Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Trip to Jamaica: prt I

A little over a year ago I had never been outside of Canada or the States. That all changed with a trip to Jamaica back in October of 2010.

This trip was realized through my wife winning a contest at work, allowing for an affordable and quick trip to a resort at an island destination of our choice. However, I had never yearned for tropical destinations. Sand between the toes was fine but not in my thoughts. I had never made friends with water. The carnival atmosphere of the gluttonous and sloth filled resorts had also never been in mind. Yet, there I was to embark on a trip that involved all of these.

Lifting off from Calgary we flew through the murky skies towards Toronto. From there it was a continual flight to Jamaica, touching down in Montego Bay. We entered the run down airport, meandering through the long hallways towards customs. The air was cool and damp, with murals adorning most of the walls. A large group of people pooled at the customs area. Customs was fairly quick and the biggest hassle was figuring out how to fill out the paperwork for entering the country.

view from bus
Upon leaving customs we entered another area with even more people. The area was filled with kiosks for the various resorts and transportation companies. Our resort, Bahia Principe, was sussed out and we were told that a bus was waiting outside. A man came up to us to carry our bags to the bus. Once at the bus he demanded to be paid for this 20 foot-long carrying service; I refused and he left begrudgingly. We felt awkward.

crafts sold on roadside
Once the bus was boarded we again flew, this time a little closer to the ground. Our resort was located in Runaway Bay, which worked out to be about an hour's drive from the airport in Montego Bay.

The highways in Jamaica are narrow and lined with a mosaic of inspiration. Hillsides drenched in green and studded with small hand crafted buildings. Vehicles passed each other along the turns with their pedals perpetually stuck to the floor; the bus was no different. The exotic-ness was intoxicating. We rapidly approached a pre-arranged stop with the driver's hopes you would prematurely begin your Western spending practices. A tall shack with an odd bar /jerked foods emporium was pointed out to us, along with a pleasant gentleman trying with sweat on his brow to sell us hand crafted goods. I gravitated towards a ginger beer and browsed the man's crafts, later on regretting I did not pick up anything.

After our stop it was roughly another 30 minutes of driving before we reached our resort. Exiting the bus we kindly tipped our driver. We walked into the main foyer to check in and were greeted with tropical alcohol based drinks. The large foyer had an open concept, with an absence of doors and a large plants adorning the corners. A large oddly shaped white sculpture stood at the room's center, commanding attention and tranquility. Bus boys ran about busily and fat tourists waded through the thick humidity.

Our room was splendid, with a picturesque four-post bed, tiled floors, a large bathroom, a small fridge and an outdated tv. The balcony was of a moderate size and had a table with a few chairs. From the view of our second story balcony (which also happened to be the top floor), we had a west facing view of the mountains. The highway came down from the side of the mountain but hardly made a noise from where we stood. The resort's beach could also be easily seen from our room. The large pavilion area where the resort nestled its gift shops and late night dance area was directly in front of our room, but like the highway we rarely noticed the noise.

After the flight and drive, we slowly unpacked and continued to poke through the room. Opening the fridge I found cans of local beer and a bottle of water. With beer in hand, my wife & I relaxed on the balcony. Soaking in the sun and beauty we knew right away that Jamaica would make a perfectly fine place for a vacation.

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