but it's pretty well accepted that they were foundations for homes.

These Latte Stones were found in a village down south that was annihilated by US soldiers in WWII, so they were brought to central Hagatna.

We concluded the day by visiting Chamorro Village. And out-door market place that comes alive every Wednesday. Mom bought trinkets to bring home and they got to try some local food. They even had a carabao there. In Guam, a Carabao is nothing like the ones you have heard of before. Really, it'a a water buffalo. It reminds me of the Veggie Tales song. Here, that song is safe to play because it's not too hard to own a water buffalo. This one had a Santa hat on for the tourist to pose with. I didn't want to pay for a pic, so I just snuck this one in quickly so you could get the idea.

Christmas Caribao

Tomorrow, we are going to really play tourist by relaxing all day at a resort.