Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saipan’s sunken pool

Any trip or stay on Saipan would never be complete without visiting the Grotto, a sunken pool of amazingly azure waters that is connected to the ocean by passages underwater. For divers, the Grotto is one of Saipan’s best spots but non-divers too can enjoy the spectacular views the place has to offer.
Come with me as we visit yet another one of the unique spots this island has to offer.
The first time I visited the Grotto, I was not able to resist the urge to go down the 100 steep steps. A slight rain had made the stairs slippery and I was wearing sandals with heels but I was not about to let the opportunity pass.
Going down takes real effort as you have to hold on to the cement handrails and watch your footing if you have no wish to crash in a heap at the sharp rocks below.
Once you reach the bottom of the staircase, you will be facing yawning caverns that promise worlds of wonder under the water’s surface. Non-divers can enjoy listening to the thunderous crashing of the waves on the rocks, or watch snorkelers having a grand time in the pool.
If it requires effort on your way down, going up requires double effort. I had to rest every five or so steps and listen to my deafening heartbeat while trying to catch my breath.
Above the pool, a view deck provides a perfect setting where you can gaze for hours at the endless blue of the ocean stretched out before you. The view deck has tables and benches where guests can sit, relax and breathe in the salty tang of the ocean breeze.
The Grotto, located north of Saipan is easily accessible. Just drive past the “last command post” and “Banzai Cliff” memorial parks, and watch out for the sign on the road.
The Grotto is one place you must not miss. All you need is a healthy pair of legs (for non-divers), guts and a pair of itchy feet, and some exercise if you don’t mind.
I will leave the divers to describe the underwater wonders of the Grotto, or wait until I will have the chance to dive someday. Maybe that would be when I learn how to swim. Ahhhh, maybe in the next 50 years…
CLICK HERE for more photos
(Article originally published HERE

Friday, August 15, 2008

Last Command Post remembered

DRIVING all the way to Marpi on the north end of Saipan will lead you to several areas that have been mute witnesses to the poignant events of the Second World War, and one of these areas is the Last Command Post.
If you had been on Saipan long enough, you may have taken this spot for granted but everyday, this spot gets a fair share of visitors from all over the world.
Tourists wander around the Last Command Post. At the backdrop is the Suicide Cliff.Tourists wander around the Last Command Post. At the backdrop is the Suicide Cliff.
Located just along the road, the Last Command Post would have been another ordinary park with the colossal 800-foot Suicide Cliffs towering above and flame trees flowering from April to July each year.
Were it not for the markers and memorials scattered all over the park, visitors wouldn’t know that behind the World War II relics, a light Japanese tank and several guns that had been silenced forever is a tragic past that will forever be a part of the islands.
Records would tell you that the Last Command Post, a rock slab is where the Japanese command held out to the very end.
I and my explorer buddies Mark, Moneth, Junhan and Raymond went up the stairs and in to the inner chamber of the cave. I couldn’t help but shiver as I thought of the people who took shelter in it more than 60 years ago. If the rocks could talk, how interesting their stories would be. They had witnessed the unfolding of the fierce battle and sad events that made up a chapter of the world’s history.
Going into the inner chamber of the cave.Going into the inner chamber of the cave.
A drizzle started and we had to hurry because we were not planning to get wet.
It was a relief to leave the place which holds so many bitter memories. Just as we were driving away, a busload of tourists arrived, excitedly snapping photos from their cameras despite the drizzle.
Generations have come and gone, but like the rest of the war memorials on Saipan, the relics of the Last Command Post will stay as a reminder of the island’s tragic past.
Article originally published HERE

Friday, August 8, 2008

Paradise amidst cliffs and bushes

NESTLED amidst cliffs, sharp rocks and bushes just off the eastern side of Saipan is an isolated nook which is perfect for a day out with family or friends.Ladder beach, hidden in a cove between rugged cliffs is one of Saipan’s beautiful albeit hidden beaches.
Last Saturday’s adventure brought me and companions Mark, Junhan, Moneth and Ed to several turns on rough roads before reaching a grassy parking space way off the back of Saipan International Airport.
From the parking space, Ladder beach looked less inviting, with cliffs and huge slabs of rocks jutting out.
We descended a flight of stairs and when we emerged into a clearing, I immediately changed my mind. It’s a different word down there!
Ladder beach is a paradise, with spacious caves ideal for holding camp outs or bonfires where you can swap stories and while away the time.
If the urge to feel alone hits you, Ladder beach is the place to be. You could sit for hours and watch and listen to the sound of the huge waves crashing on rocky shores from the Pacific Ocean.
Compared to other beaches on Saipan, the waves at Ladder Beach are a little larger, adding to its charm.
Ladder beach is kind of hidden away, a place where you can be free to meditate, to wade in the water, to enjoy moments of peace or to shout and hear the wind and the waves answer you back in their own wild voices.
If you feel adventurous, you may jump on your bike and sped off toward the place. It is a place where you can discover that even among the crags and bushes, nature’s beauty flourishes.
This article was first published HERE