Goodbye, California! Hello, Saipan!
This year is big for us as we’re now living the island life. Larry had this opportunity to help in the water quality management program here. After a long wait for all our documents to be processed, the day finally came – we packed our bags, shipped all our stuff, and now, we’re here!
First things first! How do you get to Saipan? Saipan is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If you have heard of Guam, that’s one of the entry points to this island. We flew in from San Francisco, and we had a lay-over in Japan, then Guam. It takes about 40 minutes to fly from Guam to Saipan. Also, just a heads up, we had to stay overnight in Guam because there’s only one flight to Saipan that day (not sure if it’s just on that day).
We both have never lived on an island, so no concrete experience, just ideas on how life here really is. Larry had been here a few years ago for a training, and as for me, while I’m originally from the Philippines, I lived in the city. I would say a week is the longest I had ever experienced being on an island. Nevertheless, we are both extremely excited to learn, live, and love Saipan. We have both always wanted a relaxed life, so we’re embracing everything here.
Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, and is a commonwealth of the United States. If you look at a map, it’s a super tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, near Guam. It’s about 12 miles long and 6 miles wide. You can literally drive around the island (and stop at all the tourist destinations) in a few hours. It’s hot in here, but there’s a nice breeze, which makes it pleasant.
Today’s just our fourth day here, and here’s what we have done so far (and what you should do too when you visit the island):
1. Learn History at the Kalabera Cave
We stopped by Kalabera to check out its famous cave. We’re not sure if you could explore the cave with guides and proper permits (as it is, there’s a rail that acts as a barrier, and people can’t just go in further). The Kalabera Cave is in a park where you can also see replicas of the “latte” houses, and also learn about the island’s history.
2. Admire the Bird Island
This is probably the most photographed spot on the island. We went here after our stop at Kalabera, and were greeted by swarms of tourists. You would need binoculars to see the birds on the island (we saw a lot of Black Noddies and White Tailed Tropicbirds) although you can actually hike down, and set foot on its beach. It’s a bird sanctuary and a protected area so there’s more nature to see up close. I would say this is among the better scenic spots in Saipan though – there are benches and picnic tables, so people can come enjoy the sunset.
3. Mourn about the Past at the Banzai Cliff
In all honesty, I have never heard of Saipan until Larry had to attend a training here about three years ago. So I was surprised to learn how much history is shared by my home country, the Philippines, and this island, and how much of an impact it made in our modern world. You see, Saipan is a major part of World War II, and part of this sad history is this cliff where a multitude of Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their deaths. Today, these brave men and women are commemorated in the island.
4. Learn even more History at the American Memorial Park
We stopped by and viewed a screening of the history of Saipan, from which I learned how big of a part this island was during World War II, and how much the locals had to endure for the sake of the world. They also have a mini museum which houses some artifacts from the war days. It’s free entrance at the museum, and here’s their website if you want to learn more.
5. Enjoy the Taste of Marianas
The Taste of Marianas International Food Festival is every Saturday of May, and this year is its 21st run. It features international cuisine and non-stop live entertainment from the island residents. We got lucky to have experienced this on our first night, we got to taste a lot of good food and were touched by how much island culture is loved and represented in the performances on stage. It was a great ending to our first day in Saipan.
Fourth day in Saipan, we’re feeling relaxed. We were talking about being here last night and Larry said he feels sooo present here. Anyway, we’ll be here for until who knows when, so we will be chronicling our island life on this blog. Come join us in our journey.
Have you been to Saipan? Have you ever lived on an island? Share some tips for us below!