To Truk - Via Guam
11/26/2000 NRT-GUM Continental Micronesia Flight 962, McDonnell Douglas DC10-30 N14063
The next leg of our trip began on Sunday, 11/26 with a flight from Narita to Guam. The 1973-vintage DC10 operating on this flight was in good condition inside. Although this flight was operated by Continental Micronesia, there were no markings on the outside of the plane to denote it as such. However, the interior contained many references to this being a "Resort Shuttle" - the headrest covers, napkins, coffee cups and tray liners were all so marked. Our seats were in the left side coach exit row in seats 29 A/B. The exit door cut a bit into my left leg, but overall it was a good seat choice, with unlimited legroom. This was lucky, as we had the same assignments on our Honolulu-Newark return trip. We left on schedule from Narita's Runway 34 and made the uneventful trip over to Guam in about 3 hours. Most of the passengers on the flight were Asian.
We had a four-hour layover on Guam, which we intended to put to good use by taking a cab to downtown Agana. However, on the way to the cab stand, we passed the rental car counters and decided to do a quick price check. Avis agreed to rent us a car for $30 for the afternoon, which was significantly cheaper than round-trip cab fare. Good thing, too, as we quickly found out there's really not much to see in downtown Agana other than a rotating statue of The Pope. We spent most of our time at a pleasant spot called Gun Beach, with a side trip to K-Mart to buy supplies. Gun Beach was posted with a sign prohibiting "Octopus Taking". Octopus sign aside, being in Guam felt very much like being in a military town in the United States. We bought a 12-pack of beer and a couple of bottles of wine while we were here, as we didn't know what to expect in Chuuk. Chuuk is officially dry, but we had heard that this law was not enforced. That turned out to be true.
11/26/2000 GUM-TKK Continental Micronesia Flight 958, Boeing 737-824 N25201
This flight was the origination of the Air Micronesia Island Hopper, but we would be getting off at the first stop in Chuuk for a five-night stay. There are many who lament the replacement of the venerable 727 on this route by the 737-800 in October 2000, but there's no doubt in my mind that bringing in the 737 is a major upgrade for this service. The plane was equipped with audio and video, had adjustable headrests and was sparkling clean. The nose gear door was marked "ETOPS" for its extended twin-engine operating certification.
Guam International Airport looked like a mainland USA hub, with a number of Continental 737s and a few DC10s sitting at their gates. We departed on Runway 6L for the 90-minute flight over to Chuuk. Most of the passengers on this flight appeared to be islanders. The 737 was identical to a plane Continental might operate in the States, save for the Japanese-language lighted exit signs. We had exit row seats 14 A/C, and as nobody took the center seat, we had a very comfortable ride. We arrived at about 9:30 p.m., deplaned via a set of portable stairs, and headed for customs. As my 12-pack of beer was somewhat conspicuous, I claimed it and the wine we purchased in Guam on the customs declaration form, resulting in a $6.50 import duty. Of course, when time came to pay the duty, the customs agent didn't have change for a $10 bill, so we wound up paying $10 for the duty. How convenient. The baggage claim was a zoo - many of the overhead lights were burned out or otherwise not operating, so it was tough to see what was going on. Arriving Chuukese seemed to have preference here, and their multitudinous cardboard boxes were offloaded from the plane first. Finally we got our bags and headed for the curb, where the shuttle van for the Truk Blue Lagoon Resort waited for us. The hotel's general manager, Mason Fritz, was driving the shuttle and immediately recognized me from the numerous e-mails I had sent him prior to our arrival. After a 15-minute drive over an extremely bumpy road we arrived at the hotel.