One of the most surprising things to me about Jamaica compared to other trips is the lack of diversity and "cosmopolitanism." And by that I mean that we are obviously not Jamaican, everyone else here is, and we get a lot of looks and attention because it's obvious to everyone. Coming from New York it's hard to comprehend any amount of diversity as head turning, but as two white backpackers we are, especially in the very non-touristy Kingston.
We had our first morning abroad today; it's nice not having to worry about much and be able to ease into the day as we see fit. With backpacks on, we took a long, hot walk to the Devon House, about 30 minutes from our hostel.
The Devon House is a mansion in the middle of Kingston, historic for being built by the first black millionaire in Jamaica. It's a big, restored, 19th century colonial house on a large plot of land between two busy main roads, with well appointed grounds and many gift shops, cafes and small restaurants on the complex.
|Panorama of the back of the Devon House, with garden and shops.|
Shortly after booking our first flight, we watched the first Bourdain episode in Jamaica in which he spent a lot of time exploring how the great beaches and ports here are owned and operated by the all-inclusive resorts. Despite a lot of the money flowing through these Jamaican cities, very little of it stays here in wages or commerce outside of the resorts. That "phenomenon" has been apparent to us in a lot of ways. The geographical setting of Kingston is stunning, it's a huge protected bay surrounded by lush, green mountains that at night are dotted with lights from their houses. In a wealthier country I imagine that a setting like this would be way more developed and desirable, considering the sights it has to offer.
So when I was looking at the signs around the Devon House, it kind of makes sense that you have to buy a guided tour to go into the house, and that it's surrounded by little shops catering to tourists, and that you have to by a photography pass to take pictures on the grounds. It backs up a bit the claim that the tourist money coming through here isn't staying, so where it's possible to claim some of it, Jamaica will.
The bus ride from Kingston to Ocho Rios was very comfortable and the mountains and valleys on the route beautiful. Not bad at $30 total for an air conditioned ride from one end of the country to the other (on the short axis).
|Early in the climb up the mountains|
|Close to the highest point of our drive. A huge vale surrounded by green mountains. Some kind of agriculture or processing area in the middle there.|
|Our first site of the north side and a beach, near Ocho Rios.|
After arriving and checking into another Reggae Hostel (same management), we ventured out into what is very obviously a cruise ship economy town. After walking around here all day, the Trip Advisor reviews are... not surprising. On the way back from the "Oceans 11" bar and restaurant (great views, but Chicago prices) we were debating if most of the people here are weed dealers or if nearly everyone just happens to have weed that they would sell to a tourist if they can get a good price. You hear offers of "smokes" and "Bob Marley" a lot. Melissa has also been called "boss lady" a dozen times and had at least that many offers to have her hair braided.
|Sunset on Margaritaville beach (real name) from Ocean's 11 bar.|