Saturday, April 22, 2006


After a busy week, last weekend's jaunt to Saipan begins to seem like a long time ago.

Saipan is about a three hour flight from Tokyo, which is long enough to feel like a real trip. But still shorter than visiting Hawaii or Las Vegas; I'm not complaining. I dozed and read Anthony Holden's Big Deal, and my girlfriend C watched the inflight movie, Pride and Prejudice, with a bored-but-nothing-better-to-do air.

We were concerned about going through Immigration in Saipan, since it's a US territory and C has been held up by Immigration officials for 30-45 minutes the last two times we've entered the States. She thinks the issue is that because we separate, me going though the US Citizens line and she through the Visitors line, it looks like she is travelling alone. Luckily this time there were no problems. Of the 500-some people on the flight from Tokyo to Saipan, about 450 were Japanese, 48 Korean, and two white guys, one being me. We gave each other a quick "what are you doing here?" glance on boarding.

I didn't see the other white guy when I got to Saipan. Immigration had 20 lines for Visitors, and one line for Citizens... with no one staffing it. Should I have called ahead to warn them a white guy was coming? I found the Immigration office and the agent on duty opened up the Citizens line and waved me through. The other 20 lines chugged through the hordes of visiting Japanese quickly, and C was processed in a few minutes with no problems.

Saipan has the deep blue sky, bright sun, palm trees and greenery every beach resort should. I was already relaxed. We boarded the charter bus our travel agency arranged, and trundled along the one main road to the main hotels, dropping off groups of Japanese guests. Most of the buildings we passed seemed somewhat beaten down, and the common sight of signs in Chinese as well as English added to the worn-out Chinatown look.

I couldn't help but notice a huge number of signs for game rooms, all proclaiming "POKER". I must have seen 6 or 8 on the bus ride to our hotel. Good lord, Saipan is a hotbed of poker activity! Who knew?!, I mused. Almost all of the poker shops looked even more worn down than their surroundings, though, the kind of dodgy joint you don't feel comfortable walking into with a fist full of money. Later on, I looked at the signs more closely and many promised progressive jackpots and 24-hour play. I didn't visit any of them to confirm, but decided they must be pitching video poker, which made more sense.

Friday and Saturday were the typical beach resort days, and you probably already know how that goes, so I will summarize. There were deep blue skies, puffy clouds, gorgeous sunsets, cool breezes, visits to a nearby beach island with clear, clear turquoise waters, snorkeling, and laying in the sun. I was content, as I was in Maui, just to sit on the beach and read. I finished Big Deal, Wil Wheaton's Dancing Barefoot, and most of his Just A Geek. C didn't bring anything to read, but was perfectly happy to relax on the beach, dozing and looking content.

(C asked what I was reading. I showed her Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, and tried to explain who the author was. She doesn't know Star Trek: Next Generation. [She hadn't seen any of the Star Wars films when we met, you may recall! How is that possible? I mean, yeah, she's Japanese but still, this is Star Wars we're talking about, here.] "He was also in Stand By Me," I offer hopefully. She brightens up. "Oh... River Phoenix?" "Uh, no..." I guess I'm going to have to go rent Stand By Me sometime. She did get a kick out of the photo on the back cover of Just A Geek. "Look! He's holding the same beer glass you have, the one with the weird geek joke on it that I don't understand! You both really are geeks!")

Sunday she spent going to a spa, and I made my trip to Tinian to check out the Tinian Dynasty Resort and Casino, which I will leave for a followup post.

Monday we did our souvenir shopping, a bit more laziness on the beach, and headed home. It was hard arriving back into Tokyo, which seemed frigid after the straight 30' C days in the sun. But Saipan is close, pretty cheap to get to, and I'm sure we'll be headed back there soon for an even lazier vacation.


the p.i.c. said...

Glad you had fun in Saipan...hope you come back soon!

James said...

Hoping to! Next time for a week or more, we had a great time.