Yap and Palau to the southwest were probably inhabited as early as 2000 BC by Austronesian navigators from the west (Philippines and Indonesia). The Yapese speak a western Austronesian language quite different from the eastern Austronesian languages spoken by the other three states of the Micronesian Federation (Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae) that were peopled much later from the south (Solomons).
The Portuguese were the first to visit Yap in 1525. They were followed by occasional whalers and traders until the 1870s when Spain and Germany both lay claim to Yap. The issue was settled in Spain's favor by the Pope but Spain sold Yap and the other Caroline islands to Germany in 1899. After WW I, the Japanese were given a mandate over Yap in 1919. They fortified it and held it until the end of W.W.II, when it was occupied by American forces.
Yap then became part of the "American Trust Territory" from which Palau and the Marshall islands seceded in 1978. What was left became the "Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) which was admitted in the UN in 1991. The FSM are nominally independent but its "Compact of Free Association" with the US (financial aid for military bases), makes them de facto colonies of the US. The US dollar is the currency of the FSM.
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The three islands that make up Yap proper are ringed by a coral reef that forms a protected lagoon full of fish and provides a number of excellent scuba diving sites.
Yap State also include some 15 outer islands of which the most important are Ulithi, Woleai, Fais, Ifalik, Elato, Lamotrek, Sorol and Ngulu.
Here is another view of the lagoon on the west side of Yap Island, near the airport.
Since W W II, the islands north of the equator (Palau, Marianas, Micronesian Federation, Marshall), have been subjected to an intense American influence which has strongly altered the traditional values of the Islanders.
The Yapese have somehow managed to remain proud of their distinctive culture without turning their backs on modern amenities. To be greeted with crowns of flowers at the airport by these young men in their traditional "thuus" was definitely different from the businesslike approach of the security guards in Guam and Saipan.
What remains of an ancient culture and world class scuba diving sites make Yap a choice tourist destination. The Trader Ridge Resort shown here is one of four or five luxury hotels where prices start at 200 $ a night.
I spent my first night at the more modest Ocean View Hotel in Colonia before moving to a Yapese village. The hotel was rather plain but it had this interesting bar-restaurant that was unfortunately closed when I was there. (That's a piece of Yap stone money in front.)
At 40 $US a night, the Ocean View was nothing to write home about but the two betel nut chewing receptionists were friendly and interesting. The Yapese are addicted to betel nut like Yemenis to qat and the Irish to Guiness stout. They told me all about it and loved to joke, so I took the picture on the left to remind me of how nice Gloria Finpin and Hilda Giltinan were. On the right, a young Yapese strolling by in his pink thuu.
Not far from the Ocean View was this interesting boat that had been transformed into a restaurant. I found it interesting because it reminded me how close Yap is to Indonesia where the first Yapese came from, possibly 4000 years ago.
I remembered seeing that same kind of sail powered ship in the old port of Batavia (part of Jakarta), in 1994 .
Colonia, the capital of Yap State is quite small with a population of not much more than 1000. On my second day, Mary from Bechiyal village came to pick me up for the 15 km drive to her home at the north end of Map Island.
Most Yapese still live in traditional thatched hut villages but some have built modern galvanised iron roofed houses like this one seen on the way to Bechiyal.
This road leads down to Bechiyal on the north coast of Map island. From here you can see how the pale blue lagoon is protected from the dark blue open sea by the coral reef where the waves are breaking.
On Yap most of the land is owned by clans or families rather than by individuals. In this small village, the clan had decided to build four huts like these for tourists to supplement their fishing and farming.
The tourist operation was run by James Gilgoofigir (son of the chief) and his wife Helen Matinag shown below with her daughter and another member of the clan The little girl was a darling but I forgot her name. Helen's blackened teeth are the result of constant betel nut chewing.
This village was organised to show something of the Yapese way of life to visiting tourists but it was not contrived and it was done with simplicity and real warmth. I loved it as you can tell from my smile below.
Once again I had the good fortune of meeting a fine bunch of people, Will from Washington DC, Avner from Israel, and Nuno from Switzerland.
The clan chief John Tamag Yoron, and his son James were friendly and informal and made us all feel at home in their village.
Here is the chief's traditional house built on a raised stone platform called dayil. It is beautiful but he does not use it for he finds it more convenient to live in a smaller plywood and corrugated iron house with electricity and modern plumbing.
And here is the traditional men's house where bachelors lived until they became fathers.
Here is the inside of the men's house.
And another outside view of the traditional men's house on its stone dayil.
Bechiyal's chief's house and men's house had been abandoned but its community house was still in use and well taken care of.
In Yapese communities, major decisions are taken by the chief, but only after an open debate in the traditional community house.