Tag Archives: Saipan

The Maasdam 24 see Saipan in a Day

[Photographs by Ferdinand “Ding” Ramos]

“It was a dark and stormy night…” Oops, wrong opening line. (Sorry, Snoopy.)  Ahem. It was a bright and sunny day,  and the Holland America cruise ship, Maasdam, was scheduleed to dock at the port on the island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on Sunday, Sept 8, 2019.

As an island consultant, I’m occasionally asked to provide information on the islands to visitors.

This time, my photographer, Ding, and I showed up at 7am to be sure that THIS time, the ship would, indeed, dock. (Yeah, that’s a whole other story for another time!)

Maasdam at the dock. Check.

With that little detail confirmed, we headed back to the airport to pick up the vans for our arriving guests.

Invited guest guides for a day, Robert Hunter, and Gary Liddle and I discuss logistics.

While awaiting the paperwork, world renown author, ethnographer, oral historian and “birder,”  Rlene Santos Steffy, arrives from Guam. I had the pleasure of meeting Rlene on Guam during my recent Guam Writers Workshop Learn more at : http://guamwriters.com/

Gary, Rlene, Robert and I chat while we wait

The paperwork is completed, vans are assigned, drivers are briefed, microphones are checked, signs are posted in the windshields….time for a convoy!

“Pig Pen this here’s the rubber duck And I’m about to put the hammer down.” (10 points if you know that reference!)

Once at the dock, guests begin exiting the ship after passing through US Customs, and we load up the vans. Two of my guests, Lorrin and Nina Lee, are on a three month tour (see Lorrinlee.com), and were the first of my guests to sign up way back in March!

Finally, we meet! (See www.LorrinLee.com)

We head out to our first stop: American Memorial Park.

 

First stop, American Memorial Park…Welcome! Introductions….and the strict rules of my tour! (You’ll have to sign up to discover just what those rules are!)
Watching “An Island Called Saipan” at American Memorial Park

 

Post-documentary debriefing and preparing for day’s tour

 

Robert Hunter, Director of DCCA (Department of Community & Cultural Affairs) shares facts and triva about wartime Saipan

 

Pointing to the Court of Honor (currently under construction)
Visiting the Chamorro & Carolinian memorial
Yeah we got a little ol’ convoy Ain’t she a beautiful sight
At the Carolinian Cultural Center

 

Robert gives background on boat building and celestial navigation
At the boat house, one of DCCA’s projects

 

At Ladder Beach

 

 

As Lito Airfield
What on earth is everyone staring at???

Answer: One of the largest war time structures on the island: the Bomb Magazine at As Lito airfield.

Inside the Bomb Magazine
The sad, yet beautiful Banzai Cliff

 

Gary holds court at Suicide Cliff

 

Looking down at the suicide leap from another vantage point

Then we went In Search of Amelia Earhart

The Old Japanese Jail
Going back in time through the corridor of the jail in search of Amelia Earthart
Read more about Amelia on Saipan here: http://www.discoversaipan.com/amelia

By this time, the “Saipan in a Day” adventure is officially ended. Robert and Gary have departed and taken our visitors back to the dock, However, a smaller group of WWII buffs are treated to a special private collection of relics and artifacts from the Japanese era and Battle of Saipan.

a unique collection
Guests enjoy interacting with the pieces
Explaining the uniqueness of this particular relic

 

The Maasdam WWII History buffs on Saipan

 

We say our goodbyes!


“What’s that?  Yes, you can definitely write a TripAdvisor Review! I’d be honored and it would help a lot! Thanks for asking!”

Maasdam departs Saipan

“As the sun sank slowly over the horizon…” Oops, sorry, wrong epilogue…Wait! That one fits! As the sun sank slowly over the Saipan horizon, Maasdam pulled away from the dock, and sailed off into the sunset on its way to Guam!

“We’ll catch you on the flip flop
This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side
We gone – Bye Bye!”

Thanks to everyone who made this tour special and run smoothly!

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Hanging around Saipan in 2019

Hope you don’t mind. I’m just testing out my “autopost” plug-in on my Jamaican in China blog. Through this feature, I can post to my blog (as I’m doing now), and it automatically posts to one or more of my Facebook pages. (So, if you’re reading this in your Facebook feed, that should mean it worked!) I’ll just share a few shots taken around Saipan recently!


Fellow author Lindsay, the ladies of Healing Stone, and me!


John Castro and me while, Satawal canoe maker toils in background


Konstantin from Ukraine takes a shot of Forbidden Island


Eber and Jay from the US mainland explore Fabian Indalecio’s unique Battle of Saipan/WWII relic collection


Fabian educates visitors to the island


Where on earth are you likely to see a convoy of pink Mustangs??? If you answered “Saipan,” you’d be correct! (the road to Banzai Cliff)


It was exceptionally clear day last weekend, and you could see the outline of Farallon de Medinilla from Suicide Cliff at the north end of the island! Can you see it?

Just a few shots of my life on Saipan! Enjoy the update!

UPDATE 1: Oh, speaking of updates, did I mention I turned down a book deal recently? Why, you ask? Well, the publisher made the fatal mistake of….. Read the full story here in either of Saipan’s newspapers:

http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/editorials/113104-feature-little-flights-of-fancy

https://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/your-little-flights-of-fancy/

UPDATE 2: Here’s the latest video in the DiscoverSaipan “Garment Factory Era” series: Scenes from the Floor!

 

Saipan: the history, the mystery, the culture and the cuisine!

One of the great things about my life on Saipan is the broad cross section of unique personalities I have a chance to meet and spend time with!

Earlier this year, Michelle and John got to experience Saipan’s history with a ride in an actual WWII jeep courtesy of local resident, Juan Villagomez. John’s father worked on the Manhattan Project during the war, so he wanted to get up close and personal with Saipan’s and Tinian’s history!

Michelle, John, Juan and Luise Villagomez, Alexandra (front), and me!

I also had a chance to hang out recently with Konstantin Symonenko from Ukraine….


Konstantin discovers the mystery of Forbidden Island

Konstantin, among other accomplishments, has the distinction of being the first Ukrainian to have visited all the countries in the world! It’s an accomplishment that was verified and documented as blogged about on his http://konstantin.travel  website:

 

“Today the representative of the National Registry of Records of Ukraine directly on Easter Island, handed me a diploma as the first Ukrainian to visit all the countries in the world.

Konstantin got to experience Saipan’s culture with a visit to the DCCA boat house to watch a canoe being constructed…


With John Castro at the boat house

John and me….A Sattawal navigator works in the background

Another guest, Neal P., has visited 297 of the 327 destinations recognized by The Traveler’s Century Club (TCC)! Saipan was his 298th and he’ll hit 300 soon and be part of the Diamond club! Congrats, Neal!

Neal got to experience authentic Chamorro and island style cuisine at JC Cafe on Tinian…

 

at the Street Market on Saipan….


Red rice at the Street Market

…and at Twenty-Two Rams (Owners of the restaurant are brother Michael Salas and cousin Ed Cepeda.)

Lunch at Twenty-Two Rams. Located in the CDA complex in Oleai at the old Boka Boka restaurant location.

Delgadina Matagolai, Manning Salas, and Mom Sophia M. Salas.  (Michael and Ed not shown) “Thanks for stopping by our family restaurant!”--Manning

Stay tuned for more!

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Pole Cats and Window Kings!

(Caught your attention, didn’t it?) Another brief photo installment in the “This man has got entirely too much time on his hands” file for those who said they haven’t heard from the Jamaican in China (and on Saipan) in a while!

Here on Saipan, I’ve discovered a new genus and family of mammal I’ve christened the Marianas pole cat.


Wandering kitten seeks refuge in a post-typhoon, not-yet-erected  concrete pole in the village of Susupe

 


Mariana Kingfisher poses regally on window sill


Seconds before takeoff!

Stay tuned for more real posts soon!–W

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Remembering Saipan’s Garment Factory Era–from my personal files

The Garment Factory Era on Saipan lasted from Oct 14, 1983 to Jan 15, 2009. It employed approximately 20,000 workers and brought in revenues of close to 1 billion dollars in taxes and fees.

I’m  about to upload a series of Youtube videos with some of my personal pics and videos of remembrances of what life was like on the island at that time–including times spent hanging out with the factory girls (and guys) from when I arrived on Saipan in 2006 to the last closure, and beyond!

And if you weren’t aware, I wrote a book about that era (Chicken Feathers & Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan with former factory worker, Chun Yu Wang)–that remains the only firsthand account of what life was like for factory workers during that time– and that has been used in three universities stateside in either “Textiles” or “Women’s Studies” courses, and has been excerpted in a French textbook in a section on “The American Dream,” and has over 160 reviews on Amazon!)

So, without further delay, here’s episode 1 of the “Remembering the Garment Factory Era” series:

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Watch Ward & Kimie on their Saipan Amelia Mystery tour!

I’ve recently been creating post-tour videos for my clients to help promote my newly revived DiscoverSaipan Youtube Channel

Here’s the latest of four, featuring Ward and Kimie, who came from Japan with a particular interest in learning more about Amelia Earhart’s connection to the island! They got a special treat and private audience with a Saipan celebrity as part of their adventure!

 

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Sands of Time….Yellow Beach Battle of Saipan

At the request of a mainland-based Army Officer, historian and militaria collector one of whose  current projects is collecting sand from historical WWII sites, I collect sand from the historic Battle of Saipan landing beach known as Yellow Beach (San Antonio  Beach). Don’t worry, I’ve gotten the okay from the Division of Coastal Resources Management and Fish & Wildlife that the “no take” policy only applies to Marine Protected Areas and other specific conservation spots.

 

 

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China Travel Channel created a video for me!

A few months ago, I gave some producers from the China Travel Channel a tour of the island. Just got an email from Alex with a gift! Using some of the shots of us together, they created a short promotional video I can use to reach more of the Chinese tourists Saipan is attracting!

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A Saipan Soudelor memoir

Back on sunny Saipan after a stint in New York, so here’s a bit of catch-up! Saipan author, Riza Oledan-Ramos and I just recently published a book entitled Drinking Seawater: of storms and survival. It is Riza’s account of her experience during Typhoon Soudelor that hit Saipan on August 2-3, 2015. At one point, during the height of the storm, she and her entire family had to flee their apartment and were outside in the 150-mph winds! It’s an amazing story!

After a recent recognition ceremony at the Governor’s conference room on Capitol Hill, Saipan Tribune reporter, Jon Perez interviewed Riza and me about the book and gave a great review

riza5

Sharing my reasons for co-writing/editing with Riza (photos by Ferdinand Ramos)

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Riza explains passages in the book while co-author and coach Walt looks on

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Author being interviewed

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Interviewing Ferdinand, Riza’s husband and Soudelor co-survivor

Drinking Seawater is available at Bestseller Bookstore here on Saipan,  through Riza’s website, and on Amazon.

Congratulations to Riza on a great read! Thanks to Jon Perez for a great review in the Tribune. Thanks also to Zaldy Dandan, editor of the Marianas Variety, for his pre-publication input and his great editorial review in the Variety.

cover of Drinking Seawater

riza2Sharing another Saipan-specific product: Saipan Now!

Food heaven’z now on Saipan!

Ever since my escape from America in 2006, and since arriving on Saipan and launching my nomad travels, I’ve had a few milestone culinary experiences that stand out in my mind.

The first was finding a box of healthy, wheat-free, dairy-free cookies amid the sugar-laden treats at Joeten supermarket. Second, was discovering that the Payless supermarkets on Guam carried a range of health-food items including Ezekiel bread! (That was a game changer) which led to me having the good folks at Joeten order it for me here (as chronicled in the Bestseller bestseller Jamaican on Saipan, now available at Bestseller bookstore next to Joeten)

The third–which was actually in China–was discovering a vegan restaurant in Beijing during my first few days of being Jamaican in China! (as chronicled in Guess Who’s Coming to Dim Sum: Jamaican in China)

Fourth, was discovering the vegetarian paradise of Singapore!

Well, now, with Lara bars, Terra chips and soy yogurt available here on Saipan to satisfy my decadent packaged-food cravings, I’ve been content to continue preparing my own natural meals–whether in coffeepots or woks–as I’ve done for years.


Perhaps one of the last meals I’ll prepare for myself!

I’ll share a secret: The fact is, I’ve never actually eaten at a restaurant on Saipan. Well, actually, a few years I did have a meal at the now defunct Magic Lamp Restaurant because Victor and Linda were aware of the style and requirements of my daily diet and prepared something special that was not on the menu. Well that, my friends, may be about to change.

A few days ago, I discovered something that left me speechless! After returning from a two-year detour in New York, I discovered (thanks to my friend, Joe Hill) that Saipan has made a significant change. This change, I tell you, this newest milestone in culinary and dining experiences on Saipan may trump all others combined! Are you ready? Wait for it now.

A few days ago, during day 6 of my water fast, I discovered TROPICAL BLENDZ!!! That’s right! Tropical Blendz Restaurant/Juice bar on Middle Road. From the brief conversation I had with partner, Svetlana, they’ve been on island for about a year, opening up while I was gone.


Svetlana and me

So, what’s so special about a little juice bar cafe on Middle Road?” you ask.

Well, I’ll tell you!

This is not just any juice bar/health food cafe. They’ve got fresh juices using local fruits, protein and fruit smoothies with spirulina, moringa powder (malunggay), maca and other superfood names I never thought I’d hear anyone else utter here on Saipan! But that’s not all! They’ve got meals–veggie burgers, salads, soups, wraps and more! They’ve got desserts–wheat free, dairy-free, raw desserts! My heavens, I think I’m in heaven!! If I weren’t in the middle of a fast at the time, I would have purchased just about everything on the menu! Heck, I might be camping outside the door every night waiting for them to open up the next morning!

Svetlana, herself, is a raw foodist, so she understands the lifestyle of fanatic vegans like myself, and even takes it a few steps further by advocating enzyme-rich, uncooked, raw food for sustenance! Finally, (as a tear rolls down my cheek), someone who understands me!

This is the sort of establishment I’ve always wanted to see on Saipan. It’s the sort of restaurant I would open and run myself if I weren’t addicted to my nomadpreneur lifestyle running around Asia! I’d rather support them and share the news and encourage you to pay them a visit. Tropical Blendz is across Middle Road from Sugar King Park (the same street (Gold’s Gym and the park are on the east side of Middle Road, and Tropical Blendz is o on the west side)


The view from the inside


The view from the outside

Wow! All this excitement and I haven’t even eaten there yet! But that, too is about to change. Now that I’m going into Day 10 of my fast, and will probably start transitioning back to solid food over the next several days, I’m looking forward to writing another post about specific dishes! Get your cameras ready! If you stop by and see me there, you’ll get one of the only photos of me actually sitting and eating at a restaurant on Saipan! Stay tuned! More to come!

Contact Tropical Blendz at (670) 233-8809 or by email at tropicalblendzsaipan@gmail.com. Monday to Saturday 9-6pm; Closed on Sundays. Tell them Walt sent you!