Third of a five-part series
37. Jungle Riverboat Cruise. If you think you've already explored the whole of Guam, think again, because the only thing you might still be missing is a jungle riverboat cruise that allows you to explore the lush jungle along Talafofo and Ugum Rivers while aboard the Adventure River Cruise.
The scenic tour, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting or living in Guam, includes a visit to an ancient Chamorro village with latte stones, grinding stones, caves, and beautiful flora and fauna.
There are two cruises daily. One is at 9am and the other, at 1:30pm. My friend and I took the Saturday morning cruise that, only about two months ago, was unknown to me despite years of visiting Guam.
Waiting for the tourist bus carrying fellow cruise passengers to arrive gave us a chance to take in the crispness of that fine Saturday morning and the view of the muddy river and the rich vegetation. It rained the previous night and the days before that, hence the river's color that morning.
Flash that smile when the boat captain/tour guide snaps a photo of you and your group before the start of the cruise because at the end of the fun and smooth cruise you will get a souvenir photo for just $15. Cool off with free ice cream served onboard.
We were the first ones to arrive so we got to pick the front seats. Later, we realized, we should have taken the boat captain's advice to choose the “right” side in front.
As the riverboat moved upstream, we were treated to a sensory overload-clear skies, dense jungle along the riverbanks, tropical fish in the river, and muddy water that nevertheless sustains the rich wildlife of plants and animals. The riverboat also had to maneuver through bamboo shafts that found their way to the water.
We stopped a few times to feed different fish types and “Guam chickens!” which the tour guides excitedly introduced to passengers. Even the coconut crabs seemed to be appear right on cue by the riverbank to be fed. At one point during the cruise, the guide pointed to a “crocodile” only to realize seconds later that he was just teasing u. I was just about to stay away from the edge of the riverboat for fear of being grabbed or bitten by a real one.
Minutes later, the riverboat turned back and dropped off the passengers at the site of an ancient Chamorro village that we earlier passed. The short hike took us to a latte stone field. This is one of the best spots to have your photo taken on this tour because latte stones are found only in Guam and the CNMI and nowhere else in the world. Latte stones are pillars on which ancient Chamorro houses were constructed as early as 500 A.D.
One of the guides walked us to the caves that served as dwellings of ancient people. He also pointed to snake skins hanging by rock formations. We passed by a group of residents weaving coconut palm leaves, on our way to a local hut where a young man demonstrated how ancient Chamorros built fire from sticks, to the amazement of the tourists. Another man showed us how to weave baskets, fans, hats, bags, and head leis using coconut palm fronds. Other fun activities for tourists ensued. Tourists also got to see a large iguana, a giant coconut crab, and a brown tree snake in cages.
Guam's jungle riverboat cruise reminded me of a Sigatoka River Safari in the South Pacific nation of Fiji in November 2010, as well as childhood summer vacations that allowed us to swim or wade in rivers and water irrigation systems (looking back, frolicking in water dams wasn't a good and safe idea).
The cruise took some two hours, and was surprisingly fun and educational for passengers of all ages. It was well worth the time to see parts of Guam you would otherwise not get to see.
For reservations, call (671) 789 3342/789 3413, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
And should you decide to take this tour, don't forget to bring your camera.
38. Kayaking the Talofofo River. A different group of tourists was kayaking the Talafofo River minutes after the cruise passengers disembarked from the riverboat to visit the site of an ancient Chamorro village. Though we didn't try this activity, it sure looks fun for those who are fond of kayak paddling in the seclusion and serenity of Guam's rivers and dense jungle.
39. Walking along Tumon Bay shores at night. Guam's favorite coastal playground is also fun to walk at night, as hotels, beachside bars, and restaurants not only illuminate Tumon Bay's shore but also fill the air with island music, laughter, and chatter.
Listening to the relaxing sound of waves crashing on the beach, reading the writings in the sand left by lovers and friends, passing by a man net fishing while his wife and daughter patiently wait for him, or just living the moment might just be what you need after a long day.
40. Globe. It's not true that only the really young ones go to the largest and only New York-style nightclub complex in Guam. At Globe, you get to enjoy a hot time on the dance floor and the different bars, each with a different theme. It is located at the SandCastle Entertainment Center in Tumon and boasts of having the most contemporary club atmosphere-a nice sound system and light show-with pockets of soft areas for club goers to relax. Time to get those party shoes on.
41. Gef Pa'go Cultural Village. This village is located on the southeast coast of the island along the coast of Inarajan Bay and showcases Chamorro culture and traditions on display, craft shops, and performances. The cultural village is made up of all natural materials to mimic the Chamorro shelters of the past and is open daily for crafts and folkways demonstrations.
You can see the making of coconut candy and sea salt, as well as weaving of coconut fronds that you could buy as gifts. The cultural village employs several master weavers who demonstrate the art to students, tourists, and interested residents.
42. Pope John Paul II Monument. This bronze statue of Pope John Paul II was built in central Hagatna in commemoration of his 1981 visit to Guam, the first papal visit to the island since Christianity was introduced by the Jesuits in the 17th century.
The statue stands on the site where Pope John Paul II held Mass in February 1981. It is said that the statue rotates one full revolution every 12 hours but the motor is no longer working. It is located in the middle of Chalan Santo Papa Juan Pablo Dos Street, named in his honor, between Plaza de Espana and Skinner Plaza.
43. Car shows. For an island, Guam seems to have more than enough roads and dirt roads to accommodate just about every kind of vehicle there is. That is why it's not surprising to see auto shows every now and then.
44. Ritidian Beach. One of Guam's most pristine sandy beaches, Ritidian Beach is worth the long drive. It offers powder white sand and miles of crystal clear water that erase all your worries and enamor you to the beauty of the spot.
Ritidian Point, located at the northernmost tip of Guam, is a national wildlife refuge. One of the few signs that the land is a former coconut plantation is a path through a coconut-tree jungle.
Most of the area in this portion of the island is uninhabited and the only reason locals and tourists travel here is to spend a relaxing day at the beach, especially on weekdays when there's little to no people around. On weekends, Ritidian Beach fills with families and picnickers.
Because it is a long stretch of beach, it isn’t hard to find your own secluded spot. If the sun is too much for you, reading a book by a tree's shade might just do the trick. I remember reading the first few chapters of Angela's Ashes, a 1996 memoir by the Irish-American author Frank McCourt that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, under a coconut tree while waiting for the barbecue.
45. Fort Santa Agueda. Built in 1800 as a lookout, Fort Santa Agueda once had 10 cannons. The best reason to visit it now is its commanding view of the Hagatna Bay and Hagatna. All that remains of this Spanish fort is part of its stone foundation built of coral and burnt limestone.
Fort Agueda's cannon served to protect Hagatna harbor and the lucrative galleon trade until the Spanish-American War when, in 1898, an American frigate entered Hagatna harbor with guns blazing. Today, the old Spanish cannon still point out over Hagatna Bay from the remnants of Fort Santo Agueda near the governor's residence.
It is said that this is also the site of Guam's first Catholic mission, established in 1668, but nothing of that era remains.
46. Tree Bar at Hilton. This open-air bar provides casual, tropical atmosphere while enjoying cocktails and listening to a live band. Hilton Guam Resort & Spa's beach front may be smaller than those of other hotels along Tumon Bay but it still gives you a scenic view of the bay.
47. Mermaid Tavern. The Mermaid Tavern and Grille, located in Hagatna, prides itself as “the only brewpub restaurant serving daily specials and Guam's only locally brewed beers.” Friends in Guam and those who have already left the island love this spot for its food, drinks, live bands, and overall atmosphere. Who knows, you might also catch a glimpse of a Paul McCartney-lookalike playing the guitar, as my friends and I did during a night of fun.
48. DFS Galleria Guam. Just out of curiosity, I finally got to see the inside of DFS Galleria this month after years of visiting Guam. It's all what you'd expect of a luxury retailer, bringing world-renowned brands together in one place. Name the luxury brands, from A to Z, they're all there-or maybe most of them.
49. San Antonio Spanish Bridge. Also known as the “Old Spanish Bridge,” the San Antonio Bridge was built of cut stone by the Spaniards in the 1800s to span the Hagatna River. The original bridge survived the shelling of Hagatna in World War II and continued to be used after the war. But during the rehabilitation of Hagatna that began in 1945, the canal that it spanned was filled and the river diverted.
Today, it crosses just a shallow pool in a park-like setting located across Marine Corps Drive from the Hagatna Marina. Near the bridge is a statue of “Sirena the Mermaid.” Legend has it that Sirena was a girl whose mother turned her into a mermaid for being disobedient.
50. University of Guam. Some people do tours of university campuses whenever they visit a new place, and the 100-acre University of Guam in Mangilao on the east coast is worth the stop. UOG, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, is dubbed “the major institution of higher education in the Western Pacific.”
It is noted for its marine laboratory, “a pioneer in the field of marine biology.” UOG's Micronesian Area Research Center has a wide selection of books, maps, and documents on the Pacific region.
51. Ifit wood products. Ifilwood or “ifit” in the vernacular is the territorial tree of Guam. Ifit wood products are sold in shops and even on roadsides, so watch out for beautifully reddish woodwork while driving on village roads.
52. Micronesia Mall. This is “the largest American style shopping center” in Guam, offering a daylong shopping experience (Check out Macy's and Bench) and a number of attractions including an indoor amusement center called Funtastic Park, Fiesta Food Court, and Micronesia Mall Theaters.
But the most awe inspiring of them all is “MIMO,” which stands for “Micronesia Identified Moving Objects,” a three-dimensional audiokinetic sculpture reaching a height of 8 meters.
To be continued.