Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rota is a great place to chill out, MV 16

Seasoned travelers often cite a lack of other travelers as the standard of purity and desirability in a location. So talk like "Bali was great before all the tourists arrived" becomes typical travel boilerplate. If people really mean it when they cite unspoiled as a draw, then they'd do well to spend time in tranquil Rota as I recently did.
Rota felt calm and relaxing from a Saipan resident's chilled out mindset. For someone from Tokyo or Seoul, it must be an oasis of uniminaginable peacefulness. I've lived, worked or traveled in those bustling cities and firmly believe those overworked people would relish the opportunity to be somewhere without any pollution or traffic lights, and more importantly, few people and beaches all to themselves. To get to the East Coast Korean beaches from Seoul in summer involves hours of traffic to get to a wildly crowded beach where you have enough room to lay out and relax if you fit on a book of postage stamps. Korean beaches in high season are about as comfortable as a intercontinental flight in coach between two flatulent Sumo wrestlers. To our core travel market, Rota should feel like a VIP pass to the Playboy Mansion, not the 200 meter crawl over glass shards they’re used to undergoing in order to cool off and relax.

My friends and I pretty much had the whole Coconut Village to ourselves, which was a clean, nice and reasonably priced lodging site near the Rota swimming hole where I took a late night swim and saw a small meteor shower over a night sky that redefined spectacular.

My primary draw to Rota was the clear, pristine underwater environment, so I hauled my dive gear over and did a few dives and saw what sure looked like the world's largest moray eel. The Rota Hole, the best of the four dives, offered a spectacular backdrop of light and dark through underwater cracks in the earth. The reefs appeared healthy and lightly taxed given the small population and the water warm with its famous visibility indeed a reality. As a diving location, Rota offers three wrecks, as well as walls, drift dives and the aforementioned Rota Hole. If nearby Rota doesn't get some spillover from the lousy yet burgeoning Guam diving market, as well as general Guam tourism, there is a major marketing and advertising debacle going on in a place that seems to be extremely poorly marketed. The recently passed Rota Casino Initiative hopefully won't harm Rota’s prime virtue -- its calmness.

Sandra Atalig, an administrative specialist at the Rota branch of Marianas Visitors Administration, said that island serenity is still the main lure to the island. "We want to promote the tranquility. We want people to enjoy the relaxation. It's about coming here and just relaxing. Tourists are really into exploring the beach side and the friendliness of the people, as well as the peacefulness and lack of traffic. Tourists are not worried about being robbed -- they feel safe." Atalig noted that arrivals have been up slightly of late with the Rota fiesta and triathlon. However, it is hard not to notice that business in Rota is suffering terribly. Abandoned houses and businesses are prevalent. Downtown Songsong makes the Paseo de Marianas look like a Hong Kong shopping district.
I made one other trip to Rota a few years ago when the Attorney General's Cup was held there, and thought the place had a distinct cultural feel to it. All the public events were conducted in both Chamorro and English, which makes the place feel a lot different from Saipan. Rota probably isn't going to attract bacchanalian twentysomethings, but for older travelers who want a place to relax, read, swim, fish, golf and explore the underwater world, Rota is a wonder.

After sitting idle for nearly 18 years, the revolving 360 Restaurant at the Marianas Business Plaza is now operational. I visited Friday night and thought it pretty good. They are also now open for lunch. Associate Manager Rick Jones said the restaurant has gotten good support so far and jogged the memories of patrons who remember going there in the 80s. Jones described the food as "American style with an international flair" and said the investors thought it was a unique business opportunity, noting the 360 Saipan panorama offered to diners. "The view during the day is fantastic. At night you don't see the ocean, but the atmosphere is stylish,” Jones said.
This column, not necessarily this blog, will go on Christmas break for two weeks. I wish all my readers Happy Holidays.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thought at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

1 comment:

~Gwen~ said...

Hafa Adai!! I'm from the beautiful and friendly Island of Rota~"LUTA"!!
I am very thankful for the wonderful comments about my hometown!! On behalf of the islanders, we are appreciative of your stay and hope you could visit us again soon!!
Thank you~"Si Yu'us Ma'ase"

Gwendolyn Q. Maratita