Saipan AP- Saipan, in the Northern Marianas Islands exposed...

its the World’s best place to be a little boy.

Saipan is the capital of the US Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and is absolutely the best place on earth to be a little boy. 

Saturday, I grabbed the camera to document a day in the life of one little boy on Saipan, and we headed out early to celebrate Dane Hodges 4th birthday.(Dane Hodges comes up for air, Saipan, CNMI)

Many Americans have never heard of the Northern Marianas Islands, where America starts her day.  Some US citizens are unaware of the Battle of Saipan as the key to WWII in the Pacific, and oblivious to the US Marine efforts to unseat the legendary Japanese defenders.(Dane Hodges spots Saipan, CNMI)

Saipan has a history of acclaim for breathtaking beauty and as a photographers dream. Yahoo Japan's poll picked Monagaha Island the second best beach in the world. After sharing that news with Saipan kids, one asked “what is number 1, Sugar Dock, Pau Pau, Micro, Wing, Marine, Lau Lau, or Obyan”, or other Saipan beaches. The same Yahoo Japan poll rated Saipan’s Grotto the second best dive site on earth, behind the Blue Corner in the Rock Islands of Palau.

The same way as our dive sites and beaches lay waste to contenders far and wide, so to do we challenge every country, city, village, island, and town on earth as the paradise island for children and the best place for a child to live.

(Dane Hodges rides the bike trail at American Memorial Park with Monagaha Island in the background)

We face many challenges, but little boys don’t worry about our GDP, expensive air travel, high costs of power, water, shipping, or being the lowest average income on US soil. Kids like to play and have outdoor fun, and if that’s the selection criteria, nature dealt us a straight flush. Parents rate safety factors when figuring the best place for their child to live, and again, the CNMI’s lack of traffic, low speed limits, clean air, and protective reef with spectacular turquoise lagoon have convinced affluent parents that could live anywhere, to remain here when economics might dictate moving.  The CNMI has the lowest murder rate and fewest traffic deaths of all US states, territories, including the one thousand largest cities or towns in America.
All roads lead to AMP, Saipan

NMI parents must be America’s most widely travelled, with virtually everyone having travelled throughout Asia, SE Asia including Indonesia, Australia, and throughout thousands of Pacific islands. Saipan’s adults discuss Labuan Bajo, Luang Prabang, Penang, Pokhara, Yap, Truk, and a myriad of other lands that 99% of Americans couldn't’t find on a globe, and choose to live here with our kids. Make no mistake, as much fun as Bali, Thailand, and the 7k Philippines islands may be for adults, the traffic, pollution, crime, and instability of those places are not conducive to raising your child in a safe environment. (Below Dane Hodges and Richie Steele frolic at Palms Resort, Saipan, CNMI)

The small mainland American population in Saipan originated from every US state. Saipan parents are critical of America due to traffic and fast driving resulting in deaths, time spent on the road, harsh winters, polluted cities and air pollution in general, lack of cultural diversity in the SE and Midwest, censured news, racism, a culture of bland unhealthy fast food, violent crime, increase in the availability of dangerous drugs, and being landlocked by a cold, dark, dead ocean as common reasons they would never move their children back to mainland USA. Most who moved back returned asking themselves “what was I thinking”.  Perhaps Henry David Thoreau summarized the pace of life in America best with his ant colony analogy in On Golden Pond. 

Australia seems like a decent place for children if you haven’t been there. Aussies reside overwhelmingly in seven cities, so unless you want your child in an urban environment, don’t take them to such an inhospitable land. They do have unlimited beaches though, if you trust your child swimming in cold water with no protective reef and too many deadly creatures to name, but Saipan parents would all pass.(Left- A scattered shower doesn't stop AMP fun, Dane Hodges on top of the world, Saipan)

Africa and Central/South America are laughable options as well, because between their wars, disease, violent crime, include shocking murder rates, filthy quality of life, most parents here would only allow short well planned vacations to such troubled locales

Europe has a high quality of life in many places, but their brutal north would only be considered for summer vacations. Japan has a wonderful society and sea food equal to the NMI, but their horrific weather rivals the Midwestern United States with bitter cold, snow, ice, rain, mixed with windless humidity in the summer, and figures best for an occasional ski trip. Russia and Canada are endless, but again, only an option for a summer vacation.(Below - Dane Hodges needs a coconut for bait to catch Coconut Crabs, Saipan)

Several Caribbean islands are nice if you stay in protected areas of five star resorts, safe from the crime caused by poverty among the indigenous populace. Other Pacific islands may figure to challenge the Island of Saipan for the title of “the world’s best place to be a kid”, but this author is only aware of one close contender to Saipan. Residents of the capital of the CNMI may also be among the most qualified to make that determination, because while our residents are experienced travellers, percentage wise, few have visited here.

Some who have never travelled dream of moving to Fiji in the South Pacific, which would make Saipan residents laugh out loud. (L- Dane Hodges in foreground as the Japanese defenders surrender Saipan, CNMI WWII museum, AMP

Hawaii would beat us in an Internet poll due to their population, and that is also why they have a traffic standstill. The large and remote big island of Hawaii has attractions, even to spoiled residents of Saipan, but they have long fast drives on single lane roads and the ocean is not safe for a child to swim, even under close supervision. Saipan has children that can swim safely from Monagaha Island(shown above) across our glorious lagoon, but even triathletes are apprehensive about heading out from any Hawaiian island for a long swim due to the current and cold, much less let a child attempt it.

Guam was probably great when the Cormoran visited early in WWI, before millions of brown tree snakes eradicated the birds, and before thousands of sailors created the traffic nightmare that is Guam.  Guam's traffic figures to intensify from the military build-up anticipated to add 50% to the population by 2014

The one contender for Saipan's title, is also found in the Northern Marianas Islands. The southernmost Northern Marianas isle is the Island of Rota, and arriving there is like stepping out of a time machine 50 years back in the past. There is no night life and few lights in ancient Songsong Village after dark. There are no traffic lights and the lone paved road runs nine miles to Songsong along the western beaches and is often absent of motor vehicles. Long known as the 'friendly island" because motorists wave at every person or car they pass. The scenery, beaches, and views are comparable to Saipan. Parents would balk as a little boy haven due to lack of educational opportunities and absence of a quality medical facility, two traits that wouldn't faze little boys though. Kids there prefer Saipan because of Happy Meals that are not available in the remote Island of Rota. While the ocean is offers tremendous diving for adults, Rota lacks the enormous lagoon of Saipan and the water sports available to Saipan's children. The swimming hole of Rota is tempting though, but nine of ten young boys choose the northern capital of Saipan.
(Below - Dane Hodges goes for an ocean swim, Saipan)

The capital of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Island of Saipan, is an enchanting tranquil tropical paradise island of unimaginable beauty; highlighted by turquoise crystal water, fire red sunsets, panoramic views, and unparalleled weather. Saipan's 10k+ voters have hosted 3/4 million tourists in a single year, entirely from East Asian, making Saipan a playground of seaside golf, scuba diving, sport fishing, snorkeling, para sailing, wind surfing, kayaking, biking, beach volleyball, or barbecuing on the remote pristine beaches. The laid back nature of the inhabitants is as legendary as the tropical breezes.(Below - Dane Hodges' Trick or treat islands style, Palms Resort, Saipan, CNMI)

Time is the most enchanting element of living in paradise. Transient tourists roll in and out with the tide, each on a sightseeing timetable. Their eyes follow the hour glass, each hoping to escape the frivolous details of home and knowing they are being counted out of time. Residents here seldom wear watches unless they scuba dive, dinner starts just after sundown, and residents often ask “what month is it.

Saipan is not perfect and the young US commonwealth has a shady political past.  The NMI has had a terrible economic run the past five years, some of our own design, and some from outside economic forces beyond our control including globalization.  The once flourishing NMI garment industry that once poured millions into the local economy closed their last factory in June of 2009, ending the legacy of labor abuse that had tainted the reputation of the decent people of the Northern Marianas.  The NMI government was instrumental in the Jack Abramoff bribery affair of Tom Delay, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to block federalization of CNMI labor and immigration.  Nearly 20 have plead guilty or are cooperating with that investigation and labor reforms take effect November 28, 2009, ending the story of shame that disgraced the CNMI for a generation.  The CNMI has been plagued with poor governance and poor judgement.  Fascinating as that tale has become, I have never heard of a little boy that worried about it!

The CNMI has had some bright spots recently as well.  Federalization here gave the NMI a delegate to the US House of Representatives, Kilili Sablan, and the Marianas Trench Marine Monument must be one of the seven wonders of the natural world.  Citizens of the world's fastest growing markets, China and Russia, have been granted visa waivers to the CNMI, the only US soil with that distinction, and that will open opportunity from investors and tourists from these heavily populated markets.  Again, none of that is important to island kids! 

Richie Steele (L), leads Dane Hodges (R), in a mad dash from the pool to the ocean, modeling formal island birthday attire (defined in Saipan as sandals with shirt as opposed to informal being optional for both) for occasion.

Little boys on Saipan have 10 major resorts to pool hop and enjoy.  Saipan kids are uninterested that CNMI citizens are the only Americans NOT required to pay US federal income tax. 

Little girls have fun in the Northern Marianas too, and Jinhee and Jinju Thompson have Dane Hodges cornered, Saipan, CNMI

For 150 pictures of both islands, visit our main web page at  Pictures of Saipan and Rota

"Common Dad, this is heavy" Dane Hodges, Saipan

"Please take this boy with you and give me a little rest" Mom

Splashing with Daddy, Saipan

Another Saipan Sunset


Anonymous said...

Great photo group on your web site link...correct the many typos and this would be interesting to publish.

"best place to be a little boy" and I had never thought of that.

Sue said...

Love this - very interesting - you make me want to visit. Your son is absolutely adorable.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea there was a Saipan, much less that it might be cool.

Anonymous said...

Saipan is alot better than Guam, Hawaii, or the US. It is peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Very nice place...and beautiful boy.

I have heard Americans can't own land, is that true, and explain the leasing terms?

Saipan Realty said...

Article 12 requires that only persons of Northern Marianas Decent may own land for a 25 year period starting from 1986, and will expire in 2011. All others are restricted to a lease of not more than 55 years.

Most leases here are prepaid and not much different than buying....except you only get 55 years. It has pluses and minuses, in that supply and demand prevail and restricting wealthy potential buyers from east Asia has driven land value and realty activity back into the middle 20th century.

What will happen in 2011 is also unclear. Our land alienation could end, or we could change to a 75 or 99 year lease, much like Hawaii and Guam eacted in the past.