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.|
|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.|
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 summer house we stayed at. Me & Jason slept on cardboard, Matt & Amanda had an air mattress.|
|The men doing the cooking in the "kitchen"|
|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!
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.|
|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.|
|At one of our stops for lunch. This place also had sharks!|
|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?