I apologize again that I’m the sort of person that thinks it is okay for me to milk one weekend in Saipan out into what looks like it’s going to be five parts. Thanks for sticking with me. Just think, with writing this good, you don’t even have any need to go to Saipan yourself. It’s like you lived it. To save myself some space, and to skip over some more forgettable parts of this trip, I’ll volunteer the following: I went to Tank Beach where the only really memorable thing was a giant penis made out of rocks, and, despite my best efforts, I was unable to find the purported but I’m convinced mythological botanical gardens of Saipan. Exciting stuff.
The internet had told me that the drive up to Mt. Tapochau would be treacherous and that I should have a good car. The place wasn’t hard to find at all due to some conveniently placed spray-painted signs. I figured I would keep going until the road was too bad, but I got all the way to the top and had the place to myself for a while. The wind was very strong the day I went up there and I had to hold onto my hat lest I lose it in all it’s stupid-looking glory. The views up there are pretty magnificent. Although it reveals the depth of the research I did before going to the island, I didn’t realize that Tinian was so close to Saipan until I got to the top of the mountain. Up on the mountain there is an obligatory shrine and some signs talking about the American invasion of Saipan. The most notable thing I learned is that the Japanese were aware that if they lost Saipan, it would open the floodgates to American attacks on the Japanese mainland. The Japanese were told to fight to the last man. We all know how the story ended, but that gives the reasoning behind the fierce suicide attacks staged by the Japanese. To bring us back to the mountain, however, you can see the whole south end of the island and see as the island stretches into the north. There were plenty of houses up towards the top of the mountain, and although I don’t imagine that any of the cars I usually drive would make it on a daily basis, it must be a really nice view out their window every day.
My driving tour of Saipan complete, I decided it was time to hike down to Forbidden Island. This is one of the classically picturesque spots on Saipan, featured in the influential “Islands of the Marianas” calendar, available at an ABC store near you. The island is forbidden because it is supposedly haunted. After the hike, I think this was a clever trick by Chamorro moms not wanting their kids to break their necks on any sharp cliffs leading down to the place. But except for some steep rocky bits the hike isn’t too bad, and offers very nice and increasingly close views of the island itself. I suppose I didn’t do the math before the hike, but I got over to the beach and was somewhat surprised that I couldn’t manage to get over to the island itself. You know, because of the water that makes the thing an island. It looked closer from farther away. The beach was a nice place to wander around and I quickly discovered a Chinese couple. They were snorkeling. The man saw me taking pictures of the place and offered to take one of me. I had worn my stupid-looking hat for this hike, but since it looked stupid I took it off and struck decided to strike a pose for some reason that was somewhere on the low side between “Napoleonic” and “somewhat dazed.” My newly selected photographer, for his part, crouched to get a good angle I guess and decided to frame the picture not with Forbidden Island in the background, but another random large rock. I’m not one to criticize other’s artistic choices, but between the two of us Ansel Adams we ain’t. It was nice to get a picture that wasn’t a poorly shot selfie though.
Wandering the rest of Forbidden Island Beach, I looked at tide pools and watched as the waves crashed over some rocks a little offshore. I also spent more time marveling at the geology of the island, with the entire cliff-face looking like it was cast out of concrete. The water was incredibly blue and there were many colorful fish swimming about. “Very beautiful,” in the words of my beachside artistic accomplice from before. Eventually I steeled myself for the hike back up the cliff and walked away from the experience with a sunburn. Wiped out from a now rather full day of Saipan sightseeing, I headed back to the hotel and took a shower before dinner.