Better air links make Guam ideal for quick getaway

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 May, 1998, 12:00am

There is nowhere quite like Guam. The tiny Micronesian island's strategic location for military forces in the Pacific has led at various times to occupations by the Spanish, the Japanese and the Americans, and each has left its mark.

According to its Visitors' Bureau, Guam is the place 'where America's day begins', although the tropical island is technically neither a US state nor a colony but 'an Unincorporated Territory of the United States'.

The island has a US Zip code, you get a US stamp in your passport on arrival and the elements of Americana are omnipresent. However, the sometimes bizarre combination of cultures to which the island plays host has many other components jostling for your attention. The native people of Guam are the Chamorros, but the island also has a significant population of Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos in addition to the US Armed Forces.

As a military base, Guam has little additional manufacturing industry and has been developed secondarily as a leisure destination, marketed mostly to the Japanese.

Much signage is in Japanese as well as English, and many of the more kitschy leisure facilities are aimed directly at that market.

Japanese couples come to get married in the wedding chapel of the Pacific Islands Club, and coach parties of tourists from Tokyo and Osaka turn up at the Wild West shooting galleries where they dress up as cowboys and Indians before taking part in comically earnest target- shooting practice sessions.

Guam also has plenty to offer visitors from other countries, however, and improved aviation links have done much to broaden its visitor base within Asia. Continental Micronesia now offers direct flights between Hong Kong and Guam every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The island is ideal for a quick getaway because it offers an impressive variety of entertainment and activity options in a relatively small space. This, combined with a high standard of accommodation in the international beachfront hotels overlooking scenic Tumon Bay and an efficient transport infrastructure, makes it possible to pack plenty of action into a short stay.

In as little as a single day, you could go for an early morning scuba dive or snorkel off a breathtakingly beautiful reef, viewing 150 types of multicoloured coral and countless tropical fish through the clear, turquoise water; spend the morning sunning yourself on a clean golden beach; then fit in an afternoon's golf on an international course designed by Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus.

For lunch and dinner, the adventurous eater can choose from a wealth of reasonably priced restaurants serving the cuisines of Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico, Italy, and, of course, the US, as well as the traditional dishes of the Chamorro people native to the island. Fresh seafood is plentiful.

Nightlife is equally colourful. The Chamorros love to dance and have a particular affinity for the cha cha.