On Island Time in Jamaica

Jamaica’s national fruit ackee is pretty to watch, but if eaten raw, super poisonous. The hypoglycin of the fruit can be leathal, and even when ripe (the ripe fruit opens itself indicating it’s edible), the only edible part is the yellow part. Don’t eat the poisonous seeds, avoid munching the peel as well.

As we sat in a bus taking us from Falmouth to Montego Bay we got to see this deadly fruit up close. Our driver stopped by the road as the guide picked up one ripe fruit and sent it to us passengers to look at.

Jamaica is not flat, the roads are often serpent like adventures going up and down the hills. The lush greenery around, beneath and above us was unbelievable. Every lamp post and fence had some sort of climbing plant creeping up and around the structures. It must be time consuming to make sure your garden doesn’t become a jungle.

Bananas, sugar and coffee (the world famous, superior Blue Mountain variety included) are some of the important agricultural export products. But the tropical climate is ideal for growing any fruit and as our guide told us, this is a real Eden. But you can actually get bored of, like, fresh mangoes during the season. They are eaten in all possible forms. We have difficulty believing this, but kept our thoughts to ourselves – in the wintery Finland any fresh fruit are welcome. We have shops filled with fruits from around the world, but they mostly arrive partly raw and when finally ripened, they never taste “alive” like they would in their natural environment.

Those of you who’ve read our earlier posts, may have noticed we are fond of James Bond and seeing the actual surroundings where filming has taken place has always lured us. Jamaica is said to have been one of the most important places for author Ian Flaming as he created Bond for the books. “Would the books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday?” wrote Fleming, “I doubt it.”

Flaming spent a lot of time on this island and his old residence is now a boutique hotel called Golden Eye. We didn’t see that, but drove past the gates of the Swamp Safari, the place that 007 (Roger Moore) escapes in Live and Let Die. Photos taken through the steamy bus windows are blurry, as is the one above reminding of the guide telling us about Bond, but it is better than nothing.

For us the day in Jamaica was part of our cruise itinerary some years ago. As usual when first time at any port, we wanted to get some kind of a tour. Tour, even a shortish one, gives you an overall picture of  what the place looks like and if the local guide happens to have more than average verbal skills, you also get a lot of information on the local life, as well.

To be honest, the spoken part of the tour was the best part. And seeing the urban areas change into rural and back again.

Our stops were somewhat odd considering Falmouth has (according to guide books) several historical buildings. We stopped at an under renovation church (mean serious renovation) and were especially guided to donate for this renovation before exiting the bus. Before entering the over grown graveyard that surrounds the church, we got the first offer for illegal substances. Didn’t buy the Bob Marley bath towel, nor anything under counter. Bewildered by this ganja island experience, we wandered to the church, watching goat jump up and down the grave stones.

Our second stop was a sea side restaurant/club – shop yard combo Pier One. We were given complimentary pieces of delicious banana cake and a drink, tried our first Red Stripe beers as well. The local lager is refreshing and nice. Pier One may be the most happening night life spot of Montego Bay on Friday nights, but before noon you had no indication of the pulsating entertainment. Pretty views to the bay, though.

Finally we were dropped off at the Hip Strip, the restaurant/shopping/beach street that tourists walk up and down. And a place where the shopkeepers are way too aggressive to our liking.

There is no way you can stop and look at any item without someone becoming your constant, rude shadow. If you buy something  and go to the next door with your plastic bag, the sellers start asking with an angry tone “What you pay for that you buy? Our’s are cheaper, look, look”. And it goes on and on and on. Outside the stores they even grab you at arm to pull you to see their stuff. An unhappy piece of this laid back, beautiful island, where obviously most live on island time. No hurry, no worry – the true attitude is far from Hip Strip.

We ended our Montego Bay stop (before hopping back to our bus) by sitting at the bar of Margaritaville and enjoyed a delicious lunch, watching people join in reggae and dancehall lessons, enjoying the seaside vibes. Don’t let the first impression fool you, even the locals come to this bar to have fun, we were told. And it’s easy to believe, that was a relaxed, music and yummy food filled place.

Next time we will make sure to visit more Bond locations. See some pretty beaches, waterfalls, maybe visit a coffee plantation and learn to make authentic jerk chicken with a local. That dish by the way, is heavenly. One more good reason to return.

This post is part of #24IslandsOfChristmas challenge in Instagram. The IG post for this particular post was December 5. This text wanted to take it easy and thus, was not published the same time.

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