A September 1996 trip
to Jamaica by Jose Kevo
Quote: You've seen tempting media marketing with colorful magazine ads and television commercials enough to put this island atop your destination list. But what these enhance, compared to what you'll actually find, are from two very different spectrums. Here's unpopular opinion about "Come to Jamaica"...cause I / it DIDN'T "Feel Alright"!
Negril is the only place I'd consider worth making a return trip for. This small enclave, engulfed by mega-resorts, has managed to hang-on to its roots despite the booming growth and popularity. It was also the only encounter that felt nonthreatening beyond the resort walls that wasn't confined to a tourist excursion.
This was my first...and only time ever staying in a Caribbean resort. But from what I experienced the day I wondered aroud Montego Bay on my own, against the staff's recommendations, I'm not sure how I could or would have survived a week under my preferred mode of independent/cultural exploration traveling.
The only chances for exploring Jamaica beyond the resort were the "mass-herded" tourist excursions which might be reasonably priced, but only leaves one feeling cheated on the possibilities thanks to the crowds and the tightly rushed agendas. Been There - Done That WAS NOT what I had in mind!
Poverty is one thing, but agressive tactics of Jamaicans to make a buck were intolerable.
Also in '96, the airport departure tax was still US payable ONLY in your originating country's currency. I remember giving three 's to a fellow American as airport officials would've just as easily let them miss their flight than to try and help them out.
The Tourist Excursion Company linked to my resort also offered day trips, on charter flights, to the coastal village of Santiago de Cuba. Unfortunately due to the off-season, there were never enough interested to actually make the trip. Price then was around US and should you plan this trip, also don't forget to stash double the airport departure tax.
If you're not used to traveling in foreign cultures, my entries detail why you need heed the resort's advice and stay within their confines.
When taking prebooked day trips, transportation ranged from standard mini-vans to buses which were definitely interesting. They were decorated inside with a motif combining East LA Low Riders, Harlem Ghetto Boat Cruisers, and a Jamaican flare including nonstop Reggae that wasn't at a blasting decimal like Dominican Merengue. Atmosphere created, combined with what you saw along roads, were as good if not better than actual destinations.
If you should dare venture beyond your resort to independently explore, staff can disgruntledly arrange transportation if cabs aren't waiting beyond the gate. Where ever you're dropped off, expect to be hounded relentlessly from locals offering to give rides or escort you while walking. If you're in need of services, use your better judgement. Stick to public transport and/or "official" taxis.
American Airlines offers direct flight service to Montego Bay (MBJ) from JFK/MIA/STL. Direct flights to Kingston (KIN) depart from JFK/MIA.
Hotel | "The old Sea Breeze Resort"
At the time, this was about the only resort south of Montego Bay. (The airport is north and if pick-up service is still not offered, you'll need calculate price of a cab.) It's located on a narrow hook-shaped peninsula which hems in the huge harbor area where all cruise ships dock. Things were rather quiet and secluded; the masses of "cruise passenger oriented" shops within a moderate yet doable walking distance should you not feel like hassling with a driver.
The two pastel colored towers had already been closed and boarded up leaving the two-story, square-shaped horseshoe facility still struggling for business. I'd paid about $725 for a one-week stay during the off-season for airfare, room, and single supplement, but had declined on the extra all-inclusive price for meals, activities, etc. Don't ask me how, but I landed in an air-conditioned junior suite with two king-sized beds and a balcony that looked out over the courtyard and across to the sea for those beautiful sunsets. There was a lot of indoor relaxing and reading accomplished that week. The placed looked clean, but had a dank moldy smell that overwhelmed any freshness from the salty name - "Sea Breeze".
There were two wide expanses of beach with the one furthest north for clothing optional. One factor for September travelers to keep in mind was the grotesque amount of jellyfish in the water and washed up on the sand. I'd seen this annual phenomenon in late August at NYC's Coney Island, but never in this large amount. "Supposedly", these are to be the harmless kind when/if stung, but it made getting in the water risky and all but impossible without them sliming up against you.
There was hardly anyone else staying in the resort at the time which made for great relaxing solitude, but quickly fueled boredom with so few and so little apparent opportunities. I guess it depends upon what you're looking for, but unless the resort's major rennovations have also included expansion and addition of services, I can't imagine this place being worth anything more than its new name - "Sunset Beach".
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 18, 2002
Silver Lake Resort
7751 Black Lake Road
Hotel | "THE COMPOUND - Resort or Prison?"
Forget about just where I stayed. I quickly noticed when shuttling around picking up other tourists for Day Trips: the more exclusive a resort was, the farther away from the town and people it was, too. These compounds were also surrounded by rows of high chain-link fence with barbed-wire strung across the top. Our tour bus would have to pass several gates and check points before reaching the lobby to pick up guests under the watchful eyes of guards from towers. People - the only difference between entering here and NYC's Rykers Island, the largest prison facility in the world, is the view and the circumstance!!!
The debate hinges on what you're looking for in a vacation. For those looking to relax and enjoy an uninterrupted tropical get-away where your every need is catered to, those fences are to keep the harsh realities beyond OUT and justifiably so! But for someone like myself, who can look back to my Jamaica trip and consider myself still fairly green when it came to cultural and travel experience, I only felt trapped and locked in.
We've all heard random stories about how perceived wealthy caucasian tourists in impoverished countries can be harrassed and intimidated by locals for a number of reasons. My living in Spanish Harlem and smooth travels in other countries yielded a false sense of security feeling exempt that surely these type of things only happened to others.
I was quickly proven wrong the day I scoffed at my resort's pleading not to go into town alone as they refused to accept responsibility for anything which might occur. Luckily, the worst that happened was only bruised pride in not being able to cope with how I was followed and hounded creating a tense, unsafe feeling that cut the day rather short. They were right - I was wrong, and accept for organized excursions, I spent the rest of the trip gladly behind the fence.
I've no doubt many of you have had wonderful experiences/encounters in Montego Bay and Jamaica with the locals...just as I've had in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Thankfully, a day in Negril altered my national perceptions before they became sterotyped. I've never been incarcerated; and I doubt there's any one would care to stay in a prison. But that's what resort-life felt like to me and in Jamaica, I'm not sure there's any other way that would insure safety. Yet unlike a lot of those locked-up, I've learned from my mistake striving to keep and enjoy my freedoms of cultural travel.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on April 18, 2002
Hill Country Resort
1754517545 FM 306 FM 306
San Antonio, Texas 78133
Sandwiched between resorts to the north and cliffs to the south, Negril's 7-mile strip of pristine beach provided everything I'd expected to find elsewhere but didn't. The area is lined with beachfront cafes, bars, shops and smaller types of accomodations in an authentic way that obviously catered to both tourists and the locals. They'd gladly brag how local zoning ordinaces prohibited any building from rising above the tallest palm tree which helped preserve the natural balance. So what if this area likely appealed more to Spring Break-type party crowds; especially with many budget-priced rooms and places to eat. Negril matched my definition of the Caribbean's laid-back essence with its beauty and local-types who were more than eager to converse without just trying to "get over".
The day trip from Montego Bay took about two-hours along the scenic coastal roads hugging hairpin curves that outlined numerous coves. Our group was dropped off along the main road thru Negril with five hours to enjoy at our own leisure. Obviously, group lunch was not included in the trip, but the price for so much freedom within the excursion was worth every cent. For those interested, numerous independent operators rented water sports/activity equipment aside bars and cafes for enjoying what's regularly voted Jamaica's best overall beach area...and I'd have to agree based on what I'd seen.
We were picked up at 4:00 p.m. and driven further south up along the cliffs to the infamous Rick's Cafe...as was every other tourist group within the area. For reasons I can't recall, I declined on taking the plunge-jump from the picturesque cliffs and quickly tired of the zoo-like atmosphere that was further magnified from the then Macarena craze being staggerdly danced...again for the umpteenth time.
If you also seek escape, it's a pleasant walk further south along the clifftop costal road with everyday Caribbean life scenary and the point's lighthouse. I returned in time for the sunset which was masked by overcaste skies preventing glimpsing the 'Green Flash' phenomena. Perhaps for in the future cause if I ever revisit Jamaica, I consider the Negril area the only place worth returning for.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 18, 2002
Wear you swimsuits under your clothes! if there were changing rooms available, our group wasn't allowed to use them giving the sexes their privacy turns on the bus...with curtainless windows, ladies. After being issued standard aqua soz (bring your own if you have them), we descended to the coast and swung around to where the mouth of the river falls spills out into the Sea. Despite the hordes of people, take in the full scope of the awesome view as it beomces more limited as you traverse the falls.
I was suprised by what happened next as we were lined up like children, told to hold hands, and to not let go as our entire group was to make its way up the falls single file...together! NOT!!! Though it was obviously frowned upon, for those looking to indulge with a little more independence, lag to the back of your group and piddle/play/enjoy as much as you can. Be aware that trying to go up the middle, away from the worn pathes to the sides, is more slimey/slippery making the water sox imperative. Our group stopped along the way in a couple of swimming hole-type places, but again we "had experienced" in about an hour. And unless you've a waterproof camera, there are no photo opps as keeping anything dry was beyond impossible.
The only exit is by passing through the rabid locals' craft market - which wasn't a good experience for ending on...considering the earlier orientations from how the all-day affair had started.
We'd initially been driven into nearby Ocho Rios and dropped off for shopping at a tourist mall...across the street from where all the cruise ships were unloading. Turned out that was a piece of cake compared to the locals' market we were later taken to where aggressive vendors tried blocking your passage until you stopped to look...and even went as far as to grab and pull you in! Needless to say, I made a quick retreat to the bus.
Lunch wasn't included in the trip's price. I opted for countertop dining out of a cut-up stationary bus that was serving locals foods off to the side of the parking lot at the overpriced "standard food" restaurant we'd been dropped off at and all my tourist coherts willing filed into.
Was all this worth 3-4 hours of travel time, 3-4 hours of shopping/waiting time, all for one-hour at the Falls? You bethca...if it's your only option for getting there. Otherwise, do it differently!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 18, 2002
My Jamaica vacation was definitely short-ended on usual experiences out among local people. I returned to the resort one afternoon to see large groups of "presumed" local young people enjoying buffet and limbo line on the central lawn. (Weren't they who the fences were supposedly trying to keep out?) They turned out to be refugees from the island of Montserrat that the Red Cross was sheltering and now treating for the day back when the volcano first started erupting. Speaking with some about concerns for family and situations left behind, I can only wonder what became for most of them with further destruction of their island.
The other up-close/personal exchange came from a young security guard named Michael. He worked 7 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., seven days a week and received the equivalent of US$71.50 for his 84-hours of work. He was quite proud to have left his family in the interior relocating on the coast for this job opportunity. I felt guilty that I'd cashed in US$200 for spending/play money - something he'd have to work 20 days straight at 240 hours to earn. He was always wanting to take me somewhere to see the real Jamaica - and then apologizing for not being able to afford to request a day off yet. His family still needed too much money.
Michael not only offered glimpses into the enticing yet forbidden impoverished world beyond the fence, he was also good company during when hardly anyone was staying in the resort and nothing was going on. Whether sitting in the mini-watchtower or on beach loungers under starlit Caribbean nights, we swapped countless stories about life in general. And don't ask me how, but I understood the island patois which often overroad his English in conversation excitement. He simply shared from his life without ever asking for anything in return which is why I felt compelled to leave him all my leftover Jamaican money - an amount he couldn't imagine basically a stranger handing over. It was J$1000, or roughly US$28.50 ...something I could've easily spent; something he'd have to work around 30 hours for.
I'm not sure what the current younger generation seeks for the ultimate, unadulterated marijuana high, but we seemed to always be on the eternal quest in search of Kona Gold, Maui Waui and Jamaican Gangha. The illusiveness of "said" availability only fueled the legendary possibilities for if we ever actually found it instead of having to settle for quality homegrown...again. Who knew year later I'd actually end up in Jamaica!
Smelling burning reefer everywhere here was no different than daily life in NYC or holiday time in Amsterdam or Lisbon. And I certainly wasn't shocked by the saturation of dealers which put the "hard-to-miss" ones in Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park to shame.
What I wasn't expecting was unabashed ways many resort staff and tourist operators promoted the local cash crop without pushing it - including the up-close riverbank tour included as part of the rafting excursion. On our way to Ocho Rios, the driver's monologue included facts for the spaced, steel poles which narrowly paralleled open stretches of highway. They were for clipping wings off small planes which make substantial pick-up landings on the highway at night. There was much pride and humor detailing ways they beat the system...I guess to insure enough stuff gets exported to still keep eager stoners hopefully waiting. But what was I still waiting for?
Towards trip's end one night when returning from the resort beach bar, I didn't ignore solicitations from beyond and so quickly exchanged cash for something rolled through the fence, subconscious temptation and/or guilt never even had a chance. Looking at the purchase, I thought I'd gotten taken not remembering the old 2-hit sh*t that paled in comparison with supposed imports. Yeh, and I'd quickly find this was the real stuff!
Actually, I'm case study proof for the Roseanne episode where they find the stash, light-up after all those years, and are self-sentenced to the bathroom (or hotel room in my case) from paranoia. Red Stripe beer and Rum Cream eventually helped curb the edge making for a goofy beachside night in the deserted resort.
I suppose there was no harm done in fulfilling a teenage fantasy after all those years... foolish as it was. However for any of my for students reading this - Remember how I tried to teach you to think 'outside of the box'? Consider this a lesson in thinking 'outside of the bag'!
For those staying in the Montego Bay area, Day Trip excursion rafting is taken along a mountain river in the range just south of the city. Cost for the trip, (I don't remember what) included transportation to and from, the actual rafting, and a buffet dinner at the end of the ride which was plentiful but lite on the Jamaican specialties. Take a pocket full of small bills for tipping including your oarsmen, the buffet people, and a different driver coming and going.
Pulling up to where we were to embark on the river, a host of locals sprang into action amid an acrid smell that was first hard to pin-point. However, the all too familiar glazed-over eyes gave it away. And just as Italians are supposedly known for their garlic odors and Indians their curry, this motley crew was fittingly emitting sweat and "skunk bud". Anchors away!
The dozen or so bamboo rafts set-out at a frenzied pace thanks to the rainy season's swift currents that churned the tranquil "tv-commercial" waters into a muddy brown. Myself, and a couple of other singles from Canada and Moscow, had been expected to ride three in a seat for two. I gladly took to the floor to help distribute the weight and perhaps improve our odds at the haphazard version of water bumper cars amidst the cluster. So much for that romantic solitude...no matter who your company might have been.
The ride might have lasted an hour and once the rafts were more evenly dispersed, our guide was able to turn most of his attention on us with detailed explantions about the sites we were passing including many varieties of untended bananas, spices, coffee beans and marijuana. There was never opportunity presented for swimming...though I wouldn't have cared to have gotten in the dirty water - unike the local children who are obviously paid "something" for guiding the rafts back up the river for the next group's departure.
I knew the trip's end was nearing with hints of dinner wafting thru the air. We dined under a huge, open-air thatched area where a ferocious afternoon thunderstorm displaced reggae as the background music. As we made our way back down the mountain, a distant rainbow was visible beyond gaps in the dense tropical vegetation. Yet something told me there were no pots of gold at the end of rainbows in Jamaica.
Heading into town from the south, I had the cab drop me off at the circular turn-around which links into Kent Ave.; an obvious centralized location based on traffic and loads of modern strip-malls lining the coastal side. I headed north on Kent to check-out the shops, bars, cafes, and Doctor's Cave Beach in what I wrongly assumed to be Tourist Territory...and I'd soon find out why.
I hadn't gone far when noticing most of the everyday locals seemed to be staring; all but glaring with disgust/contempt at my presence. Those who dared approach were offering a ride, guide, weed, or some "needed" service in the name of making a buck. When a simple "no" didn't work, their initial frinedliness often turned hostile and intimidating including threats of harm; some even trailing me.
Little wonder that most of the businesses were deserted. And if this was the daytime reception, I can't imagine coming back here at night without the loathsome escort of being with a tourist group. My interest also fizzled in all the budget hotels which line the inland side of Kent Ave. in case I'd ever want to return and coexist among the locals in my preferred custom of cultural travel and exploration.
Back at the turn-around, eastward heads into town and a small historical center that's significance is lost in memory. Off to the NE area were just enough shops to continue luring me forward, but the conspicuous stares now suggested amazement in my presence that no tourist had ever dared or cared to venture that far off the beaten path.
The final nail in the coffin was at a large open-air market off the SE-corner of the turn-around where local goods, not tourist junk, was being sold. Upon entry, I was quickly reprimanded and told only locals were allowed to shop there! Needless to say, I got to the strip mall, picked up my stuff, and hailed the first cab...which would actually stop for me, in making a bee-line back to the resort where I surrendered myself to the security of resort life behind the fence except for the organized excursions.
Call it strange, but I'm glad to have encountered this - however tense/vulnerable it made me feel. Why? It was a valuable lesson in further understanding what others live with daily in my proverbially being able to put the shoe on the other foot. But left or right-foot, you can bet my soles won't be trekkin' around MoBay ever again!
Whether a local native is flying to or from their homeland, you'll be able to count on one thing - in serving as ambassador for an entire extended family, they'll be guaranteed to have overpacked! Is there anyone who hasn't seen the locals with all their luggage strewn about in front of the check-in counter with last-minute shifting and shuffling, repacking, and then reweighing...only to start the process all over again? Sure you have. And chances are they were the customers right in front of you holding up the line and keeping you from getting on with life. Let this be a clue that you're preparing to enter, or are just departing, a world where cultures are different and time doesn't play a large factor in much of anything.
In front of the check-in counter isn't the only place you'll discover this. American, and other airlines, actively recruit employees from the islands who not only staff their airports abroad, but serve in a variety of positions at U.S. airport which have flights to the Caribbean. While accomodating, they too can be lacking in our expectations of speedy service often further compounded by our anticipatory adrenaline from the flight we're preparing to take. Don't be suprised or offended if they subtly "suggest" you basically need to catch your breath AND calm down.
It's our natural second nature to immediately think others need to adapt to our customs and ways, but consider - if you're stressed from what you're encountering at the airport, how do you expect to cope when you're fully submersed in the culture that will eximplify the same tendencies in basically everything?
For Caribbean flights, plan to arrive at the airport early...not just because airlines recommend it. This won't diminish chances for experiencing the same type of incidents, but you'll have extra time on your side as an insurance tranquilizer. Airports in Miami, NYC's JFK, Boston and San Juan are likely where you'll need to heed AND practice this advice most thoroughly. The three-hour international recommended wait also applies for American Eagle flights/connections out of San Juan where actual flying time is often barely an hour.
It was alot of these same type frustrations at Jamaica's Montego Bay airport which were precursors to unfolding of unfortunate events detailed in my Free Form's - Comrades of our Traveling Public.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 19, 2002
Attraction | "Additional Tips & Info"
Those "legally" working with tourists will quickly tell you that while sales and usage of marijuana might be everywhere, it is still illegal ONLY unless you're a bonified rhastafarian. They've been exempted on religious purposes, but are still illegal firing up anywhere outside of their worship centers. Tourists are prime candidates for dealers and cops alike since we're perceived to have so much money. That said, go back and read my "GHANGA FACTOR" entry if you haven't already.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME
If Jamaica still hasn't implemented the time change like Dominican Republic did in 2000, expect it to start getting dark unnaturally very early.
Strange I can't remember drinking bottled water, buying any, or it coming with the resort room. But the tap water is not drinkable here and you'll definitely want to not take any chances.
ALL-INCLUSIVE MEALS & DRINKS
Considering I didn't expect spending much time inside the reosrt, I saw no need purchasing all-inclusive meals and drinks. Things turned out differently so use this info as you see fit when deciding what plan is best for you.
First, I refuse to wear a "distinguishing" wristband that leaves a permanent white one until the tan fades. From what I could tell, few guests wore theirs and it didn't make a difference based on services received.
Workers at the beachside bar & grill didn't care what your status was as if easier to pick up your tips then to document/bill you for what you've had. (Is this fairly common in resorts thru-out the Caribbean as was here and at Nassau's Cable Beach Radisson where we regularly crash for a day?) The free food beachside all but made up for the overpriced breakfast buffet where they were strict about billing - as they should've been.
Whether state of this particular resort or off-season, the biggest problem with food/beverage service was the limited access and availability based on hours of operation no matter which plan you paid for. Making matters worse, there were no soda/snack vending machines anywhere and the general store only sold beach goods/attire...yet they didn't want you going into town for any reasons. From what I've seen in Dominican resorts where my family/friends work, I know they're not all this way. But unless you're sure, be prepared with snacks/drinks for your room...and take 'em (the resort) for all they're worth!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 19, 2002
Everyone had boarded and was finally seated for the full-capacity flight. Positioned near the front, I saw them roll the stairs away and expected the door to be shut and sealed. It wasn't. The captain made his initial greetings before saying we should be moving shortly...but we didn't. The power remained off as the overloaded plane microwaved just off the terminal; the only relief was humid tropical air coming thru the yet to be closed door. People started getting antsy. Babies started screaming. And the obviously veteran cabin crew was reluctant to distribute anything under the guise we'd be departing soon.
Maybe 45-minutes into the wait, the captain came back on announcing they were drawing us a new flight course to avoid a line of storms between Jamaica and Florida. This seemed to pacify most, yet I wondered if anyone had noticed the American flight parked next to us, and bound for Miami, had just taken off?
Restless begin to get ugly as people were understandably hot, cramped (before the more leg room in coach modification) and ready to get moving. By the time the pilot finally confessed there was something wrong with the plane, mechanics were working as fast as they could, and "we should be moving shortly," the cabin was about to explode from the building tension and heat already combusting too many short fuses.
To say there's "one" in every crowd doesn't do justice to the outspoken comments from a drunk and a racist who combined in creating all-out rebellion. The two gathered their repsective parties and headed for the still open door only to find there were no stairs. The cabin crew did their best to appease them and insist they sit down, but cries of "trapped/held hostage/human rights" created a flood toward the exit worse than any routine deboarding once landing at a terminal. The crew tried to reassure the raging crowd by asking, "wouldn't you rather sit and wait how ever long it takes to know the plane is fixed rather than crash into the ocean half-way home?" There was no hearing of any reason. They'd lost control of the situation; hostilities were close to jeopardizing their own well beings as one attendant was forcefully shoved out of the way.
Eventually stairs were moved back allowing passengers off the plane...many trumpeting they could be found in the bar when ever it was time to depart. I'd sat sweating quietly thru the whole ordeal somewhat amazed at what had just transpired. Once the plane had cleared out, before stepping out myself, I caught the eyes of the flight attendant who'd been campaigning against not crashing into the ocean - obviously an unspoken possibility and fear they live with daily. A sympathetic smile...nothing more need be said.
Once the plane was fixed and the now more drunken and beligerant passengers had been rounded up for reboarding, I wasn't sure which would prevent the most potential damage and harm - the plane or flight home trapped with these people! We had been sitting there for three hours and 15 minutes; only 15 minutes shy of how long the flight home was to have taken...and was now going to.
The cabin crew worked twice as hard to ease the tensions, but those who travel often enough know the percentage of unhappy customers even under the best of conditions. They'd barely cleared the dinner trays when the flight attendant I'd earlier made eye contact with was back in the aisle setting another steak dinner in front of me "that I had preordered if I still wanted it". I was confused before realizing need to coyly play off her gesture; this time the smile with unspoken kindness and appreciation. And yes, I ate every last bite of my unsuspecting reward for civility.
When reaching JFK, anyone with a connecting flight had missed it. Once clearing customs, the recheck-in assistance desk was jam-packed with the cornered agents getting blasted from all the recounted versions of what had happened; of course, led by the original ringleaders. I doubt you'd be surprised how many time during this entire ordeal I'd heard the threats of "we'll never fly American again!" If the rest of the traveling public could only be so lucky. Meantime, it made me thankful for the simplicity of my one-hour bus ride back into the city before connecting to a subway and then walking home and up my six flights of stairs.
Perhaps I should've accepted and succumbed to resort life and all the amenities you pay for, but it's not my style. Nor is it within my nature to embrace feeling vulnerable and intimidated when I rather pride myself on facing and conquering those elements daily where I live. My travels are to get a break from the stresses of everyday life, but so far Jamaica's the only place I didn't find relief since conditions were actually worse.
Certain unspoken, yet very real expectations for so-called quality of life in NYC were quickly trampled here largely due to the poverty of their general public. But whether you hail from a large city like New York or small town anywhere, I can't imagine anyone feeling comfortable with what ensues at the very places tourists are taken to when leaving the resort.
The saturation of locals' crafts markets are hard to avoid without never leaving the security provided by the resort fence. You'd expect the desperation of need to make a sale amidst countless other vendors all basically selling the same stuff. What you wouldn't expect, and need to prepare for, are the tactics in which they went about things.
Once the buses unloaded, or in some cases where the only exit from an attraction led thru one of these markets, the vendors were congregated and waiting for the "fair game". Insistance AND persistance is one thing, but when they start blocking your way, grabbing you by the arm and pulling you, and all but fighting with the other vendors over who's potential customer you are - something is VERY wrong!
Forget violation of personal space! I found these actions highly offensive which not only prohibited the freedom to at least leisurely browse, but obviously ability to make a purchase, too! And for those who didn't have experience dealing with aggressive big-city street vendors, they were sitting duck prey...just as I comparably witnessed in Tangiers' Kasbah. Yet I couldn't help but noticing even while skirting through as quickly as I could, those who had been apprehended were still subject to vendor squabbling over who would give them the better price, and ridicule for trying to pay with the local currency.
I bought nothing at any of these places, though I found it rather interesting that the locals can't be totally oblivious to how rudely and ineffectively they conduct theirselves. There was a "tempting" t-shirt being sold everywhere with bold letters which said: "NO, I DON'T WANT: any weed, a ride, my hair braided, a tour guide...and the list went on covering the entire front of the shirt based on all-too well known offers the touring sect is bomarded with.
Another incident, that I feel compelled to share based on potentially educating the traveling public, involves a well-known set-up I allowed myself to play into based on immediate need...and without even thinking. My Dunn's River Falls entry describes how we were dropped off in Ocho Rios for lunch and I opted for the local dining counter in lieu of the typical restaurant everyone safely filed into. When finished with my meal, I was looking for a restroom and this one young man pointed me to a park which was visible a couple of blocks away. I thanked him and set out.
The facility had a long hall before you turned to the right onto a shorter hall and entry into the bathroom. The door was locked. I walked back down the hall and had barely cleared the exit when I was surprised to suspiciously find the same young man who'd directed me. I told him the place was locked, yet he insisted we need to go back and check again. I declined and started to leave when he made a big scene about my not paying him for this information service to begin with. Again, I felt I held my own in not backing down, but he followed making threats all the way back until I boarded the safety of my tour bus. He then continued to circle the bus yelling at the windows.
So maybe you're thinking I should've just given this guy a couple of bucks to shut him up. To have done so would have not only exposed where I kept my money, but also to how much I might have had. Your guess is as good as mine to if he'd actually taken everything or done me harm, but I know these tactics all too well...just like directing me to the closed bathroom and leaving me trapped in a dead-end hallway. Unfortunately, this happens all too often to unsuspecting tourist in NYC who are pointed down side-subway entrances that are padlocked shut. Then, they're taken for all they've got from the helpful individuals who purposefully directed them there to begin with!
It is no wonder why they have justified tightened security at the resorts which are further fortefied with their insistance about not venturing out alone. My comfort levels were definitely challenged by these incidents which occured while on supervised excursions and as described in the entry about the day I went walking around unescorted in Montego Bay. But feeling intimidated, unsafe and vulnerable is not my idea for time spent anywhere.
I'm sure there are many who can argue these nightmarish encounters based on wonderful experiences they've had...and beyond the boundaries of the resort's protection. I'm glad you were fortunate enough to find them. But for the rest who are looking to "Come to Jamaica and Feel Alright", I could not or would not guarantee it.