Saturday, April 9, 2016

Galavanting through Guam: a Three Week Adventure on a Beautiful Island

Last month, the boy and I were privileged with the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Guam. A tiny island, but largest in Micronesia, Guam sits in the Pacific ocean just 3.5 hours away from Japan. With tropical weather in the 80s year round and warm blue seas, it was the perfect place to be after a two month stint of wards and ICU. We spent three wonderful weeks at the Seventh Day Adventist Guam Clinic in Tamuning on a Wellness Rotation, working with dedicated doctors, nurses, and volunteers to study the effects of education classes and intensive lifestyle changes on diabetes and obesity, two conditions with very high prevalence in Guam. We even got to run our own diabetes education class one of the evenings and performed wellness consultations, both truly educational experiences. Thanks to Drs.Arakawa, Clark, and Ursales, we had a productive three weeks.  

View from a coffee shop we studied at while we were there. 
While we worked hard during the week, we had plenty of time on the weekends to explore the island and immerse ourselves in the pacific island culture. From snorkeling at dawn before work, to hiking, to attending the cultural night markets, we got a great taste of island life and wish that we had more time there to continue exploring such a beautiful place. This post will be about our adventures in Guam. Food post to follow later. 

When we first arrived in Guam at an awfully late 2AM, a representative from the clinic graciously picked us up and provided us with a car and fully equipped town house to use during our time there. Definitely much more luxurious than I ever expected. It came with a kitchen and its own laundry machines!  
The back of our complex.

The area we lived in was just across the street from the clinic, making the morning commute quite convenient. We were also only a 5 minute drive away from the beach, optimal for pre-work snorkeling at Ypao Beach. With warm calm waters and a shallow coral reef, it was the perfect place to see plenty of beautiful fish. My favorite were the blue starfish!

Guam has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The one with the clearest blue water and softest white sand had to be Ritidian Beach, the northern most beach in Guam, just past the Air Force Base. While getting there and back was dangerous in itself given all the pot-holes along the road, we made it back in one piece with our Toyota Corolla fully intact despite that bit of off-roading. It was definitely worth it -- the waters were breathtaking. 

While I loved Ritidian for its waters my favorite sunset was at Tanguisson Beach. We almost decided not to go here initially after reading reviews online about the petty theft and car break-ins that have happened at this particular beach given it's remote location. But it was one of the places to see on my Guam bucket-list so we decided to bite the bullet and just go quickly for the sunset. We made sure to clean out the car and leave nothing in sight to prevent any broken car windows when we came back and luckily had no troubles there.  I specifically wanted to see these natural rock formations in the water. They look like snails... or Aladdin shoes. 
 Most the other pictures were taken with my Nikon CoolPix. This one was with the iPhone - interesting how there's a color difference. 
Sunset and moonrise in one panoramic (moon is between the palm trees on the L side of the picture)

Outside of the beaches we did some hiking as well. Guam has so many beautiful trails both through the jungle and along the beach. With the Zika scare going around I was too freaked out to try out the more extreme jungle hikes like Tarzan Falls, which I hear is gorgeous. But the thought of 30 mosquito bites (which one of the students actually got) did not entice me. So off to the cliffs we went! 

Our first hike was to Marbo Cave and Cliffs. To call it a hike is really an overstatement. It was more like a 5 minute stroll down to the cave and another 10 minute uphill walk to the cliffs. Once we got to cave, we were greeted with an unbelievably clear blue freshwater pool, some areas deep enough to jump into from the rocks in the cave.  This cave was used as a fresh water source for soldiers during World War II. There was also a pool in the back that was probably 30 feet deep. It was pitch black back there, but with a flashlight, we were able to see to the bottom. The water was like crystal, so incredibly clear. Little did I know at the time, but one of the student's told me the day after that fresh water eel live in the back pool! I'm actually glad I didn't know about that before hand or else I never would have gone in. From the back pool there is a dark cramped tunnel that leads back out to the main pool, with just enough room for your head to be above water. We didn't bring our camera to avoid getting it wet, but we did have our faux-pro (a 5mpx Activeon CX which we bought at KMart just before we went). It worked fine in good lighting as seen in the cliff pictures below, but the cave was super dark so the pictures didn't come out so great. 

Our next hiking attempt was to Mount Lam Lam on the last Saturday we were on the island. Unlucky for us it had been raining all morning and continued to rain on and off during our hike which meant MUD and overcast views of the bay from the top. Given the weather and insane amounts of mud, we didn't make it to the top of Mt. Lam Lam, but did make it to the Crosses at the top of Mt. Jumollong Manglo. Every year on Good Friday the locals hike up to the Crosses as a tradition, showing the roots of Catholicism in Guam brought over by the Spanish during their explorations and settlement on the island. While there was a bit of jungle on this hike it wasn't too bad. I sprayed myself head to toe with Deet and managed to escape without a bite. 

One of the other scenic spots we visited was Two Lover's Point. The story behind this towering statue is that a great many centuries ago a Spanish girl fell in love with a native Chamorro boy, but was told that she must marry a rich Spaniard instead. So the two lovers went to the top of a cliff overlooking the island vowing to devote themselves only to one another. They braided their hair together as a symbol of their love and tragically jumped off the cliff hand in hand so they could be together forever. Somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet situation don't you think? Around the base of the view point are thousands of colorful love locks with messages and names written on them for good fortune and success in love. It is somewhat of a touristy place, but the view is indeed beautiful. We went to see the sunset but unfortunately it was raining that day and the clouds interfered with our plans. It was still beautiful nonetheless. 

The Sunday before we left, we took a long overdue drive around the south side of Guam with some of our new friends. It was absolutely gorgeous and a must-do for anybody visiting Guam. Since we went with a two of the student missionaries who had been on the island for 6 months already, they knew all the best look-out points to take us to. 
Our first stop was for lunch at Jeff's Pirate Cove, a burger and surf and turf place that sits right on the beach. 
Our matching tattoos :D
One of the first beaches we went to was near Ipan. It had this path in the back where you could walk out into the water and the tide is so low here that you can literally walk right up to the reef and still be only knee deep in water. But don't fall over the reef! You would get sucked in by the vicious waves and be stuck out there, not to mention I hear that's where the sharks are -- beyond the reef. 
A fisherman going about his daily business.
The waves were so close! I was debating whether or not to walk up to the reef, but as we had another 2-3 hours planned, I didn't want to sit in the car with wet clothes on so decided on the later. Kind of wish I just did it though!

Playing with color editing :]
Rosalyn found a papaya, well a baby papaya, seeds and all. 

Next up we went to Talofofo Beach, known for it's black sand beach. Interestingly enough, this is one of the only beaches where the locals go surfing. I didn't see too many waves when we were there though. 
At some point during this trip we realized that pretty much every beach we saw was just darn beautiful. The views might start to blend together at some point but they never cease to amaze. Every time we stopped anywhere on the island, the feeling of peace  and serenity fell over us, leaving us in a sense of awe over the beauty of nature around us. 

Onward to Inarajan. These are the famed Inarajan Pools, natural salt water pools that have formed over time. The special thing about this beach is how these pools and the ocean are separated by just a few rocks, so while you are swimming in the pool you can watch the waves crash a couple feet away without fear of getting pulled out by the undercurrent. 
Pool on the left, ocean on the right
The pool itself was pretty big

Our next stop was to Fort Nuestra Senora de la Soledad near Umantac. This was one of the remaining forts built by the Spanish in the early 1800s, canons and all. It was turned into a history park after World War II. 

Although we were at Cetti Bay the day before for our Mount Lam Lam hike, we never climbed the steps to the overlook. I'm glad we stopped by during our drive the next day since it was so rainy and overcast during our hike, we didn't get great views. This time, with clear skies, we were able to take in this beautiful sight. 

During our 4 hour trip, Nhan's goal was to climb a coconut tree to get a coconut. I don't know which would have brought more satisfaction, getting a coconut or being able to climbing the tree. 

I must also mention that the wildlife on the island includes thousands of beautiful stray dogs. I saw a stray corgi and wanted to take him home so badly! There is not a single case of rabies in Guam either. They are incredibly strict with dogs coming out to the island. If you want to bring your dog there, they will quarantine him for 3 months to make sure he doesn't have any contagious conditions. Outside of dogs, there are also wild chickens and roosters roaming around everywhere. There was a rooster in our housing complex that would dig up the planters every morning and the poor maintenance guys had to clean up after it. There are also a good number of carabao, water buffalos originally from the Philippines I believe. I wanted to ride one but unfortunately didn't get the chance to. They usually have carabao rides at the night market each week. We did get to see a carabao randomly sitting along side the road during our drive back home. 
This involved a little bit of chasing but I finally got a picture of a wild rooster! 
Carabao on the side of the road
We had such an amazing time on the island and met truly wonderful people. While this sums up our island adventures, we haven't mentioned anything about the FOOD, the natural counterpart to any good escapade. And in case you haven't read my previous post on Spain, my belief is that food tourism is the way to go. You haven't really experienced a culture until you have tried their food.

Check out our culinary adventures in Guam!


  1. What an amazing experience!! I'm with you on being glad you didn't know about the eels beforehand. I wouldn't have been able to get past that lol. Can't wait to hear about all the food!

    1. Thanks Jamie! We had so much fun exploring :)

  2. i did not for one second space out while reading this amazing post. i am super psyched to get to visit the place my self. seeing you having so much fun