As Micronesia's most populous island, Guam is about as 'cosmopolitan' as it gets, so it cops a lot of attitude from Pacific snobs who reckon it lacks 'real island culture'. Sure, American accents are everywhere (it's an unincorporated US territory and many Guamanian homes fly the US flag) and the Chamorro language isn't spoken quite as widely as it used to be. And if you never stray from Tumon Bay - the island's glitzy duty-free shopping and accommodation hub - then undeniably you'll be over- (or under-) whelmed.
But the island is currently in the throes of retooling itself. The tourism authorities talk of how 'Product Guam' (there's that American influence) needs a complete overhaul from its current status as a Pacific theme park for Japanese tourists. There may come a day soon when Chamorro culture (long subsumed by various invasions and occupations) is promoted above all else, with an increased focus on local food and the fascinating stories underlying many of the villages.
You can do your bit by escaping Tumon, exposing yourself to the best of Guam, and then spreading the word. The island, although Micronesia's largest, is small enough to explore in a day or two. The south is a must-see, with its rural kaleidoscope of sleepy, historical villages, stunning waterfalls and pristine beaches. The north is mainly taken up by the US military's Andersen Base, but even so it still contains Ritidian Point, a simply sublime stretch of coast featuring swaying palms, azure water and golden sands.
Along the way, chat to the proud locals who are working hard to restore their culture and you'll unearth a genuine community with a warm and welcoming attitude towards outsiders.
Last updated: Jul 22, 2009
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