We flew into Koror at 00:45 New Year’s Day. Our New Year’s Eve celebration was a very simple champagne toast onboard the Delta flight from Narita.
Stephen had pre-arranged for MAML Divers to pick us up from the airport and drop us off at our hotel, the Coral Inn. Once dropped off, we proceeded into the hotel only to discover we had no reservation and they had no rooms available. Of course, it took over 30 minutes of incomplete communication and multiple phone calls on their part to figure this out. I sat in a old, worn comfy chair in the lobby, where several locals were celebrating New Year’s with homemade food and a religious program on tv. I was so tired, I decided I would pretty much just sleep in the chair until morning. However, the young girl behind the desk was able to secure us a room in a hotel across the street after several more miscommunication events between her and Steve and we rolled our bags across the street, through a New Year’s car crash scene complete with onlookers, and into a hotel that apparently doesn’t provide towels for their guests. But, at least there was a bed to sleep on. We had finally made it to Palau. 😅
The next morning we had a simple breakfast at the hotel and Steve was able to talk to the Dive Shop and to the manager of our destination hotel, Storyboard Resort, to work out transportation to Peleliu island. Although we had pre-arranged with the dive shop to get us there, they said they had no boat that day. The state ferry was not running due to the holiday, but the woman at Storyboard Resort was able to find us a charter boat for $30 that would be departing immediately to Peleliu.
We rushed to get ready and MAML divers dropped us off at the dock. There was a boat, but no crew. There was a group of very friendly guys at the dock celebrating the holiday with a cooler full of beer. They were confident that the boat would be leaving in an hour because they knew the captain. They also knew all about the Seahawks and where to buy more beer when they ran out…
The crew did show up about an hour later and said that the boat ride was $35 (not $30) and that they had to wait for a few more passengers. It turned out that the legislatures from Peleliu had gone to the capital for a special New Year’s Day celebration and he was chartered to give them a ride back.
The captain was very friendly and would smile a lot, showing off his cracked, red-stained, worn down teeth, and told us all about Peleliu and the local school systems. Palau has two official languages, Palauan and English and every Palauan we encountered spoke very good English. On Peleliu Island (population 700), they only have grades 1-8 so when students go to grades 9-12 they have to find family to live with in Koror to attend high school. Koror also has a community college for all residents to attend.
We hung out on the boat for a bit, and honestly, I wish he had informed us that it was still going to take awhile. I forgot that island time is a bit different than big city time. Anyways, the legislatures showed up with their friends and family in tow and some got on the boat and the rest hung out on the dock smoking and talking. I think it took at least another hour before we actually left the dock.
Finally underway! The boat was loaded up now with locals and Steve and I. Some were dressed up and some were in their casual clothes. All had their Betel Nuts, Lime and bottles to spit in. This explained the decayed teeth we had observed in the Palauans. They chew on these green nuts with leaf and ground up lime and it turns their spit bright red. The ladies had bottle to spit in, whereas the men would just spit over the side of the boat.
Everyone on the boat was very friendly. They were serving cake and offered some to us. It was a delicious cheesecake-like cake with light frosting on top. They also gave us bottled water, but when they handed out bags of Betel nuts, we declined to take any of those.
The boat trip took about an hour and I was truly mesmerized by the beautiful scenery along the way. When we pulled up to our final destination, I climbed off of the boat and was instantly greeted by a smiling man who shook my hand and said, “Welcome to our home!” It was truly the most gracious welcoming I had encountered in a long time!
Random people helped us unload all of our bags from the boat, and we hung out at the dock for a few minutes before our ride to Storyboard appeared.
We had no set plans for the rest of the day, so we took a well-deserved nap and hung out at the ‘resort’ for the rest of the day. We knew the accommodations would be a bit rustic, but it was more authentically rustic than we had imagined. This was the first resort I have been to where you need to alert the manager each time you wish to shower so that she can turn on the water for you. However, the food was plentiful and home-cooked and delicious and every meal was accompanied by a pitcher of ice-cold filtered rainwater that was truly delicious.