Pale (pronounced “pah-lee”) is Chamorro for priest (derived from padre, the Spanish word for father) and Pale Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Spanish Jesuit, was the first Catholic priest on Guam. He arrived in 1668 and immediately began converting the local natives. In 1672 he baptized the daughter of a local chieftain with her mother’s permission but not her father’s who became furious when he heard the news the next day and murdered the priest. Both the baptism and the priest’s death occurred near where the Guam Reef Hotel stands today on the road that parallels Tumon Beach and is often referred to as Hotel Row. Its official name, though, is Pale San Vitores Road and we walked up and down the street several times during our two-week stay in Guam last month.
The two northernmost hotels on Tumon Bay are the Japanese-owned Nikko and the Korean-owned Lotte. Both hotels are on Gun Beach Road. The Westin (where we stayed) sits at the intersection of Gun Beach Road and San Vitores which starts at Marine Drive (according to all of the maps and the local TV traffic news the correct name is Marine Corps Drive but all the locals just call it Marine Drive, its original name) and then goes down the hill to meet Gun Beach and then makes a sharp turn to the left and proceeds along Tumon Bay until it reaches the Hilton at the south end of the bay and opposite the Nikko at the north end. We drove the length of San Vitores several times but only walked the two-block stretch between the Westin and the Outrigger hotels.
The entrance to the Westin from San Vitores is on the hotel’s sixth floor. You then have to either walk down the stairs to the fifth floor lobby or drive down the ramp to the parking garage’s top floor which is adjacent to the lobby. The hotel ‘s pool is off the first floor and then it’s just a few steps to the beach. The entrance to the Outrigger down the street, though, is at beach level and you must take an elevator or escalator up one floor to both the lobby and the pool.
There are 40 hotels on Guam. Half of them are in Tumon along San Vitores. Tumon Bay is the Miami Beach of Guam and Pale San Vitores Road is its Vegas Strip. You can see the glitz of Guam on San Vitores but also the seediness. There are some similarities to my hometown of San Francisco where you can wander a block from the prestigious hotels and shops on Union Square and find yourself in another world called the Tenderloin.
Tourism accounts for more than half of Guam’s economy and the heart of tourism on Guam is this north and central portion of San Vitores Road. Someone (probably some member of the Guam Visitors Bureau) has given this area the name of Pleasure Island. It’s a little glitzy. A little tacky. A little seedy. There are some concerns. There are some controversies. Japanese tourism is down a tad. But Korean tourism is up. Some people say the massage parlors and strip joints must go. Others point out the considerable revenue obtained from these places. And some people are pushing for gambling casinos to bring in more revenue.
We’ll see how things go.
Breaking News Update: The islands of Micronesia are in an area of the Pacific called Typhoon Alley. Tropical Storm Bavi damaged portions of Saipan and Tinian earlier this year. Typhoon Maysak wreaked havoc on Yap a few days before we landed on Guam last month. As I finish uploading this posting I hear that Typhoon Dolphin is bearing down on Guam. Good Luck to all the friendly people of Guam — I think that includes just about everyone who lives on the island!