Below is a letter I wrote to my travel agent / friend. It is in a very informal tone… I typed it all on my smartphone. Disclaimer: It’s a bit rushed and a tad disorganized, but I’ve added some headings for this blog post. While I’m at it, I would like to send a special thank you to friends who helped out with various aspects of the trip and for being there for me! (AChow, HAyala, JPheh)
During my trip, I also kept a daily journal (listing facts /observations). I will include that in a separate blog post — Jamaica Travel: Facts & Observations. (This post will be much more detailed. If you like information, check for the link!) Ps. Who knew #tywAmazingRace would return in 2013?? Stay tuned… 😉 Enjoy!
I’m back from my trip and the trip was great!! The WestJet rep was awesome and so was the Jamaica Tours rep from our hotel. Very helpful. Embrace yourself. Full story up ahead.
Jamaica Tours (WestJet Partner) Representative
Upon arrival, we got upgraded from our Oceanview room to an Oceanfront room! Then the next day, we asked our rep if we could get a higher floor, since we were on floor 1. We ended up going to floor 7 in the other building, so we got to see two different oceanfront room views! The higher floor was much better!! (Got to see the sunset very well.)
There were a lot of interesting people; mostly Americans. The Canadians I met we were all from Atlantic Canada.
We ended up doing 3 excursions: 1) Montego Bay shopping tour, which ended up being a private tour of some local areas, craft/produce markets, downtown MoBay, and I wanted to see the supermarket so we also went there (locals pays 17% tax on their goods, so certain items are definitely cheaper at duty free stores! Oh well. I boosted their economy a tad more. Also, their pricing wasn’t really much lower… Although it was a supermarket, I saw some locals there too.). 2) Blue Mountain Cycling tour, where we drove 4 hours from St. James parish to Ocho Rios (passed Falmouth, where Usain Bolt grew up) and up to 4000ft!! It was really awesome and a group of us biked downhill and stopped by coffee plantations and learned how coffee was grown and produced. 3) Negril & Rick’s Café tour, where we drove 1 hour (passed through Lucea) and visited Margaritaville, owned by Jimmy Buffett. It’s highly marketed to tourists and is very tourist-oriented. Not exactly my cup of tea, but you arrive and tip someone to set up your chair + umbrella for you, then leave 2.5 hours later and they take down the whole thing and await different people to come. (My advice, def do not skimp out on getting a chair +umbrella. Lol) Nevertheless, my mum and I ventured off the sectioned area. (Apparently the 7 mile beach in Negril is sectioned off and diff people own parts of it… Made me feel a tad paranoid about walking on the sand to check out other places, but I did anyway…just a few doors down.) Oh yes, lots of people wanting you to do water sports, but I got my fill at the resort, so it was good! Note: parasailing costs around $60 USD. From my understanding, it is much cheaper in SE Asia. After the beach, it was duty free shopping area for tourists and Rick’s Cafe, where people were cliff diving and loads of tourists were there to see the sunset. Got some souvenir shots on my camera. All good.
It was a busy trip, but I think I had a good balance! Water zumba (reggae-style) is a lot of fun and I got to see tropical fish while snorkeling! That was SO COOL. I even had some time to just lie on a chair by one of the beaches and read. By the way, highly recommended book — “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. I think you will really like it. There’s also a YouTube video of the actual lecture, but I’m going to finish the book before I watch it.
WestJet Journey Home (Delay)
An interesting journey on the way home… Our flight was delayed, but our Jamaica Tours rep notified us. We ended up staying at the hotel and leaving at 3pm, instead of 11am. There was a medical emergency at Toronto Pearson, so we got held up. We landed at 11pm, got hotel/food vouchers, and literally slept for only 3 hrs. Took the 6am flight to Edmonton. Aside from being insanely tired, I thought it was a good experience… But not one I’d prefer, moving forward. Arrived in Edmonton the next day at 9am. What was good is that Sangster International Airport (Montego Bay, Jamaica) has free Wi-Fi! So I was able to message my friend with our changed pick up time. (I messaged a second friend to message my friend, just as a safety net.)
In other notes, our hotel had internet and WiFi also, but for $5 USD for 24 hrs or $30 USD all week. I decided to unplug instead. I think you could only use it in the lobby… some people seemed to be on their tablets very often!
I learned a lot of really interesting facts about Jamaica. There are a lot of Indian and Chinese people. Pretty much all the local “wholesales” (non-AC stores that sell food to locals) are owned by Chinese-Jamaican people. Even the owner of our hotel and the national baking company, Excelsior, is Chinese! On 2 evenings, we had a pianist in the lobby and he was this really sweet old man who studied music in the US and UK. He was taking requests and then he let me play the song I requested… And Jamaican tourists were clapping. Now that was funny. I gave the disclaimer that I hadn’t played in ages, but that was a fun twist of events.
That’s my trip in a nutshell! Filled with a few adventures and some chill down time. A great balance indeed!
Ps. Days later, Westjet sent me an email with discount codes, apologizing for the recent delay and hoping we would travel with them again. It’s a 20% off code that expires within 11 months.