Yap Inlet CanoesWhile we were in Micronesia in 1998, we spent a few days on Yap.

We went mostly for the up-close diving with the Manta Rays in M'il Channel.

However, we enjoyed the glimpse into the ancient culture of the Micronesian people.

PHOTO: Canoes in an inlet off Yap lagoon

Yap Island and three other islands within a fringing barrier reef make up "Yap Proper". Yap Proper and outlying islands, like Ulithi Atoll, spread over hundreds of miles of Pacific ocean make up Yap State of the Federated States of Micronesia. Yap State is in the western Pacific between Guam and the Philippines, on the eastern edge of the Philippine Sea. To help with the geography, check out the Map of Micronesia. What is now Micronesia has traditionally been called the Caroline Islands.

Micronesia has had a stormy history. Most of the current states grew from a simple, almost feudal, existence in the mid 1800s to being pivotal in the global struggle called World War II. Yap's history is very parallel to Chuuk's. The Yappese have a strong tradition as navigators and sailors. Their stone money derives its value from the extent of oceanic exploit which was required to obtain it. The history of Western involvement with Yap traces to British and Spanish exploration up through the end of the 19th century, when Spain was claiming title to Yap. The loss of the Spanish American War left Spain cash poor and the islands were sold to Germany in 1898. Germany's loss of World War I brought Yap under the Japanese "mandate." The allied victory in World War II brought Yap to be a Trust Territory of The United States. In 1979 four island groups (including Yap) became the four Federated States of Micronesia.

As we saw it in 1998, Yap is an unusual mix of modern and traditional island life. Yappese, for the most part, live in thatched huts or small houses. Water in the villages comes from cisterns and wells and is relatively prevalent. Water in the cities comes from wells and reservoirs and is variable. Although they have a Zip Code, mail is delivered at most on the bi-weekly jet flights. Electricity and phone service is semi available - and growing. The variability of the mail has caused a boom in fax and e-mail where phones and electricity are available. The Federated States of Micronesia have their own postage stamps (including an Elvis commemorative) denominated in US Dollars and Cents. The US Dollar is the official currency! They drive on the right, but many of the cars are used models from Japan (designed to drive on the left)!