August 08, 2013

Palau, Micronesia

This time 3 years ago, I was in Palau visiting Jason for almost a month while he was there for the Peace Corps. Basically, Palau is paradise (like really- pristine beaches, no natural disasters happen there, not really a lot of poisonous or dangerous animals...) and it's definitely one of my favorite places I've ever been. We eventually want to go back some day.

I dug through my archives on my old blog to find this post I did on my trip there. This was written 3 years ago, but I thought it was a pretty well-detailed account of my trip to Palau. Hope you enjoy & that it makes you want to visit there, too!
Palau: The Details
(from Sept. 5, 2010)
Palau /pəˈlaʊ/, officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau), is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles (800 km) east of the Philippines and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) south of Tokyo.

This time last year, I never thought I would get to travel to the South Pacific, let alone a place called Palau. I mean, what's Palau? Jason became a volunteer in the Peace Corps around this time last year. When he told me where he was going, I had to look it up. When I saw the pictures, I was amazed by how beautiful it looked. And I thought to myself "Wow, it'd be so awesome to go there." But not one ounce of me really thought about it further than that. I was just happy for Jason and knew he'd have an awesome time.

We kept in touch through letters, e-mail and the rare phone call. The more he told me about Palau, the more I wanted to go. But still, I never took those desires seriously. Mostly because I had already checked out airplane tickets (just out of curiosity!) and they were WAY out of my price range at the time.

Finally, some time in April when I was trying to figure out my travel plans for the summer, Jason and I discussed that it would be a good idea to go to Palau (after some discussions, arguments, etc.). And so I booked my flight.

My flight was to leave Tuesday July 20th around 6pm from LAX. And I was to get to Palau on Thursday July 22nd around 10 pm. In total, it would be about a 35.5 hour flight (with layovers). I was not stoked about that part, to say the least.

When I boarded the plane in LAX, it hadn't hit me that I was actually doing this. I was just mostly anxious to get the whole process over with & be in Palau already and see Jason. When I land in Honolulu, I have a 9 hour layover there. Yes, 9 hours. I didn't want to pay for a hotel room for just a couple of hours, so I decide to just sleep in the airport. I must say, it was the most uncomfortable sleep I ever had. And the airport is open, so it's hot & humid. And there were some mosquitoes around, so I have to cover myself, which made me even hotter & more uncomfortable. ( I couldn't sleep inside because they kicked me out). But on a more positive note, my flight was at 7am. I had never wanted 7am to come sooner ever in my life.

From Honolulu we flew to Guam. But on the way there, we had 5 stopovers. We stopped at 5 different little islands. And when I mean little, I mean little. Some were Marshall Islands, some were other Micronesian Islands. Here is a video of us landing on one of the islands:

It looked like we were going to land on the water & the landing strip looked really short (on every one of the islands). But the aerial views were just breathtaking:

So we finally get to Guam. As I sat there, I was listening to the languages the people around me were speaking. Now usually, I'm pretty good at recognizing different languages. But this time, I couldn't recognize anything at all. It wasn't like anything I had heard before. I knew it had to be Palauan or some other Pacific Island language (and by looking at the people around me, I was most likely right). And since we were waiting at the gate for the flight to go to Palau- I just put two and two together and I knew it had to be Palauan.

Now at this point, I was getting more antsy & excited. The flight from Guam to Palau was only about 2 hours. While I was walking off the plane after landing in Palau, I had butterflies in my stomach. This had been the longest I had gone without seeing Jason. I was just full of excitement. So after going through customs, I walked downstairs where I knew everyone would be waiting. All these thoughts were going through my head "What do I do when I see him?" "What do I say?" etc. etc.

So I turn the corner to where the stairs are, and as I'm heading down, I try to find Jason in the crowd. I look left, right, left, right.... I don't see him. And I know he's not hard to miss. So I'm like "Ok, he's probably hiding so he can scare me or make me look dumb" (which he's done before, bytheway). So I play it off, and just walk towards the back to lean against a wall. When I find a spot, I'm expecting him to pop out somewhere. Fifteen minutes later, people are asking me if I'm ok and if I need a ride or need to use the telephone. I reply with a smile and say no thank you, my ride's coming. Ten minutes after that, I start to worry. Jason had given me the name of a hotel just in case of an emergency and a list of phone numbers. I thought I was going to have to use them. I go sit outside. He finally arrives... and walks right past me! He didn't even see me. I had to yell & run after him. But it was all good, I was just so happy (and relieved!) to see him.

The next four weeks were some of the best weeks of my life.

The first few days, Jason 'let' me deal with my jet lag. We didn't do anything too strenuous. We went to an aquarium, hung out around the house....

Here is where Jason lives (his host parents' house).

This is the elementary school Jason teaches at (Aimeliik Elementary School). He teaches 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th grade.

Here's a map of Palau.

Jason prepping me some fresh coconut.

So delicious! I love it!

We hiked to this spot that had an amazing view.

And we got to watch the sunset.
So they have this cat. And people in Palau don't name their cats or dogs, they just call them "cat" or "dog." I'm not a huge cat fan, in fact I hate cats. But when I hung out with their cat, I had a change of heart. Maybe only for this cat. And I named him Kitty Bang. He was just the coolest cat. He was affectionate, followed Jason and I around, and he even caught a snake!

Kitty Bang & the snake he caught.

So we finally go on our first adventure- trekking through the jungle to a waterfall. Jason had told me that the first time he went to this waterfall, he had gone with other Peace Corps volunteers & they had to machete their way there. So I asked him if I should wear pants because it sounded pretty rough. He told me no, shorts would be ok.

I should've known better....

So we go and Matt & Amanda come along with us. It starts raining. I didn't mind that. It made the trek much cooler and the mosquitoes weren't around. So at first it didn't seem that bad, but then the brush started to get rougher and so did the mud. My sandals (yes, I was wearing shorts & sandals) kept getting stuck in the mud. And there was this one plant in particular that was all around, it had like razor-sharp edges on it... there was tons of it. . . So we finally get to the waterfall, which was absolutely beautiful, so it made the rough trek all worth it....

Here's the waterfall.
So we hang out there, eat lunch and whatnot. It was nice, the water was cool, but not cold. It felt good. The guys had gone in to swim & jump off the waterfall, and as they were swimming back, I was about to jump in too when all of a sudden Matt goes "Ow, what was that?!" and Jason starts doing the same thing. I'm like what the heck? Apparently there were some hungry fish in the water nibbling at them, and I was like "Nope, I ain't going in there anymore!" So I was just able to have my feet & legs in the water. After a while, we make the trek back. I was trying to ignore all the pain my body was going through because I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. And I come home, to find my legs looking like this:

And believe me, it was WAY WORSE in person. It was gross. Both of my legs stung for the next 3 days non-stop. I just had to put aloe vera on them and wait for the pain to subside. I still have scars today from this.

The following weekend me, Jason, Matt & Amanda head to this little island off of Kayangel. We got on this little boat and took a 2-hour ride to Kayangel.

Amanda, Matt & Jason on our way to Kayangel.

The boat was pretty small, stuffed with people & everyone's stuff. But I didn't care- I was just amazed by the views and the super clear water.

After two hours, we arrive at Kayangel and we walked around there for a while:

Kayangel is a pretty small island that we could've easily walked around the entire perimeter in a few hours. So after walking around there, we head on another little boat to an outer island:

The island 2nd from the right is where we stayed.
The smaller island where we were headed was owned by this guy named Lazerus. He took us 4 on his boat, dropped us off, and left us there for the weekend. We had the whole island to ourselves for the next 3 days. And it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had never seen water so clear in my entire life. The sand was just so white and you could go snorkeling just a few feet from the shore and find so much fish, coral, etc. It was just incredible.

The summer house we stayed at. Me & Jason slept on cardboard, Matt & Amanda had an air mattress.

The men doing the cooking in the "kitchen"

Coconut time!

The sand was just covered with thousands of these hermit crabs!

The water was just so beautiful!

Watching the sunset.

During the second day we were there, Lazerus came & brought us 4 HUGE lobsters and a huge fish he had just spear-fished for us. It was so delicious!

These are the lobsters. They were big! And delicious!

This is the fish Lazerus brought us. This picture doesn't do it justice, because it was huge, too!

So we immediatley cooked it all up for lunch, and it was so heavenly delicious, especially the lobster tail!

Lunch time!

During low tide, you can see  - and walk on- the sand bar. You could even walk to the neighboring island.
Here's a view from the sandbar looking towards our island.

On the sandbar, this time looking from our island out.

Jason & I on the sandbar during high tide.

So over the weekend we did a lot of chillin and hanging out in what we called paradise.

Matt, Amanda, me and Jason.

And then we had to say goodbye to paradise.... for now.
A few days after our weekend in paradise, Jason & I hiked to another waterfall. This time the trail had a set path (somewhat). And part of the trek we had to be in the river. It was a lot of fun, and the waterfall felt good. Apparently, this waterfall is the largest in Palau, and maybe in Micronesia even.

The river leading to the waterfall.

Here's the waterfall.

There are a lot of waterholes/ natural swimming pools in the river, so Jason had to take advantage:

After our hike, we went to this place where there are monoliths. No one knows exactly where they came from, what they were used for, etc. They're kind of mysterious, huge pieces of stone.

One day, we spent a whole day out on a boat tour. It was so fun! We toured some of the Rock Islands, went to Jellyfish Lake, and the Milkyway, while stopping to snorkel at different spots between each place. It was awesome!
On the boat.
We made several stops where there was really good snorkeling. We saw huge fish, small fish, brightly colored fish, brightly colored coral, even a few sharks! It was amazing. And the fish weren't even scared, they would swim right up to you, or right past you like you were just one of them.

At one of our stops for lunch. This place also had sharks!
After lunch, we headed to Jellyfish Lake. It was what I was waiting for all day! It's this huge lake filled with thousands and thousands of sting-less jellyfish. It was such an incredible experience! I was just surrounded by all these cool looking jellyfish. We poked at them, touched them. I wasn't freaked out at all going into the lake and seeing them or touching them. The only thing that did freak me out is when one would brush up against me unexpectedly. But it was definitely one of the most awesome things I've ever done, and that's saying a lot because I have done a lot of awesome things.

They were everywhere!

After Jeyllyfish Lake, the camera died, so we didn't get to take pictures or video of the rest of our day. We went to this place to snorkel that had Giant Clams. And when I say Giant, I mean GIANT! They were so huge! Our tour guide, this Palauan guy who was pretty built & tall, dove down and actually sat in an empty shell of one of these giant clams. Jason did it too. And they completely fit inside these things, that's how big they are!

After that, we went to the Milkyway. It's located between some of the Rock Islands. This spot has some sort of nutrient-filled substance that the ocean floor is covered in. The belief is that it's kind of the fountain of youth-- if you spread this stuff all over you, you will look younger. So everyone jumped in and we all spread the stuff all over our bodies. Too bad the camera ran out of battery, because it would've made for some good photos! We all looked so ridiculous!

On our boat, there was a family from Switzerland, a girl from Saipan and a couple from Spain. Jason got so excited when we found out that couple was from Spain! He doesn't get to use his Spanish much while in Palau, so he took total advantage of the situation. They were really cool people (as most Spaniards are). And we come to find out that they actually live in Manila, Philippines. So Jason was extra stoked on that. After our whole tour extravaganza, we hung out with them & got their contact information. The day was a total blast & so much fun!

During my last couple of weeks in Palau, we didn't do anything spectacular, mostly because we had done mostly all the "touristy" things you could do in Palau. And school was starting soon, so Jason had to prep for that. I was there when school started, so I was able to go with Jason and see what it's like to teach English to second-language learners (which is what I want to do after I graduate). So I got my feet wet a little bit.

I was extremely sad to leave, I didn't want to one bit. Yes, I cried. A lot. I looked like a hot mess in the airport, for sure. My month in Palau was just incredible. And I want to thank Jason for everything-- for taking care of me, for showing me around, for being an awesome host, and especially for being my best friend.

I know this post was long. But not many people asked me "So, tell me about your trip..." Which actually made me kind of sad ( I didn't want to tell my stories if people weren't interested. So don't ask, don't tell- that's how I am). I mean, a lot of people saw my pictures and videos, but I wasn't able to tell my stories behind everything. This post gave me that chance.

I do some awesome things in my life, and I'm so grateful for the many opportunities I have to do such amazing, life-changing things. If I can inspire just one person to go out and travel & see what a life-changing experience it really is & how addicting it can be, than I feel like I have done my job.

I'm going to keep doing me and travel until I die. Now it's on to the next adventure...


As you can tell, this was written when J & I were in some kind of weird, limbo stage in our relationship. But, shortly after my trip to Palau, Jason came back to the States & proposed to me. So everything worked out. =)

If you want to see the videos we made in Palau, you can click here. They're probably better than this post and they include a lot more detail.

So, would you like to ever visit Palau? 
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  1. How fun! I loved reading all about your adventures and the pictures were amazing, especially the sunsets and Jellyfish Lake. Even the not-so-fun parts (sleeping in an airport and leg scars) of traveling can become a great story later on, like for your blog readers!

  2. What a totally amazing time in paradise (minus the super sharp plants). I am so jealous of those giant lobsters you got to eat. They look so delicious! I loved your under water shots. Mine never come out that good :) Stopping by from Travel Tuesdays and am excited to explore!

    1. The lobsters were amazing! Thanks for stopping by-- I've been following your blog for a while now & love it!

  3. Wow, you are so adventurous! This looks like the trip of a lifetime. I'm eager for a beach vacation after seeing your pictures ;)

  4. Oh yes I love fresh coconut too! Probably my favourite thing I miss about island living. Thank you for sharing so many great travel photos for our Travel tuesday link up!

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  6. I knew Jason when I was 7th and 8th grade. He was my best teacher ever, we use to call him Malsol because they name him after the man that died in our village. I talked to him sometimes on facebook. He was favorite singer, he used to sing palauan song, I was proud of him when he sang our anthem, Cause he really know how to speak Palauan. Im from Aimeliik and Jason used to live a bit away from me. Jason was my Music teacher, and he really can beatbox, I was so amazed. I missed Palau so much, and I just heard that there was a typhoon there like this month November 2013, it destroy the school that me and Jason used to go to. I miss those fun day's with Jason, we used to play basketball, with all the boys and girls. I've been in Palau for my whole life till Last year 2012 I cam to U.S...and I miss back home and everyone. Thanks for sharing the pictures, they are sure pretty, and the the food there are really delicious....Hope you guy's did enjoy! From-Starline kitalong--->


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