Friday night I went over to my friend Joseph’s apartment, like I do many nights when I’m not traveling. Usually, we meet for dinner and then others start to trickle in until we’re ready for our Friday night bar-hopping or whatever hedonistic social pleasures we feel like partaking in to start the weekend off.
The last weekend was different. It was Super Bowl weekend, some friends were away, other close friends were in Costa Rica, and it was freezing outside, so we were just going to have dinner and then make it a low-key night. Joseph then suggested half-heartedly that perhaps we go somewhere warm for the weekend, like Miami. Flights there were pretty expensive, since we were looking to go either that night or early the next morning, so we then looked at Puerto Rico. It got better, but then we tried Dominican Republic and then finally Jamaica. Jamaica was the cheapest by far, for some reason, and so we booked a flight there which would depart less than 10 hours later, at 8am.
We were happy; in a moment of serendipity, we had booked a ticket to a country that neither of us had seen yet. Being a Medallion Elite member with Delta Airlines, I was immediately upgrade to business class for the four hour trip, though I downgraded to Economy Comfort since Joseph couldn’t get upgraded with me.
The two of us slept the entire flight, and I awoke as the plane was descending over turquoise water. We touched down, deboarded the plane, only to come to one hell of a line at the passport control. An hour and 15 minutes later, we walked out to the heat and humidity of the Caribbean sun.
We took a few minutes to inhale the warm air, a welcome relief to the below-freezing temperatures back home in New York. Having no plans, or even a place to stay, we decided to rent a car to wander around the island. We got our little blue Toyota Yaris and drove out, towards Scotchies about 10 minutes east of MBJ airport.
Scotchies was the first place recommended by several locals as where we could get some legit good Jamaican food. It was an outdoor, open-air, shack-type structure, and has canopied tables outside. We paid for our food, an array of local delicacies, then watched as chicken and pork meats were rubbed with seasoning and then slow-cooked over pimento wood, with some metal, roofing sheets on top to keep the smoke in. It was a delicious meal, and we devoured our 1/2 pound jerk chicken, 1/2 pound roasted pork, festival, the bammy, the roasted yams, and the rice and beans, washing it all down with a Red Stripe beer.
Once stuffed, we were on the road again. This time, we decided to head west, toward Negril, where we would try to find a place to stay for the night. Going west would take us past the airport again and through the actual city of Montego Bay, which would be our next stop. As we started to get to the downtown area of Montego Bay, two guys rode up on either side of the car. They seemed like they wanted to help us, and we thanked them repeatedly but couldn’t get rid of them. Finally, one of the two offered to help us find parking, by showing us to a lot, and then asked for a tip (something we’d be asked for exponentially more times throughout our stay).
We parked, then had a walk around. The city was packed with locals shopping and selling their wares, and many people commented on us as we passed by. “Indian?” they asked Joseph, or “Pakistani?” To me, I got “Italian?” once, as well as many people talking to me in Spanish, which I’m used to anyway. We walked towards the beach, where some kids were playing (who also came up to us asking for something). The water was clear and pristine, and the sun peeking through the clouds were quite a sight to behold.