Beaches

Jamaica…Ya Mon!

Boarding a flight at 6:00 AM is usually not a pleasant task..even when you are off for a vacation. The silver lining though was that our 18 month old slept through most of the  flight and we were able to catch a few winks ourselves. After a very uneventful flight we were finally there in Jamaica and right after walking out of the airport, the place reminded me of  India! The roads, mango trees, shops, houses…even the smell seemed a little familiar! The drive from the airport to our resort in Bloody Bay, Negril was about 40 miles, and initially I was a little concerned about how long and/or tiring the shuttle ride would get. Fortunately, that turned out to be really pleasant thanks to a very entertaining driver who doubled up as a tourist guide and provided an ongoing commentary on the Jamaican country side and way of life all through the ride.

We arrived at the Riu Palace late in the afternoon and after a very speedy check in, we were off to the beach. Bloody Bay is one of Negril’s most picturesque beaches and prior to the trip I had read a few reviews which  debated about how the beach had got  its name. Some argued that pirates landed on this beach and fought viciously while others believed that hunters used to massacre whales here thus turning the sea blood-red! Whatever be the history, the present day beach is probably a stark contrast to its supposed violent past. The combination of really soft white sand, azure crystal clear waters, gentle waves and beautiful sunsets rightly puts this place amongst the top Caribbean beaches.

Like most of our past beach vacations, we did not have any agenda. Half the time was spent in  chasing a toddler on the beach and the other half was spent in lounging on the beach chairs sipping on our cool drinks. I am still trying to decide what I cherished doing more! The highlight of the trip though was seeing Daivik go absolutely crazy with the unlimited supply of sand and water. Due to the gentle waves and shallow waters, he was easily able to walk 25-30 feet into the water without any major issues.

When we were not in the water, we enjoyed the Riu hospitality. The grounds were gorgeous, food was awesome, drinks were exotic and the staff genuinely friendly. A few other highlights from the trip that I hope to remember for a very long time:

The Jerk Hut

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. Almost all restaurants in Jamaica have some form of ‘jerk’ on their menu. Fortunately for us, the resort dedicated a whole hut right on the beach towards this cause. The Jerk Hut served pretty awesome Jerk chicken, Ribs and Sausages every day from 11:30 till 3:00 PM and made our time on the beach even more satisfying!

The friendly beach vendors

They were some of the most friendliest people and contrary to some reviews I had read before the trip, no one really bothered us in any way. Everything from pot to cigars, jet skis to boat rides, purses to t-shirts, beads to necklaces, painters to musicians, everything can be found right on the beach! The colorful vendors definitely added to enlivening the Jamaican experience and makes this place stand out from a lot of other destinations.

The Lobster Trail

On our last day, we took a short walk down to the ‘Office of Nature’ to devour on one of their  famed grilled lobsters! It was really fun seeing the fishing nets and live lobsters. We got to select our choice and then had to patiently wait for the next 30 minutes or so while they grilled it in front of us! During the wait we were also unwilling spectators to how pot is processed!

Cricket!!

Having lived in the US for the last 3 years, I had almost forgotten what it was like to see a group of people huddled in a public place watching a cricket match!  Obviously, the first time I saw a bunch of Jamaicans huddled over a radio on the beach listening to the commentary of the West Indies and Australia test match…i couldn’t help myself from asking what the score was 🙂 Even more exciting was watching an IPL match between our favorite Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians while we waited for our return flight at the airport!

Finally our much awaited vacation got over and left us with a slight tan and countless memories.  Four days is not nearly enough time to get tired of the sun, sand and the sea…even when you have a toddler that adamantly refuses to come out of the water at the end of each day.  However, I think its just about the right amount of time to not get spoiled by all the luxuries of the Jamaican hospitality! After a very emotional adieu, we boarded the flight to get back to the US. Though getting in through the immigration, customs, security and making it to our connecting flight in Miami was a crazy adventure and took us almost 2 hours! (maybe it was due to the Easter weekend).  Anyways, thankfully we did make it just in time for the flight back home.

Categories: Beaches | 2 Comments

Cancun!!

One of the disadvantages of planning and booking a trip way in advance is that you need to wait for a really long time to enjoy the outcome! The waiting is even more difficult when the destination happens to be a beach on the Caribbean Sea.

Though we began ticking the days off months in advance, we were also quite apprehensive on how Daivik (6 months old then) would react to his first flight, first vacation, first beach, and literally a list of many other firsts. Hence, most of the planning for this trip revolved around him and making sure we had everything we needed with us. Also, in order to make life a little easy for us we booked an All-Inclusive deal for a 3 night stay at the Gran Melia, Cancun.

The flight to Cancun was very uneventful and the little one slept through most of it. We reached the resort at round 12 pm (2 hours before check in time), it took about 10 minutes to complete the check in formalities and thankfully our room was promptly handed over to us. We had booked a room with a view of the sea and we were not disappointed when we stood out on our balcony.

Just standing there and gazing down at the pool and sea below, with the sea breeze blowing in my face was enough to relieve a week’s worth of stress. As expected, it did not take long for us to find ourselves in front of the calm blue waters.

Most of our trips are usually packed with “things to do” and “places to see”  and we spend a good portion of the time just running around trying to tick off a checklist. Knowing that, we try and make sure there is at least 1 vacation in a year, where we just sit back and relax and do nothing! Cancun was that trip for 2011. The 4 days we were there, we just sat by the sea or the pool, taking an occasional dip in the water and binging on the wide selection of food and drinks that were on offer (being on the all-inclusive really helped!). The only exception was one afternoon we took 3 hours off from our beach side paradise to go to the nearby Aqua world and take a submarine tour to view the corals and underwater aquatic life. It was 3 hours very well spent though!

One of the highlights of our stay was trying out the different dining options in the resort. There are about 5-6 restaurants in the resort and the food and drinks were pretty good in all the ones we tried. The buffet had a huge spread, and most restaurants also offered “ala carte” menus. The garlic grilled prawns and salmon in the ‘Verandah’ restaurant was awesome. There are two “reservations required” restaurants, Tempo (Mediterranean/Italian) and Kunah (exotic Mexican). We had reserved the Kunah a day before we left for the trip. I emailed the staff requesting for a reservation and they promptly replied within 2 hours confirming my reservation. We did not get a chance to try ‘Tempo’ as kids were not allowed. We did try the La-Perla and Quetzel restaurants, both are primarily for buffet and remember enjoying most of the stuff we ate.

Even without any major activities, it did not take long for the 4 days to fly by! Daivik was the perfect kid, and i think he enjoyed the warm tropical paradise almost as much as we did. If i had another day or two, I would probably have ventured out to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza (couple of hours from the Cancun hotel zone). That apart, it was a perfect holiday and I am glad we will always remember this trip as Daivik’s fist beach vacation!

Categories: Beaches | 2 Comments

Negril, Jamaica

One of the very first things i did this year was book a trip to Jamaica! And i am glad to start the year on such a high note 🙂

After a few weeks of intensive research, we decided to spend a couple of days at the Riu Palace Tropical Bay on Bloody Bay beach, Negril. The beach is approximately 2 miles long and the Riu Palace is located right at the center of the beach.

Based on all the reviews I have read so far, this beach is one of the best in the Caribbean…the sand is soft and white, waters are very calms and is almost waist deep for a hundred feet or so! Apparently there is a famous shack that specializes is grilled lobsters, even though we have booked an all inclusive at the resort, I can’t wait to try out the grilled Jamaican style lobsters!! Only 80 more days to go…sigh!

Categories: Beaches | 3 Comments

Palolem, Goa

Goa holds a special place in our hearts and thats probably the reason I chose this as my first blog entry even though we made this trip quite a long time back (January of 2009).

While we were in India, we made it a point of going there every year from 2006 to 2009! (that’s how fond we are of Goa 🙂  While all of our previous trips had been around the northern beaches of  Goa, for our 2009 trip, we decided to try out the more quieter beaches of south Goa…and since Palolem is as far south one can get in Goa…we decided on Palolem!

Palolem beach is crescent-shaped, about a mile long and lined with palm trees. Both ends of the beach consist of rocks jutting out into the sea and you can pretty much see one end of the beach from the other. The land gradually slopes into the water, and the waves make the waters a little murky. However, the best part has to be the sunsets on a clear evening…its as amazing as it can get!

The challenge though with Palolem beach is that, there are no permanent constructions allowed on the beach. What the locals do is, right after the monsoon/rainy season gets over in Goa (around Sep), they line up the entire stretch of the beach with “beach huts” (small thatched temporary cottage with very basis accommodations). They start dismantling these again sometime around May-June. So if you are looking at staying right on the beach (like we always do) and listening to the sound of the waves crashing on to the shore right through your hotel room window, the only options available will be the Beach Huts.

After spending hours going through tons of reviews on the net,  we decide on to stay at the Ciaran’s Camp.It looked like a pretty decent resort and after reaching there we realized that it is definitely the best property on Palolem. The location of the resort can’t be beaten, it is at the center of Palomen beach, you walk out of your hut, take about 10 steps and you are in their open air restaurant which faces the sea, another 10-15 steps and you are in the sea 🙂 The property is really pretty, beautiful lawns and gardens, decent book collection at the library and the staff were really friendly and made our stay very pleasant. The food was mostly good,  remember enjoying most of what we ordered.

We spent 3 days at this resort and the only activity we did was to take a boat ride out into the ocean to see dolphins. The rest of the time was spent just lazing around on the beach and watching the beautiful sunsets while sipping on our drinks. Even though I am hoping that the next time we are in Goa, we’ll take some time out to get away from the beach and visit the lovely forts and churches…i really doubt that will end up happening!

Categories: Beaches | 2 Comments

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