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Extreme adventures Pacific Islands Photos Rota Saipan Tinian Travel for everyone Water adventures

Where the waves splash higher

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IMG_0285(First published at the Marianas Variety)

THE coastal areas of Saipan, Tinian and Rota are blessed with a fair balance of pristine, white sandy stretch of beaches that anyone can picnic and swim around, as well as rugged, dangerous rocky cliffs that are perfect for taking photos of.

On Saipan, the coastal area on the western side with its clear blue waters and calm and gentle waves is perfect to lure locals from the comfort of their homes and tourists from all over the world to enjoy this paradise. The but the coastal areas at the eastern part tells a different, thrilling and dangerous story.

Try driving to the Banzai Cliff in Marpi and follow that little stretch of road to the left just before reaching the Korean monuments and you will be looking at an angle of Banzai Cliff not known to many, except for the fishermen and the adventurous. While majority of the visitors are happy to stand and marvel at the beautiful spread of blue ocean meeting the skies from the viewing deck, some people who prefer to go to the other side are watching the cliff from another perspective. They can see how dangerous the cliffs are and how high and furious the waves smash against the rocky cliffsides.a mainpix

Check out other beaches that display a spectacular show of spray of waves like Cow Town Beach in Marpi, Tank Beach and Marine Beach in Kagman, Hidden Beach and Old Man by the Sea in Talafofo, Forbidden Island. Naftan Bay, and others.

On Tinian, while locals and visitors can enjoy the lovely stretch of white sandy beaches at Tachogna, Long Beach, Taga Beach and others, the thrill of adventure awaits those who are willing to venture beyond the comforts of the more frequented areas and explore the Blow Hole, Chulu Beach or Star Sand Beach, and the coastal views along the cliffs heading to the Suicide Cliff.

On Rota, some of the beach fronts from Sinapalo heading to Songsong are ideal for picnics, but go beyond the paved roads and explore give in to the lure of adventure by driving to the Bird Sanctuary and to the As Matnos Cliff where one wrong step could make you history.IMG_0337

Again, you get the best of both worlds. If you just want to laze it out on a lounger or spread a mat on the sand, or are capturing photos and videos, you have the option of going safe and just sticking it out with the beaches within your reach.

If you go beyond your comfort zone, more adventures await. Be there to see and get wet in the shower as huge splashes of the waves rush in. Experience the adrenaline rush as you stand on tiptoe as near as you can at the edge of a dangerous cliff for that photo or video of a lifetime.

Where the waves splash higher, more thrill awaits you.

Hotels Photos Saipan Travel for everyone Travel information

Hotel lobby talk

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Photo by Raquel C Bagnol

SAIPAN—Hotel lobbies speak a lot about hotels. They present the ambiance that makes a guest want to stay for a while or go, feel relaxed or stressed out. If only the walls and furniture could talk, they’ve got volumes of stores to tell! Hotel lobbies are mute witnesses to transactions, arguments, sweet nothings and exchanges between business partners, close friends, family members and lovers. Let’s take a quick look at the hotel lobbies on Saipan and Tinian, and add more material as we continue to explore more hotel lobbies everywhere.IF

Aqua Resort Club

Located in San Roque, this is my most favorite hotel lobby on island, but its distance is why I don’t spend much time there as much as I want to. The dimly-lit lobby offers a comfortable ambiance that instantly makes you feel relaxed and want to sleep in one of those plush sofa sets. Loungers facing green plants and flowers are also available if feels like you are in a spa.

The Aqua Resort lobby does not scream commercialism but it spells comfort, bliss and relaxation. It makes you want to turn off your cellphone and put away your gadgets and just enjoy and let time pass by blissfully. Let your feet sink into the deep soft carpet and sit in any of the comfortable sets with throw pillows and have coffee with friends or alone. Views of blue sky, swimming pool and the ocean add to the X-factor of this hotel lobby.

Marianas Resort & Spa

The Marianas Resort Spa

This hotel’s lobby makes you instantly feel at home. It is more of the sporty kind of lobby adorned with stylish wooden benches, a place where guests can be totally at ease to flop down on the chairs straight from the pool so if you don’t want to get wet, check before you sit anywhere. The Marianas Resort & Spa lobby’s greatest feature is the killer view of a quaint chapel in the distance, clear blue swimming pools, restaurant and bars all within your view. The front part of the lobby offers views of the golf course and Saipan’s thick jungles.

Hyatt Regency Saipan Hyatt Regency Saipan

Hyatt’s lobby has a sofa set facing the reception area beside lush greenery under a solar roof. It is just one place where you sit for a few minutes waiting for your car or for somebody, not really your choice if you want to relax of just while the time away. The Lobby Lounge is one choice to have coffee but if you are a non-smoker, better look for someplace else to go to.

The Hyatt Regency lobby may not be topnotch among the other hotels, but its plus points lay in the breathtaking scenery outside—lush green gardens with its streams and ponds teeming with fish, birds and butterflies that are visitor-friendly, wooden bridges, a gazebo and a waterfalls, a prime destinations for wedding photo sessions.

Fiesta Resort & Spa

Fiesta Resort & Spa

The Fiesta lobby depicts an island welcome with its huge murals and decorations showing the best of Palau, Yap and other islands in the region. Superb views of the swimming pool and the beach add to the relaxing ambiance. The sofa sets are comfortable enough but it’s not one place you would want to stay for the whole day. It is just too commercialized, and you can’t have a quiet moment any time of the day.

Hafadai Beach Hotel

Hafadai Beach Hotel

This is the lobby to go to if you want to get a whiff of the natural fresh, relaxing breeze. I just love sitting in one of the wooden seats and enjoying the feel of my hair being blown away by the breeze but if you want total relaxation, this lobby is not it. Guests just talk so loud like they are at home.

Saipan World Resort

Saipan World Resort

This lobby is one, if not the busiest, hotel lobby on island. It’s where people sit and watch TV from the huge screens and come and go pulling luggage behind them, checking in or checking out. Entering the massive door of the hotel is like going into an enchanted kingdom. It is one lobby where you feel you can mix business with pleasure.

Kanoa Resort

Kanoa Resort

This hotel has a lobby with an impersonal touch. The lobby seats, which are located in the middle of commercial stalls, are comfortable and ideal to meet friends. It’s one place where you can be on your own or get lost in a crowd.

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Pacific Islands Club

The PIC lobby is another busy place where people come, sit and go. The warm, snug sofa seats with matching throw pillows, open windows and high vaulted ceilings give an air of spaciousness and make you want to stay around longer. There are no stores and stalls or coffee shops to give it a commercial feel, but it does not make you too comfortable to want to stay longer too.

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Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino

Compared to all the other hotels in the CNMI, the Tinian Dynasty lobby is the most unique. A circular lobby with a giant chandelier that sheds golden reflections on the well polished floors, one feels a certain enchantment and awe. It is one place which makes you feel like it’s going to swallow you whole, and your voice echoes so you will automatically talk in whispers. The lobby still provides some sort of privacy to guests.

Food Pacific Islands Photos Restaurants Saipan street food Travel for everyone

Tastes of Saipan @ the street market

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ALL roads lead to the Fishing Base in Garapan on Thursday nights as the mouthwatering aroma of food and the lively music from the stage lure locals and tourists for the weekly street market.

Beginning around 5 p.m. the Street Market feast begins and the place is transformed into a destination where one can have the ‘taste of Saipan’ all in one place. The street market runs all the way till 9 p.m.

At the street market, rows of stalls owned by popular restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines from Chamorro, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and more offer very cheap food. Majority of the food stalls sell five choices for $5, a complete meal you usually can’t have for that amount on any given day.

Get your fill of grilled barbecue, fried fish, squid grilled as you watch and breathe in its irresistible aroma.

Here is where you can find the widest selection of local favorites, like desserts that are not usually found on any day at the stores. You can buy fresh fruits whole or sliced, drink coconut juice straight from the shell for a dollar, go for healthy pearl shakes and fruit juices, or munch on a stick of chicken or pork barbeque sold for a dollar.

Kids can enjoy ice cream cones or colored cotton candy.

At the other side of the food stalls, one can buy souvenir items, trinkets, dresses and shirts, paintings, handmade jewelry, local art products and other crafts.

At the center of the street market grounds are long tables and benchstreetmarketes where people can eat their food and watch the performers on the makeshift stage. The entertainment varies from live bands, musical numbers, stringed instruments, and cultural dancers. At special occasions, visiting performers from Korean, Japan, and other countries grace the stage to the delight of the audience.

The street market has become very popular especially with the tourists, and has become one of the must-not-miss events if they happen to be on island on a Thursday.

It is by far the best place to go to sample the island’s diversified cuisine very cheaply. A lot of local residents flock to the street market for dinner and even buy extra food so they won’t have to cook when they get home. The street market is a family-friendly event and alcohol consumption and smoking is prohibited within the street market premises.

As a special bonus, the street market area is one of the best spots to witness Saipan’s most spectacular sunsets.

(First published at the Marianas Variety Guam special Sunday edition for January 25, 2015 page 8 HERE)

Photos Rota Saipan Surigao del Sur Travel for everyone

Bye 2014, hello 2015

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The sun sets for the last time at 5:30 p.m. from my favorite spot at the Fishing Base in Garapan, Saipan.

SAIPAN–From my corner of the world, I joined the thousands of photographers from all over the world in what has become a common practice– to capture the last sunset of the year. The sun did a favor to all of us. It was round and full and did a slow show of dipping into the horizon until the last trace of it was gone, and my most favorite moment when the skies take an orange fiery glow took over.

This spectacular photo is not just another must-capture last-sunset-of-the-year but is one of the stunning and romantic sunsets that Saipan has to offer to locals and tourists from all over the world all year round.

Welcome 2015!

 

Adventures Destinations Photos Tinian

Sunset at the Taga Beach

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DSC_7557 - CopyTINIAN, Northern Mariana Islands—Just a few meters across from the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino is my favorite beach on the island—Taga Beach.

From the ground level, you won’t see any beach but just the rocky ledge bordered with Taga Stone-shaped rocks leading to the jump off or diving point the end which is the best feature of Taga Beach.

Here you will see kids and adults diving into the crystal clear waters any time of the day, but the best times to watch them is during late afternoons just when the sun is about to set. The beach is great for swimming and snorkeling.

Time and again, I’ve stolen shots of the kids and adults diving. I’d sit at the other end of the cliff line waiting for anyone to dive so I can catch photos with the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.

Go beyond the fence line and go down the crudely built ladder made of rusty shaking steel pieces to see a perfectly secluded cove with a patch of white sandy beach and crystal clear waters. The small beach clearing fills up with water during high tide.

Taga Beach is that one beach where your photos are never the same no matter how much you frequent it. There will always be new angles viewing the same thing.

When on Tinian, don’t miss to stopover at Taga Beach. It’s one spot where you might capture your sunset shot of a lifetime. For more photos of Tinian, check me out on Flickr at this set HERE  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ontheraks/sets/72157636431048084/)

Food Photos Travel for everyone

i cried my way to Beijing

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The chicken stew was made like it was not meant to be eaten, or to torture anyone who can’t tolerate spicy foods. Or I guess it was just me.

Text and photos by Raquel C Bagnol

WHEN I say I cried my way to Beijing, I mean it. The saga began when the Asiana Airlines I was boarding left the earth and started flying the skies heading to Beijing Capital International Airport. The flight was a short one but as soon as the Seat Belt signs were turned off, the flight stewardesses started pushing trolleys to the aisle and asking passengers what they want for the late lunch.

The choices were chicken and something I didn’t understand. I was hungry and decided to stay on safe grounds by choosing chicken. Like all airline meals, it was served on a tray with the main entrée covered with foil. Wondering what kind of chicken it was, I unwrapped the foil and found a rectangular shaped serving of rice besides a mixture of chicken slices and vegetables swimming in thick gravy.

Right under the covered bowl was an envelope from where two small boys stared back at me like they were trying to make me feel guilty for each bite I was about to take. The envelope says every small donation we make can help make the lives of kids better. I turned the envelope over and started to attack my meal.

I gulped my first bite, not stopping long enough for the flavors to sink in. Another bite and I started to feel the sting of the chicken mixture but as I said, I was so hungry that I dug on. I am not into spicy flavors and by the fourth spoonful, my tears started to fall. The chicken stew was made like it was not meant to be eaten, or to torture anyone who can’t tolerate spicy foods. Or I guess it was just me. Everyone else was enjoying their food. Maybe because I was the only passenger on that plane who was not white and skinny and looking very non-Chinese.

I really wanted to finish my food but the tears just won’t stop falling and it felt like a whole team of carpenters have been let loose inside my mouth and they are banging on my gums.

I neutralized the spicy flavors by attacking the bread and the four bite size pieces of watermelon but left the salad alone. The sliced cucumbers and tomato didn’t look inviting and I was scared even to open the plastic covering. I asked for orange juice and was given half a glass of the most acidic juice I’ve ever drank ever. Maybe they haven’t heard of the word sugar before, or again, maybe it was the normal taste for them but not for a non-Chinese traveler like me. I had no way of knowing because I didn’t ask. Oh, one good thing about Asiana Airlines is they serve real spoons, forks and knives and not the plastic ones that you’d be tempted to toss out the window if you can open them.

 

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Chick in an egg

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The trick: never ever look at that little slippery feathery guy before you swallow him (or her?) because it will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Text/photos Raquel C balut2Bagnol

Tap its pointy shell and make a small crack, pinch the sac and add a bit of salt and a few drops of spicy vinegar before you sip the broth. This is the best way to start before making the “final attack.”

You enlarge the crack, and sip the soft yellow substance and finally the chick inside—yes, you sip that little guy straight into your mouth and finish the whole thing in one, two or three giant bites. That is how you eat balut, or fertilized duck egg cooked and served in its shell.

Balut is a famous street food in the Philippines that would send a lot of people from other parts of the world scurrying in disgust. Andres Zimmern of the Travel Channel featured balut on his show “Bizarre Foods” and Anthony Bourdain on “No Reservations.”

I only want the broth and the yolk in the balut and I use a spoon to scoop it, which is not the usual way of eating. I could never get the nerve to eat that little guy inside. I tried to when I was a kid but when I made eye to eye contact with the little guy complete with head, eyes, bill, little wings, and some feathers, I almost freaked out.

Balut is also believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered to be a high-protein snack. When you can finally focus on the taste and forget the terror, eating balut will no longer be that daunting. Read my earlier post HERE

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