They say you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but no one ever said you can’t make it cool. Greg Mercado’s Lakbayani History Tours beg to differ from the usual walking tour experience that we’ve all been accustomed to. It has all the ingredients of a typical walking tour, but what Lakbayani brings new to the formula is the much added “Pzaz!” Greg, who’s also a rapper since his youth back in California, occasionally unleashes his hiphop beats and rapping skills at certain parts of the tour. He raps about Philippine history, relevant issues, even his life story, which is why he coins his tours “the walking history concert”.
Aside from a musical experience, the tour is also a transformative experience, as Greg shares his advocacy of spreading heroism among the people who joins his tour. Greg shares his vision of Lakbayani, which is rooted in the words “lakbay”, meaning journey, and “bayani”, extending to the Filipino concept of “bayanihan”, which in essence means heroism. “My vision is to be able to impart the spirit of bayanihan through my tours, and that every person would see themselves as heroes, contributing to the betterment of society”, says Greg.
I was privileged to have experienced his “Manila Bay-ani” walking tour. As both a music lover and history lover, I’d say it’s definitely by far the coolest walking tour that I’ve ever been to.
The tour begins with lunch at the Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard. The highlight of the lunch is the Adobo Flying Saucer which is actually the jumping point of our journey through time. Greg explains how the classic Filipino dish Adobo connects us to our ancient roots. Before leaving the restaurant, Greg starts a brief activity, of which would be revisited at the later parts of the tour.
Right outside the Aristocrat is the first stop, by Rajah Sulayman’s monument. In the middle of his discussion, Greg pulls out his iPod and portable speaker. Beats started blasting, and the master rapper started busting out his rhymes with the Lakbayani theme song in full spirits. It was definitely an attraction as passers by stopped to watch, bobbing their heads with the beat. It’s not everyday you’d see a rap performance in the streets of Manila after all.
Right after the special number, we headed towards Manila Bay for the next part of the tour.
We stopped by certain points of interests along Manila Bay, and it was fascinating to see how much history can already be told right along this stretch.
After covering Manila Bay’s stretch, we hopped on to Greg’s van on the way to Intramuros for our next destination.
Points of interests covered in Intramuros included Fort Santiago, old churches such as the iconic San Agustin Church, several baluartes, and other historical sites and monuments.
In typical Lakbayani fashion, Greg inserts some rap numbers every now and then.
The activity that we started back in the Aristocrat also gets revisited at certain points.
Before leaving Intramuros, we took a rest at one of the shops there for some halo halo. This is a good break for participants as walking along Intamuros for hours can be very exhausting on a hot day, and what better way to rejuvenate from a tiring history tour than to have one of the Philippines’ most popular dessert.
After capping off the Intramuros tour with dessert, we hopped back to Greg’s van once again to head to our last destination, Rizal Park.
Right after going through the points of interests in Rizal Park, it was time to conclude the tour. For the last part, we revisited the remaining activities that we started at the Aristocrat, and these activities were finally drawn to their conclusions. I would not want to reveal what happens in those activities so as not to ruin the element of surprise though. Right before we said our farewells, Greg whipped out his iPod and speaker for the last time and ended the tour with a grand finale.
What Lakbayani provides to its participants is a very unique and engaging experience. Greg’s raps are more than just gimmicks for entertainment, but rather, a personal and artistic take on showcasing history and relevant issues. It’s definitely a good break from the monotony of plain discussion. But the heart of what makes Lakyabani special is that while most history tours are focused on being informative, Lakyabani’s approach is geared more towards being transformative. Lakbayani’s objective, more than anything else, is really to be able to spread the value of heroism through the amazing stories of the heroes of this nation. The activities that are conducted in the tour are very effective in encouraging participants to reflect not only about relevant issues, but moreover, about themselves and their roles in society.
There are many history tours out there, but not all of them can leave a lasting impact on a person like Lakbayani does. I find it very significant that a simple history tour with a positive message can be an effective tool for change, and Lakbayani definitely hits this dead on the spot. You come in wanting to learn about history, and you come out wanting to impact society.
Check out the video below for the Lakbayani teaser —>
This will be my second post about Guam since my trip to the island last June. In my last post (click here for the article), I focused on my experiences with Guam as a tourist destination. Having stayed in Guam for eight days, I’ve noticed how much similar it is to the Philippines. For one, Filipinos comprise 26% of Guam’s total population, second only to the native Chamorros who make up 37%. In fact, Tagalog is officially Guam’s second most spoken language, next to English. Guam and the Philippines also have common culinary specialties such as: lumpia, eskabeche, pancit, and so much more. Philippine independence day is also officially celebrated in Guam. You also can’t tell whether a person is Chamorro or Filipino as both look alike sharing the same anthropological roots. They also have similar sounding names – a Spanish last name, and an English or Spanish first name. Guam’s geography is also similar to the Philippines – a tropical biome whose urban and rural areas are much like a scaled down and compressed version of Luzon. For a Filipino, Guam is a good mixture of the foreign and the very familiar. I found it very fascinating how a tiny island somewhere in the pacific seems but like the American extension of our Philippine archipelago. So I did some research and learned about how far Guam and the Philippines’ common roots go back with their shared and intertwined history. That said, I’m writing this article to share my learnings about the two countries, and my sentiments about how one has become fully American and the other just almost American.
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
About 4,000 years ago, people from mainland Asia travelled east, migrating to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Certain groups that went further beyond the Philippines were able to settle in other pacific islands which include Micronesia, the Marianas, and Guam. Having common ancestry, these people had a common language and culture, which were then eventually diversified by geography and time.
The Spanish Colonization
The name Magellan is as common to Filipinos as it is with the Chamorros. Ferdinand Magellan’s travels to the South Pacific in 1521 has led to Spain’s colonization of both the Philippines and Guam. Both colonies were then converted to Catholicism, and both were considered important Spanish trading and military outposts. Being situated between Mexico and the Philippines, Guam became a stopover for the galleon trades. Spain sent many Filipinos to Guam, among whom were priests, professionals, laborers, and even political exiles. Many Filipinos deployed to Guam have stayed there ever since, along with other nationalities involved in the galleon trade. Some of the Filipinos who stayed in Guam started intermarrying with the Chamorros, creating a next generation of mixed descent.
The American Occupation and Post World War II
Spanish rule on both Guam and the Philippines ended when the two colonies were sold to the US under the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Both Guam and the Philippines then became US territories, with the Philippines still addressed as “The Philippine Islands”. Many Filipinos still continued moving to Guam at the turn of the century. Some ventured on their own, while others were deployed by the US as workers. After World War II, the Philippines proclaimed independence from the US in 1946, eventually being recognized as the “Republic of the Philippines”, while Guam officially received status of “Unincorporated and Organized US Territory”, of which Guamanians received US citizenship. More Filipinos kept being sent to Guam as contract workers for rebuilding Guam’s infrastructure that were destroyed during the war. Many of these Filipinos have opted to settle and live in Guam after finishing their contracts, eventually becoming naturalized US citizens.
I’ve felt so much at home in Guam during the eight days that I’ve spent there. With the strong Filipino presence, familiarity of the people, food, place, and weather, it’s literally like the Philippines, but on American soil. Of course it would not do justice to the native Chamorros labelling Guam as such, as they too have their own identity and take pride on their own unique heritage as the people of Guam. But speaking for the many Filipinos who call Guam as home, it is not so farfetched to view Guam as what would be the Americanized version of the Philippines.
Centuries of colonial occupation has left the Filipinos with lots of colonial mindset. The Spanish paints most of our known history, while American influence deeply permeates into our modern culture. There has always been mixed sentiments with regards to the Philippine-American relationship. Unlike Guam, the more established government of the Philippines back then have always pushed for total independence from the US. This eventually led to Philippine independence, making the Philippines a sovereign nation ruled only by the Filipino people. Conversely, Guam’s non-resistance and annexation with the US has made itself officially American.
Having conversed with many Filipinos in Guam, including those who were born there and those who have recently just moved, I can’t help but to compare and contrast in terms of what life is like for fellow Filipinos in both places. In my observation, the Filipinos who have just recently moved to Guam for work are very much happy with their jobs and their status. For them, Guam is the greener pasture and a dream come true. Some of them still have families in the Philippines which they are able to support beyond necessity, while others have already moved their entire families to Guam. Guam’s familiarity also does a good job of allowing them to settle with the least adjustment. Filipino-Guamanians, or those whose roots in Guam traces far back many generations, though still acknowledging their Filipino descent, are much more American than they are Filipino. As locals in Guam, much like their Chamorro counterparts, many of them aspire to move to the mainland US to work and settle. But what’s really interesting to see are the blue collar workers, such as those in construction, drivers, and fast food crew. These people are actually living comfortably with their families, and all within reasonable working hours. Plus, they get substantial benefits from the US government for healthcare and social welfare, including rights and privileges that come with being a US citizen (with certain limitations). All of the Filipinos I’ve talked to said that they can’t imagine doing the same type of jobs, or even just having a job in the Philippines, and keep the same living comforts they have in Guam.
In contrast, back in the Philippines, blue collar workers aspire to be able to work abroad just to be able to provide for their families or live a comfortable life. Some in the middle class pursue moving to greener pastures such as Canada, New Zealand, or the US. It is an undeniable fact that the Philippines has been gaining economic traction for the past decades, and it would not be unthinkable to see this country rise within this century. But just out of fascination and curiosity, it’s but natural to wonder – what if we had taken a different turn? What would the Philippines be like today if we had continued to be part of the US instead? This controversial issue has always had mixed, emotional, and contrasting opinions, but I think my trip to Guam may have painted a vague picture. Two places with intertwined history took different turns in the middle of the century, taking with them the destinies of their people. One now benefits from the status and economy of a first world country, and the other takes pride in sovereignty.
I look forward to the day when the Philippines becomes a first world country. Perhaps in the next generation, or the generations after. Only in those days can we be able to claim that choosing sovereignty was worth it, and that we as Filipinos have made it happen for ourselves. But while those days have not yet come, we can only be proud of our independence.
If you’re looking for other must see places in Kyoto that isn’t a temple, a shrine, or a castle, then head downtown and check out the Nishiki Market. A good walking distance from the Karasuma train station, the market is a long straight stretch of food stalls selling traditional street foods and ingredients.
Items here can be bought either raw or ready to eat. There are seated eateries here but I think that the best way to maximize the market experience is to stroll the entire stretch and try bits and pieces of different stuff from the wide array of vendors.
One of my favorites here is the Takoyaki. The lines can be a bit long for these goody balls though, but the wait is definitely rewarding.
If you want something quick and ready to eat, the Yakitoris and other on-stick snacks are instant gratifications.
You can have them reheated first…
Or eat them outright.
They come in different shapes and sizes from meats, seafoods, and vegetables. As long as it’s small enough to be skewered, you can probably find it there.
One of the oddest things I’ve eaten so far are those small octopus with quail eggs. The quail eggs are stuffed inside giving them their voluptuous figure.
Some stalls allow you to sample a few pieces first before you buy. This is one way of knowing what you’re getting into before you decide to dive in.
One of my personal favorite Japanese desserts here is the Matcha. These are green tea powder extracts, usually infused on drinks, pastries, rice cakes, or anything edible that they can make of. I love it when Matcha is infused on ice cream. There’s a stall here that lets you choose the intensity of the infused Matcha to your liking.
If you pick the highest matcha level, you will notice that the ice cream is much darker has a bit of a powdery consistency from all the infused matcha. This is something not for everybody as the matcha taste can become too strong and bitter, which I personally prefer. Note though that matcha comes from green tea, so those with caffeine issues should beware as too much can leave you jittery.
If you just want to buy something you’d want to prepare yourself, there is also plenty of fresh selections and raw ingredients to choose from.
You can also find other souvenir items such as trinkets and refrigerator magnets here.
Nishiki Market offers a fun food tripping experience. It’s the best way to experience the diversity of Kyoto’s street foods & snacks all in one place.
It’s open from 9AM to 5PM. Admission is free.
Steaks are some of the rare foods you just can’t go wrong with. Just season with salt and pepper, grill over open flame, or fry with a little butter. It doesn’t take a five star chef to turn the simple choice cut meat into a gastronomic delight. It’s safe to say that all steaks are delicious, but not all are equal. Beef comes in many choices and most of them I’ve already been acquainted with. But there’s one beef that’s said to sit high up on the echelons of prime steaks that I’ve been wanting to try for so long: the Kobe beef. It’s a meat that’s so praiseworthy as it is controversial. It’s a legend that keeps being told by those who have tasted its glory.
Hearing so much rave about the legendary beef, it’s been on my bucket list for such a long time. It was only until last year during our trip to Japan that I was able to tick it off. Traveling across Japan’s Kansai area, I made a quick side trip to the home of Kobe beef: Kobe. There are plenty of restaurants in Kobe offering their famous delicacy so I searched online for some recommendations. Since it was only a quick side trip, I’ve narrowed my search down to the ones that topped reviews but close to the train stations.
The searching led me to Ishida. It’s about a five minute walk from the Kobe-Sannomiya station. I was lucky to get accommodated as a walk-in customer as reviews warned that reservations are a must as they get really packed most of the time. So with mouth watering and stomach grumbling, I went in with high expectations.
Steaks in Ishida are cooked right in front of you. As they present the meat, the beautiful marbling is clearly seen spread evenly across. Once the teppan grill is heated, the meat is then cooked over animal fat. The best doneness to steaks is always around rare to medium, so I had mine rare like I always prefer.
The steaks are cooked in batches and served in cutlets. This means that you get just enough at once, then wait to enjoy the next serving. This also means that you always get your steak fresh from the grill. Nothing gets cold in your plate. You can opt to eat the steak as is, or dip it in their sauce and sprinkle with a little salt. Whichever way you wanna enjoy your steak, you just can’t go wrong with either.
Initially, I thought that the cutlets were a bit too small, but upon first bite, I discovered that it’s the perfect food to mouth ratio. Every bite lets the meat secrete its juicy goodness. That juice joyfully plays around your tastebuds as it fills up every corner of your mouth while you chew. The meat is so ridiculously tender, it makes chewing such a pleasure.
The flavor? It is simply out of this world! The tiny cutlets are succulent and densely filled with flavor. It’s like an entire slab of steak has been juiced down into every one of these little cutlets. It’s packed with all the beefy goodness we all know and love, but with a slight uniqueness that’s just hard to describe. It is just that good! In fact, it is phenomenal! I tried it with their sauce and a little salt, and the flavor oozed out even more. Adding seasoning actually draws out and highlights more of the natural flavor instead of masking it. The perfect combination. Finished with my first batch, I moved on to enjoy the next succeeding batches. The taste doesn’t seem to get mundane at all.
I went inside Ishida with expectations set high, and came out having them exceeded. The legend about Kobe beef is true, and now I’m one of the few who get to tell about it. Having Kobe beef in Kobe was definitely the perfect Kobe experience.
Ishida serves complete course meals. Average price is around 2,500 JPY for lunch and 8,000 JPY for dinner.
Nara is one of the prefectures in Japan’s Kansai area. We were able to make a quick side trip here during our Japan visit last August. Coming from touring Kyoto’s historical shrines & temples and Osaka’s cosmopolitan sites, we were in search for something else— something different that the Kansai area had to offer. This lead us to go to Nara to see the famous Nara Deer Park.
The Nara Deer Park isn’t your typical park. What makes this different from any other parks are the deer that are native to the place.
Allover the park are plenty of them— herds upon herds of adorable furry creatures. They roam freely around the park and are actually protected by law as national treasures.
From the Nara train station, going to the park is just about a five minute bus ride. There are special roundtrip bus tickets for tourists visiting the park that can be purchased from the station.
As the bus nears the park, you can already start spotting deer scattered in the streets. You’d be mystified at first, but after a while, they pretty much become a common sight.
The deer are used to mingling with people and you can even touch them. It’s ok to pet the deer, but it’s best to not be over confident with them as there are some rare occasions when they try to nab from your stuff thinking it has food.
Or if you’re eating, make sure to keep your food away from their reach as you would not want to tempt them. Check the warning signs posted allover.
But generally, these guys are a really friendly bunch and so fun to be around.
Another attraction to see in the park is the Todai-ji Temple. There are other temples in Nara, but for just a quick side trip, we were only able to visit the Todai-ji.
The Todai-ji Temple houses the great giant Buddha. We weren’t able to get inside the temple itself since we got there a bit just in time for closing, but we were able to enjoy the entrance and temple grounds.
What’s amazing about this temple is that everything here is really huge. The pillars that make up the entrance gates are massive columns of logs.
The entrance gates have two giant statues of Kongō Rikishi (Nio protectors of Japan according to ancient Buddhist beliefs). They’re also made of wood, painted for color.
It’s really amazing looking up the scale of these two giant statues. What’s incredible is that the entire temple complex and everything in here have been constructed during Japan’s ancient times, thousands of years before machines have been employed in building construction.
Another thing to see around the temple is a boat by the lake.
Not sure though if the boat is actually functional or just for display, but it does look majestic.
And of course…
The side trip to Nara was definitely a worthy quick-stop destination. The deer were a uniquely fun experience, and the Todai-ji Temple was something that had its own “massive” charm, different from any other temples we’ve seen in Japan so far.
It’s everyone’s favorite holiday season again, and this year, my wife and I decided that we will be spending our Christmas somewhere else aside from our house. We thought about going out of town but didn’t want the hassle of the long drive. What we wanted was a quick and convenient getaway, somewhere not too far, yet not too familiar. The solution was obviously a staycation.
Living on the North side of Metro Manila, going South was already conveniently foreign enough for a quick getaway. So I searched Good Ol’ Google for a place and stumbled upon Azumi Boutique Hotel. It’s small hotel in Alabang by the Filinvest district. The booking site offered a queen sized room for just about Php 3,+++ a night which included breakfast so we went ahead and booked a stay for Christmas eve.
Since it’s a boutique hotel, there’s no huge lobby with a grand staircase. The lobby is small, just enough for a reception desk and a lounge with a few couches. The lobby is design is modern.
The black walls are adorned with mementos reflecting different places and landmarks from allover the world. The theme gives a more casual and cozy atmosphere rather than being stiff and intimidating.
The room has a very pronounced rectangular dimension. From the door, looking straight is a complete full view of the edge to edge glass doors and windows to the balcony.
I like how the wood motif makes the room so cozy and homely.
The Queen room comes with a Queen sized bed and a mini bed that also doubles as a couch. TV and refrigerator are pretty standard, along with the sink and microwave.
The bathroom is just a little awkward though. It has a window by the shower area so you can clearly and openly see, (or watch) whoever is taking a shower, or even doing business. There’s a roll down blind which can cover the glass part of the wall, but it’s controlled from outside the bathroom.
This is particularly awkward since privacy controls are usually inside the bathrooms instead of outside. Also, when closed, there’s a tiny gap between the blinds and the walls. This tiny open spot may not be too bothersome as one can only see through this if done intentionally. But still, no one likes a “peek-able” bathroom. These would not be an issue to couples, but for friends and colleagues staying, this might just be seriously awkward.
The prices of the minibar are fair. This is swell as typical hotels would usually jack up the prices, but Azumi kept their prices just about convenience store levels.
This means guests can enjoy the minibar items and not have to walk outside just to avoid paying for an overpriced soda.
THE POOL AREA
The pool area is located by the roof deck. The pool is narrowly stretched, spanning end to end of the building’s edges.
The greens are courtesy of the fake grass which is a good idea. Beside the pool are futon-like cushions good for lying around and sun bathing. Since the pool sits is by the edge, this gives a great infinity effect. There are no tall buildings close by so you could get a wide clear view of the Alabang cityscape.
The breakfast is nothing fantastic, but isn’t bad either.
It’s a really just a simple no-frills buffet just right to get you going for the morning. Nothing to complain or rave about here. Besides, breakfast always tastes good.
The Hallways & Elevators
I like how there are parts of the hallways that are open. The hallways can be a little tight but the openings create a sense of space. Also, it’s always good to have natural light and ventilation. Just to note though, the elevators are really slow as there are only two elevators that service the entire hotel.
There are pockets gardens by the lower floors. These are open balconies with more of the fake grass. Just like in the pool, the grass may be fake, but it just works.
I’d also like to make a special mention about their parking area. Unlike most hotels I’ve been to where their parking spaces are normally shoved deep down in the basement, Azumi allots for podium parking. I’ve always hated going down deep basements which are usually poorly lit, hot, claustrophobic, and under-ventilated. Azumi’s podium parking is just none of that.
My wife and I really appreciated Azumi Boutique Hotel. It’s reasonably priced, cozy, and convenient. Definitely enjoyed our Christmas here!
Hafa Adai! (pronounced as “half a day”) Or “hello” in native Chamorro language, is the official welcoming greeting when visiting Guam.
Coined with “Where America’s Day Begins”, Guam is a small island in the pacific that is part of the United States’ unincorporated territories.It’s got every bit of that tropical island vibe, mixed with American goodness. It’s a very small island, about 3/4 the size of Singapore, and you can drive around the island’s perimeter in about six to eight hours. Visitors in Guam go mainly for 2 reasons: beach, and shopping.
Last June, we got to visit this beautiful island— thanks to awesome airline deals matched with credit card perks. We stayed in Guam for seven days. We allotted our first four days for city activities which include tours and shopping, and the last 3 days for the beach.
Days Inn Tamuning ($ 65++/night)
We stayed in Days Inn Tamuning. It’s a good place if you’re on a budget. It’s far away from the the main attractions, but they do have a complimentary shuttle service shuttle that takes you to the different points of interests. The shuttle follows a tight schedule for pickups and drop offs so visitors using the shuttle should plan their daily itineraries well as not to miss the rides.
Guam Premier Outlets
A good walking distance from the inn, and also one of the direct stops of the shuttle is the GPO or Guam Premier Outlets. This is where big name clothing brands give crazy discounts. They offer discounts in almost all ways imaginable. If you missed on a discount, just wait awhile and another discount will soon pop up.
The GPO has a good selection of food stalls at the food court. We would frequent this place as it can be quite expensive to have to eat in restaurants all the time. The food court is where you can save cash on necessity meals.
There’s a also a movie theatre at the GPO and movie ticket prices depend on the time of day.
From Days Inn, we would take the shuttle headed to Guam’s most touristy area, which is Tumon Bay. This is where the high end hotels, fine restaurants, and luxury shopping malls are situated.
The Shuttle drop off is by the DFS Galleria which is conveniently located at the the heart of Tumon. Almost every building in Tumon is either a shopping complex or a hotel. You don’t have to be a shopper to enjoy the place. Just strolling and exploring is as much fun as it is already. You’ll also never run out of good places to eat whether you’re looking for a quick tasty bite or some fancy dinner.
Take note though that public transportation in Guam caters more for tourists so bus itineraries are mostly for the touristy hot spots. So if your hotel is located somewhere obscure, it would be difficult to get around without a courtesy shuttle service or a car rental.
GUIDED TOUR: RIDE THE DUCKS ($ 35)
I booked two guided tours that would take us to the highlights of the city: Ride the Ducks, and Turtle Tours.
Ride the ducks is a city tour wherein you hop on this amphibious shuttle called the “duck” as it goes around the city. There’s a voice recording that explains the surroundings as the duck moves around the city. The tour is mostly a city sightseeing drive by so you don’t get to leave the duck until it’s over.
What makes this a unique experience is that at the last part of the tour, the duck would get off land and head to the sea, hence making use it’s amphibious feature. The driver then lets each passenger drive the duck around the water before the returning home.
Another thing to add to the unique experience is that passengers are given duck call whistles and are encouraged to blow them along with the onboard “duck” themed music.
Ride the Ducks is a simple tour with a fun and unique gimmick and we did enjoy the experience.
GUIDED TOUR: TURTLE TOURS ($ 28)
Turtle Tours offers many kinds of tours. We chose their city sight seeing tour which is a typical guided tour where you hop on a bus and a tour guide explains the points of interests around you. Except for a very few places, this tour differs in itinerary from the Ride the Ducks so booking both would not be redundant. It also stops at certain highlights where tourists can get off, take pictures, and have a more immediate appreciation and experience of certain places.
The tour took us to Historical landmarks. Guam’s history has three highlights: the ancient period, the Spanish occupation, and the World War.
Fort Santa Agueda
One of the places that we got off was Fort Santa Agueda, a Spanish period site.
Despite being called “Fort”, don’t expect huge fortified structures. What’s to see here are some very few monuments, historical plaques, and some canons.
It’s the canons that would be the visual highlight of the place since they are situated at top of a cliff where you can have a beautiful overlooking view of the island.
Pacific War Museum
The World War site we visited was the Pacific War Museum.
The museum has a collection of World War artifacts like defunct weapons, vehicles, equipment parts, uniforms, and all other things gathered from the Pacific War.
They said the vehicles here still run, in fact, they are even paraded to the public on certain occasions.
Latte Stone Park
The Latte Stone Park is an ancient history site.
It showcases late stones which were used as foundations for early buildings and structures during ancient Guam.
These things vary in size, but for the most part they’re about a little taller than the average person.
Two Lovers Point
The Two Lovers Point is like a blend of pop-culture mixed with a bit of “history-ish” legend.
What it is basically, is a cliff overlooking the ocean with lock hearts all over the fences, with an interesting legend behind it.
The legend goes that during the Spanish times, there was a girl who fell in love with boy but they cannot marry each other since the girl was from a Spanish Family and the boy was a Chamorro warrior. The girl was arranged by her family to marry a Spanish captain, but instead, ran off with the Chamorro warrior. They were then chased to this cliff, and instead of being captured, they chose to jump and died together.
By the entrance are tablets that illustrate the legend.
There’s also a huge monument representing the legendary couple. No one knows for sure if this story is true or if the couple really existed, but nonetheless it makes the place a very interesting visit.
THE ROAD TRIP
We wanted to do more exploring of the island so we decided to take a car rental. That way, we can visit the places where no public transportation goes to.
War in the Pacific
Scattered along Guam’s coastal roads are War in the Pacific sites.
These are World War II sites located along the shores.
They are usually small military outposts and gun stations used by the US during the the war.
There are actual defunct canons and artillery in these sites, as well as some historical descriptions of the place.
Fish Eye Marine Park ($ 24)
Along the coastal road is the Fish Eye Marine Park. This isn’t hard to miss as the entrance is just right by the side of the road. You get a discount on the entrance fee if you have a car rental.
It’s a small underwater observatory where you can see marine life from underwater without getting wet. The walk to the observatory itself is unshaded and can be really hot on a sunny day. It’s best to wear sun protection like caps, or better yet, make use of the umbrellas by the entrance that could be borrowed for free.
The place itself is pretty small though. Once you get down the stairs, that’s pretty much it.
It’s just a circular room surrounded by windows so you can see the marine life outside.
Continuing to drive along, the road lead us to the more rural parts of the island. The scenery turns from beachside to countryside. It’s an uphill-downhill drive across valleys, and what’s to watch out for are the viewing points.
Viewing points are certain spots in the mountainous areas of Guam where you can have a great view from an elevated perspective.
These are usually marked with a sign, a brief description, and some structures.
They are scattered allover and are good spots for some quick photo ops.
Talofofo Falls ($ 12)
Our next destination was the Talofofo Falls.
The falls is inside the Talofofo Falls Park which you must enter before you reach the falls. The falls itself just small, but there are other attractions inside the park to make the visit worthwhile.
There’s a small museum at the park which showcases Guam’s history from the ancient times to the present days.
Also are some rides and a horror show which we didn’t bother getting into.
But the other main attraction here is the Yokoi cave.
The Yokoi cave is a small dug out hole used by a former Japanese soldier during WWII where he hid for years, not knowing that we war is over.
What’s amazing here is seeing how small the cave is and how such a man could survive years and years living in such cramped spot.
We were able to circle Guam’s perimeter in about 6 hours.
Of course, none of the Guam trip would be complete without hitting the beach! Islands in the Pacific will always boast pristine, powdery, white sand beaches that meets turquoise waters. Guam is no exception. There are many beaches in Guam, as it is surrounded by them, but one we opted to go for and stay in was the famous Tumon beach. Since Tumon is the touristy part of Guam, Tumon beach is the prime beach destination.
Guam Reef & Olive Spa ($ 200++/night)
We stayed at the Guam Reef and Olive Spa Hotel. It’s one of the premier hotels by the beach front.
There are plenty of great beach front hotels in Tumon Bay, but what made me choose Guam Reef is its pool area.
The pool area is situated on a ledge, giving you a great elevated view of the beach.
The poolside bar is also pretty chill and serves free food at certain times of the day.
It’s the perfect spot to hangout at take a sip of your favorite cocktail.
It’s also a great place to catch the sunset while wading on the water.
The room is very spacious and the balcony offers fantastic ocean views. No better place for the morning coffee.
Since it’s a touristy beach, there are plenty of tourists around the area. But the numbers are still good though. Plenty enough just to keep a lively vibe and few enough to not make it look too crowded.
The beach has a long stretch of sand. Walking bare feet is a must as to feel the powdery goodness caress your toes.
The water is very clear and has a turquoise hue. The sand stretches from the shore very gradually so you still get shallow depths of swimming pool calm water even when you’re already very far from the shore. Take note though that this beach is a little reefy in some areas, so it’s best to be careful when walking in the water as you’re likely to step on some coral pieces. Also, since it’s reefy, make sure to get some snorkeling gear as there are good coral formations and some fish schools that can be seen spread across in pockets.
There are still plenty of things to see and do in this island paradise, and clearly seven days are not enough to be able to check all of them out. But the seven days we’ve spent in Guam make for a truly unforgettable experience. We’ll definitely come back!
For a video montage of our Guam trip highlights, check out this link —>