Photo Of The Day: Guam Beach Bar

Photo of the day - Guam beach bar
Flickr, pkorsmok/Peter Rood

There’s something about a bar on vacation that relaxes us. It could be a fancy hotel bar, an unassuming neighborhood watering hole or a trendy nightclub; and it can be friendly and chatty, or anonymous and discreet. Perhaps it’s comforting to know that our cocktails are made more or less the same the world wide, there’s nearly always another person to strike up a conversation with if you need local tips, and there’s far less social etiquette and customs to break than in a restaurant. The bar in today’s Photo of the Day is on Gun Beach in Guam, a place foreign to many Americans even though it’s part of our larger nation. Flickr user Peter Rood notes that it’s a “great place to grab a beer after diving and watch the sunset.” The patrons in this bar could be tourists or natives, but everyone looks comfortable and relaxed, whether or not anyone knows their name.

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‘Guam: The New Maldives’ and other Chinese tourism trends

guam chinese tourismIn 2012, trips originating from China will comprise an estimated 8 percent of total world travel. The China Tourism Academy estimates that 80 million Chinese residents will travel overseas, spending an estimated US$80 billion. That’s a significant chunk of the market.

In a recent article, CNNGo’s Shanghai editor Tracy You set out to demystify the Chinese traveler and predict the future of Chinese outbound tourism. Among her observations:

Many of the newer Chinese tourists are middle class. Travel is no longer reserved for the wealthy; more students and people from the working class are now venturing abroad. You predicts packed economy-class hotels in major tourism markets during traditional Chinese holidays like Spring Festival, summer vacations and early October.

Shopping is important, but so is nature. While Chinese tourists have a reputation for being shopaholics, most actually express a desire to explore natural settings and island escapes.

Cameras and Chinese menus are must-haves. A top priority for Chinese travelers is to photograph and be photographed, You reports. And while many stick to food they’re familiar with, many are willing to try local food if given ordering advice and menus in Chinese.

More Chinese are traveling independently. While tour groups are still the most convenient and common way for Chinese people to travel, more people are venturing out on their own or in small groups. You predicts that more Chinese will join the traditional backpacking routes of Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia.

Guam is the next big Chinese tourism destination. The United States island territory is already a popular getaway for Japanese and Korean tourists, and it has the natural beauty, shopping and island atmosphere that many Chinese tourists crave. You says that with the right infrastructure, it could join the Maldives as a top destination in the coming years.

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James Cameron to dive the Mariana Trench

The deepsea submersible used by James CameronLegendary director James Cameron is no stranger to big adventures. After all he is the man responsible for bringing such Hollywood hits as Titanic and Avatar to the silver screen. Last week Cameron announced plans for a big adventure of his own, saying he now plans to dive to the lowest point on the planet, which is found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Located in the Pacific Ocean, the mysterious trench stretches 1580 miles in length and plunges nearly seven miles below the Earth’s surface. Using specially designed equipment, Cameron plans to spend about six hours at the Challenger Deep, the absolute lowest point inside the trench. While there he’ll collect samples for use in research in marine biology, microbiology, geology, and a host of other scientific fields.

Cameron has partnered with National Geographic and Rolex for this expedition, which he calls “DeepSea Challenge.” The filmmaker plans to shoot the entire experience with 3D HD cameras for use in a future documentary on the voyage, which will be made in a submersible that has been specifically built to withstand the incredible pressures that exist inside the trench. That vehicle was built by Cameron and his team and has already been tested to a depth of five miles.The bottom of the Mariana Trench has only been visited by humans on one previous occasion. In January of 1960 ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made their way to those incredible depths where they were surprised to find a number of lifeforms thriving.

There is no specific date set for Cameron’s dive, but he is currently in Guam making last minute preparations. Follow the entire adventure on the DeepSea Challenge website.

[Photo courtesy National Geographic]


Souvenirs: Anatomy of a prized possession from the road

souvenirsSouvenirs are difficult for travel writers. We travel too often to be slapdash with souvenir selection, for one. Some frequent travelers focus on a particular thing: snow globes, pens, local magazines, liqueur, rugs, candy.

Others ignore the self entirely and redirect the impulse, choosing to make souvenir purchases for their friends, family, and neighbors.

Me? I like beach towels. I’m picky, mind you. Few make it into my collection. Those that do, however, are true prized possessions.

As souvenirs go, beach towels are extremely useful. They can do service as standard towels when bath towels are not available. They are great for beach runs in the position of reserve towel. (Who wants to dry off with a sandy towel?) And they can be washed and dried quickly and used over and over again.

I’ve got some doozies. There’s the grotesque print of the Titanic movie poster on a beach towel I bought in Croatia in 1998. It’s held up remarkably well, despite the thinness of its material. The likenesses of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are barely recognizable, their skin tones inaccurately flan-like in a loveably inarguable instance of copyright infringement. And now, almost 15 years after Titanic hit theaters, it’s also got an undeniable near-retro cache. Bonus.

There’s another beach towel in my collection from the Balkans, purchased several years later, an enormous beach towel patterned with a replica of the €500 bill in all of its pink and purple glory. I’ve never held a €500 bill in my hands, but I can relax upon a blown-up version of it, even if a French friend once pronounced it “kitsch” with a sniff.

And then there’s the crowning glory of my beach towel collection, a yellow and red number with the slogan “Wipe out in Guam” in a Flintstones-like font above a figure of a hapless purple-skinned surfer sailing through the air.

The thing is, I’ve never been to Guam.

I bought the towel on Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, an island I visited with my high school friend Mike. We stayed in a cheap motel without beach towels. Finding ourselves on a perfect beach island without beach towels, we promptly headed to the nearest store to rectify the situation. Sorting through a stack of BVI-specific towels, we found a handful of specimens clearly supposed to have been included in a shipment to Guam. We both snapped one up, to the marked surprise of the shop owner.

The material of the towel is thin but wiry, almost viscous. Structurally speaking, it’s not a great towel. But it’s got a back story and an in-built hilarity. What more does a souvenir need?

Video of the Day: Guam, where America’s day begins

Each year, more than a million people visit the Pacific island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States located in Micronesia. This video shows why: breathtaking sunsets, beautiful beaches, fantastic diving, a vibrant tourist district, tropical flora and fauna, and a unique culture influenced by Spanish colonization, Japanese occupation, and now American control.

I’m also biased; as a native Chamorro who was raised in Guam, I am well familiar with everything my home island has to offer.

Despite the fact that tourism is Guam’s largest industry, not too many people outside of the main tourist markets of Japan and East Asia are familiar with the island. In the United States, most people I encounter know that Guam is home to major American military bases, but not much else. This video, combined with the photo gallery below, provide a brief introduction.

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