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The happy Isles of Oceania: island hopping the western Pacific

The happy Isles of Oceania: island hopping the western Pacific

Old Dec 29, 10, 12:48 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Austin, TX -- AA PLT 2.8MM+ (life PLT); IHG PLT Ambassador; UA Gold
Posts: 5,443
The happy Isles of Oceania: island hopping the western Pacific

I've just returned from a 12-day trip on the Continental island hopper route, visiting Kauai, Palau, Guam, Saipan and Micronesia.

This trip changed itineraries several times in planning.. the original plan was for us to visit Wake Island, Guam, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, and Bora Bora. Then the Wake Island trip was cancelled but luckily before I had purchased all the flights. So I then changed our dates and itinerary to a stopover in Kauai. Mrs hauteboy would then fly to the Big Island for a few days while I went off visiting Palau, Guam, Saipan and Micronesia on the Continental island hopper.

The roundtrip fare from Austin to Palau allowed two stopovers; I picked Honolulu and Guam. I then found there was a late Sunday evening flight from Guam to Pohnpei; this would allow me 13 hrs in Micronesia before connecting to the island hopper flight to Honolulu the next day, this didn't count as a stopover but allowed me just enough time to visit the ruins at Nan Madol. I also bought side roundtrips to Kauai and Saipan.

I didn't have any status on Continental, and didn't relish such a long set of flights without lounge access or priority boarding. I was able to status match my AA PLT status to CO *A Gold.

So here are the flights (whew):
Code:
Dec 16 AUS-IAH CO econ
Dec 16 IAH-LAX CO econ
Dec 16 LAX-HNL CO econ
Dec 16 HNL-LIH HA econ
Dec 20 LIH-HNL HA econ
Dec 20 HNL-GUM CO econ
Dec 21 GUM-ROR CO biz
Dec 24 ROR-GUM CO econ
Dec 25 GUM-SPN CO econ
Dec 26 SPN-GUM CO econ
Dec 26 GUM-PNI CO biz
Dec 27 PNI-HNL CO biz
Dec 27 HNL-IAH CO econ
Dec 28 IAH-AUS CO econ
Here's links to some of my other trip blogs
Peru/Galapagos 2005: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...agos-trip.html
Mongolia/Caucasus 2005: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-mtskheta.html

Andaman Islands (India) 2007: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...a-ixz-maa.html
Guianas (South America) 2007: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...h-guianas.html
North Korea 2007: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...oryo-trip.html

Ethiopia 2008: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-airlines.html
Central America 2008: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...a-managua.html

St. Petersburg, Baltics and Belarus 2009: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...d-st-pete.html
Canadian Rockies 2009: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...n-rockies.html

West Africa 2010: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ir-france.html

Last edited by hauteboy; Dec 29, 10 at 11:56 pm
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Old Dec 29, 10, 12:49 am
  #2  
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Austin, TX -- AA PLT 2.8MM+ (life PLT); IHG PLT Ambassador; UA Gold
Posts: 5,443
Kauai

Dec 16, 2010
Flight: Austin (AUS) to Houston (IAH), Continental 737, economy
Flight: Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX), Continental 737, economy
Flight: Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL), Continental 737, economy
Flight: Honolulu (HNL) to Lihue (LIH), Hawaiian 717, economy
Hotel: Sheraton Kauai Resort
Today was a looong day of travel, four flights on our way to Kauai. The SuperShuttle picked us up on time this morning.. I had arranged an earlier pickup than usual as it was approaching holiday time and I expected the security lines to be a bit longer. I shouldn't have worried yet.. the shuttle only had us and one other passenger, and we got to the airport in good time with no line at security. This was the first trip where I didn't bring any shoes (only plan to wear my sandals), which actually ended up taking longer to take off/put on at the xray than my usual slip-on/off shoe method! We grabbed some brekkie and went to the lounge for a bit.

The flight to Houston was uneventful, we had an aisle and middle seat and legroom was good. We were glad we weren't traveling via the East Coast or Europe today, both were being affected by winter storms! The Austin flight arrived way at the end of the C-terminal (as usual), but luckily our LAX flight was only a few gates down... normally when connecting in Houston it seems I have to go from one end to the other of the airport.

The flight to LAX was uneventful as well, though this time the rows seemed a bit more squeezed. A full flight and I was in a middle seat and miserable most of the time which meant the flight seemed to last forever (and still two more flights to go!). The flight did have in-seat DirectTV, but unlike JetBlue it wasn't free.. there was a $6 fee to use it. M. paid the fee and watched some movies. We arrived in LAX, noticed our flight to HNL was going from the same gate, then grabbed some lunch (dinner?).

The HNL flight was loong.. nearly 6 hrs even from LAX and again a full flight. We ended up on the same plane we came in from Houston, but this time was able to score an aisle seat. The flight progressed slowly... between sleeping, watching the movie (Christmas Carol), and solving Soduku, it did eventually end. There weren't any flight info screens at the gate where we landed, I started walking the wrong way in the terminal to where I thought I remembered the inter-island gates were.. but luckily that brought us to the food court where we were able to grab Burger King (ick) before heading back in the right direction to our gate.

The boarding pass for Hawaiian read 9:15, but it was closer to 9:35 before they actually started boarding. At least this flight was a quick one. I sat next to a couple who had been to Kauai 20 times, they recommended a restaurant or two. Arrived in Lihue (New airport for me!) around 10:20PM and rushed to the car rental shuttle. Their website says they close at 10:30, and another person jumped on the bus who said the same thing, but no.. the drivers say they're usually there till 2AM. I don't usually like coming into an unfamiliar city late at night, especially when driving. We managed to find the right road to take though using the GPS (it's not too difficult but I still did make one wrong turn). The drive out to Poipu seemed to take awhile, the speed limit was always 25mph!

We arrived at the hotel finally and I jumped out to check in. I was using points+cash at the Sheraton, and usually like Priceline bookings they put you in the crappiest rooms. So I was surprised when they said they'd upgraded us to a partial ocean view, and then could upgrade to the full ocean view for $75 extra. Seemed like a good deal so agreed. It took awhile to checkin though, M. wondered why I was gone for so long.

Dec 17, 2010
Hotel: Sheraton Kauai Resort

We were still on Austin time and so woke up very early this morning, just in time to catch the gorgeous sunrise out our window. We headed down to breakfast, the Sheraton has a deal if you don't want maid service for that day then they are supposed to give you a coupon for a free breakfast. We'd arrived too late last night to get a coupon for today. Normally the breakfast buffet is $24.



Originally I had scheduled a helicopter tour for today, doors off to see the Napali coast.. however by 8AM they still didn't have enough people to make the quota, so decided to cancel (it was pretty expensive) and we would drive to Waimea Canyon instead. Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it is a 3000-foot deep valley with rust-colored walls. We also wanted to arrange with the concierge for luau tickets for tonight, the Sheraton only has theirs on Friday nights so we were in luck to be here tonight. The luau is normally a pricey $99 each, but she offered $175 off if we attended the 90-minute timeshare presentation at the Westin in Princeville.. we were planning on going there anyway so agreed. A few minutes later the helicopter company called and they'd found the extra person.. but by then we were commited to going to Waimea instead.. the weather looked good out.

We headed up to a nearby shopping center to pick up some sandwiches for lunch, there was a Living Foods market that had great fresh produce, chocolate croissants and a deli counter for ordering sandwiches, perfect! They had good breakfasts as well and we planned to come back tomorrow. We set off driving west towards the town of Waimea, driving past sugar and coffee fields. Our drive to Poipu last night was in the dark so this was our first chance to see the Kauai countryside. The southern end of the island is the 'drier' part but it was still very green which was a nice contrast with the deep red dirt.

Waimea was about a 40 minute drive from Poipu, where we turned right to drive up the canyon. The road started going up and up, I wasn't sure our little car would make it! There were signs for passing 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000 feet elevation. There were a few lookouts along the way, but the main one was spectacular. It was a short walk uphill to the viewing platform, which gave an awesome view out over the valley. The massively eroded walls ranged from grey to rust red to green. There were lots of other tourists here as well. On the way back down to the car I bought some fresh (cold!) pineapple, delicious!



We continued our drive up the canyon road, now headed to Koke'e state park. The vegetation had slowly changed as we gained altitude, now were pine trees and other leafy trees. We had a quick stop at the park visitor center, then continued up the road to the lookout over the Napali valleys. Watch that first step, nearly a 4000-foot straight drop down. At the lookout there were several people who had hiked the Kalalau trail along the north shore. At the parking lot, there were several wild chickens running about. They are quite a problem on Kauai, we saw them everywhere. The end of the road was a final lookout over the valley. The book had mentioned this part of the road was sometimes closed, but it was open today.

Finally we started the long descent back down to the town of Waimea, stopping at a camp along the way to have our picnic lunch. When we reached Waimea, we headed to JoJo's Anueanue Shave Ice, recommended in the book. There are two JoJo's Shave Ice places in Waimea, the Original one was sold by the owner, then she opened up the new one a few years later. There's a bit of drama to that story as she never gave her original recipes to the new owners. There are shave ice places in Austin but of course we had to try one in Hawaii. I got the English Toffee one, covered in their 'liquid ice cream', with vanilla ice cream at the bottom.. delicious! Shave ice is not a snocone.. but with finer flakes shaved directly off a giant block of ice.



We drove back to the hotel, where after a short nap it was time for the luau. The concierge had called and offered us the 'gold vip' tables for an extra $20 each, which afforded us a great view of the stage. We showed up late, nearly everyone else was seated. Had a Blue Hawaiian while watching the dancers perform different dances from other Polynesian islands. The luau buffet was quite lavish, among other things there was poi, purple sweet potatoes (taro), and amazing pulled pork. The luau setting was quite nice, along the beach. It was dark by this point as they brought out the Maori warrior dancer. He seemed hilarious and kept (intentionally?) messing up. He came on later as the Samoan fire dancer which finished off the luau.




TBC..

Last edited by hauteboy; Sep 15, 19 at 5:49 pm
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Old Dec 29, 10, 12:50 am
  #3  
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Austin, TX -- AA PLT 2.8MM+ (life PLT); IHG PLT Ambassador; UA Gold
Posts: 5,443
Palau

Dec 21, 2010
Flight: Guam (GUM) to Koror (ROR), Continental 737, biz
Hotel: DW Motel, Koror ($45)


Dec 22, 2010
Hotel: DW Motel, Koror ($45)



Dec 23, 2010
Hotel: DW Motel, Koror ($45)

Today I had planned on renting a car ($45) and driving around the main island in Palau, Babeldoab. Although it is the 2nd largest island in Micronesia (after Guam), it is sparsely populated. The paved road around the island was supposedly only completed a few years ago. I still woke up early this morning and headed over to the nearby Rock Island Cafe, supposedly the "poor man's Denny's". I noticed that Spam was one of the items on the breakfast menu. I had an omelette with toast, which arrived quickly.

After breakfast, back to the hotel where the car was already waiting, but the agent had left and would be back in a few minutes. In Palau, driving is on the right but most cars are secondhand from Japan, with right-hand drive. My rental car was no exception. That was going to make driving interesting. I finally got on the road close to 8:30, and it was really confusing at first. I've driven right-hand drive cars before, in England, Australia, etc, but those places are all drive on the left. It was odd sitting with my shoulder on the side of the road, and hard to judge the distance to the middle of the road. Luckily there were rumble strips down the center to help. The road had been funded with $149 million in aid from the US. Palau is one of the worlds newest nations, only becoming independent from the UN Trust Territory in 1994, but still depends on the US for some support.

I planned first to drive to Arai, where there was a bombed out Japanese building from WWII, then to a nearby bai which is the traditional men's meeting house. I would then drive all the way to the north end of the island to visit some stone monoliths and faces. The weather was gorgeous today so hoped it would remain so. The Japanese building past the road to the airport, it looked in great condition (for being bombed out that is), considering it was over 60 years old. There was a rusted out tank sitting in front of it. As soon as I pulled in to park, a government official pulled in next to me and said I needed to get a permit from some office back near the airport. Grumble, grumble. But there was a big posted sign I noticed later saying NO photo, etc, without permit, and a $500 fine! :-O


Luckily the office wasn't too far back, but I managed to knock on every door in the building before I found the right desk. The fee was $5 just to visit, and $20 extra for photos :-O. That was outrageous just to photograph a tank, and I said as much to the lady. She kinda shook her head, I'm sure she hears that alot. The worst thing was this fee was only good for that particular state (there are X states in Babeldoab). Considering I'd also paid $35 just to visit the Rock Islands, I hoped that there wasn't similar fees in the other states I planned to visit! Back to the tank and building to finally get a few photos before heading off for the bai.

There were two bais, one is a new one built of concrete, and the other one is the oldest in Palau; 180 years and built traditionally with no nails. The 10-minute drive to the bai passed by the new US embassy. I came across the new bai first, it was A-frame with a pitched front roof. The front of the bai is covered with paintings of local legends. The bai was closed but I was able to peek inside, which was also decorated around the edges and on the roof beams with more storyboard paintings. The old bai was just a few minutes more; here I came across another tourist couple. They had only paid $25 for their car, and they were planning on visiting the whole island as well, too bad we couldn't have hooked up earlier!

The old bai was constructed completely out of wood, with a thatched roof. No nails were used in its construction. It was raised a few feet off the ground on stone posts. The bai caretaker was there and just finishing explaining the bai to the German couple. Nearly every surface was covered by elaborate paintings or carvings. One motif that appeared often was a spider. The paintings depicted talking by zigzags coming out of people's mouths, it made them look like they were angry and shouting. There were two pits filled with dirt inside the bai that were used as fireplaces for cooking.


My map wasn't very clear on which direction to head north, so heading back towards Koror there was a road heading up to Badrulachu, which ended up being the road up the west side. There were a few places listed on the map to visit, but they weren't any signs (or I missed them). The road was in great condition, going through the jungles of the central island. The turnoff from the ring road was about 23 miles or so north of Koror, the long peninsula stretching up another 10 miles or so. The northernmost part of Babeldoab was more populated than the central part of the island. Finally I came across the turnoff to Badrulachu, which had a great view out over the eastern reefs. The admission was $5 but didn't see anyone so headed down the steps to a field below which had a dozen or so stone monoliths arranged in rows. The origin of the stones is unknown but legend says this was originally a bai built by the gods. There were also some stones carved with faces.


After heading up I found the guy to pay the fee, he said the stones originally came from South America. It's a bit farfetched that story. It was about noon at this point, and decided to stop at a nearby hotel for lunch. A great spot, they had a nice white sand beach with hammocks to lay in, and picnic tables right on the beach! I spent awhile relaxing here before resuming my trip back south, this time taking the eastern part of the ring road down towards the new capital at Ngrelmud (many Palauan words begin with Ng-). The ostentatious capitol building sits high on a hill and can be seen for miles around. The population of the entire country is 20,000, which could probably fit inside the huge complex that was completed in 2006.


I had recently bought a new book for Micronesia/Palau. It mentioned there was a nearby bai that had been built recently, just behind the state office. The office charged $5 to visit. 'Just' behind I may take issue with, as it turned out to be a 10-15 minute hike uphill along a rough rock roadway. The hike was gorgeous though, crossing mossy tree roots and trees. Finally I reach the bai, sitting out by itself in a clearing. This one like the others was covered with paintings. I also found out why the spider motif is common, as I nearly walked into the web of a 3" spider!

Time to head back to Koror, the drive took maybe another 30 minutes from the capital. After a bit of a nap, I went by the SamsTours to pickup my diving DVD. Unlike last night the place was deserted and everything closed; luckily there was someone in the photo store that could sell me the DVD. I headed back to the hotel to look for a place to eat, the book had mentioned that ftuit bat was sometimes served on the menu. How to not pass that up? At the hotel I ran into an American who was shuttling some Japanese tourists to a Korean restaurant for dinner.. he mentioned that bat is hard to get and expensive, so ended up going to the Korean place. Good bulgogi and their kimchee wasn't spicy at all.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Palau. I left for the airport around midnight, arriving to a near deserted terminal. I had already checked in for my flight, but no upgrade this time. There was a restaurant at the airport, but nothing to eat/drink once past security except for the duty free items. I bought a Palau shirt here but was quite thirsty by the time our plane left. We ended up leaving about 20 minutes early at least.

Last edited by hauteboy; Dec 29, 10 at 9:10 am
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Old Dec 29, 10, 12:50 am
  #4  
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Austin, TX -- AA PLT 2.8MM+ (life PLT); IHG PLT Ambassador; UA Gold
Posts: 5,443
Guam/Saipan

Dec 24, 2010
Flight: Koror (ROR) to Guam (GUM), Continental 737, econ
Hotel: Couchsurfer

The flights from Palau to Guam all leave at the zombie hour of 2:45AM, arriving in Guam around 5:30AM to connect to the flights back to the US or Japan. I hadn't received an upgrade on this section but luckily it's only a 1hr45min flight so not too bad. Since we'd left early we actually arrived at 5AM. I had to fill out a Guam customs form this time for arrival.

I'd arranged to stay at a couchsurfer's place, originally my flight to Saipan left the next morning at 2:45AM (flights to Saipan seem to be priced by time of day.. the 2:45 flights are much cheaper) but I hoped to do a same-day change for a later flight.. it would be Christmas day and flights were empty. The Guam airport was deserted at 5AM. I called the couchsurfer host to let him know I was early..he came and picked me up a few minutes later, we went back to his place and talked awhile. He knew about Flyertalk and mileage runs and fuel dumps! After that we went back to sleep for a few hrs.

Guam has all the Americanized fast food joints, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Dennys, etc (though strangely didn't see a Starbucks). We went to a Dennys clone for breakfast, G. said that most Guam breakfasts are very heavy/starchy. Egg, Spam or Chorizo over rice. Yes, Spam is popular here I found out when later we went into a grocery store and there were 4 pallets of it stacked 4' high.


G. planned to take me boonie stomping, which is hiking in Guam. The southern and eastern part of the island are undeveloped and have some good hiking trails. The hike we were planning was down to Pagat cave, half filled with water. It was 10AM and already 96 degrees, so that sounded refreshing. We picked up some candles for the cave then drove the 15 minutes or so there. The hike started off down a narrow trail then started descending the coral cliff, some parts were very steep and there were ropes strung along the path to help. It only took about 25 minutes though to hike down, we entered the cave with candles lit, and soon were wading through the icy water. Very cold at first, but soon felt great. The central part of the cave was about 100' in or so, chest deep water that was super clear. We soon headed back up, this time the climb out seemed easier although it took us 40 minutes to get back to the car.


Back to his place to change, then he had to go into work for awhile so I wandered around the historical sites of Hagatna. Guam had been under Spanish control for almost 340 years, it was a stop on the Manila-Acapulco galleon trading route. The central Plaza Espana was surrounded by historic buildings, churches and a statue of Pope John Paul II. I wandered out onto the point where there is a miniature Statue of Liberty.

Afterwards we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe (I collect the shirts), this was in the tourist strip of Tumon. All high-rise hotels (the Hilton, Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt are here) and swanky duty-free shopping. Ugh. After picking up the shirt we headed over to G.s coworkers house for an Xmas Eve fondue party!


I was able to change my Saipan flight to the next morning at 6:30 AM.. slightly better and meant I could get a full nights sleep.

Dec 25, 2010
Flight: Guam (GUM) to Saipan (SPN), Continental Express, econ
Hotel: Hyatt Saipan

G. dropped me off at the airport this morning. I had already checked in online and printed my boarding pass but I decided to check my bag this time. Luckily I did, I hadn't realized this was a CO connection flight that boarded from the rear. The agent gave me a better seat in row 11 instead of row 4. Headed off to the Presidents Club lounge, which is huge. There were bagels and muffins available so I had a small breakfast.

The flight to Saipan was only 1/3 full. I was able to get a window seat but missed seeing much of Guam from the air as it was on the opposite side. The flight was 40 minutes, and I was able to get a great view of the North Airfield on Tinian (where the atomic bombs were loaded on the Enola Gay and Bochs Car) on our approach. This time I had to fill out a CNMI customs form. Saipan has an interesting colonial history as well. Originally Spanish, it was sold to Germany after the Spanish-American war. After WWI it was granted to Japan, then after WWII it became a US possession.


A bit of a wait for the bags on arrival. Apparently a Shanghai Airlines flight had just landed as the flight attendants were still waiting there as well. I had rented a car from Thrifty, they don't have a booth at the airport lot but luckily someone was there waiting to pick me up. It was a gorgeous sunny day today as well, though not as hot as in Guam. I got a SUV for $40/day and drove up to the Hyatt hotel, arriving just after 8AM. Saipan seemed a little more run down than Guam, definitely not as hectic (but it was Xmas day too so everything was closed). I had used points (8000/nt) for my stay, otherwise the going rate for Xmas day was $345 so a good deal there. I wasn't expecting to checkin yet since it was so early but they did have a room available already! The room itself was rather dated and musty, painted a pastel orange and bulky white marble in the bathroom. The hotel has 4 huge wings surrounding a garden area, and faces onto the powder white Micro Beach.


I planned to drive up to the northern part of Saipan, which had several WWII memorials. The drive up took maybe 20 minutes. The last Japanese command post bunker was here, cleverly built into the rock face of the cliff. Some other Japanese tourists were there and pointing out to sea where I saw a waterspout offshore! Surrounding the bunker were guns, torpedo and parts of a tank. There were other nearby memorials for Korean and Okinawan workers, and a Japanese peace garden. There were several busloads of mostly Japanese (and Chinese) tourists.

The Banzai cliffs were nearby; this is where Japanese men, women and children committed suicide by leaping into the ocean rather than being taken captive by the Americans. There were several shrines here along the coast and another peace monument. The surf here was quite ferocious. After the cliffs I drove up to the inland Suicide Cliffs, again used for the same purpose.


The next stop was the Grotto, a collapsed sea cave popular with divers. There were 100+ steep steps down to the bottom, very scenic with stalactites from the remaining roof, then huge swells brought in swirling surf through the submerged cave. There was a group of Japanese divers coming out of the water, they had to climb up the 100 steps with the heavy scuba tanks on their backs!

I didn't have any other real plans for the day, just picking up another Hard Rock Cafe shirt from the cafe in Garapan. Garapan is kinda seedy, full of massage parlors. I was propositioned at least 4 times just walking down the street! There is also another Duty Free mall here, though not as glitzy as the one in Guam. I took the rest of the day easy, I had been travelling hard for a week and just spent the rest of the afternoon in my room reading. I headed out to the beach for a bit, but didn't go swimming.

The hotel was having Christmas themed dinners at all its restaurants, at $50+ though I wasn't interested.

Dec 26, 2010
Flight: Saipan (SPN) to Guam (GUM), Continental Express, econ

Last edited by hauteboy; Apr 18, 11 at 3:21 pm
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Old Dec 29, 10, 12:51 am
  #5  
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Austin, TX -- AA PLT 2.8MM+ (life PLT); IHG PLT Ambassador; UA Gold
Posts: 5,443
Micronesia

Dec 26, 2010
Flight: Guam (GUM) to Pohnpei, Micronesia (PNI), Continental 737, business
Hotel: Cliff Rainbow Hotel
On the way back to the US, I managed to arrange a mini stopover in Micronesia. The fare I had booked to Palau allowed two stopovers only, which had been in Hawaii and Guam. However on Sunday nights, there is a flight from Guam to Pohnpei, leaving a 13 hrs connection (stopovers are >24 hrs) to the main island hopper to Hawaii the next day. I planned on visiting the Nan Madol ruins on Pohnpei. The flight to Pohnpei also stops in Chuuk, and even better I managed to score another upgrade. The flight was uneventful.. they served the same hot cheese+chicken sandwich I'd had on the previous flight to Palau. There was a couple on board sitting behind me that was only coming for a few days visit as well, they hoped to visit Nan Madol.

It was already past midnight when wen we arrived. Deplaning was via stairs, then into the brand new terminal building. Then we had to wait 20 minutes or more while they tried to get the luggage conveyor belt working, the one time I checked my bag. Pohnpei runs on Island time. By this time the couple had left. Finally the luggage starts coming through, and mine is the 2nd one off. I met the Cliff Hotel transfer outside the terminal, he asked if I wanted to get a rental car for Nan Madol for $55. Seemed like a good deal as a taxi would have been $60 or $80 most likely. We picked up one more passenger, then headed to Senny's car rental on the way to the hotel. The other passenger hosted a talk radio station in Guam, he decided to come over to Pohnpei for a week to check it out. I followed the original driver to the hotel, on arriving the other guy realized he had left his bag in the first car, oops.

When I got to checkin, there were already 5 Japanese guys from our flight ahead of me waiting to checkin. Finally get checked in then realize they've given me (and charged my CC) for the Deluxe room ($95) instead of the Standard ($43) that I'd reserved months ago! Ugh... and the look on the checkin agent's face I knew refunding it would be a big deal... and it being 2AM. WTH, I just decided to stay with the deluxe.. even though I'd only be in the room for about 5hrs. And after seeing the so-called Deluxe I really wonder what the cheaper rooms looked like (I think they don't have a TV. which I didn't need anyway). I had a shower then hopped into bed, setting the alarm for 6:50AM.

Dec 27, 2010
Flight: Pohnpei (PNI) to Honolulu (HNL), CO 737, biz

I awoke to the sound of rain.. drat. I was hoping the weather would hold for a few hours for my visit to the ruins. The hotel said that breakfast was available from 6:30, but heading down at 7AM they said the cook hadn't arrived yet. Island time. Also I wasn't sure if I should checkout now, or get back early and have a shower. I'd already paid for the room and I just wanted to leave the key, but that turned out to be an ordeal as well. I went to go take a picture of Sokeh's Rock, but the aircon in the room had chilled my camera and it steamed up immediately. Finally got on the road around 7:15. The GPS site I use for downloadable maps didn't have street maps for Pohnpei, so turned it on to track my progress. The rain had stopped just in time as I left but picked up again as I left town. The road was paved now all the way around the island as I passed by the small houses and shops. The island is very lush as it receives up to 400" of rain a year.

It took about an hour to drive the ~22 miles to the ruins, after making one wrong turn (there were signs to Nan Madol off the main road). By now though the weather head cleared and it looked like the sun was coming out. Turning into the road to the ruins, the family living there seems to have capitalized on their location as they charge $1 to drive down the road. At the end of the road, the footpath passes through another family's front yard, here another $3 was charged. Still $4 to visit the ruins seemed like a good deal. the I snacked on a Clif Bar for breakfast. The trail was in good condition though, a bit muddy at first but then switched to a crushed coral footpath and bridges through the mangrove swamp. It was quite a peaceful walk, with sounds of birds and mudskippers splashing in the much. Hidden on both sides of the trail I started seeing low walls of basalt columns, part of the Nan Madol complex.


Finally I came out to the main building itself, wow. A huge rectangular structure, 20' tall and at least 200' on each side, built of huge hexagonal columns of basalt stacked like firewood, surrounded by a waist-deep moat. The huge complex had been built by the Saudeleur dynasty of kings. Nan Madol was supposedly an inspiration for Lovecraft's R'Lyeh city. I waded across the canal just as the sun came out! I wandered around the ruins for awhile, amazed at the construction. Some of the columns were 2' thick and 20 or more feet long! They must have weighed several tons, building the entire complex must have meant dismantling an entire basalt outcropping. The main outer walls surrounded two inner walls. The complex was quite photogenic, with weeds, moss and lichen growing out from cracks between the columns. I spent about an hour wandering around the complex before heading back. Just in time, as the rain started arriving!






I stopped at a roadside shop to buy a ham and cheese sandwich, it was quite good! Then drove back to town, arriving around 11AM. I drove around a bit, visiting some of the sights. Pohnpei had originally been Spanish, then bought by the Germans, taken over by Japanese mandate after WWI, then was part of the UN Trust Territorry administered by the US after WWII. So there were influences from all previous colonial powers, a German Bell tower, Spanish Wall, Japanese Tank, and US ZIP code. Then it was time to head to the airport, it was a good thing as I had already checked in as checkin had closed already. :O (they closed at 90-minutes before the flight, and I arrived about 75 minutes before). I paid for the car rental, then barely made it through the x-ray (non-functioning as the power was out in the terminal) . I found out I had been upgraded for the segment to Honolulu, bonus! I was wet and grungy and was regretting not going back to the hotel to shower.. but I was able to change into clean clothes at least.



The flight was almost empty going out of Pohnpei. The island hopper flight to Honolulu also made stops in Kosrae, Kwajalein, and Majuro. The last two stops are in the Marshall Islands, which would be my 113th country 'visited'. It is possible to get off the plane in all the stops, except Kwajalein which is a US military base. Quite a few people got off here, including a family with 4 kids. Then even more people got on the plane and filled up business class cabin. The stopover in Majuro was about 40 minutes. After we reboarded the plane they served dinner, fish with rice and the ever present Dove chocolate bar.

Last edited by hauteboy; Jul 11, 11 at 9:13 pm
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Old Jul 11, 11, 8:18 pm
  #6  
 
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May I ask ball park costs for your very interesting island hopping trip?
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Old Jul 11, 11, 9:10 pm
  #7  
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The airfare was the biggest chunk.. and the incidental costs at the hotels in Hawaii. Hawaii overall was a big chunk of the rest of the costs.

My airfare = $2100 (high season)
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hnl-iah-aus

Hotel costs averaged $47/night but I used points or points+cash at hotels in Hawaii and Saipan, so that kept costs down.

For the western Pacific part of the trip, I spent under $800 in a week and $200 of that was for diving.
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Old Jul 14, 11, 3:01 pm
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Interesting. So did you go diving in the Rock Islands while in Palau? If so, was it fantastic? It's been on my 'must try' list for a looooong time...
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Old Jul 15, 11, 10:08 am
  #9  
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Great trip report...always wanted to do Pacific island hopping...
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Old Jul 16, 11, 5:16 pm
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How is Palau? Worth the trip? I think that's the nicest?
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Old Jul 17, 11, 12:05 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Interesting. So did you go diving in the Rock Islands while in Palau? If so, was it fantastic? It's been on my 'must try' list for a looooong time...
Yes.. I definitely went diving there. I just noticed that section is missing, will have to add it. I've been diving all over the world and I'll say Palau had some of the best diving I've ever done.. just the quality and quantity of marine life was amazing. Definitely worthwhile. I only did a single day dive so it would be nice to go back again.
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Old Sep 4, 11, 7:26 am
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hauteboy, how was DW Motel in Koror? I am starting to investigate accommodations and was curious about your impressions of DW. Do you happen to have photos of your room at DW that you would be willing to share?

Thanks for a nice trip report, BTW.
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Old Sep 4, 11, 3:36 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by jhflyer View Post
hauteboy, how was DW Motel in Koror? I am starting to investigate accommodations and was curious about your impressions of DW. Do you happen to have photos of your room at DW that you would be willing to share?

Thanks for a nice trip report, BTW.
The room was basic with a tiny shower.. there was also a big concrete support post in the middle of the room, between the two beds! The room though was clean and had A/C which was fine for me. They had computers down in the lobby, or wifi available for a nominal fee. There's not too many options of places to stay in Palau, especially on the budget end.

I have the review/photos at:
http://www.travbuddy.com/DW-Motel-v463743

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Old Sep 4, 11, 4:58 pm
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hauteboy, thanks for the info and review.
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Old Nov 22, 11, 12:41 pm
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I've done Palau twice (Yap on the way one time) and one time spent a couple of days on Peleliu island one time and a couple of days way up at the northern end of Babeldaob the other (we did the monoliths as well). It's totally different being at a resort with no air conditioning when trying to get to sleep.

I haven't done the bargain rate route for lodging because it's almost impossible to find any information on the cheap hotels like the DW on the web. They tend not to have full websites but stub sites with one page that has a phone number and an email address. So I read with great interest your review of the DW. Do they have any queen sized beds?

On the first trip, I stayed part of the time at the Rose Garden Inn which was okay though they need some de-aglae-fication on the concrete steps because when it drizzles, which is just about every day practically, the incline makes it slip and fall prone very easily. The rest of the time I was at Caroline's resort up in the hills. My second time out I stayed at the Sea Passion Resort, which is a pretty good bang for the cost and is located walking distance form Sam's, and Caroline's resort.

I read on another thread someone complaining about doing an internet search finding so few hotels on the beach. Well...yeah...Palau is mostly rocks and little beach, especially on Koror, so you're not going to get many hotels on the beach because there isn't much beach to put hotels on. Even the "beach" at the Sea Passion is man made...and quite a bit shorter now than the website pictures showed last I looked. The one resort with a beach is the Palau Pacific Resort and it's probably the most expensive resort in the country. But for non-guests there's a "backdoor" to the use of the private beach and the facilities of the Palau Pacific Resort if you know where to go.

I'm just stunned to hear you say you only dived Palau one day. I know you were island hopping and all but diving 1 day in Palau is like going to the Indy 500, showing up in the middle of the race, and leaving after a couple of laps have elapsed. You missed SO much...
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