One of the must-never-miss Korean desserts when visiting Saipan. Check this out here https://ontheraks.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/refreshing-bingsu/
These ‘pocket’ beaches which are usually nestled between coves along the rocky shoreline are usually hidden from view by thick blankets of shrubs, and are not usually photographed by anyone else except for those who really take the time to explore them.
Most of Saipan’s pocket beaches require some hiking. Some are accessible but others are very challenging, with hard to find trails but that just adds to the thrill of the adventure. Once you get to the pocket beaches which are usually unpopulated, it will make you feel like you have stumbled upon your own little paradise, a beach you can call your own at least for the day.
The Old Man by the Sea is one of the most popular pocket beaches on Saipan, but a lot of people don’t even know where it is. The point where the trail starts is easy to miss, and you have to hike through the jungles to get there but the effort is worth it when you get there.
Head further and take another fork in the road before you reach the King Fisher Golf to get to Jeffrey’s Beach, another hidden gem that only very few knows about. On rainy days, access is almost impossible as the rough road becomes a river. Beyond the Kingfisher Golf Course is another pocket beach called Hidden Beach. Lately, the beach has lost its sense of being ‘hidden’ as tour operators have added it to their jungle tour itinerary and the beach is always teeming with tourists but the beach is breathtaking. It’s where Saipan’s blow hole is located, and the giant waves smashing against the huge rocks formations are a sight to see.
If you have the stamina to hike down to the Forbidden Island, the beach is one superb location for camping but getting there is not for the weak of heart. Go up north to the very end of Marpi and you discover Cow Town Beach, another pocket beach which may not be swimmer-friendly because of the strong currents but it’s a photographer’s dream.
Up south is the Ladder Beach. As the most accessible pocket beach, privacy does not come with the package but it is a popular venue for weddings and parties.
Saipan has more pocket beaches waiting to be discovered and rediscovered. These beaches are waiting for the daring who goes beyond the paved roads to find the treasures.
(Published at the Marianas Variety Guam May 24, 2015 edition)
Driving around the area on Sunday morning with visiting friends from the mainland took us to the rusty Japanese tanker just beside the road where a marker was erected by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office telling the whole story about the place.
I’ve been to the tanker by the roadside before but didn’t know there was more beyond. The area was cleared free of thick shrubbery, baring the view for more World War 11 remnants.
We were at As Lito or Isely Field and around us were several structures, bunkers and tankers that have been preserved within a National Historic Landmark established on February 4, 1985.
We were trudging on grassy area that showcased the remains of a power station building, an oxygen generating building, Japanese headquarters building, hospital, repair shops, and a row of Japanese navy design air raid shelters. Some of the air raid shelters can be seen from the main road but a lot of them are hidden behind thick shrubbery. The air raid shelters are kept clean on the inside.
The marker on the roadside narrates that the construction of As Lito Airfield began in 1934 and As Lito was developed into the principal Japanese air base in the Marianas as the threat of war increased. As Lito was attacked by American aircraft of Task Force 58 on June 11 before the June 15 beach landings along the southwest coast of Saipan.
The interpretive sign which also provides translations in Chamorro, Carolinian and Japanese further tells that one of the objectives of the invasion was to capture As Lito and convert it to an American base that would put land-based bombers within reach of Saipan. After the Battle of Saipan, As Lito became the home of Bomber Wing 73 and was renamed Isely in honor of an officer whose plane was shot down during one of the air raids. Aviation engineers and Naval Construction battalions moved four million cubic meters of earth to construct the runways at the Isely Field. The As Lito/ Isely Field was deactivated in 1940 and the construction of the Saipan International Airport began in October, 1973.
If not for the airport tower that is visible from where the remains are, it is easy to imagine how the place teemed with people and activities during the World War 11.
Try to find some time from your schedules and make a trip to the airport to explore one of the most vital parts of island’s history.
(First published at the Around the Islands page of Marianas Variety, May 8, 2015 issue)
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
GOING around Saipan strapped to your seat onboard a Polariz is one of the thrilling and breathtaking experiences you must definitely try to get to know the island from another perspective.
My chance came last week with friends Chan Dennis and Ed Arriola. To start our tour, William from Let’s Go office took Dennis and me to a conference room where we watched a video about the tour. The video contained all we need to know—the destinations, safety precautions including how to fasten our seatbelts and put on our helmets, the speed drivers should follow as well as other traffic rules.
Ed told us we were going to Mt. Tapochao and the Hidden Forest trail for the one hour tour and off we went on board one of the four-seater Polariz Razr.
The fun begun as soon as we took the road heading up to Mt Tapochao on Capital Hill. It was when I immediately noticed the difference when you are driving your own car where you go slower and is careful to avoid rough and deep portions of the road. With the Polariz, you go straight for the deepest parts of the road, dive into ditches covering the road and get your dose of thrill on the road. It’s one ride where you hold your breath as the Polariz whizzes through deep rugged roads and yet you never feel any of the expected bumps, securely fastened to your seat and protected with helmet and goggles.
Halfway up to Tapochao, Ed took a right turn that led us deeper into the jungle—a trail I haven’t been to before. The small stony road snaked its way up and down plateaus and we came into the first pool of muddy water filling the road. Before I could take a deep breath, we plunged straight into the water and everything got wet, including my camera. We barely had time to recover from the cold when another ditch came into view and we plowed straight into it again. Not as shocking as the first time, and that was when you start to not care anymore, and want for more.
We reached the bamboo trail and got out of the Polariz to take deep breaths, still dripping from the cold muddy shower before heading back and proceeding to the peak of Mt. Tapochao.
If you only look at the Polariz, you might have second thoughts about riding it but once you experience it, the thirst for adventure begins and you will crave for more.
Let’s Go Tour Company never rent out the cars to anyone, but tourists and locals who want to get a ride must be accompanied by tour guides who will be at the head of the pack, and another one at the rear who will monitor everyone.
The Polariz cars are capable of racing up to Mt Tapochao at very high speeds but Arriola said as a rule, they require all drivers not to exceed 10 miles per hour especially when passing through the residential areas.
To go for a Polariz Razr ride, wear long sleeve shirts or dress according to the weather. Athletic shoes or boots are advised, no open toed sandals or slippers. Put on sunscreen and prepare to get wet and muddy. If you are taking pictures, be sure to secure your cameras with appropriate covering if you don’t want it to be wet and covered in mud.
Other options are the North Island Tour which allows you to visit Banzai Cliff, Santati Trail, Bird Island, Kalabera Trail and Suicide Cliff from a totally different perspective, and the South Island Tour which covers the amazing scenic trails heading to Naftan.
Visit www.letsgosaipan.com to try this gut-wrenching experience or for more information call 670-322-5387 or 670-322-4646.
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 benches 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)