Monday, April 24, 2006

About Saipan

"Guam sir? There's nothing going on in Guam. Why Guam?"
-Sgt. Major Dickerson, Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Every once in a while, the topic of Guam pops up in some Hollywood movie. They always mention it as some far off place where hardly anyone ever visits.

To give you an inkling of how far away Saipan is from the rest of the world, one usually has to stop in Guam for a layover on thier way to Saipan (although there are direct flights from Nagoya, Osaka, Narita, Manila, Shanghai, and Guangzhou these days).

Saipan, however, although distant when measured in miles, is not as isolated as you would first think. There are over 70,000 permanent residents and just over 1/2 million tourists visit Saipan and her neighboring islands each year (and one of the governor's campaign promises is to raise this number to 1 million by 2008).

The island is extremely plugged in, so since somebody has already put it online for us, I don't need to do a recount of the landmass, rainfall, or history of the islands since Magellan landed here in 1521. I've added several links with that type of information to the bottom of this post. The Marianas RC&D Area Plan is an especially good resource. It has the best Area Background I think I've seen for these islands. Please check it out.

I want to focus on the three things that I believe make Saipan unique, namely the unbelievably diverse population, her rich history, and her unmatched natural and scenic beauty.

People from all over the world come here to make their fortunes, taking full advantage of the business friendly tax structure, and to enjoy the type of lifestyle that one has when they live on an island in the Western Pacific. As a result, for her size, Saipan is probably one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. If you walk around the open air market that is in the Garapan tourist district every Thursday night, you are likely to hear English, Tagalog, Chamorro, Carolinian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Russian, and a fistful of other Micronesian languages. It is pretty amazing.

Saipan's diverse cultures can even be seen in the landscape. There are of course naturally beautiful places on the island, but the historical importance (Saipan has had four different colonial rulers) of almost every inch of this island makes these places even more beautiful and special.

Take Obyan Beach for example:

Obyan Beach is on the southern end of the island. It is popular with divers because the coral gardens just offshore are beautiful and easy to access. It is popular with locals who barbeque on the beach every weekend and who go fishing on the reef for fish and octopus. It is also the site of an ancient Chamorro latte stone house AND has two Japanese WWII era pillboxes. It is also a beautiful place in itself.

There is a lot going on there. This single beach generates income for the tourist industry, supports the local culture, and protects historic relics from the past. It is also inherently beautiful and therefore important.

That is why this project is so important. We're not just trying to protect coral reefs because some people think they are pretty. They are the backbone of the local economy, culture, and lifestyle. If we can protect the coral reefs, we protect all of those other things as well.

Want to know more? Here are some other places to find info on Saipan:

What outsiders say about Saipan:
CIA - The World Factbook

What locals say about Saipan:
Ruth Tighe - On My Mind Personal Pages
The Traveling Rumptz's
Major Mal To Ground Control
Jennifer Ambler

Local News:
Saipan Tribune
Marianas Variety
Pacific Times

What to do in Saipan:
Saipanagogo Events Calendar Events Calendar

Tourist Info:
The CNMI Guide
Marianas Visitors Authority
Saipan-Da (japanese website)
My Micronesia

...I think that is a good start

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