Hello blog readers!
Happy 2014! Yes, I know the first month of the year is more than halfway through. Sorry about that! December, in between functions, me subbing more than I expected, Cameron preparing report cards, and both of us preparing to be away from our Shanghai apartment for 3 weeks, time kind of flew by…
We decided to give each other Christmas presents the Saturday we left, Dec. 21, since our flight was in the afternoon. We also had some time to talk to my lovely mother-in-law Kathy.
We headed to the airport early – anticipating long lines – and shared a cab with the Byrnes (vice-principal and ESOL teacher, respectively). The cab ride to the airport is longer than I remembered – still about 40 minutes with no traffic! But we made it nonetheless and…
Long, long line.
As good Dominicans, we looked for a way to make it faster through the line! And we found it! Thanks to our light(er) packing and not needing to check bags, we were checked in and good to go in no time. Went through security rather quickly and decided to get some lunch at Burger King just in case the food on the plane sucked.
For an airport its size, I find the Pudong airport to be kind of lacking in options for things to do. Maybe it was the wing we were at. At least there was free Wi-Fi. Always important.
One of the things that amuses me the most is to see planes from all the different airlines. As you can imagine, in an airport like Shanghai you get them all. All the regional Asian airlines and the big Western ones. It’s fun to try to guess which is which.
Those who know me also know I’m not very fond of flying. I usually manage to pass out and sleep for good parts of flights, but even though I know air travel is incredibly safe (a lot safer than driving a car) and statistically it would be years before I’d be on an incident, I still get very nervous when flying. Cameron knows it and is always comforting and available. He is also always ready with enough entertainment to keep me busy and takes care of charging electronics and things I shouldn’t worry myself with.
This was our first time flying Philippine Air and well, let’s just say we had low expectations. But the flight was cheap and friends had good comments about the airline so we hoped for the best. We were taking a flight to Manila, spending the night, and leaving for Guam the next day.
Our in-flight meal on that PAL flight was one of the best I’ve had. Yes, it was free food, but it was also quite good. So yea, this was only a 3 and a half hour flight, and we got free food.
And free wine. And a free ice cream cone.
Asian based airlines kind of rule. Why can’t US airlines give you food anymore?
We got to Manila and headed to the little hostel we booked for the night. Possibly one of the dingiest places we’ve ever stayed in. It was funny because one of the things we talked about while on the way to the airport with our carpool partners was them being “too old for hostels”. When I started spotting all the fire hazards contained in our room I understood what she meant. Sometimes going for the cheapest room you can find comes back to bite you in the ass. Sorry I don’t have a picture for you all.
We nevertheless managed to sleep some (it was however very hot and we could both feel the mosquitoes) and got up the next morning to go to the airport. Immigration was quite painless both times, although when you get to the Philippines, you need to show either proof of an onward ticket or proof of a return ticket. Otherwise they won’t let you in.
For me, it was especially exciting because Dominicans can enter the Philippines visa-free. YES! We are so conditioned to think that we need visas to go anywhere (thank you, United States – and Haiti, thank you very much!) that finding a country where we can go visa-free is so awesome! Well, guess what, Dominicans? Asia-Pacific is full of countries where we can just show up.
So off we went to go to Guam. From Manila, it’s about a 3 hour plane ride. Despite the shortness of the flight, we were fed (again). Our “breakfast” this time was a roast beef sandwich. Very NY deli of them.
Here is a map shot of Guam and its location in the Pacific (this will give you an idea of just about how far we were):
|Guam is part of the Northern Mariana Islands. It’s also considered Micronesia. And it’s also US territory.|
Since Guam is a US territory, everybody speaks English and everything operates just like it would in the US. Hurray for orderly things!!! Not having to deal with the language barrier was definitely a highlight of our break (at least for me). We experienced the same thing in the Philippines (thanks to the many years of American occupation). Also, going to a place like Guam, where everything that it’s expected to work does work (except for the public transport, but I’m afraid that might be for a serious lack of public funding) was also nice.
The weather was simply perfect. Breezy, sunny and not too warm.
|Look at how clear that water is.|
Guam doesn’t have a whole lot in terms of budget accommodations. In terms of tourism, the island caters to Japanese package tourists that go there to shop on the multiple duty free shops and outlet malls (I really don’t get it but OK).
|Some of these tourists come to tour…and shop…|
|Others come to get married. Pretty much every big hotel has a chapel with oceanfront view.|
Many of the big American chains have hotels there but they were out of our price range, so we stayed at the Days Inn. Location was not as awesome and it wasn’t beachfront, but we spent a really nice week there. When we weren’t on the beach and exploring, we were in our room hanging out and watching cable.
We spent the majority of our time just hanging out in the beach areas of Tumon and Tamuning, with one stop at Agana the day we went to Chamorro Village (kind of a dead marketplace with just a few trinket vendors). Since most of the facilities are in the Tumon Bay area, that’s where we will stay. I would not be opposed, however, to go back to Guam in the future and see more of the south.
These pictures are around Agana, on a rather windy and overcast day:
|I don’t really like having my picture taken, but for some reason, Cameron likes to take my picture. This one looks okay by my standards, but here it is.|
|A kiteboarder decided to take advantage of the wind and take a little ride.|
Some fun things that happened on the trip:
1) We went to K-Mart. I haven’t been to a KMart in YEARS. Neither had Cameron. But it’s quite big in Guam and it’s the go to place for tourists’ necessities. We took the opportunity to stock on some things like lotion without scary whitening agents.
2) Going to the movies without a) Chinese subtitles, b) Chinese government censorship. The movie theater in Tamuning was quite cheap ($8.50 a piece maybe) and very nice. We watched “American Hustle” on Christmas Day (or Eve?).
3) We got picked up by a cop!!! On our first attempt to go to the beach. we decided to go downhill on a street…where there was no downhill walking. Sure enough, about 3 seconds in…a cop showed up. “There is no downhill walking here…did you not see the sign?”. “Oh sorry! We’re not from here, we’re just trying to get to the beach”, followed by our best sheepish faces. We got a ride and got dropped at the Hilton hotel entrance. In a cop car. Thank goodness I’m brown, I was very embarrassed so if I would’ve been lighter I would’ve looked VERY flustered. Cam sat in the front seat with the cop and they discussed some Dallas Cowboys game. Needless to say, we did not try to do that again.
In a lot of ways, Guam is kind of a warp because it’s very American, however people are friendlier than in most American cities. Also it’s a tropical island, which is not like most of the US. There are a lot of signs in Japanese due to the massive hoards of Japanese tourists. And it’s very tourist-trap-ey. But I’d go back.
Thanks for reading!
Here are some pictures from our trip:
|This is in the Tumon Bay area. Even though it’s crowded, most of the Japanese don’t spend that much time in the ocean so it’s not too bad.|
|The sunsets were quite peaceful.|
|Hafa Adai! It’s like the Guam equivalent of Aloha!|