Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Nuclear Island

148th Country

When I heard Marshall Islands, it reminded me of a university called Marshall University. The amazing NFL wide receiver Randy Moss who played for the Minnesota Vikings went to Marshall University. The university and the country have nothing in common except the name.

After WWII, The US took over the once Japanese Micronesian colonies and made them the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The most famous island here was the Bikini Atoll, where the US removed the 160 Bikinians to another island to test nuclear weapons until the 60s. To this day, some of the islanders are trying to get compensated for the health effects caused by radiation.

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Bikini Atoll was one of the islands used for nuclear tests. 

 

Getting from Kosrae to Micronesia 

My journey from Kosrae in Micronesia was an easy one. Although, I had to be ready at 03:30 for my pickup to Kosrae Airport, which only took 15 minutes from the Pacific Tree Lodge. The owner Mark drove us early in the morning to the airport and it was very nice of him. Luckily for him, it will be the last early morning trip for some time. I paid my $15 USD departure tax and boarded the last Nauru Airlines flight with three others from Kosrae to Majuro. Nauru Airlines will no longer fly to Kosrae due to the lack of business. After all, Kosrae only had 6000 inhabitants and less than 200 visitors per month. The journey was only an hour and twenty minutes and it was pleasant to see the sunrise from my window seat on the 737 aircraft. The 180 seats in the aircraft was only 20% full and only five people deplaned in Majuro. Speaking of airplane food, I had the worst breakfast ever on Nauru Airlines. Guess what they served? They served custard doughnut, salt and vinegar potato chips, three slices of fruits and a drink of your choice. What a great meal to start the day right?

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That was what it looked like after a bomb. I took this picture at the museum. 

 

Arrival in Majuro

Once again, it was a small airport, but it seemed more efficient than the other airports in the Pacific. It was only five of us, so the baggage claim was very quick and I met my driver from Robert Reimers Enterprise Hotel and we went straight to the airport. It was a Sunday morning at 8am and the streets were empty and it felt like a ghost town. The drive was around 30 minutes to the hotel, passing by numerous churches, the US embassy, a bridge, small shops, supermarkets, and houses. The island was the most developed out of all the Micronesian islands, but not as much as Fiji.

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They sold gifts and food at the market right across the RER Hotel. 

 

I checked into the hotel and went straight on a trip to the hotel’s private island called Eneko, which was 12km (30 minutes) away via a speed boat. It was a beautiful and sunny day compared to the rainy days in Kosrae. I waited for the boat with 10 other guests staying at the hotel. They were there for a forestry conservation meeting, coming all the way from Alaska, Seattle, and other parts of Micronesia. While waiting for the boat, there was a weird incident. A drunk local guy with a shovel came by and started cursing at one of the guys. The local guy was talking about nuclear weapons, ISIS, the planets and all kinds of other things that did not make any sense… well partially. I don’t know why he picked on one of the guys, but the whole group went silent. It was an awkward situation. Later on, we found out that this local guy was quite famous and he did the same thing to other passerbys. If you ever see him, tell him not to pick on foreigners, but watch out with the shovel in his hand.

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A local couple hanging out on Eneko Island. 

 

We boarded the boat and took off to Eneko Island. It was a beautiful day and the boat ride was pleasant. On the boat, I befriended some of the forestry conservation gang and an Aussie teacher named Matt that had just moved to Majuro.

We went past a few smaller islands and finally got to Eneko. First glimpse, it looked like paradise. There was a small one story house with several beachfront mini bungalows. The island was a private island owned by RRE Hotel and there was an option to stay on the island for roughly $125 USD per night. Oh, the round trip boat ride was $25 USD.

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The water looks amazing and the snorkeling was great. 

 

I spent the day hanging out with the forestry people, talking about politics and things pertaining to the Pacific Islands. Olaf (German) and Heather was very knowledgeable about politics and we had some interesting conversation pertaining to Trump and the USA. Some of them had visited the islands often and Rachel had been living on Chuk, Micronesia for some time. The island did not have a refrigerator and we had to bring our own food, which was the downside, but I brought a nice tuna salad from the hotel and slurped it down with some coconut juice. Speaking of coconuts, once you get there, there will be a family that takes care of the island. Ask the gentleman to get a few coconuts and tip the guy one dollar per coconut. He climbed a tree and cut down two coconuts for me immediately. Great service!

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One of the many churches on the island. 

 

After lunch, I went on a leisurely kayak ride around the bay. The bay was pretty calm, but it was best not to go too far out. I went close to the next island, but it took a lot of energy coming back, since the water was flowing the opposite way.

I was fortunate enough to borrow snorkels and fins from Ashley (living in Alaska) from the forestry team, so Rachel and I went snorkeling around the bay for an hour. The snorkeling was great and the visibility was amazing. I was able to see at least 10 meters below the water, but that was not necessary, since it was low tide and everything was within 3 meters. I did not see anything exceptionally unique but did see these super small sea horses. I was searching for some sea urchins, but could not find any. I was thinking of eating fresh sea urchin, since I was still hungry after lunch. The last time I fished sea urchin was in Culebra, Puerto Rico. There were two different kinds and the kind with the shorter spines had the better flesh. Yum yum.

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Some random guy biking around the church. It was really hot.

 

After a couple of more hours in the sun, we headed back to town again. It was a nice view of the sunset as we reached the shore. Day 1 was over, but a productive day indeed.

Day 2 and 3

Day 2 ended up being a horrible day, raining all day long. When it rains in Majuro, there was nothing much to do. I decided to walk around the island the next day, since it really rained hard all day and I thought the typhoon was coming. That evening, Dima from Ukraine showed up to the hotel and we had dinner with a few of the forestry people.

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The outside of the RER Hotel. 

 

Day 3 was a beautiful day. Dima went scuba diving, while I went for a walk to the left from the hotel. I had a piece of stick while I walked, but despite that, I almost got attacked by a stray dog. When in doubt, always carry a stick in Majuro. You don’t want to take a chance. If going for a run, still take a stick!

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A picture with the local kids. They wanted the picture badly!

 

The loop to the left took about 90 minutes in total, walking past churches, the high school, and various little shops. The people were not very engaging, when I tried to talk to them. For some reason, a lot of the people just seemed very unhappy.

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This guy was the only exception. He wanted a picture, so I took one!

 

Oh, I forgot to inform you about the shops in Majuro. Whenever you go into the shops, make sure you check for the expiry date on the products. It seems like the locals do not mind, but I’m not sure about eating hummus that has been expired for 3 months. The expired items had a 50% discount, but wow, I was not going to touch that. This goes for the same with beer as well. Check carefully before consuming anything.

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One of the many small stores. 

 

Final day

Dima and I had the same flight out from Majuro all the way to Honolulu at 6pm in the evening. Thus, we decided to go to the other side of the island to a beach called Laura.

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Laura Beach

 

We checked out of the hotel at 12 and took our luggage with us. The taxi ride was pretty cheap at only $18 USD for the one way trip which was around 40km away. It took roughly 1 hour to get there, since the speed limit was only 40km an hour. I noticed that the further we got away from the center, it felt really isolated. There was barely anything around on that side of the island.

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A girl making gifts using some sort of wood. They make baskets and other gifts. 

 

At the tip, there was a beach called Laura, a popular spot over the weekend, but a complete ghost town during the week. Well, it was a Tuesday afternoon. We had the entire complex by ourselves and was blesses with great weather, shade, wind, and an awesome beach.

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The entrance to Laura Beach. It was a week day so it was gated off, but we went inside anyhow. 

 

We did our best to kill around 4 hours, picked a few coconuts from the tree and opened them like cave man style. There was no one around to lend us a knife so had to use the sharp end of a tree to open them up. This totally reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away. That must really suck being on an island alone!

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Yours truly drinking the coconut. 

 

After killing a few hours, our taxi driver came back to pick us up and we headed back to the airport. Make note that the airport has one diner, that had packaged food and not the best place to eat. Also, they expect you to checkin very early for the flight, so make sure you do that so you don’t lose your seat on United.

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Shipwrecks to be found around the island. 

 

A shout out to my friend Phil Yook for hooking me up with the Majuro – Honolulu ticket via his United mileage. Otherwise, the one way trip was around $750 USD.

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Phil Yook and I at my birthday party in Paris. I was pretty drunk. Take a look at his t-shirt!

 

General Information

  • Currency – United States Dollars
  • Money Exchange – There were several banks in town, but I had USD with me so I did not change any money. The hotels take credit cards and there were no surcharges.  
  • Internet – There were Wifi hotspots in some areas around town. Although, the price was ridiculous and I only connected at the RER Hotel. The hotel provided connection for one hour at $5 and unlimited connection for 24 hours for $20. You can connect only two devices to the 24 hour one.
  • Language – Marshallese and English. Every single person I spoke to spoke English so communication will not be a problem.
  • Sports – Basketball was very popular on the island with courts everywhere.
  • Transportation – There were shared taxis that started at $0.75 per short rides and more for longer ones. From the airport, there were taxis to town for around $5 per person. There were several rental car places, but I did not rent a car or a motorcycle. I did not see that many motorbikes. It was pretty easy to get around Majuro and a bicycle may be more than enough.
  • Danger – I recommend taking a stick with you when walking around town. The stray dogs can be dangerous and I have heard some bad stories. The locals advise taking at stick as well.

 

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Self explanatory – but that was the court. 

 

Where to stay

There were only a few options on the internet. The main places to stay are the Robert Reimers Hotel that I stayed at and the Marshall Island Resort.

I was told from some locals that there is a hostel in town, but I could not find the information via the Internet as of today.

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Just another road in Majuro. There was only one main road and a handful of others. 

 

Where to eat

I ate most of my meals at the RER Hotel, since the food was very good. They had specials every single night and I think Tuesday was Mexican. The prices were reasonable and the service was great. Alcohol was available at the restaurant as well.

Otherwise, there were plenty of supermarkets that sold simple things such as sandwiches, spam rolls, fried chicken, etc.

There were a few local stores that sold take-away lunch. I really liked the lunch stall that was near the RER Hotel. For only $3, I got a piece of lamb, chicken, rice and sides.

Several gas stations around town sold simple meals and snacks, but make sure they are not expired.

Tips

  • Book your accommodation before arriving into town.
  • Bring a good book or a stack of movies. 
  • Make sure to check out the outer islands.
  • Get a good stick to fight off the dogs.  

I visited in March 2017.

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