The last time we’d been in Jamaica, we had to get up way too early in the morning in order to be on the shuttle to the airport. Nobody wants to get up early in Jamaica, so the plan this time was to spend the day (which just happened to be Matt’s birthday!) in Montego Bay, close to the airport, and not have to rush to do anything.
We got up, finished packing and cleaning up our room, and went to check out of the hotel before 11am. Our shuttle wasn’t coming for a while, so we left our bags in the front office and walked down the beach for patties. Of course Jamrock wasn’t open again – that made them 1 for 3 – so we walked back to the hotel. We didn’t have any great ideas, but there was a bar there, right?
On the way, we stopped to thank Michael for everything. He said more words at that point that we’d heard him say all week. That guy is awesome.
We grabbed seats at the Legends bar and got rum punch. I heard scrambling behind us, and turned to see some of the feral beach cats chasing a pretty sizable crab around. It was excellent entertainment, even if Matt and I had to lift our feet to keep away from his claws. The crab finally took refuge under a tray table in the corner, where the cats couldn’t see it.
Then it was time to head to the shuttle. We paid our tab, gathered our bags, and rolled out to the parking lot. A loud group with the most annoying New York accents on earth was there, too, so we were not excited about the prospect of sharing a shuttle with them. The minibus rolled up, and the driver only had that group on the manifest. We weren’t sure if we were forgotten or just awaiting another bus, but while they sat there figuring things out, another one rolled up. That was ours.
There was one other couple on the bus, and of course they were Minnesotan. They had plastic cups and a bottle of vodka, intent on enjoying the ride back to MoBay. We talked with them and the driver the whole way back, and the driver was great. We learned a lot about Jamaican food and the landscape. As the couple downed more vodka, the lady became more and more incoherent and giggly, and the guy got quieter. By the time we arrived at the airport an hour or so later, I was glad to finally not have to talk to them anymore.
Our driver took us on to the Holiday Inn SunSpree, and pointed out Scotchie’s along the way, so we knew how to get there. Orsi had said it was across the street, and she was right. The driver dropped us at the hotel, and we expected to have to pay him extra for the ride there (versus the airport), but he didn’t ask for anything more. Matt tipped him well instead.
So our original plan in Montego Bay was to stay at Toby’s, a highly-recommended, very reasonably-priced hotel. But we had a bunch of credit on Hotels.com, and decided to redeem it to stay at the all-inclusive, since with our discount it ended up being much cheaper AND had free drinks. (We didn’t really care about the food part, but since it was Matt’s birthday we figured we could just hold up the bar there for free.) The second we set foot in the lobby, though, I had a lot of regrets about that.
Don’t get me wrong, the place was very, very nice. It was clean, spacious, and the rooms had every amenity that they didn’t in Negril (super-strong A/C, hair dryer, fancy shower and toiletries). The grounds were huge, and there were at least four different beaches that were perfectly-groomed. There was even an island you could wade to, full of beach chairs and hammocks. There were bars in several locations, and nice shops. They had all the resort-type things that I’m unwilling to pay for, like the spa and high-end dining. It’s exactly the kind of thing you want out of a cruise ship, but there’s one critical difference: on a cruise, people leave the ship to visit foreign countries.
The place was very crowded, and of course there were kids everywhere. It seemed unlikely that one would be able to find a quiet spot anywhere near the pool. (Thankfully, there was an adults-only beach at the far end of the property, which we discovered later.)
Anyway, we checked in, and of course were early so we couldn’t get in the room yet. They gave us fruity welcome drinks and put really annoying concert-style wristbands on our wrists (I always make fun of wristbanded all-inclusive people in my head when we’re on vacation, and then I WAS ONE OF THEM). We took the bags to the porters’ closet and got tickets. I held onto my carry-on bag with my purse and a million other things. What I hadn’t realized is that Matt was planning to go right over to Scotchie’s for lunch (we hadn’t really eaten anything yet that day), and my bag weighed about 50 pounds. We agreed to switch off along the way.
We headed right back out the front of the hotel, and were asked if we needed a cab. We said we were walking, so they told us to be sure to sign out at the front gate. We gave the lady there our name, and another woman was standing right outside, offering to braid my hair. I said no thanks, and we left the property and crossed the highway.
It was approximately a million degrees that day, so it was uncomfortable. Actually, I’m sure it was the usual high-80s that it is everywhere in Jamaica in February, but being even a little bit off the ocean made a gigantic difference. We were instantly covered in sweat, and my bag was not the most pleasant thing in the world.
There were guys selling the usual things across the road, so they walked with us and asked if we needed weed, souvenirs, or whatever. We said thanks, but we were at the end of our trip. We met one guy per block, as if they each had their own territory. Near the little “artisan village”, a guy introduced himself as Derek, and asked us to come into his shop there. We said we would stop by on the way back from lunch, but we were dying of hunger. He made us promise, and we did. We didn’t need souvenirs, but there would be no getting away from Derek.
A couple blocks down, we found Scotchie’s, and got a table in the shade under the thatched roof. The place was awesome.
It was also a great time to be at the most famous jerk hut in Jamaica, because there was nobody there at 3pm on a Monday. We ordered beers and food. There wasn’t much vegetarian there, but I had enough to eat. Matt’s lunch looked excellent.
When we were done, we headed back toward the resort. From that direction, we could see how absolutely monstrous it was. It was a multi-block walk to Scotchie’s, but the hotel stretched almost that entire distance across the highway. Once we reached the artisan village, Derek was right there waiting. He led us to the shop he said was his, while all the ladies sitting outside the 30 or so other shops (which were really just little closets) yelled at us to please come visit them next. We were the only people there, so it was a little overwhelming.
It became apparently right away that this was not Derek’s shop, but probably someone he knew. We stood in there looking around a little while the owner directed a fan at us. (Awkward.) We finally decided on a little wooden bird painted in Jamaican colors, and the owner explained what the colors meant (you have to hear that at least ten times on every trip to Jamaica… it’s required). Matt did a great job of haggling, and she was not thrilled that we were only interested in that one thing. We took our bag and headed right back out of the artisan village, much to the other ladies’ disappointment.
Derek came right along with us, so I asked him if the shop owner was his wife. He laughed and said no, he was the walking shop! He then unzipped his fanny pack and started pulling out handmade jewelry. We said no and thanked him about ten times before he finally accepted that we weren’t buying anything else, and headed back to the resort.
We signed in, got our room keys, and were taken across the property and up to our room by one of the bellboys. I can’t really explain the whole conversation, but at one point he joked about taking his dick out to compare with Matt’s and find out who was a true local. Seriously, Jamaicans are OBSESSED with their penises. It’s hilarious. (The macho thing gets old, but it meant that I never had to talk to people if I didn’t feel like it. Matt’s the man, so clearly he’s always in charge.)
I was not at all excited to be there after being in such an awesome place as Negril, but we decided to make the best of it. I changed into a beach dress and we went down to find chairs and drinks. The pool was so mobbed with humans that we skirted it completely. The first bar we tried had ice cream drinks in addition to beer and liquor, so that line took forever. They were setting up hamburgers and fries nearby, for some reason. We decided to keep going and find another bar.
Farther down the way, we found a tiny little beach that had thatch umbrellas, beach chairs, and was nearly deserted. It was also very close to another bar, so we decided on that. It was only 4:30 or so, but the bar was packed with yelling drunk people, and had the atmosphere of every fratboy bar in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m not saying that Negril is not packed with drunk Canadians (it is), but they’re more spread out and nothing is every really like… THAT. We got drinks and took them to our chairs.
The beach-settin’ was very nice, on the other hand. There were birds everywhere, and the sunset was pretty. There was also a pair of girls making out in a chair ahead of us, which seemed ballsy considering Jamaica’s opinion of gay people. (No country is perfect, unfortunately; hopefully they’ll get over their stupid fears someday.)
Matt was nice enough to make several trips to the bar on our behalf, so I didn’t have to move from my quiet spot away from the All-Inclusive People. As the sun went down, tiny crabs started popping out of their holes in the sand. We sat there watching them in hysterics for a long time. They were excavating their crab-holes, and the way they popped out and tossed sand was the best. One of them kept throwing sand into the other guy’s house, too.
After sunset, the staff started collecting the beach chairs, and we figured it was time to figure out what the hell was going on with dinner around there. We had to cut back through the pool area, so we learned that the usual buffet was closed, and they had moved it outside for the night. They were apparently doing that in conjunction with entertainment on the stage in the middle of the pool. We noticed that everyone had suddenly changed into what is commonly referred to as “resort wear”, which was both stupid and entertaining. We went to the room to change into our equivalent… I put on a slightly nicer dress, and Matt wore a polo. We also mixed drinks in the room, since we had some delicious Rum Fire overproof from Negril.
The pool area was chaos by the time we got back down there. There seemed to be servers running around, but we didn’t see any indication that they were actually seating people. There was a DJ on stage playing such hits as “Hot Hot Hot” and anything by Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas (nothing Jamaican… I’m not sure we even heard reggae the whole time we were there).
We wandered around looking for a host stand or anything on that order, and couldn’t find it. We decided to grab a table instead, and see if that was the trick. The tables weren’t set with silverware, napkins, or water, so we were hoping that that might happen. We sat there for a long time as servers rushed around helping other tables, so apparently that wasn’t how it worked, either. We decided we didn’t care, and headed for the buffet.
I liked the salad bar, since it had, you know, salad, and bread. The food was everything you get at an Old Country Buffet. There was hardly anything vegetarian, either. Matt managed to find silverware on a serving table, so at least we could eat. Even now, I have no idea how dinner service is supposed to work there. I do know that there were one billion white people all running around scarfing up crappy food, though. I wanted some stew peas or a patty.
After dinner, we went to get more drinks and headed down to the far end of the property to see what was down there. We found an empty adults-only pool that appeared to still be open but unattended. There was also another nice beach at the far end past the pier, so we grabbed two beach chairs and sat there staring at the ocean and the stars. And laughing about what a ridiculous place it was. We did not belong there at all, and I felt horrified that none of those people were ever going to experience how amazing Jamaica is. It’s depressing.
Matt did get to try out one of the exciting COOOOOLLLLD WATA excursions, though, and I didn’t even charge him for the photo I took. We went back to the room to drink rum and play dominoes.