I arrived in Montego Bay an hour earlier than planned. After a four-hour delay in my flight from Beijing to LA, I was at the mercy of a young man from the United Airlines to book me on to the next flight so I don’t miss my morning flight from Chicago to Montego Bay.
Thankfully, and without additional fees, he booked me on the 12.25am flight from LA to Houston to catch the earlier 9:22am flight from Houston. He pronounced the ‘te’ in Montego Bay not as “tea” but as “te” as in egg. I found it interesting that he’s pronounced it so but, hey, I wasn’t about to correct him in case he “accidently” book me on the next flight back to Sydney instead.
On time, the plane landed in Mo’ Bay. It was raining, the grounds were drenched and the skies were cloudy. Not exactly the sunny welcome I was expecting but, hey, I will be staying for two weeks here so one cloudy day does not a holiday make.
Poor Vernadeen, who was expecting me at 2.18pm, had to rush to pick me up. She came with her childhood friend, Damien, who picked us up in his silver Honda. This was the start of the adventure as seatbelts aren’t compulsory here.
Gloucestershire Hotel was a pleasant surprise. The two double-bed room was more than enough for our needs and we were served drinks within arrival. The place was fully staffed and the lobby/reception area was very nicely decorated.
The first official stop of our trip was Margaritaville. A tourist hotspot, people come here by the truckloads. The club played the crowd-pleasers, top 40 that everyone recognised. But as the night went on, it got better. Vernadeen said the DJ who was playing later in the night was relatively well known in the country and he gave a very good setlist of dancehall music.
I’ve always wanted to see an impromptu dancehall performance and thankfully wasn’t disappointed. Two guys did their thing – and the energy in their steps was just as I expected, if not more. Vernadeen did what I’ve now called the ‘dance movement’ – and Damien agrees.
It was great that Vern managed to get Damien along. Men are drawn to Vern likes bees to honey and male company with us, to my mind, muted the attention a bit. We just wanted to dance and have a great time without some stranger trying to hit on her every second.
But the highlight had to be our first food stop – a popular local hangout next to a petrol station. Convenient and safe (haha!). I thought it was just for the jerk chicken and jerk pork that people go there – not so – it was actually a karaoke spot, too. We were treated to a performance of Hotel California, reggae version, and some ‘older’ dude who can really sing, Ja’ style. The food was great. I had jerk chicken, festival and some fried bread.
The next day, I had to do some work-related stuff. The weather was much, much better. We did have breakfast at The Pelican, a restaurant frequented by the business folk. That was the first time I had codfish and plantain since I set foot here.
I wish I had pictures of every move we took. But the best moments are always the one where you don’t have any photos. Ah, yes, Vern hollered at this drunken man outside Margaritaville and told him “Michelle’s single.” To which the drunken man, with no front teeth, unkempt hair and what looked like last week’s clothers left on, paused, turned around and told me that he’s having a bad day and that he’ll give me his number and if he can call me.
Yes, first day in this country and I got rejected by a man who looks like he hasn’t taken a bath and is missing all his upper front teeth. Sigh.
P.S. Our hotel is right on the hip strip overlooking the beach. It looks beautiful. Somehow, I didn’t see anyone going to the beach! Perhaps it’s because it was a Sunday night after all.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE A FILIPINA IN JAMAICA
1) Don’t look for adobo. I didn’t meet a single soul over the two days who look Filipino. So much so that when I saw a Chinese man on our second day, I wanted to hug him and say, “hey look, there’s one of my people!”
2) You will LOVE the music. There’s a club practically every 100 metres and everyone had great speakers. I even wanted to dance at this joint except it was a passing car playing really good dancehall music.
3) You can pay in either Jamaican dollars or US dollars. Bring both.
4) At the airport, there’s a billboard advertisement for what was called a ‘Hedonist Resort’. Enuf said.
5) Make sure you have the jerk pork.
6) Any self-respecting Filipino will not leave Jamaica without having their plantain, cassava dishes and jerk-anything.
7) Oh my god, 10 days without TFC!