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)

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