Posts Tagged ‘Micronesia’

All this talk about the 18 Guantanamo detainees moving to Palau certainly has me thinking about our wonderful trip we enjoyed back in Feb 2007. Ah, true paradise…

Kayaking through the Rock Islands, Palau

Swimming with the Dolphin

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Two years ago, we were spending the President’s Day weekend in Palau. From Guam, Palau is only a two hour flight and had we stayed longer than one year in Guam, I would have gone back to Palau as often as possible. For a beachbum, it IS paradise.

On our way to the Rock Islands:

Favorite Girl at the “Milky Way”:

Touring the Rock Islands:

All last week, I searched Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz for a cheap getaway to Puerto Rico, St Thomas, Orlando and Charleston but all flights/hotels were too much for just a couple days. So instead, we’re embracing the winter and heading further north. We’ll be stimulating the Canadian economy this weekend…

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Kolonia has a population of about 3,200 very friendly people. The taxi dropped us off on “main” street where we were told there would be handicrafts for sale. Well, people sell things out of their homes which was a little strange for me. I’m not a fan of the “drop-in” (when people stop by without calling first) so I wasn’t so keen on walking up to their houses! The streets were safe to walk and lots of people were milling around. Dogs were everywhere ~ each home had to have at least one or two hanging out. They looked happy enough but had I known, I would have brought doggie bisquits and frontline to share with them.

One thing that struck both FM and I was the sheer poverty of a lot of the people. They live in very small, slapped together homes with dirt floors. But people seemed happy and the children were so adorable, it made me think about people who have everything at their fingertips and still complain.

We visited the pepper farm which boasts the “best pepper in the world” and after tasting it at the Village restaurant, I have to agree. We bought a bunch for our pepper grinder and we’ll save it for visitors 🙂

We also stopped at “The Carving Spot” and met Paul, a master carver. If you give him enough time, he can custom carve a piece for you but since we were leaving the next day, we bought a beautiful woodcarved turtle to add to our growing turtle collection.

FG wants to start collecting things to send to the children of Pohnpei and Kosrae. She especially wants to donate sports equipment. Of course, we will encourage her and hopefully, we’ll find an organization to work with that already helps out there. Personally, if I had all the money in the world, I’d send a team of vets in to spay and neuter all the dogs and give them a good checkup.

Next, we’re off to the island of Kosrae which is also part of the Federated States of Micronesia, is even more remote than Pohnpei and is as close to the equator (about 5 degrees latitude) as we will get on this trip.

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Exploring Pohnpei

For our only full day in Pohnpei, we took a boat tour from the resort and had a wonderful guide named Billy. Come to find out, Billy was featured on a history channel program about Nan Madol which was our first stop. I wish I could share photos but I have no patience with the dial-up, 14KB connection so I will add photos when we get to Majuro or Honolulu ~ depending on how fast a connection I can get.

NAN MADOL: This ancient archaeological site is located on an artificial islet off the southeast coast of Pohnpei. It was a bumpy 40 minute ride to the location but so worth it. We entered at a break in the seawall and we were lucky because the tides were going out and we almost missed our chance. If we had another full day, we would have done the kayaking trip throughout the area but we’ll save it for next time.

We came to the huge temple on Nan Dowas which is surrounded by up to 25 feet walls made out of basalt logs. The chiefs would greet visitors on this islet and the visitors had to crawl through a small opening up to where the chief sat thus showing their reference and paying tribute. Even today, we had to pay a $3.00 per person visitor fee to the current Chief’s representative which was his 7 year old son.

We spent our time on Nan Dowas but all in all there are about 80 islets which make up Nan Madol. The earliest carbon dating of the buildings date back to the 7th century and the building went up through the 16th century. When the Europeans came to Pohnpei, Nan Madol had only recently been abandoned.

KEPIROHI FALLS: We parked the boat along the shore and hiked in-land for about 10 minutes. We were rewarded with a GORGEOUS 70 ft waterfall which cascaded into a pool fit for swimming. Thankfully, we hadn’t mentioned the eels to FG until after she swam in the falls. She and FM really enjoyed it while I choose to just walk around in the water rather than swim. Like Nan Madol, this property owner charged $3.00 as well.

MANTA ROAD (Mwand Pass): After a nice lunch on a small, private atoll, we took the boat to a location close to the hotel which is referred to as “Manta Road” and there is no doubt as to how it got its name. There were SO many beautiful mantas in the water and they were so big we could easily see them from the boat. Manta Road is a cleaning station of sorts for the mantas ~ there are small fish there which will attach to the mantas and eat the parasitic insects and leftover food on the manta’s gills & skin.

John’s lunch wrapped in banana leaves:

FG reluctantly got into the water to snorkel with us. Unfortunately, the death, and subsequent news casts of Steve Irwin has left FG nervous around ocean creatures especially the Manta Rays which so closely resemble the Sting Rays. There were also a few sharks below us and she did freak out a little when she saw the first one. She swam faster than I’ve ever seen her swim before ~ heading back to the boat. There was a nice Englishman on the boat with us who is a very experienced diver and he educated her about how the rays and the white-tipped sharks, mostly telling her they won’t hurt you. I’m proud of her for getting back into the water. She did jump on FM’s back a couple times though.

We swam with about 6-8 rays during our snorkel as well as two white-tipped sharks. The rays are really majestic in the way they spiral and swim ~ like a bird in flight. If they got a little too close, I have to say, my breathing got a little quicker and FM got nervous when one ray decided it wanted to “play” and stayed between him and the boat 🙂 Too much fun!

We decided to spend the afternoon in the capital city of Kolonia…more on that later.

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Our room at the Village, Pohnpei

We stayed at the Village Resort in Pohnpei and it was the most unique hotel any of us had ever experienced. The drive to the hotel was up a winding, single-lane, dirt road and ended at the entrance to the main building which included the “Tattooed Irishman” restaurant.

Since there’s only one flight into Pohnpei each day, we didn’t have to give our names to the front desk agent ~ she knew we were the only check-in for the day.

Our room:

We were given our key and she pointed toward a path saying that was the way to our room. It was a path through the JUNGLE ~ literally. The Village is an eco-lodge so there are no TVs, telephones, a/c, internet connection, etc. The room itself is built into the hillside on stilts and is made from palm frawns and wood collected from the island. It is all open air, with screens to keep the bugs out. No curtains which would have made me a little more nervous if there were other guests around. The rooms have waterbeds which I have to say is not my favorite thing ~ my back didn’t really appreciate it after a day of hiking, swimming and boating.

It was very breezy so we didn’t miss the air conditioning but the birds were a little loud in the early morning hours. Ah, the sounds of nature…

We ate most of our meals at the “Tattooed Irishman” and the food/service was fabulous! Not to mention the view of the ocean couldn’t be beat. It’s definitely a place to go to unwind, relax and enjoy the slow-pace of island life. We enjoyed the peacefulness and lack of “bad” news.

The resort was opened 28 years ago by Bob and Patti Arthur. We had the opportunity to speak with Patti Arthur and asked how they found themselves in Pohnpei. She said her husband had the idea about starting the resort even though he didn’t have any experience in the hotel business. She followed with their 4 children, a dog, 16 pieces of luggage and a box which held a waterbed.

And here we thought we were adventurous 😉

Beachbums in Paradise:

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Palau Wrap-up

Sunset at Palau Pacific Resort

None of us wanted to say goodbye to Palau ~ we still had a few things we wanted to do and see. On our last night, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner.At the end of our trips, we like to recap a list of highlights, top five and what surprised us the most. For me, I didn’t expect quite so many eastern European tourists. We also ran into quite a few German visitors but I expected that since the website for Palau had the choice of English, Japanese or German.Another thing that was a little unexpected was that they drive on the left side of the road but most of their cars come from Japan so the steering wheel is on the RIGHT. The roads were pretty narrow,and more than once, I held my breath thinking we were going to hit someone walking/running on the road. It was a little crazy.We decided on our own top THREE favorites:
3) Milky Way and the white goop
2) Kayaking and snorkeling at Risong Bay
1) Dolphin Encounter

3) Snorkeling at the Big Drop-Off (seeing the shark)
2) Dolphin Encounter
1) Breakfast on the beach each morning with the family

3) Giant Clam snorkel
2) Big Drop-Off snorkel (seeing the sea turtle)
1) Dolphin Encounter

We will definitely go back to see the Dolphin when we return. I say “when” and not “if” because this place is so special and I’m already trying to plan a return visit.

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They Call It Paradise

They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise
Kiss it goodbye

(The Eagles)

John came home the other day and mentioned that Palau officials might have to close Jellyfish lake due to the large number of visitors. I was reminded of the lyrics of the song called “The Last Resort” sung by The Eagles. It’s a song about how any time a place is called paradise, it’s ruined: Providence, RI; The Great Divide; Malibu and Lahaina, Maui.  Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.

Jellyfish Lake in Palau was sealed off from the ocean long ago and the jellyfish, having no natural predators, have lost their ability to sting. Hundreds of thousands of jellyfish swim around this lake, following the sun. Just looking at the photo below of Jellyfish Lake makes my palms sweat:


I’ve had the misfortune of being stung by jellyfish while swimming in Hawaii ~ the pain is intense. I hope I can get over my fear long enough to swim in the lake.

From what I understand, the problem is so many people are visiting Jellyfish Lake and when they go swimming in the freshwater lake with sunscreen and sadly, urinating, it’s changed the alkalinity of the water. The jellyfish are dying due to the change. I’m glad the people of Palau are looking out for their natural resources and hope they do close or severely restrict access so the lake can return to it’s natural state.

Once I heard about a possible impending closure, I decided we’d better make the trip to Palau sooner than later so we can enjoy the site before it’s closed completely. If all goes well, we’ll be able to make a trip this month ~ it’s only a two hour flight so it’d be a shame to miss it since we’re so close. I promise I won’t wear sunscreen or pee in the water 🙂

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