Saturday, January 29, 2011

Exploring the ruins of Tinian’s historical buildings

THE gaping holes on the roofs walls and floors, the protruding and bent pieces of steel, the tall bushes around and the eerie silence of the surrounding – this all adds up to one of the must-not-miss historical attractions in the island of Tinian.
The ruins of the Air Administration Building stood amid thick foliage and vegetation, and aside from our footfalls which echoed along the empty halls, there were no other sounds heard as we gingerly picked our way into the building which used to be the headquarters for the Japanese Navy’s 1st Air Fleet.
There is something uncanny yet exciting about exploring a building that had been a mute witness and played a vital role in a bloody battle that took place six decades ago.  It felt like we were invading privacy and committing a sin stepping on the floors and holding on to the skeleton of a building has withstood over 60 years of exposure to the elements of nature.
Slowly picking our way up to the second floor where more gaping holes in the floors and roofs met our eyes, our guide told us that the Air Administration Staff Building was part of the Central Pacific Area Fleet of Japan.
It was hard to imagine that such an innocent- looking building, or what was left of it was used as a staging area to transport aircrafts to Southern Pacific battle areas.
The Air Administration Building is just one of the ruins on Tinian that you have to visit. Take time to visit the North Field, the three airstrips, the dilapidated air operations building which is now home to hundreds of spiders and other insects, the air raid shelters, the bunkers at Invasion Beach, the Taga House, the two atomic bomb pit where the B-29 Enola Gay was towed and launched on Aug. 5, 1945 and the atomic bomb pit where the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” was loaded and dropped above Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. The two bombs killed over two hundred thousand people.
Tinian is practically littered with World War 2 relics and remnants, each with volumes of stories to tell to its visitors, and a day is not enough to really immerse yourself in the rich historical sites in the island.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exploring historical treasures at Obyan Beach

I’VE seen these piles of old stones in Obyan Beach several times before and have always thought of them as ordinary stones, until a few months ago.
Those rocks may look just like ordinary piles of rocks, but as I watched a tourist who was so absorbed in trying to capture the whole site on his lens, taking photos of the stone formations from all angles, I finally saw the stones with new eyes.
Those piles of moss-covered stones are actually latte stones listed that play a big role in the history of the islands and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Just like all the other latte stones that remained and weathered the harsh elements of nature in the islands, the ones in Obyan Beach were ancient stones used by the Chamorro people to build their houses and shelter for their canoes.
As one of the most popular beaches on Saipan among locals and tourists alike, Obyan Beach gets a fair share of visitors each day despite the distance and the rough roads but not every one of these guests are aware of the Latte Site that sits just within the beach.
With its wide stretch of white, sandy beach and shaded trees, one tends to miss this significant historical feature which is just actually one of the many scattered all over the place.
From Obyan Beach and all the way to Naftan Point, historical features such as WWII Japanese bunkers, secret tunnels, machine gun nests, pottery shards and more relics litter the area.
These historical features make your visit much more enjoyable and interesting in addition to spending the day at the beach. For the more daring, you can try exploring the hiking trails that lead to the jungle or to more remote beaches in the area and you will be rewarded with a wealth of historical experiences and spectacular views.
The next time you go for a swim or picnic at Obyan Beach, explore through these historical remains a few meters down from the parking lot to your left and you will see a clearing with the latte stones in the center.
You may be interested to learn that a lot of people from other parts of the world would give anything just to visit these sites that you may have always taken for granted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunset from a thousand feet above

THE sun was going down fast and I was still sitting at the departure area of the Tinian Airport on Friday last week, getting desperate because I so wanted to capture the last sunset of the year on camera just like the rest of the lens fanatics across the globe.
I had been preparing to capture the last sunset of the year on camera for weeks, getting ready with my gear and making sure my batteries were fully charged. I had already envisioned where I will position myself at the popular Taga Beach across from the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino as it is one of the best places to watch the sunset.
I was supposed to board a 5pm flight but we were waiting for three more passengers that did not show up in the end so that Star Marianas Air had to fly only me and a buddy to Tinian. I chose to sit in the center of the six-seater plane while my buddy sat at the back.
Sighing in frustration as we taxied on the runway and flew up to over a thousand feet above Saipan, I knew there was no way I can reach Taga Beach on time to shoot my last sunset of the year. Looking out the window, I adrenalin suddenly flowed in my veins as I grabbed the camera from my shoulders and started clicking. The sun was peeking behind thick dark clouds and casting multi-colored reflections on the sea. It was my first time to capture the setting sun from 1,500 up above and it was just thrilling.
Landing at the Tinian airport, my buddy tried to comfort me for missing out my last sunset but little did he know that I got more than what I would have gotten if the flight was not delayed.
I may not have taken the best photos because we were flying but I experienced something that gave me access to one of the most beautiful things in life for free. I promised to capture the first sunrise of 2011 on my camera the following morning but the parties ended at 4 a.m. and the next thing I knew, it was almost 1 a.m. and the flight back to Saipan was scheduled in less than an hour.
If you haven’t tried watching the sunset from up above, do it sometime. It is worth it.

One flight at a time around the world

A JOURNEY around the world begins with a single flight, and no matter if each flight leads them to a local destination or someplace exotic, each traveler returns home rich with experiences and wanting to go for more.
Let us leave the confines of the CNMI islands for now and take a peek at the lifestyles of this elite group of wanderers conquer the world one flight at a time.
Priding themselves as members of America’s Finest Air Travel Club, the Nomads, consisting of a group of over 4,200 people mostly from Michigan leaves a long trail of people who would give anything just to be in their shoes.
For each planned trip, a group of less than a hundred members sign up and leave everything to the trip organizers. The members sit back and relax as the spacious and comfortable Boeing 727-200 which they call as the “flying clubhouse” flies them to interesting destinations around the world.
Members are free to go for optional tours or pursue their own interests once they reach each destination, whether it is in some bustling city, deep in the jungles, in a tropical island paradise, among the ruins of old temples, or any other adventure.
Trip director Judy Mobley told the Variety that each member pays reasonable prices set for each trip, but they get their money’s worth as they travel in style and comfort, enjoying excellent accommodations and transportation and not worrying about anything but to enjoy the trip. Mobley said it’s one of the benefits of being a member of the Nomads club – bask in the adventure of new experiences and endless opportunities and appreciate the art of relaxation and convenience.
Mobley said that for this year, trips have already been arranged for Moscow, Russia; Prague, Czech Republic, Punta Cana; Atlanta, Georgia; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and a quick getaway to the Bahamas.
Back in 1964, a group of Detroit businessmen who shared a common interest in worry-free and convenient flying founded the club as a non-profit organization.
From its 204 charter members, the club expanded to 400 members in 1971. They purchased a 92-passenger prop-jet Lockheed Electra which they used for their first trip around the world in 1973. The Club upgraded to a 146-passenger Boeing Super 727-200 in 1993, which they later reconfigured with 92 comfortable leather business class type passenger seats.
By 2006, the Nomads aircraft had travelled over 9 million air miles in total safety, and the number continues to go up.
Over 50 members of the Nomads visited the CNMI this week as part of their 25-day itinerary to Hawaii, Vietnam, Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and Spain. The group explored the historical sites and visited other tourist attractions in the island.
Pacific Development Inc. was the ground handling agent for the Nomad’s visit while Hyatt Regency Saipan is the host hotel. For more information, please visit