Dropped into Saipan in the dead of night – starry skies, the blackness of the sea greeted us – disturbed only by the lights emanating from this small island. I had only done cursory research before our visit here and after speaking for nearly 2 hours to my seatmate who lives here now – I wasn’t really sure what to expect. He spoke of sweat shops (now extinct), high alcoholism, a hub for smuggling drugs in from China, unemployment, gambling addictions, prior scandals…the list went on.
When I told people we were going to Saipan they responded with the “g” word – as in needing to reach for Google. Some geography and history is in order. Saipan is located in the northern Mariana’s, a fairly remote (from the USA and Europe) and hard to get to group of islands in the Pacific well north of Papua New Guinea and East of the Philippines. It is about a 40 minute plane ride from Guam and about a 3 hour plane ride from Tokyo. This is a territory of the United States. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on the globe – this trench runs past many of the Mariana Islands and its nearest part is just a short distance off Saipan’s Eastern shores.
Like Palau which we visited earlier in the year Saipan has been influenced and controlled by the Spanish, German and Japanese. In the mid 1970’s it became a territory of the United States.
Tomorrow its off to explore!