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Jamaican Karma

  • Kim Chai
  • 27 January 2009

How the simple act of singing one organisation’s praise led to a whl.travel holiday in the Caribbean

This is an abridged version of a longer article, found here.

“Karma works for Kim!” said the email from Pam Logan, the founder of Kham Aid Foundation, a small non-profit I had nominated in the Geotourism Challenge contest in December 2007. Pam congratulated me for winning a trip “anywhere in the world.”

Treasure Beach at the aptly named Treasure Beach Hotel

My initial reaction was “Huh?” I’d assumed the contest was to pick the best sustainable-tourism NGO; how come I was the winner? I’d gone with fellow volunteers on an art-conservation trip led by Pam in September 2007 to Kham, on the eastern Tibetan plateau. After our trip Pam asked if we would write about it on Ashoka’s Changemakers website.

Hugely impressed, I was happy to sing their praises. I wrote a few hurried but heartfelt paragraphs on the website, without paying much attention to contest details.

I was really pleased to win in a worthy cause, but the magnitude of the prize dawned on me when I surfed the whl.travel portal, which leads to so many wonderfully offbeat destinations and great choices of accommodation that deciding where to go was really hard.

I thought it should be somewhere that I would never have dreamt of going; also someplace warm since I could only take leave around Christmas, but not just a sunny resort.

The author at her anywhere-in-the-world location of choice!

The author at her anywhere-in-the-world location of choice!

Then Usain Bolt won the 100m at the Beijing Olympics and Jamaica popped onto my radar. Shortly after, I was put in touch with Andrew Sharpe of Authentic Caribbean Holidays, the whl.travel local partner in Jamaica. My only request was not to be put in a gated international-chain hotel. My boyfriend Tom requested beach proximity.

Andrew suggested a few options off the beaten path in the less-touristed south. I settled on the locally run Treasure Beach Hotel …and it yielded some memories to treasure.

We landed in Kingston on Christmas Day. Yah man! Reggae blasted from gigantic boom boxes at roadside bars on the four-hour drive to the south coast. Despite the public holiday, Andrew met us at the airport with driver/guide Roland Desulme and came with us all the way to the hotel.

Spread across a lush hillside, with azure ocean views from its terrace, the Treasure Beach was surprisingly quiet. A few steps down from the pool was the actual Treasure Beach, a curve of coral-strewn sand and strong surf. Right in front of “our” beach the sun sank spectacularly into the sea, where local families swam alongside the tourists. The place was low-rise, laid-back and hassle-free.

Across the street was a tiny bar called Kim’s Place, named after the owner’s older daughter. The jolly owner’s younger kids played around the bar and a guy came by to strum his guitar. I was glad we were staying in a neighbourhood where it was easy to chat with local folks, not cocooned in an “all-inclusive” resort.

The two Kims at Kim's Place, with the owner in the background

The two Kims at Kim's Place, with the owner in the background

Roland, our very cool, bearded and braided guide, drove us to some South Coast historical places and natural attractions. At the 260-year-old Appleton Rum Estate, amid vast sugar-cane plantations, we saw how molasses was turned into rum. We swam at the idyllic YS Falls and admired dramatic views at Lover’s Leap, a restaurant atop a 1,700-foot cliff. We lunched on the veranda of Bloomfield Great House, an elegant colonial legacy in the highland town of Mandeville. And touring a scenic coffee farm in the Blue Mountains outside Kingston, we learned that 80% of Jamaica’s Arabica typica beans is exported to Japan.

Enjoying a local treat at the cow-skin soup shack

Enjoying a local treat at the cow-skin soup shack

I enjoyed these well-run “must-see” sights, but it was just as, if not more, interesting simply cruising through the countryside, past rustic hamlets, vegetable fields, lots of colourful bars (how can we forget the seafood and music place called Little Ochi in a little village reachable only by a very rutted road!), as many churches of every denomination, and showy mansions built by “returnees” who’d made their money abroad.

“You seeing the real Jamaica, yah man,” Roland said.

—–

For more information about Jamaica, including accommodations, tours, activities, all your travel needs and lots of insider tips, contact your local whl.travel connection: Andrew Sharpe and the team from Authentic Caribbean Holidays at www.jamaica-island-hotels.com.

The nomination phase for the 2009 round of the Geotourism Challenge opens on 29 January 2009. Why not sing the praises of your favourite tourism-related organisation? You never know what karma will bring.

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Caribbean, food & drink, human interests, islands, Jamaica, local knowledge, mountains, North America, personal experience, women,

2 Responses to “Jamaican Karma”

  1. It was a pleasure hosting Kim and we had a great time…I appreciate your help and look forward to welcoming you back in Jamaica.

  2. Shaun says:

    Great to hear some real traveller experiences on the blog.

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