Monday, June 25, 2012

Yeah Mun: Things to Do in Jamaica; Shopping, Botantical Gardens, and Dunn's River Falls

Our entire trip planning experience in Jamaica was basically built around brochures and packages at the hotel.  This is perfectly opposed to the way I normally travel.  Most of the time, I have everything figured out ahead of time, my own transportation everywhere, and have researched the most efficient and cost-effective way of doing things.

With the wedding planning, I had no time for any of this and frankly no patience for it either.  It was nice not to have to worry about this sort of meticulous planning for once.

Nonetheless, I did miss having a car.  Our resort was removed from the town and pretty much everything else, so taxis and trip buses were the only way to travel, and taxis were beyond ridiculously expensive (I wouldn't pay those prices for a taxi in New York City let alone a country whose economy is shit compared to ours).  If I went back, I would rent a car.  I think it would be worth it for exploring purposes.

Anyway, we wanted to get into the town a bit and burn some cash, so we decided to go on a tour that included shopping and Dunn's River Falls.  We had planned on going to the latter anyway, and adding shopping was fairly inexpensive.  We figured the shops would be overpriced but that we didn't really have other options.

We were right.  I'm sure the tour guides knew the shops they were taking us to were overpriced, but at the time, we didn't see any other option.  We really wanted to buy rum cream.  If you remember, I had fallen in love with this tasty Bailey's alternative at our hotel and desperately wanted to take some home.  We bought two bottles on our shopping trip.  Little did we know that we would find the same bottle $7 cheaper at the airport on the way home.  Anyway.  We bargained for our other souvenirs, and I think what we paid was more reasonable for them.  But the whole experience was rather taxing.  I hate bargaining with a vengeance, but as I said in the last post, I hate getting taking advantage of.  I feel like buying anything in a not-first-world country creates nationality-related problems, and there are times when I'd rather just not buy anything to avoid the experience.

But at least we got our rum cream :).

The fruits of our bargaining labors.

We were surprised to discover that our trip included a visit to a botanical garden which ended up being quite a pleasant experience.  Our guide was...let's say, very local.  We're pretty sure he had no idea what he was talking about, but he was entertaining nonetheless.

Look at him.  He's so cute I could just eat him up!

We did get to see some pretty cool plants regardless of whether the information we received about them was accurate.

I don't remember what these red things were called--Cat's Tails maybe?--but we were all in love with them.

Daniel getting eaten by a banana tree.

I can't remember what this means.  It was something akin to "I love you," I think.

Finally, we left the foliage for Dunn's River Falls.  I must say, as far as value goes, this was the best thing we did on the trip.  It was pretty inexpensive and amazingly cool.  It is also something I wish we could have done without guides.  They slowed us down, and we would have liked to climb the falls more than once and try some trickier routes.  But anyway, it was pretty cool.

You hike up the falls.  Literally.  It's a long, lazy waterfall, and you climb up it.  It was awesome.  Daniel and I are both of an adventurous nature when it comes to this kind of stuff, and after getting our footing, we decided to go the hard way as often as possible.  Daniel actually climbed through a crashing cascade of water at one point.  We enjoyed it immensely.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures since we didn't have a waterproof camera, but this should give you the idea:

And that was our outing.  I'm glad we did it even though there were awkward/frustrating parts.  I still would have liked to have a car, but that would have been an extra expense we didn't really need too.  Next time perhaps.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yeah Mun: Things to Do in Jamaica, Mystic Mountain

The best things we did in Jamaica were our excursions.  I'm so glad we ended up having money to do something outside the hotel almost every day.  I think we would have gotten really bored otherwise.  Usually on vacations I'm all about go go go and screw the hotel, but for our honeymoon, we figured we'd want to spend most of our time relaxing anyway, so we didn't plan much ahead of time.  It was nice for the first few days, but I definitely got antsy by the third day.  I can't be somewhere and not explore it!  I just don't work that way.

Anywho, we ended up getting so much money from the wedding that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted.  We still kept price in mind but not so much as we usually do.

Our first excursion brought us to Mystic Mountain.  We went for the Jamaican bobsledding, but there was a lot of cool stuff to do there.

First, we took a really long chair lift up the mountain.  It went straight through the jungle and was totally awesome!

Even though the main purpose of the chair lift was to get us up the mountain, it was one of our favorite things about the whole trip.  It was so long that we really had time to savor the jungle and the ocean views.  Highly recommended.

Once we got up there, we entered a whole different world.  There was live music, dancers, and an array of fun touristy activities.  We checked out the Jamaican museum.  I'd never seen a museum outside before, and it was pretty cool if small.  Daniel was particularly pleased to learn that there once were TWO Jewish pirates in Jamaica (I think he's about ready to submit his application to become the third).

We checked out the mountain top waterslide which was pretty cool even if we were the only adults in the pool.  The views were gorgeous.

We're pretty sure this is our resort.

Downtown Ocho Rios

We engaged in various other activities that may or may not have been for adults.

Then is was time for the main event:  Jamaican bobsledding.  This was pretty much the greatest rollercoaster I have ever been on not because it was extra fast or had a crazy track but because you could control it yourself.  The thrill is so much greater when you have the power to go at full speed and decide when it's time to break.  It was awesome!  Plus, you really can't not like a rollercoaster that goes through the rainforest, so close to the trees that you can touch them (why no, I would never do that, I kept my hands and arms inside at all times, yep, that definitely happened...).

OK, so these were taken after we got down the mountain, whatever, you get the idea.

After that thrilling adventure, we embarked on another and ziplined down the mountain.  I had done a zipline before in Hawaii which was a little cooler, but this was still tons of fun.  And I think it was longer and faster than the one in Hawaii, so it definitely gets points for that.  Our guides were funny.  They were laughing and joking with each other the whole time and gave us all a scare when they pretended we would have to zipline straight down.

Ready to Roll

After a leisurely ride back down on the chair lift, our Mystic Mountaining was at an end, but the adventure wasn't.  We still had some time before our bus got back, so we ventured across the street to explore a bit.

There were several parts of the trip during which I felt awkward being a foreign tourist, and this was one of them.  I want to support the local economy, but I hate being taken advantage of.  We walked down the road a bit and wanted to go explore off road by the water a bit, but the one easily accessible place was crawling with locals who wanted to "show us" the area.  In other words, walk us down the hill and then demand money for it.  I hate that.  We ended up leaving because I was so frustrated trying to say, "I want to go down but not with you" without sounding rude or contributing to the ugly American stereotype.  We found another place to go down by the water and then ended up sneaking back to where we had wanted to go before.

Supposedly, this waterfall was in a James Bond movie.

Now, there were actually two reasons I was a little nervous to go off road.  One was the pushy locals, the other was the absolute eruption of these guys when we crossed the road:

I hate spiders.  I hate them.  I do not know why, but bugs really get to me, and spiders are the worst.  These ones sure looked poisonous, and they were fucking massive.  Seriously, there were a lot of big bugs in Jamaica, but the spiders...just, Oh My God!  I was terrified.  Not quite enough to stop exploring but almost.

Our adventure across the road was short-lived.  While we were waiting for the tour bus, we took time to do a few necessary newlywed shots.

And then it was time to go back to the resort (but not before the bus forgot us...don't worry, another came to retrieve the poor, lost tourists).

Mystic Mountain may have been obscenely touristy, but it was a lot of fun.  It was like a Jamaican Disneyland but way smaller and more natural and with far fewer rules.  We had a great time there, and it was totally worth the price.

Classy Wedding by the Sea