Gataway to Guam
from the ancient Chamorro word "Guahan," meaning "we have." Christopher
Tracy let' you see just how much Guam has to offer you on a romantic getaway for
Photos courtesy of
Guam Visitor's Bureau
Love is in the air now
that winter's here. Well, this may not be the exact words to that old tune, but winter can
be just as romantic as any other time of year - given the right circumstances. Does a
romantic getaway for two, with white sand beaches, a blue-green sea and enough places to
shop till you drop sound like the right formula? All this can be found on the Micronesian
island of Guam, just a hop, skip and a jump from frigid Tokyo to a sunny paradise. Guam is
a weekend getaway at a reasonable price that's one way to keep your romance hot during a
season with weather that only a snowman could love.
Guam has been called America's gateway to the western Pacific and Asia. This vacation
playground features five star hotels, splendid beaches and world famous shops and
restaurants. As a US territory, Guam is like a mini Hawaii at a fraction of the airline
costs. Blessed with equally stunning scenery, it has retained (if you look hard enough)
some of the quaintness of days gone by. Guam is also the third largest island in the
Micronesia chain. With a population of about 150,000 comprised of the indigenous
Chamorros, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Micronesian islanders,
"stateside" Americans and a few Europeans, visitors will find a cosmopolitan and
energetic vibe - without having to look too hard.
Cartier to K-Mart
A good place to kick start your visit is in the most populated area of the island, Tumon,
which is home to Guam's most luxurious hotels and the best shopping spots. The Nikko,
Westin and Hilton hotels have the best deals on double occupancy this time of year. At the
Westin you can book a room at their peak season rates (till December 29) for about $150 a
night double occupancy. If your budget is a little more daring, request the deluxe suite
which features a spectacular ocean view of Tumon Bay for about $750 with free breakfast
every day. (For details call Westin Resort, Guam 671647-1020.)
duty-free status means miles of shopping
have made the shopping areas of Tumon Bay a world class shopping Mecca. The island's
duty-free status allows savvy shoppers to find brand name merchandise, often at less
expensive prices than in its country of origin. The variety of retail shops will satisfy
any shopper - from Cartier to K-Mart. There are high-enders such as Gucci, Aramis, Cartier
and cosmetics by Revlon, MAC and Chanel, to name a few, as well as the aforementioned
K-Mart. The Liberty House Mall, like its sister mall in Hawaii, features reasonably priced
apparel from US designers such as Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic.
If you're interested in purchasing local handicrafts, then take some time to visit
Sengsong Chamorro Village for arts and crafts made by the Chamorros (who comprise nearly
half the population), thought to have first come to the island about 3000 BCE from
southeast Asia. Another good place to experience the unique Chamorro culture, which has
evolved in the face of conquerors, epidemics and changing governments, is in the villages
along the island's southern coast. The Get Pa'go folk village in Inarajan showcases
traditional music and native crafts.
Shopping is difficult work, and after all that work you'll be primed for lunch. Local
specialties include red rice, a noodle dish called pancit, taro leaves in coconut milk and
kelaguen, a fiery concoction of chicken, grated coconut and hot peppers. Guam also plays
host to a variety of familiar standbys, places like Niji, Kurumaya, Planet Hollywood, Hard
Rock Cafe, Friday's, Capricciosa, Sam Choy's, Tony Roma's and the Outback Steakhouse.
After lunch, head back to the hotel, grab your swim and snorkeling gear and venture out to
some of the most beautiful beaches in Micronesia. The most popular ones are in the two top
resort areas - Tumon Bay and Cocos Island; the latter was once a coconut plantation off
the island's southern tip. A more secluded beach can be found through the Starsand Private
Beach tour, which will whisk you away to a private beach located on US Air Force property.
The cost is $85 for a seven-hour stay.
After an afternoon in the sun, go to Mandara Spa, the largest chain of personal care
centers in Micronesia, for a soothing massage ($115 for 80 minutes) in a relaxed, natural
environment. A mud bath for two may be just the ticket to get you in the mood for love.
Why not - it works for pigs!
deals: Guam is shopper's Mecca
To round off the
day, book dinner on the Aguna Bay Cruise ($68 per person) and enjoy a deluxe dinner,
all-you-can-drink wine and cocktails, a live show and the promise of a front row view of
one of the most glorious sunsets in the Pacific.
What happens to the rest of the evening is up to you, but by the time you wake up and get
ready to head back to crowded trains, cold weather, and the even colder job, the island of
Guahan will have given you an experience that brings you closer together. If not, a cold
night and no heater in your flat certainly will.
Continental has two flights daily to Guam from Narita. Call 03-5464-5050 for details.