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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jamaica 2.23 - 2.27

I was in need of a vacation this winter.  H didn't know it, but I knew he needed one too.

We stayed put in the cold, windy, and dark New York city over the holiday season.  Work had been aggravating, out of town friends came to visit every month, and weekends were packed with social gatherings....

So, I dreamed of warm weather, sunshine, white sand beach,  blue sky and swimming pools, where I can laze around for days. (We will NOT be traveling, but just be two beach bums working on our tans. I will NOT be reading a guidebook, but a beach novel instead.)

I could hear the Caribbean ocean's wave, and it was calling my name.

My timing was off though.  H was booking my birthday trip for the summer in January.  The costs were higher than what he expected.  (Then again, most things were more expensive than what H expected.  I think he is stuck in year 2000' s cost of living standard, where beer costs $3 per pint and flights rarely costs over $1000.)  My suggestion of a Caribbean gateway sent him over the edge.

I wasn't entirely surprised by his reaction.  While  trying to give up the vacation idea, I couldn't help but continue checking a few websites for package deals.

Finally on a Thursday night while I was daydreaming about my Caribbean vacation and surfing the net for deals, magic happened.  H relented and said, "Let's do it."  15 minutes later, we booked our Jamaica trip leaving in 9 days.

Truth to be told, it could have been any island in the Caribbean.  Jamaica came out on top because the direct flight was less than 4 hours, it was a bargain destination, and we have never been there before.

Some researches show that the travel plans lift up your mood for as long as 8 weeks before the trip, and the relaxed mood only last less than 2 weeks after a trip.  As soon as we booked the trip, I already felt less stressed and happier at work.  I only wish we could have booked the trip earlier to get my moneys worth of  the maximum mood boost effect!

Without any guidebook or itinerary, we took a cab to the airport at 4 AM on Saturday morning.   We were so unprepared that H thought we were going to LaGuardia.  Good thing we checked our itinerary, realized the mistake at the last minute, and asked the driver to take us to the JFK.  By 9:45 Am, we touched down in Jamaica.  It also marked a milestone for me, Jamaica was the 30th country that I visited!

At 11 AM on Saturday morning, we have already checked into the Iberostar Resort in Montego Bay, changed into our swimming suits, smeared the sunblocks all over our bodies, and layed on the beach chairs facing the ocean.  Margaritas were by our sides, and  the spa appointment was made to kick off the vacation properly.

There was no time difference, Jamaicans speak English although the accent could be hard to understand at first.  We never exchanged any Jamaican currency and TV had plenty of US channels that I even watched the Oscars on Sunday night.  For a quick getaway and some R & R, Jamaica was so easy! 

This blog would not do Jamaica justice.  The purpose of this trip has very little to do with traveling.  We spent most of our time in the resort except an excursion for kayaking and snorkeling in mangrove, and another quick trip to the rose hall shopping mall.  We did try to make an attempt to venture out if it was not for the ridiculous expensive taxi fares: round trip to Montego Bay downtown is $70 and  short ride to a local restaurant will set us back $40.

An all-inclusive resort is like an fancier version of a dormitory or a retirement home with a better location.  Food and drinks are readily and excessively available anytime. (The resort we stayed in had 4 restaurants, 5 bars plus room services.)  There are different programs & entertainment through out the day to keep you occupied if group activities is your thing, but I was glad that we came at the short window of time when most families have already left and the spring break is still a couple weeks away.

The  first day after we arrived, I was in a vacation coma.  I  napped on the beach, dozed off through my massage session, and fell asleep again by the pool.  The only time I was awake was when I put food in my mouth.  I was in bed before 10 PM.  What was it about the warm weather, ocean breeze, salty air, and sound of the waves that immediately relaxed your body?  This trip was exactly what the doctor ordered!

The next 4 days were pretty much interchangeable.  We woke up without an alarm, usually before 9AM.  The weather was forever sunny and pleasant in the 80's without any humidity.  We strolled over to the buffet restaurant for breakfast.  The food selection was great.  We started out with a glass of mixed juice with green vegetable and fruits, and another plate full of various fruits.  I got my hands on mango, star apples, and soursop whenever I could.  Jamaican mangos were like something I never tasted before with an intense sweetness and a hint of lychee flavor.  We indulged ourselves in eggs, yogurt, vegetables, bread and pastries, oatmeal, and the aromatic blue mountain coffee.

After breakfast, we would be laying by the beach, napping, taking a walk by the beach, or taking a quick dip in the ocean.

By 1PM, the buffet restaurant opened up for lunch with selections of both typical western dishes, such as pasta and roasted meat, and Jamaican flavors, such as curry goat and jerk chicken .  H and I had our eyes on all kinds of  grilled fish fillet, groupers, pangasius, snappers, and etc.  They were so fresh and tasty. 

Later in the afternoon, we would move to the poolside, nap some more, and attempted to read some magazines or books on my iPad.  When I got bored of laying around, I would stay in the pool swimming until my fingers wrinkled.  H would ordered piña coladas or rum infused cocktails.  The pool started to clear out around 5 PM.  Around that time, we would smell  a trace of ganja (marijuana) in the hotel hallways or by the beach.   Although marijuana was illegal in Jamaica, it seemed wildly available. 

We usually headed back to our room after 6 pm, showered and changed for dinner.   By the time we were ready for dinner, the full moon would appear in the clear sky.  It was so bright that it casts shadows on the ground.

Other than the usual buffet restaurant, there were 3 additional restaurants in the resort that required advanced reservations.  We tried the Cajun and Japanese restaurants during our stay.  Although I thought the buffet restaurant served the best food, it was fun to change the dinning scenes.

After dinner, we would either " bar hop" in the resort or stay in our room and watched TV, and started all over again the next day.

Besides eating, drinking, laying around, and sleeping, we did manage to do something else. On one morning, we booked a mangrove kayak and snorkeling excursion through Dressel Diver in the resort.  It turned out to be our private tour since H and I were the only ones that signed up.   There were 3 people taking us to the excursion.  Ding-dong (no joke, that was his nick name) was the caption.  Jack (just Jack) was in his 20's who dreamed about finding a bag of money in the ocean so he could buy a fancy Mercedes.  Twenty-one (21) was the photographer and the guide.  (Jack told us that twenty-one got his nickname from getting 21 gun wounds, which I doubt is true.)  

We kayaked through the mangroves trees, saw many birds and some jelly fish, and snorkeled around coral reefs and saw some colorful fish and a sting ray.  After honeymooning in Bora Bora, snorkeling in other parts of the world could hardly compare.  But  it was still fun to get out of the resort and enjoy the ocean. 

On anther day, we took the free shuttle to Rose Hall shopping mall within 10 minutes drive away from our resort and got some coffee beans and souveniers.  The shopping mall was quite small so we only stayed for an hour.  And we finally took the catamaran out for sailing the last morning.  It had been a perfect vacation that was so nurturing and satisfying.  It also made me happy to know how much H enjoyed it too.  Although against the idea at first, H now is singing a different tune.  He tells me with enthusiasm that we should do this every winter, but I know better.  Comes next winter, he will be complaining that we are spending too much money on traveling, and I will have to coax him into vacationing in the Caribbean


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