On a lighter note… let’s talk about the other side of Yap. It’s more than just the land of mantas and sharks, it’s also known for its intriguing stone money and (stimulating?) betel nuts.
So where is Yap? It is one of four states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia (the others are Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae). Close to Guam, Palau and the Philippines, Yap is steeped in ancient traditions and peopled by one of the most distinctive cultures in the Pacific.
Land of Stone Money
Notable for its stone money made of crystalline calcite (primarily found in the walls of limestone caverns), many of which were brought from as far as New Guinea but most came from Palau since ancient times. Difficult to steal, the stone money was placed outside the house to denote wealth and stature. The bigger the stone, the higher their rank in society. The scarcity of the discs and the efforts required to obtain them made the stones valuable to the Yapese. The canoe journey took days (depending on the weather) requiring good sailing skills. Today, although they use US$ dollars in their daily transactions, the stone discs are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange.
Betel nut 101
Split a juicy round green betel nut, sprinkle with lime (not the fruit but powdered limestone), wrap in a pepper leaf, pop in mouth and chew. Spit out the juice, do not swallow.
Betel nut chewing combines 2 pleasures, they say – the relaxing rhythm of rumination, like chewing gums and mild stimulation, something habitual coffee and tea drinkers enjoy. They say that it makes them relaxed and alert at the same time. I guess, the chewing relaxes them and the caffeine-like property of the nut makes them alert. Makes sense to me! Nowadays, many add tobacco to their chew. Why? Dunno!
Red teeth are common throughout Yap as the reaction of the nut with the limestone brings off a bright red color that discolors the teeth when chewed regularly. And yes, even the foreigners who made Yap their home possess the distinct red teeth.
Vain that I am, I will never dare try this stuff 😛 Our friend A was the only brave soul who tried it and he was awake the entire night haha! 😀
Other attractions that highlight this remote island:
A handmade seaside Men’s house – can you believe that women (and that includes me!) can’t enter to this day?
World War II remnants – Yap was once occupied by Japanese troops and was regularly bombed by US ships and aircrafts.
Cultural dances – that’s Rihka our guide entertaining us while we wait for our hot dogs and burgers
The island was opened for tourism in 1989 and has seen a good amount of tourists visiting not only for diving but to catch a glimpse of the culture as well. Yap’s indigenous cultures and traditions are still strong compared to other neighboring islands. You still see some topless women roaming the streets.
ESA Bayview Hotel – we stayed here. I know… it looks like a motel but REALLY the rooms are comfy and they have nice balcony overlooking the bay.
Manta Ray Bay Hotel – top end lodging with an infinity pool.
Pathways Hotel – interesting tree houses, very native. If we weren’t on a budget, this would have been a nice place to stay.
O’Keefe Waterfront Inn – romantic; perfect for honeymooners!
Ganir Restaurant Tel: (691)950-1205
Jhun’s Oasis Restaurant (owner’s a Filipino, can you tell? They have great food too!)