Guam Notes

When I travel, I travel for the food. There are two vegan restaurants on the island, both are 7th Day Adventists establishments. It’s good American homestyle cooking. Each one has a special of the day and once a week, the special of the day is Chamorro food. Prices are about 1.5 to 2.5 times more expensive that the similar meal on land, i.e. $15 to $25 depending on if you just get a base meal and drink or if you get a meal, sides, dessert and the works. If you want to avoid the frustration of finding the one sad vegan item at the few conventional restaurants with a vegan item, then just go to Simply Foods and Heavenly Veggies every day– it’s something different everyday anyhow.

You can get soy milk, vegan butter at conventional grocery stores. Simply Foods has a small health-food grocery shop, but it is pricy. Everything else is a nutritional field of landmines, the food groups are salty sacks, sugary deserts and meat products.

The Guam Premiere Outlet mall has a Mongolian Barbecue that will let you pick veggies, tofu and sauce to be fried up. We tried to find a vegan friendly Vietnamese restaurant because the Mrs had fond memories of spring rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves and rice, sort of like a “vietnamese taco”, but alas, it was frustrating finding restaurant staff that understood the question and weren’t outright hostile to a vegetarian request.

For cell phone service, we got a sim card for the unlocked phone we had. Two other phones in our travel group didn’t work with the sim card because they were locked. It works out to $20 a week, which is not bad. If I use my regular sim card, it would be international phone rate all the time. Surprisingly, because I use T-mobile which uses wifi when connected to wifi, I didn’t get charged extra for wifi calls.

What’s up with all the massage shops? There are more massage shops on Guam that seems to be economically viable. Legit massage is for people with back-pain, athletes and rich people who want a quiet meditative experience while on vacation to contrast with their chaotic work life in the office. But there is a massage shop in every shopping center, many offering 24 hour service. Clearly these are massage/sex shops, a bit of googling confirms it. The Mrs won’t let me do further investigative journalism. As far as I can tell it is officially illegal but tolerated, I suspect because it is mostly non-local sex workers. It is too bad the local government doesn’t go ahead and legalize it. As long as it is illegal, there is serious risk of labor law abuse.

Hotels. The luxury hotels on Guam are architectural and engineering marvels. They are 20+ stories have to stand up to typhoon winds, earthquakes and depending on location, flooding. We are staying with family for 1/2 a month, but will be going to the Westin for a night. We have kids, so we had to get our room by talking to a human. We finally got a single king size bed for the four of us (two adults, a toddler and a baby), for $250. If you try to reserve online, it says a room for the same costs $850 and demands that the toddler and baby get their own queen beds, which is just stupid.

Climate and exercise. I can last about 15 minutes outside doing virtually sedentary activities before I start to sweat profusely. I try to do calisthenics when I can in the house and walk in the morning. Some neighborhoods are entirely walkable with sidewalks. Some neighborhoods are entirely unwalkable because of the lack of sidewalks and extremely heavy car traffic.

Activities with Kids. You can do the beach, but in short bursts, because of the extreme heat and intense sun. If you go to the beach you might want so called “tabi” shoes, which allow you to walk in the water without fear of cutting your feet on the sharp coral, shells and rocks. There are three malls, so you can do mall walking, but it isn’t a very authentic or novel experience. There is a kids’ train you can ride on at Micronesia Mall.

Playgrounds exist, but in full sun, you don’t see any kids. In other neighborhoods, there isn’t even a playground. There is an indoor play area we haven’t tried yet “Playport” and one of the malls has a play area for the five-or-so and under kids.

Buying Authentic Stuff. Guam’s non-government, non-military economy is entirely tourism service oriented, so not much appears to be produced on the island. This doesn’t stop shops from slapping the letters g-u-a-m on all sorts of things from German wine to Wisconsin beer to Hawaiian macadamia nuts to African coffee. Some of the most authentic stuff is the deserts, pickles, breads, tortillas that you buy in the convenience stores.

I happened to need a haircut and there is a haircut shop at every shopping plaza. I got a military cut and the son got a haircut despite him freaking out.

City-vs-Jungle. On one half of the island, it is all low density urban. One half is essentially jungle, where you see wild pigs darting about and if you wait long enough monitor lizards, brown tree snakes, cane toads and other invasive monsters.

Coffee. Authentic coffee is canned coffee at the convenience store. There are Starbucks-like coffee stores, but few people know how to pull an espresso shot, invariably you get a barely tamped puck and overdrawn by a factor of two or three. I’m hoping I can find the competent espresso shop so I can say, “so and so” has the best coffee on the island. I’m planning to get some whole bean Kona coffee before I head home.

One good thing to get is Boba tea, a popular Taiwanese drink. There are several authentic Boba tea shops where you can get a combinatorial explosion of different variations on tea. Many of them are powdered flavors, but if you are clever you can get brewed tea, non-powdered soy milk, tapioca. I liked the red-bean Boba milk tea which they said was non-dairy and it very well might be.