Gataway to Guam

"Guam" comes 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 two.

Photos courtesy of Guam Visitor's BureauGuam

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.

From 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.)
Guam's duty-free status means miles of shopping

Recent renovations 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.

Surf and turf
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!

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Meal and 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.

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