December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse on Dec 21, 2010

It was another beautiful clear night this evening and my wife happened to notice the moon start to change color.  She called to me and pointed out the moon and said it looks like an eclipse is happening.  We both had read over the weekend about an upcoming lunar eclipse, but I thought we had missed it on Saipan or that it was only in North America.  Lucky for us, and thanks to my wife's keen observation, we got to witness the total Lunar Eclipse of 2010.  It was amazing seeing the moon turn orange on a clear starry night on Saipan.  Another memory captured and another reason I Luv Saipan!

Click on the image above to see more pictures of the lunar eclipse.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

December 16, 2010

The Stars Come Out At Night

Back on the Mainland U.S., I lived in cities where it was hard to see all the stars in the night sky.  The only time I was able to see the stars was when I made a trip to the mountains.  Here on Saipan, on almost every night, one can gaze upward and see the millions of stars in the sky.  And all one needs to do is walk outside of their home and look up.  Saipan's starry nights, it's just another reason why I Luv Saipan.

The video and photos are taken from my backyard.  It'll give you an idea of what you see in the starry nights of Saipan.

Click on image to see more photos.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

November 24, 2010

Atop Mt. Tapotchau

Mt. Tapotchau is the highest point on Saipan. At 1554 ft. (474 meters) from sea level, it offers a fantastic panorama of the island, the surrounding ocean, and neighboring islands.  On a clear day, you can see Aguiguan (Goat Island) just beyond Tinian to the south.  On a crystal clear day, you can see Anatahan to the northwest, and Farallon de Mendinilla to the north. 

(Lake Susupe, Tinian, Aguiguan in the distance)

(If you squint, you can see the silhouette of Anatahan in the distance)

The road up to Mt. Tapotchau is rough, bumpy, and steep at certain points, but the reward that awaits you, especially during the golden hours of sunset and sunrise, is well worth it.  You'll need a 4x4 to get up there without any trouble, but I've seen, with amazement, sedans going up the road.  

(The road up to Mt. Tapotchau)

At the very top a statue of Jesus looks westward, watching over the people of Saipan.  On Good Friday, the Catholic church leads its parishioners up the mountain before sunrise.  Many people, myself included, also make it up to Mt. Tapotchau on New Year's Day before sunrise to catch the first dawn of the year.

Standing atop Mt. Tapochau is a must for anyone visiting or living on Saipan.  Experiencing the sun rise and set from this vantage is breathtaking.  If you're there at sunset, don't leave after the sun goes down.  Wait a little while for the lights to turn on around Saipan.  It's the cherry on top.

(Garapan at dusk)

With it's magnificent views, Mt. Tapotchau is another reason why I Luv Saipan.

For more photos atop Mt. Tapotchau, click on the image above

(hu guiaya hao mama)

November 17, 2010

I Luv Rota Too

Rota is two islands (3 if you count uninhabited Goat Island - Aguiguan ) south of Saipan, or just one island north of Guam.  From Saipan, it's a 30 minute plane ride on Freedom Air.

My mother was born and buried on Rota.  She always said, "Rota is beautiful."  I used to think that was just a home island bias, but after spending some time on Rota to bury my mom and to visit her grave, I agree with her.  You were right, Mom, Rota is beautiful.

My mother's favorite place on Rota was the Bird Sanctuary.  I finally saw it for myself just recently, and it became my favorite too.  I would even go further and say that the Bird Sanctuary on Rota is the most beautiful spot in the CNMI.  I could spend hours there.

Every car that drives by you'll see a hand raise up and wave.  Everyone is friendly.  And if you have family on Rota, forget about it.  Be prepared to eat and be given things to take back with you.

The beaches are pristine.  The natural beauty enchants you.  You'll leave Rota thinking when you can come back and visit again.  Rota truly is Nature's Treasure Island as it's welcome sign on the road from the airport shares with you.

After the recent visits, I must admit, I Luv Rota too!

To see more photos, click on the above image.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

November 6, 2010

Trick-or-Treat: Halloween on Saipan

There's just something about Halloween that gets everyone excited.  For kids, it's all about the candy and goodies.  The costume is secondary.  For single adults, it's a chance to party in disguise.  For parents of young kids, it's all about the smiles on kids faces.

My memories of Halloween on Saipan date back to the 70's when the only place to go trick-or-treating was Capitol Hill.  At the time, that's where all the Trust Territory government housing was located.  The streets were paved (a rarity at that time) and most of the families that lived there gave out candy. 

Since I've moved back to Saipan from San Diego, I've got to experience the new "Capitol Hill" of my childhood years, and it's called Tottotville.  I live in this neighborhood.  I moved into a house that my sister owns and she warned me about Halloween.  She said, "Tons of kids come, so be prepared."  Boy she wasn't kidding.  That first Halloween in Tottotville was nuts.  It seemed like a couple thousand kids rolled through the neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Each year after that, we've had at least a thousand kids trick-or-treating in Tottotville on Halloween. 

Recently, a new trick-or-treating event has gained popularity called Trunk-or-Treat, and it's held at American Memorial Park from 4pm-7pm on Halloween.  Different organizations signup to hand out candy from the trunks of their cars in the parking lot in front of the visitor's center.  This year, we checked it out and it drew the same amount of kids as Tottotville.  Funny enough, I saw some of the same kids at the Trunk-or-Treat later on at Tottotville while we were handing out candy there.  Smart kids!

Anyway, I love Halloween on Saipan.  I love handing out candy to kids.  I love asking about their costumes.  I love hearing the young voices yelling, "Trick-or-Treat!"  Or saying, "Thank you!"  Or shouting, "Happy Halloween!"  The kicker though is to see their eyes get wide and their smile appear when I drop some candy in their bag, pail, or hand.

Yep, it's just another reason I Luv Saipan.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

October 4, 2010

Butterflies (and Caterpillars)

Over the past couple of weeks and up until now, if you happen to stop to smell the roses, you'll notice that there are many butterflies floating about.  Drive down any road, or gaze at a flowering bush, or look into canopy trees, and you'll see many black butterflies with white polka dots, or yellow butterflies, or orange monarchs fluttering in the air.  Give them more than a passing fancy and you'll observe that they are often dancing with one another.  If you're lucky, and you are careful to tread quietly, you may find them clustered together as if they were gossiping about the day's events.

They are all beautiful, but I think the prettiest of them all are the tiny little tan-gray butterflies that upon closer examination have spectacular designs on their wings.  Ahh, the little things always surprise you with their beauty!

In the trees (and shrubs) around my house, there are many caterpillars and many chrysalises.  The ficus tree out in our front yard is looking like a Christmas tree with all the chrysalises hanging like ornaments from it's leaves.  My family collected a couple of the chrysalises to see what type of butterfly will come out from them.  It's a great little experiment we're conducting and the kids (including myself) are just waiting impatiently.

In the past couple of years, I've been fortunate enough to capture these beautiful butterflies in photos and videos.  I'm not quite sure how many cycles Saipan has with it's butterflies, but looking back at my photos and videos, they seem to come out in force in September and October.

Butterflies (and caterpillars), they're a subtle part of this beautiful island, and another reason why I Luv Saipan.

(mouse over and click on a pic to see a larger size of the image)

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at

This is one of my very first videos I've put together starring the tiny beautiful butterfly that happened to fly into my kitchen.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

September 13, 2010

Scenic Drive through Marpi

On a day when the rain stopped and the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, we went on a scenic drive up to Marpi, in the northern tip of Saipan.  Marpi is a must see if you ever visit Saipan.  Most of the historical sites and natural landmarks are located here, such as Banzai Cliff, Last Command Post, Suicide Cliff, the Grotto, and Bird Island.

The best way to experience the scenic drive through Marpi is to slow down to 30 miles and hour, roll down the windows, stick your hand out to surf the wind with your palm, and listen to your favorite reggae song.  Even better, if you're not driving and you know someone with a pickup, sit back in the truck bed and let the wind whip up your hair while taking in the greenery, the trees, the limestone cliffs, the winding road, the occasional horse or cow on the side, and the views of the ocean, that in sum, put you in a laid back country mood.

I can't count how many times I've taken the scenic drive through Marpi as a passenger or as a driver.  I never get tired of it.  It's the "Sunday Drive" destination here on Saipan, and it's another reason I Luv Saipan.

Here are some other videos I've put together over the past couple of years while taking in the scenic drive through Marpi.  Enjoy.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

August 23, 2010

Rain and Harvest

Rain, showers, downpours
Sun, waiting, then shines briefly
Wind, clouds, rain once more

That's my little haiku about Saipan's rainy season and it sums up this past month.  The rainy season usually runs from late July through October, and this is the time of the year to watch out for tropical storms and typhoons.

The rain is a welcome change to the hot months of May and June, but it does put a damper on the outdoor activities.  Right now the vegetation around the island is in hyper-growth.  For instance, cutting the grass has become a weekly chore (when it's not raining).  If I let it slide to every other week, which is my normal schedule during the dry season, the grass would be at high ankle length, and pushing a mower through high grass is not fun.

This past month, we had a special treat: a harvest to be more specific.  You may recall my post about the green mangos, pineapple and calamansi, anyway, our pineapple and our calamansi were ready to be picked.  The pineapple was sweet, juicy, and oh so delicious.  The kids loved snacking on the fresh piña.  As for the calamansi, they were quickly used for our dipping sauces and marinades.  

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at

As I close this post, the rain outside has begun to pour more heavily.  I have to admit, this isn't my favorite time of the year, but it is a nice change.  The temperature is a little cooler, the island replenishes it's water supply, and the vegetation is lush and green.  And so, even during the rainy season, I Luv Saipan.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

July 12, 2010

Hafa Adai Dolphin

One of my family's favorite treats is to eat at the Dolphin Restaurant at Hafa Adai Beach Hotel.  We sometimes visit this restaurant for Sunday brunch.  It serves a simple buffet with grilled items, seafood, sushi and other Japanese dishes.  The food is tasty, but it is not the main attraction.  The main attraction is the spectacular views from the restaurant.

The restaurant is on the 10th floor of the Crystal Tower at the hotel and its unobstructed views of the lagoon and the ocean horizon leaves you in awe.  On the North side of the restaurant you have views of Managaha and Micro Beach, and on the South side you can see parts of Garapan and Tinian.

(looking North)

(looking South)

Look out West and you see the vast ocean, starting with hues of turquoise as it fades out to navy blue.

(looking West)

The restaurant isn't very big, and surprisingly it's not usually crowded, which lends to its intimate setting.  

The Dolphin Restaurant, tasty food, intimate setting, spectacular views, and another reason I Luv Saipan.

Mouse over and click on the pics below to see a larger version of the photos.

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at
(hu guaiya hao mama)

July 5, 2010

The 4th Is Strong In This One

The 4th of July, Independence Day in the mainland, Liberation Day here on Saipan.  It was the day the U.S. released (liberated) the indigenous population from internment camps post the WWII U.S. invasion of the Marianas.  Saipan celebrates the liberation with a month long carnival, a crowning of a Liberation Day Queen, and a parade on July 4th.  Families crowd both sides of Beach Road to watch the parade, with some families camped out from the previous night.

My family didn't watch the parade this 4th of July.  The parade was scheduled for the late morning, and frankly, we chose Sunday Mass over getting a good spot on Beach Road.  So instead of enjoying a parade, I said a prayer, in church, for our country's and our islands' soldiers who our defending our liberty.  I prayed for their protection.  I especially singled out my cousins who are deployed in Afghanistan.  I also thanked God for our freedoms, rights bestowed on us citizens of this great country, the United States of America.

After Sunday Mass, instead of bearing the midday July heat trying to catch the last part of the parade, we had brunch at one of our favorite restaurants on Saipan, Coffee Care.  We had banana crepes, along with seafood tacos, and a cheese pizza.  You can't beat that combination!

Here are some photos of my family at Coffee Care.  Mouse over a photo and click on it to see a larger picture.  It's a restaurant with a menu variety my family loves, along with a great view of the lagoon and Managaha.

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at

The highlight of the day though was my 3 year old son stubbornly eating a lemon slice from his water glass, thinking it was like an orange.  He loves oranges, but we warned him that this was not an orange.  His reaction to the sourness made us laugh and tear, and although he'd grimace with each lick, he was intent on continuing his experience until he finished that lemon slice.  I admire his tenacity.  The force is strong in this one.

Check out the video of this hilarious experience.

The 4th, Coffee Care, my funny son, a great day, and another reason I Luv Saipan!

(hu guaiya hao mama)

June 28, 2010

Trees Ablaze

Living on a tropical island, you don't get the Fall season, with leaves that turn yellow and red.  However, Saipan does have something similar.  It has the flame trees.  When they bloom -- late April through the summer months -- rich hues of orange and red blanket the landscape, as if the trees are ablaze.  Where ever you are on the island,  you will encounter a flame tree or a grove of them.  When you do, you can't help being awestruck by their beauty and fiery splendor.

Here's a video that will give you an idea of what you'll encounter driving around Saipan when the flame trees are in bloom.

Here are some photos of flame trees near my home.

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at

Flame trees in bloom, just another reason I Luv Saipan!

(hu guaiya hao mama)

June 21, 2010

Father's Day is Family Day

This past Father's Day I woke up early before everyone as I normally do.  When the kids awoke they greeted me with their hand made cards, followed by hugs, kisses, and I Love You's.  My lovely wife followed that up with a kiss, a hug, and a whisper, telling me how much of a wonderful father I am to our children.  My heart melted.

We soon got ready for church where all the fathers were given a blessing.  My spirit was uplifted.

I was then given a choice, I could have the day to myself or we can go out to eat at a nice restaurant for brunch.   I thought about it for a second, and for me Father's Day is Family Day and so I chose what my family loves to do and that is to go to the beach.  When I let everyone know my decision, the kids yelled, "Yay!"

And so we got out of our church clothes, and put on our swimming suits.  We packed up all our beach gear and loaded it all in the truck.  This time though we brought the kayak and the paddle board along with us.  Then we headed to American Memorial Park, but before we got to AMP, we made a quick stop at Himawari to pick up some lunch.

When we got to AMP, we found a nice shady spot right next to the beach.  My wife got the kids lathered with sunscreen while I unloaded the gear.  As the kids ran into the water and my wife and I finished up with our setup, I looked around us and watched other families celebrating Father's Day at the beach.  The breeze carried the sweet smell of barbecue and sounds of laughter, music, and conversation.  My gaze then turned to my kids splashing in the water, smiling, and laughing, as my wife joined them.  I thought to myself at that moment that this is how Father's Day should be spent.

We kayaked, we paddled, we swam and we snorkeled.  Interestingly, I picked up a 4th child while my daughter and I snorkeled.  A little zebra fish became attached to me and even gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Check out the video to see.

We spent the whole afternoon there at the beach.  We were sunkissed but we had a blast.  Another fond memory made and another reason why I Luv Saipan!

Check out more pics by mousing over and clicking anyone of the images below.

Roy Tanck's Flickr Widget requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Get this widget at

(hu guaiya hao mama)

June 14, 2010

June Kaboom

KABOOM!  These past couple of weeks were an explosion of memories being made for my family.  After our day trip to Managaha on Memorial Day weekend, the events ticked off one after another.

It started with my wife and I celebrating our 15 year anniversary.  Fifteen years I've been married to the most wonderful woman.  Since that day I said "I do," my life has been blessed.  I had an inkling then that she was my soul mate, but I know whole heartedly now that she is every bit The One that was made for me.  We had an intimate night out with drinks and hors d'oeuvres (we were full from a large lunch) atop a rotating restaurant, as we talked about our past, present, and future while we watched the sun set over the infinite horizon.

That same week my eldest daughter received her Sacrament of Reconciliation and her First Holy Communion.  This was the culmination of a school year's worth of weekends at our church where my daughter learned the prayers and rituals of the Catholic faith.  It was a special moment for her as well as for my wife and I.  My heart was touched when I saw all the children receiving their First Holy Communion along with my daughter.  I never was religious until recently.  My mother's death played a big part in turning that around and I am most grateful.  Thank you Mom.  If she were able to witness my daughter's First Holy Communion, I know she would've had tears of joy.  She was smiling for sure from up above.

Finally, we celebrated my eldest daughter and youngest son's birthday with a party to remember.  The planning was two months in the making with the final week left for my wife and I to get everything prep'd for the party.  We had over 30 kids, ages 2-10, at our house.  Let me repeat... 30+ KIDS!  They all had fun: they jumped (we had 2 bouncers going), ate, laughed, ran, squabbled, did some arts and crafts, tore up the piñata, sang, and left with goodie bags and balloons.  I think their parents would have thanked us that evening, because I'm sure they were out like a light.  The best part though was that my daughter and son were both enjoying the party and the fun.

So why am I including these memories in the I Luv Saipan chronicle?  Quite simply, Saipan is the backdrop of memories being made and celebrations being had by my family.  Sure, these personal events happen all around the world, but I consider myself lucky, my family being lucky, to have these memories made here, this magical place full of beauty, full of tradition, and perfect for families.

June kaboom, it was an explosion of sorts, that's what it has felt like these past few weeks, and we are so lucky it was here on Saipan... more reasons why I Luv Saipan.

(hu guaiya hao mama)

June 1, 2010

Day trip to Managaha

We spent this year's Memorial Day out on Managaha.  It's a great little getaway and it's a free ferry ride for local residents.  For our day trip we brought along our beach gear and a cooler filled with ice and water, fresh fruit, and lunch.  

The first thing we had to do after we got off the ferry and onto the island was to find a nice spot to settle our things.  Since we were on the first scheduled arrival (9 am), we had a lot of places to choose from.  The spot we chose was underneath two coconut trees, it had a large swath of shade, it was about twenty feet from the shore, and the breeze kept blowing throughout the day.  It was perfect.  All that was missing was a hammock and a couple of Coronas (hmm...maybe next time).

As soon as we picked our spot, the kids were clamoring to get in the water, but my wife and I made them wait.  We had to first setup our beach blanket.  Then we organized our things around it like a castle wall to anchor the blanket and to create a boundary of sorts.  Finally, like responsible parents, we put gobs of sunscreen on the kids.  Once that was done, they were off into the water as were we.

We had the beach to ourselves for a little while.  The tourists that arrived with us on the ferry (and other boats) were getting briefed by their tour groups and given their complimentary mask, snorkel, and fins.  Within a half an hour though we were surrounded by young couples, families with small children, and seniors, conversing in Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese.  

The tourists were fun to watch.  There were two elderly women, both lathered in sunscreen, one of them covering her entire head and shoulders with a beach towel while waist deep in the water, and the other barking in Mandarin as if commanding her friend to take off the towel and come out further.  There was a young couple where the man was showing his bride how to snorkel yet she was terrified to stick her face in the water.  Her whole body became rigid as she fought to stand back up whenever he eased her into putting her face in the water.  He was very patient.  There were kids laughing and crying, fathers showing off and mothers doting over their kids.  Like us, they were all having fun in the sun off the shores of Managaha.

Pretty soon it became a little too crowded for us so we left the water and sat in our perfect spot.  The kids played in the sand for a while, and then we had our lunch (bento from Himawari).  Afterwards we just sat there and did more people watching, while the kids did another round of sand castle construction.  When the water wasn't as crowded, we went back in.  This time I showed my eldest daughter how to snorkel and how to lure the fish to you with sand.  We saw trevally, a trumpet fish, some parrot fish, and a trigger fish come up to us as they investigated the sand I was dropping from my hand to see if it was fish food.  She enjoyed it and snorkeling came naturally to her.  

Before long, and after a walk around Managaha, it was time for us to go.  We packed up our stuff and walked out to the dock to wait for our ferry.  The dock was a great vantage point to see fish swimming on either side and boats pulling their passengers in the air on parasails.  Eventually, our ferry came and we headed to the top  level.  On the way back to Saipan, and in that 15 minute span, we spotted two sea turtles.  A nice cherry on top to a wonderful day!

It was a great time once again for the family; a day trip across the lagoon to one of the best beaches in the Marianas, and another reason I Luv Saipan.

Click on image above to see more pics

(hu guaiya hao mama)

May 25, 2010

On-island Vacation

This past weekend my family and I had a mini vacation.  We didn't leave Saipan, but rather we spent a night at one of the hotels, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Garapan.  My brother-in-law gave us a gift certificate that he wasn't able to use, and so with his generosity, we got to experience one of Saipan's beautiful hotels, for free!

The room was lovely, the view was gorgeous, and we soaked up the sun at the pool and beach.  That Saturday evening we walked over to the Taste of the Marianas to have our dinner.

The grounds of the hotel is filled with beautiful tropical flowers and gardens that are handsomely manicured.  A small white gazebo stands beside a large reflective pond, full of fish that you can feed with pieces of bread.  A past-time my kids enjoy.  On the grounds you'll find three spitting dragons, or at least that's what I call them, which are fountain water features that have been there since I can remember.  The beach in front of Hyatt is perfect for kids, and there's a sand bar that you can walk onto that extends far into the lagoon as if you can walk right out to Managaha.

It was a fabulous time... family time... quality time.  We vacationed without leaving.  Or rather we had an on-island vacation.  On-island vacations, another reason why I Luv Saipan.
Click on image for more pictures
(hu guaiya hao mama)
Related Posts with Thumbnails