As mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently moved to Guam. And so, Life Kinetic will soon be filled with photos and recommendations for Guam, other islands of Micronesia, and hopefully other South Pacific destinations. But because most people cannot find Guam on a map and know nothing about it, I thought it important to start with a few facts.
First things first. To find Guam on a map – directly north of Papua New Guinea, east of the Philippines and west of Hawaii. It is a small with an area of 210 sq miles (30 miles long and between four and twelve miles wide – roughly the size of Chicago) and about 174,000 people. It is one of the five territories of the United States, one of the 17 non-governing territories recognized by the UN, and an island of Micronesia. Micronesia is an area of the South Pacific (not a country) and comprises of about 2000 islands that together are just 700 square miles (size of Rhode Island) dispersed over three million square miles of Ocean.
Guam’s CHamorro culture dates back thousands of years. The famous Latte Stones are the most common remains of this culture. Guam first encountered the “west” with Magellan in 1521. Spain formally colonized Guam from 1565 until 1898 when it became part of the United States after the Spanish-American War. It is important to note that Guam’s history was unique and many of the nearby islands were colonized by the Germans and then entrusted to the Japanese which has resulted in different legacies, histories, and religions.
Therefore, on Dec 8, Japan invaded Guam in a coordinated attack that also included Hawaii, the Philippines and Singapore. The occupation lasted until 1944 and included internment camps and horrific conditions for the residents. The island was retaken by US Forces on 21 July after a 21-day battle. Liberation day is still the biggest holiday on the island today.
Guam is a high island on top of a submerged volcano and is essentially ocean views, miles of jungle and small villages that run North to South.
Guam is one of five US Territories and has the motto “Where America’s Day Begins.” However, while English is spoken and the currency is the US dollar, it does not feel like the mainland.
Today Guam only has two industries – Asian tourists and support of the US military.
You definitely want to rent a car for Guam (be patient, the maximum speed limit is 35 mph). While most of the hotels and restaurants are consolidated in the center of the island on Tumon bay, there are hundreds of other beaches and tons of hiking that can only be reached by car. Make sure to hike up Mt. Lamlam, with its peak 1,400 feet above sea level and the rest of it 37,000 feet below on the ocean floor, you can consider it the world’s highest mountain.
It is 88 degrees all year round. December through March this is tempered by the trade winds which blow steadily most days. Typhoon season begins in June but are most likely between August and October.
Getting to Guam – from the United States, the only available airline is United where you will pay international prices for domestic service. However, you can probably find a better deal to Japan, Korea or the Philippines and then catch a smaller airline onward to Guam. This is also the case if flying from elsewhere in the world. Look to get to one of those locations (maybe Singapore also) and then a separate ticket to Guam. Guam is then the perfect jumping off point for Yap, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Commonwealth of Marianas.
More to come in the coming months about what to do on Guam and these neighboring Islands.