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Pm me with questions if you’d like; I lived there. I’ll try to be prompt in reply.
Edit: If I’m writing back directly, might as well post here as well:
>How difficult/expensive is it to get there from mainland US?
It’s about 1400 miles south of Japan by plane. Tickets from the mainland US typically range between $1200 and $2000 depending on what time of year you travel. $1400 is a safe average, in my experience.
>What is the economy like there?
The economy absolutely sucks because the garment industry collapsed in the early aughts. That’s not necessarily such a bad thing given the nature of that arrangement, which was basically indentured servitude.
As a US commonwealth, the dollar is the currency.
>Are there many tourists that go there?
It’s still a somewhat popular tourist destination for people in southeast Asia, some Russians, etc. Many of the non- Chamorro people living there are from the Philippines, but it’s really quite a melting pot. Tourism has slid downhill in the last number of years but it seems to be starting to revive itself a bit.
>Is there good scuba there (I teach scuba for a living during most of the year)?
Diving and snorkeling off Saipan is absolutely terrific, yes, and it’s diverse and can be dangerous. The Grotto and Managaha Island are also neat features of Saipan. You can find lots of pictures and videos via Google.
>Is it just pretty or is there much other fun stuff to do there?
It’s a tropical island with tons of cultural influence, tons of history, incredible vistas, really great people, lots of good food, lots of things to do, a number of good resorts. If you really invest yourself, you could live there for an entire lifetime and still not see all of the intricate little things that make up this old place, and it’s only a 6×10 mile island. I believe it’s actually listed in the Guinness Book, or was, as having the most temperate climate in the entire world. I always felt like I was living on the island from Lost.