Many Micronesian nations have become Westernized in a lot of ways. Yap is different. Here -- even on the main island, Yap Proper, with most of the businesses and the tourists -- there's a mixture of new and old.
The schools have shiny new computer labs connected to the Internet by satellite, but students learn traditional skills too. Yap uses Western money (US dollars) in stores, but other transactions -- especially between villages -- are still made with stone money. One of my strongest memories is of standing in the checkout line at a grocery store; the woman in front of me, dressed in only a grass skirt and holding her baby at her breast, waited while the cashier ran her purchases across one of those laser scanners.
You can get to Yap on flights from Palau or Guam. Here's a view of the coast and an unforested part of the land:
Typhoons aren't common here. A serious typhoon hit Yap just a couple of weeks before my visit. Most of the damage I saw, though, was trees stripped of their leaves. Here's a view of the reef from Kula Place:
Only parts of the islands were damaged. For instance, see the mangroves along the shoreline in the distance:
Here's another mangrove on the beach by the main house at Bechiyal Cultural Center (more about Bechiyal on the next page):
Part of the beach at Bechiyal Cultural Center -- and the Men's House near the point:
As I said, stone money is still used on Yap -- usually for transactions between different villages. When money is given, it isn't moved: people simply remember who it belongs to. You'll spot stone money in other pictures below -- in front of the church, for instance.
Here's the second-largest piece of stone money on Yap, and me (I'm 6ft 2in, or 1.75m, high) in front of it:
Two pictures of the St. Joseph church:
Colonia is the capital city. (In fact, it's basically the only city on Yap Proper, the main island.) The rest of Yap Proper is more scenic. Still, let's take a quick look around Colonia.
Here's the main north-south road and the Manta Ray Bay hotel. (There's a restaurant and bar on that ship):
Colonia is right on the water. In the middle is a hill and the Telecommunications building, where I took this shot:
Last is a photo that you won't see on many tourist websites... but you can't miss it once you're here -- and on other Micronesian islands. Many people have a cheek full of betelnut. ("It's our batteries," one man told me.) Here's a picture of a betelnut juice stain, and chewed nuts, on a parking lot. Apparently so many people spit betelnut juice on the floor of the airport terminal that the authorities decided to paint the floor betelnut-red...
(These photographs are Copyright © 2002 and 2005 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)