We visited Ngerulmud as a part of the one-day tour to Babeldaob Island. We organized the tour ourselves – by asking around for someone with a car, who knew the island and could show us around for a reasonable sum.
You might also rent a car or get a taxi (Ngerulmud is maybe 20 minutes’ drive from the airport).
Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok state, a few kilometers from Melekelok’s capital, also called Melekeok (to read the details go to our article How to plan a trip to Palau).
To be honest – there’s not much to do in Ngerulmud. The capital was built in 2006 from scratch, in the middle of nothing. It is a monumental complex of government buildings, which you can visit in less than half an hour.
It seems that the Palauan politicians also find Ngerulmud unappealing, as, during our visit, we haven’t seen a single soul there. But maybe it’s also because the buildings appeared to be not only unfit for the local climate but also mold-infested. Whatever the reasons are, Ngerulmud doesn’t seem to be popular. In fact, Wikipedia calls it “the world's least populous capital of a sovereign state”. No numbers are given, but we guess the scale doesn’t run far from zero.
Fun fact: the giant columns are made of plastic. Hard to believe? Try knocking when you pass nearby.
The former capital of Palau was Koror. Until now, Koror remains the only proper town (a city, if you consider the size of the country) in Palau, with the national stadium, national museum, and more than 60% of the county's population. The ratification of Palau’s Constitution in 1979 directed the government to set up a permanent capital on the Babeldaob, the largest island in Palau. Why Babeldaob? Why not Koror as it was? Well, the sources mention many reasons. Starting from the fact that Koror remains the commercial capital of Palau, so it was a way to avoid the accumulation of too much power in a single place. Other reasons come from the tribal and family affiliations that lead to the traditional chief based in the state of Melekeok.
The construction of Ngerulmud lasted very long. First plans were made in 1986, and the architectural firm based in Hawaii was hired. But due to the shortage of funds and professional staff, the progress was practically non-existent. The construction works in full swing began only in the early 2000s after Palau was granted a loan of 20 million USD from Taiwan.
Summing up: in our opinion, Ngerulmud is not worth a visit on its own. BUT. It will spice up your trip around Babeldaob, providing variety from snorkeling, waterfalls, jellyfish lakes, and other "tropical stuff." Assuming that you need one. Plus, in Melekeok, not even five minutes by car from Ngerulmud, there are megalithic stone sculptures known as Mengachui and Odalmelech. They are fascinating and interesting, not only to archeology enthusiasts.
If you travel to Ngerulmud from Ngarchelong state (north of Babeldaob), stop on the causeway to take some pictures of Ngerulmud looming out of the distance. Looks impressive.
To see what else you can do in Palau go to our article What to see and do in Palau.
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