This is Jamaica man. The home of Bob Marley and a bunch of super cool rasta cats, and it's long been my dream to visit the legendary island in the Caribbean. Part of the appeal for a boy from Oz is the sheer enormity of getting over here from Australia, it's difficult to find a location as exotic or far flung. If an Australian wants to visit the beach, well basically just jump in your car and the majority of the population will be by the sea in a jiffy. Alright then, but if a location more tropical is on the cards South East Asia is also on our doorstep. A visit to Bali, Thailand, and other resort meccas are a short flight from home. So what was it that propelled me to fly for almost two days to get to the Caribbean? Well, this is Jamaica and that's all that matters. Yeah man!
My itinerary started out of Sydney on a flight with China Southern, a decidedly average airline in my opinion after having flown on a couple of long haul flights with them. But they have incredible fares to Vancouver, so as always price trumps all. The stopover
was in Guangzhou, and I was pleased to be offered a free hotel for the eight hour stopover unlike last time. I was checked through customs, and stunned to be able to step outside the airport of Guangzhou for the first time in 28 years. How cool and unexpected an opportunity that proved to be! A shower and well appointed room was just the ticket before the second, and longer leg on to Vancouver. Because I was well rested things went swimmingly during the day stopover in Vancouver. It's great to be back in Canada again, and I chilled out with my bags secured at the excellent Samesun hostel in the heart of town, my stomping ground from the visit in 2009.
Then I needed to get over to the East Coast, obviously, and the Caribbean kept getting closer as WestJet tore across the North American continent to Montreal with a short stopover in Toronto. Although this is my third visit to Canada, I've never been in the lead up to summer, and have endured only severe winters with more snow than I can cope with. With that in mind I decided to take a full 24 hour stopover
in this beautiful city, and it was awesome to stroll around the Old Port in the afternoon sun with locals and tourists promenading in the pleasant weather. Next morning it was Air Canada who got the gig for the final five hour leg south to Kingston man. A gorgeous cabin attendant came up to me half way through the flight and asked if I was OK. 'I'm just bored' was the reply after being in the air or in transit for the last two days, so she offered some newspapers to help pass the time. So yeah baby, this is Kingston Town as the legendary reggae king Bob Marley sang, I'm here man!
The airport taxi service dropped me at the Reggae hostel, an excellent and secure hostel in the heart of this somewhat notorious city. It's conveniently situated not far from New Kingston, and only a ten minute walk from the Half Way Tree bus terminal. The guests here are cool, all nice and relaxed Caribbean style. The staff are also friendly and extremely helpful. A cool US dude walked with me to the shops on the first afternoon, which is a great comfort to get bearings in
a new city, and have the chance to learn what's what in regards to safety concerns. The weather is certainly quite warm, but not punishingly hot, and there has been a relatively strong breeze for the duration of my visit to the Jamaican capital. After chlllaxing for a day or so I got on my wheels (two legged ones) and hoofed it to the Bob Marley museum to take a long awaited tour.
The Reggae King is one of the world's great performing artists, as anyone who has listened to the live performance of No Woman No Cry - at London's Lyceum in 1975 - can attest. In this stunning performance Bob and the Wailers surf off the awesome energy of the crowd, I've never heard a more powerful live performance in my life. So yes, as when I visited the Beatles museum in Liverpool, this was a chance to pay homage to one of my musical heroes. The guide was excellent, and we learnt a lot about Bob's life, including a visit to the mixing desk from the studio that was built in his home in the heart of Kingston. There were cool photos of Bob playing soccer
in the yard, he always maintained a healthy life with plenty of exercise in spite of the odd toke, and never drank alcohol at all. From humble roots as a member of the Wailers in the 60s, the band turned into international superstars in the 70's as they honed their craft to perfection, and hooked up with producers to give the Reggae phenomenon international appeal. I loved the tour, it was an educational and emotional experience I'll always treasure.
I was getting into the rhythm of Jamaica after a few days, including some super relaxed jamming on guitars with the other guests. Although my tastes vary between beer and … beer, I started to feel like one of the rasta brothers. If this keeps up, by the time I get home I may even be cool! Let me briefly touch on the security situation in the country in conclusion, Kingston does have a notorious reputation for crime, and it's something visitors need to be aware of. There is a big security presence in the city, but with sensible precautions the staff at Reggae hostel assure guests that they can have a great Jamaican experience and a holiday to remember.
As with many big cities in the world, you do need to be aware when in Kingston and not place yourself in a situation that could take an unpleasant turn. However, I have been welcomed warmly to this legendary island paradise where, basically all of you should be here now!
"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain… Hit me with music, hit me with music now." Bob Marley
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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