Saturday, November 5, 2022

[KOROR] How the Heck Did the Germans Get Here

Coming back from Saudi Arabia left me in a mini dilemma of sorts. You see, Saudi Arabia was country number 99 for me in the UN+ counting system and I had no more trips left for the year. But Yayaaaaaaaa, can’t we hit 100 before 2022 ends? Or better yet, before THIS WEEK ends? And so, I looked at my world map. The only country left within a two to three hour flight from Manila that I hadn’t visited yet was Palau. Well, sheesh, Yaya, we both know this is going to be effing expensive. And then Yaya showed me the credit card. Bad Yaya.

To those who are planning to go to Palau on a Philippine passport, we are visa-on-arrival. The visa is free and valid for 30 days. They start charging you $50 a pop every time you decide to extend that 30-day visa. In my case, there was no need. The visa to be stamped on your passport is an environmental pledge that takes up an entire page. United has a monopoly of the Manila - Koror route, by the way. No matter which gods you pray to, that airfare won’t drop to acceptable levels. Just book it and get it over with.

Because of some unfortunate event in another non-travel related aspect of my life that we will no longer discuss, I wasn’t even able to go island hopping. What was supposed to be celebratory made way for the somber and the gloomy. But I didn’t fly all the way here just to sulk, and so we made do of what we had. Staying for four days, I only ever got to walk all the way to Koror’s neighboring island Malakal, which had a decent vantage point from up its highest hill. I also visited the museum and the aquarium.

The star attraction of Palau is definitely the Rock Islands which are home to the Jellyfish Lake and a cove referred to as the Milky Way where you soak yourself in mud with healthy properties before jumping into the crystal clear water. The tour group was asking for $200 for that full-day trip along with a $100 environmental fee levied by the government of Palau on top of that. I decided to say No Deal because contrary to popular belief, I don’t shit gold. We’ll just come back next time, maybe with friends, to try that itinerary, hmmmkay?

The national museum was small and rather unimpressive but packs enough history lessons for you to get to know the country better. As I found out, Palau was actually a German colony. Say what? How Deutschland reached these islands so far east could’ve been anybody’s guess, but apparently this was part of Spain’s divestment plan. Remember when the Spaniards lost the Spanish-American War and had to sell Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to ‘MERICA? Well, Palau also belonged to them and they sold it along with the neighboring Caroline Islands for 17 Million Deutschmarks to the Germans. Wow.

The Germans then lost Palau in the aftermath of WWI when Japan entered the war in the Pacific theater and got hold of Germany’s island properties. Ironically, Japan lost the islands to the United States one war later when the US joined WWII after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Karma. What a biatch. After this, Palau played a cat and mouse game as to whether they wanted to be annexed by Uncle Sam before they decided to just be independent. Bowing to four colonizers must have been pretty exhausting.

Nowadays, Palau relies heavily on what its neighboring islands in the Pacific are also dependent on. Tourism. Suffice it to say that the islands haven’t fully recovered from the pandemic just yet. Given how most of the tourists here are composed of the Japanese who are staying at home because of the weak Yen and the Chinese who are staying at home because they are still locked down, what was once a capital brimming with East Asian tourists now looks like a ghost town comprised of local Palauans and migrant Filipino workers.

The aquarium entrance fee is $5 and rightfully so because there isn’t much to see. It is a collection of outdoor tanks that resemble infinity pools full of colorful marine life. Since it is in the open, it is actually a nice spot to just chill on the grass and ogle the beach. Anyway, what I suggest is to rent a car if ever you decide to come here. Drive to the new capital Melekeok or just explore various beaches far from the crowds. Your call. As for me, we’ll meet each other again some other time Palau. Properly, next time. For now, just be my 100th.

[KOROR] How the Heck Did the Germans Get Here

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