Are you planning a dive trip to Chuuk!? Great, here are some basic things you need to know that the guidebooks won’t tell you. Oh wait, there isn’t a guidebook!
If you aren’t a diver or at least a snorkeler, you may want to choose a different island, as there isn’t much else to do. Yes, it is a lush, mountainous island that likely contains beautiful waterfalls with panoramic scenes and who knows what else. We don’t know because there isn’t a tour company that offers hikes. Chuuk is famous for it’s diving and that’s what they cater to. You want to hike dense jungles and find both natural and man-made beauty? Then go to Pohnpei.
(If you aren’t thinking about visiting Chuuk, stay tuned for my next post wherein I tell you why you should!)
WHERE TO STAY
Really, there are only two choices on the main island of Weno. There’s the Truk Stop located right in town, close to the airport and there is Blue Lagoon Resort. It’s located a few miles out of town and it’s a full service, luxury resort, at least by Chuuk standards. (While it is only a few miles out of town, it takes about 30-45 minutes to get there because of the horrid road conditions.) This is a tiny island, they do what they can, but don’t go expecting it to be the Hilton. Yes, there are other hotels on the island, but trust me when I say, don’t stay there!
OTHER ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
For the hard core diver with money to burn, there are live-aboard dive boats that offer a variety of options from nightly to weekly rates. If you want a real Robinson Crusoe experience, Blue Lagoon Resort has camping facilities and small huts on a few of the smaller islands that can be rented. Don’t worry, they will also make sure you survive your stay and do most, if not all the heavy lifting.
Both Truk Stop and Blue Lagoon have their own dive operation and they are equally good. Pretty much everyone goes to the same wrecks and they all know what they are doing. I did not book this part of the trip — it was booked by a friend and we went through Blue Lagoon. The most famous wrecks are the San Francisco Maru and the Fujikama Maru and are a must-see. The tour guides are friendly and flexible. If there is something you want to see, they will take you without any problem!
Bring some books! As I said, there isn’t much to do if you aren’t going on the water. I would recommend going out on the boat. Chances are good your captain will stop off at some little deserted island and you can play castaway for a bit. There isn’t much to do in ‘downtown’ Moen. There’s a small grocery shop with basic supplies and locally made items (don’t leave without a few pieces of local jewelry). You can buy a new green coconut for $1. Other than that, there isn’t much. None of the hotels have swimming pools, there are no beaches and Internet is spotty at best.
Yeah, right! Now that is a joke. There are a few taxis and they mostly hang out at the airport. If you are feeling daring, you can rent a car. If you have a death wish, you can rent a scooter. I don’t know if I can really emphasize how bad the roads are on the island. There are potholes the size of compact cars. The speed limit may be 25, but you can’t go more then 5-10 mph without jarring your own teeth out. On the 45-minute drive out to Blue Lagoon, people walked past us! Not to mention that since this is a tropical island, the dirt roads are always wet and muddy — there is no such thing as traction. If you rent a car, get insurance! The most common form of transportation is walking. Everyone walks everywhere. When you arrive with all your gear, take a taxi to your hotel, then hoof it from there — you won’t be going far anyway.
CUSTOM AND CULTURE
Chuuk is a very conservative, male-dominated Pacific Island culture, as are most of the Micronesian islands. It is considered highly immodest for a woman to show too much skin, especially her thighs. Women should never wear shorts or short skirts. When out in a bathing suit, you should always cover up with a shirt (not a white one!) I bought a Chuukese skirt from the little store as soon as I got there. I wore it and a shirt over my bathing suit. I’d take the skirt off before going for our dive and put it on when we got close to land again.
Keep in mind, if you talk to a member of the opposite sex (especially if you are a woman) it will probably be considered an invitation for a more serious relationship. Prepare to receive some marriage proposals. Be firm, but very kind in your rejection. Be careful not to bruise egos!
For the most part, locals are friendly or they keep their distance from tourists. However, walking around at night is not advised and can lead to trouble. Alcoholism is rampant on the island, as is the use of betel-nut. Betel-nut is a little green nut that grows on certain types of palm trees. When mixed with lime (the mineral, not the fruit) it has a psychoactive effect. It also stains the teeth red like blood, giving a fierce, cannibal look. There are signs all over the place that say “No Spitting.” They are usually covered with a dark red stain that looks like blood.
MY HOTEL STAY AND WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST ME
After a rather long flight, we got into Chuuk around 8 p.m. and took a taxi to our hotel, which was mercifully close to the airport, within walking distance actually. We checked in to the hotel that shall remain nameless (if you trust me, you don’t need to know the name, I gave you the only two options). We dropped our bags in our room and headed to the local restaurant. One thing all the islands have is amazing seafood! After an enjoyable dinner we were all ready to crash.
However, when we got to the room we opened the door just in time to see some rather large cockroaches scurrying under the bed. Hmmm, well, this is the tropics, one must expect bugs. However, there is only one type of roach I don’t mind sharing a room with and that is a dead one. So with vigorous effort and firm determination, we hunted them down and employed the time-honored method of a rolled up newspaper. We also took the precaution of zipping up our suitcases tight, even wrapping them in black plastic bags. We celebrated a minor victory over the insects and were about to call it a night, when lo – what is this? At least three unvanquished enemies! Again, the hunt was on, but it seemed for every enemy we crushed, two more came out of the woodwork. So, we put the newspaper down and walked to the nearest store. There we bought enough roach killer to launch a chemical attack on a small country. (The roach killer was made in China, I couldn’t read much of the ingredient list, but I got Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane — DDT — loud and clear. It didn’t matter — this was war.)
When we returned to the room, we launched a full scale attack, spraying down every corner, every crevice, under beds and furniture. We missed nothing. Yes, we may have gassed ourselves in the process, but we were winning! We had to evacuate the room for a few minutes to let the chemical cloud settle, while we heartily congratulated ourselves on a job well done. This time when we entered our room, all was quiet except for the dripping evidence of our warfare. Job well done, indeed! The peace lasted for a solid 10 minutes and then they came — every size roach known to man, from the little German cockroach to their much larger brothers, which we dubbed the B52 bombers. They came in full force, numbers uncountable. They zipped around the room in a fury of wings and antenna. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what happened after that. I went running, screaming out of the room and down the hall. I am told, by those that bravely stayed behind to fight the horde, that it was a battle of epic proportions. It finally ended under the heels of strong shoes and rolled up magazines. By this time, it was too late to switch hotels, so we attempted to sleep. Obviously, we left the light on. When the bulb blew at about 3 a.m., I nearly cried. I could almost feel the scratchy little legs crawling all over me! It was the longest night of my life.