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Guam is an island in the western Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. (Geographic coordinates: 13 28 N, 144 47 E) It is the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago. While Guam shares strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the remaining islands of the Mariana Islands archipelago, it is politically distinct: Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, while the remaining islands of the archipelago comprise the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Guam and the CNMI are among thousands of islands in the Oceania subregion of Micronesia, which consists of the island nations of Belau (Palau), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati (which has cultural affinities with Polynesia and Micronesia), the Marshall Islands, and several remote islands designated as the U.S.-administered islands of the Central Pacific. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Barrigada
- Tumon is the "center of tourism" on Guam. Attractions include beaches that are also wildlife reserves, a large aquarium, and various shows similar to the ones in Las Vegas.
- The coral reef surrounding Guam together with its underwater channels.
Guam is thought to be inhabited by people since about 4000 BC, when it was discovered by Southeast Asians, the distant ancestors of the local Chamorro people. Owing to a lack of written records, not much is known about the early Chamorro society, but the latte stones — a type of structure dating from that period — dot the island (as well as others in the Marianas). It's not certain how a Neolithic people with no knowledge of metals ever cut these stones, but they were most likely used as supports for the houses of the privileged class. Similarities between the latte stones and some wooden structures in the Philippines and Indonesia have been pointed out, and more imaginative minds might even see resemblances with the moai of Easter Island far to the east.
The first European contact came in 1521, with the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on his famed circumnavigation of the world, sponsored by Spain. Having no counterpart of the western concept of "ownership" in their culture, curious Chamorro canoed out to Magellan's ship, relieving it of whatever they could get their hands on. As a result, Magellan named the islands Islas de los Ladrones, "islands of the thieves."
Spain claimed the island officially in 1565 (as a compensation for Magellan's tools that got lost about half a century earlier?), and Christianity arrived soon after. Guam became one of the most favorable harbors in the trans-Pacific maritime routes, serving as a common port-of-call for the ocean-going galleons between Mexico and the Philippines, both major possessions of the global Spanish Empire then. It was around this time that the modern Chamorro culture started to take shape, when intermarriages between the locals, Filipinos, and the Spaniards were common.
Guam was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Captured by Japan and its army in 1941, it was retaken by the U.S. after an occupation lasting three years, during which locals were often treated brutally as defeated enemies.
In 1950, Guam was elevated to the status of an organized territory, and all locals were granted American citizenship. In the 1960s, there was even briefly a discussion of forging all American possessions out in the Western Pacific (which included Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, as well as now-independent Palau, Micronesia, and Marshall Islands) into a full-fledged U.S. state centered in Guam, the largest and most populous island of all between Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Hawaii. However, this proposal was quickly dismissed by the Guamese, mainly due to their mistrust of their Chamorro brethren on the Northern Marianas, who loyally served the Japanese during the occupation of Guam (Northern Marianas had been a Japanese possession between WWI and the end of WWII, hence the Chamorro of Guam and the Chamorro of the Northern Marianas were on the opposite sides).
As Guam is currently the westernmost U.S. territory, the military installations on the island are some of the more strategically important U.S. bases in the Western Pacific.
Guam enjoys a tropical marine climate: generally warm and humid, moderated by northeast trade winds. The dry season runs from January to June, the rainy season from July to December, though with little seasonal temperature variation. During the rains, squalls are common, though destructive typhoons are rare.
- Dive - The Micronesian Diver's Association has information on the many local dive sites as well as boat dives around the island. Highlights include: The Blue Hole, a more advanced dive with an incredible drop through a hole in the reef; and the Kitzagawa Maru and Tokei Maru, two Japanese warships sunk out in Apra Habor.
Despite its small population Guam has a range of restaurants, including Ya Mon's Jamaican Grill (locally owned & soon-to-be franchised), Hard Rock Cafe, Tony Romas and Chili's are in a building next the Guam Premier Outlets. Major hotels and restaurants serve continental meals and ethnic dishes.
Fresh seafood is bountiful. Fresh fish, octopus, and crab are either grilled or baked with vegetables or fruit, sashimi, and in other ways unique to the Pacific.
Travelers who venture further will find Chamorro, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Chinese, Mexican, and European restaurants, each with its own distinct ambiance. Chamorro Village offers a great variety of choices for local chamorro food, especially Wednesday nights. Of course, American fast food chains, such as Wendy's, Burger King, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, Pizza Hut, Winchells Donuts and Dominos are common.
Locals pride themselves in BBQ'ing and it is a frequent event in Guam. Families and friends often get together and for BBQs, so if you visit ask about BBQ's. It's a good chance you'll get invited!
There are many retail outlets in Guam, including DFS (Duty Free Shoppers) which operates several stores in hotels, a large "Galleria," and a store in the Guam Airport. Further, visitors to Guam will note some of the same shopping opportunities that exist in "the States." Although there is no Wal-Mart, there is a large K-Mart that does a very high volume of business. Indeed, visitors who are used to the voided cavernous K-Marts in the U.S. may be surprised to find that they can barely squeeze through the aisles of the Guam K-Mart.
The Tumon Bay area possesses many duty-free shopping outlets and boutiques catering to Japanese tourists. Among these are boutiques selling Bvlgari, Chanel, Cartier, Dior, Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, and more.
For U.S. citizens, Guam offers greatly increased customs exemptions coupled with duty and tax free importation of goods. However, take care with the basic prices offered in stores. Much merchandise has been shipped a very great distance at no small cost.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Guam on Wikivoyage.