Going AWOL

By on February 27, 2009

Supermarkets and coral reefs are a peculiar combination. Pacific ambience and American convenience make up Micronesia’s Guam.  Home to a friendly mix of lavish resort hotels, long sandy beaches, stunning inland waterfalls and the world’s biggest Kmart, it’s a GI Joe’s and Jane’s playground. Blessed with a rich cultural legacy and spectacular natural beauty, the island’s name comes from the ancient Chamorro word ‘Guahan’,  meaning “we have” and Guam certainly has all you could possibly need for that perfect stealth mission holiday. 

The ‘drop’ is quick and easy and it’s only a three-hour flight.  Set up camp and before you can ‘jump to attention’ you can be ensconced by the pool. Yep! It’s hard to shake the military feeling here, surrounded by parks named after Generals and statues dotting the island commemorating the islands’ history of invasions and occupations. These days, outsiders are welcomed with open arms and open registers.

GOING NATIVE 

The tourist hub of Tumon holds no surprises: a heavy dose of Americana, mixed with a smattering of the duty-free malls and Japanese noodle bars. As the shopping frenzy takes place, just minutes away on the other side of the street ‘fish are jumping and the living is easy’. Hotels couldn’t be more family friendly with the big boys of the pacific weighing in strong: Outrigger, Sheraton, and the Hyatt amongst others, all provide ideal barracks and super water parks.

  

The island is small and exploring is a simple exercise. From Tumon with its stretch limousines, bypass the Anderson military base and its armoured Hummers, and head south for the true spirit of Guam, where the locals just hum!  Eco-tourism is on the increase and the local Chamorro culture is thriving.  Grab a piece of the action!  Sleepy villages, pristine beaches, war memorials, ancient Chamorro burial grounds, and remnants of 333 years of Spanish occupation are all around.

The mountainous volcanic interior of the south, with its remote beaches and swaying palms, are all a far cry from the karaoke bars and Kmarts. Collect star-shaped sand from Gun beach for the perfect omiyage then snorkel in the clear, turquoise waters of Taga’chang beach. Then head for the living museum of  ‘Gef Pa’go’, Chamorro’s cultural village. Located on the shores of the village of Inarajan, crafts people and folkways practitioners keep the native spirit alive. Guam even has its own ‘lost’ island, Cocos Island, about 3 kms off Guam’s southern tip.  Surrounded by a vast barrier reef and blessed with good beaches and lagoons, it’s great for a chow down, so catch the ferry or commandeer your own vessel. If you tire of the park beaches, move inland for a spot of what the locals call “boonie stomping” and venture off the beaten track (but not too far), to the waterfalls and fresh water pools at Talofofo Falls.

BACK AT CAMP

There’s no end to the list of activities for your family to do around Tumon Bay.  Kayaks, good old fashioned snorkelling and even a shooting range for the ‘Top brass’ (questionable holiday fun!). Spend an afternoon at the The Pacific Islands Club with its swim-through aquarium and maze of waterslides. Thrill seekers can fall from the sky, plunge to the depths of the ocean, even stroke baby sharks at ‘Underwater World’s’ petting aquarium, all within walking distance of the hotel.

As for rations, keep the platoon happy with an endless supply of super–sized pizza, pasta, burgers and umpteen Japanese chain noodle and sushi bars and yes, a new Cold Stone Creamery!  Local cuisine is heavily Spanish-influenced; ‘red rice’ and ‘kelagven’ ( a spicy, sweet chicken dish) are the local specialities and of course the fresh seafood is always a winner. 

 

As Spring break draws closer, get a taste of Chamorro hospitality, give the family its marching orders and go native in Guam.

INFO

Native Inhabitants: Chamorro

Official Languages: English and Chamorro

Access:  Approx 3 hours from Tokyo

Time difference:  1 hour  

Currency:  A very friendly US Dollar

Climate: Generally warm and humid, Dry season (January to June), rainy season (July to December) with an average temperature of  28 degrees Celsius

Airfare flights: from around ¥40,000 

About Carl Williams