Just Another Day in Negril, Jamaica

This is an interesting place.

Like many of the developing countries I have been to, most areas just off the beach demonstrate incredible poverty and signs of tough living. Here, the budget hotels are mixed in with everything from nice places to simple shacks. There are no high-rises, the law being that no building can be taller than the palm trees.

The all-inclusive places loom farther up the beach in their own Bay and the guests rarely venture down to my part of the beach. In fact, the resorts discourage them to leave at all and when we walked on their beach, the security guards asked to make sure that we were guests not straying too far from “home.” The logos and “plasticy” feel of the place made it look a lot like a Jamaican Disney Land — where fun comes in packaged, nice and neat, controlled bursts.

Jamaica is an unpredictable place, the animal life is awesome. Last night, after returning home, we were startled by a GIANT crab in front of our stairway. This thing was at least three pounds and several of his relatives are splattered all over the busy road between our room and the beach. I have seen the largest frog in my life, the size of two fists together. There is also a slender ferret that sneaks around the garden looking like it is up to no good.

Today while looking for shells in knee deep water, we found a wet but spendable $20 note — a nice change to the constant bleeding of money that seems to happen here. I have never been in a place where I have been deliberately given the wrong amount of change back so many times. Most people seem to pull the exchange rate directly from their bottoms when you pay in U.S. dollars, and the 18% “tax” is sporadic as well. Almost everywhere there is a 10% “service charge” regardless of how much, if any, service that you receive. The 65:1 exchange rate in my favor provides no benefit whatsoever after tourist inflation is calculated.

Even with this being a budget traveler’s worst nightmare come true — the paradise quality of the beach and water make up for it. The beach is the cleanest that I have ever walked on, and the water is like one giant swimming pool. There is not much salt in the water, so you can open your eyes and see for meters without the slightest burn. I guess you have to pay to play in paradise.

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