Labadee: My favourite place in Caribbean Islands

Discover the cool charm of Labadee

Spending time on this tiny jewel island in the Caribbean, made me discover how friendly the people are and their way of lifestyle. 

By i.c. Golina

Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti within the arrondissement of Cap-Haïtien in the Nord department. Haiti is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola. Haiti and Dominican Republic share one island but two separate nations. Labadee, has a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. until 2050. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee and paying the Haitian government $12 USD per tourist. The location is named after the marquis de La Badie, a Frenchman who first settled the area in the 17th century. The peninsula and a village were named Labadie. The cruise company spells the name “Labadee” to make it easier for English-speakers to pronounce. 

The resort in Labadee is completely tourist-oriented and is very safe around the area. It is a sun and sandy beach style of get away. There is a personal security force and a controlled group of Haitian merchants that are given sole rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses in the resort. The site is fenced off from the surrounding area. The ships are no longer forced to tender passengers ashore as a passenger pier has been built.

 

Township of Labadee

The time I spent on this tiny remote village was short but all I wanted to do was relax, explore and see how locals live on this seaside village. It is always nice and exciting to get to see new places and the only way to see the place is to engage and connect with the locals because most of the time they take you to places where tours never would. Labadee is very limited and did not have a lot of options of things for people to do on their own, apart from organised tours. The main area for the market stalls and small shops are right at the front where the cruise-liners dock so walking around and shopping for souvenirs is an easy option. Also,  walking to the beach for swimming and sunbathing is just metres away.

Main beach for Sun and Sand
Main beach for Sun and Sand

Since self-guided activities were very limited, I decided to take a tour of the seaside local village. To get there, it is only accessible by boats, dinghy, canoes or  other improvised floating devices that are not life threatening. It was 10-15 minutes ride on the boat to reach this tiny seaside village on the side of the mountain. It wasn’t on a flat land like many seaside villages. It was absolutely mind boggling to see how this local people live on this untouched and rugged mountain side area and yet just right next to their doorstep is the beautiful crystal clear blue sea. Modern style of housing of any kind cannot be seen. It was absolutely beautiful. I just had to question myself, how do this people live and what do they do to survive because there is nothing for them to sell to the tourists.


Ignoring this thought, we were welcome to a taste of local mock/cocktail drink and the bar built with shrubs and improvised bench top were virtually right on the seashore. After few minutes of relaxing, our tour of the village begun with the introduction of the area, what not do in the village and how long the tour was going to be. It was supposed to be 30 minutes tour but instead went for almost an hour. Everyone that was on the tour were so keen to learn about the way local people live and survive in this tiny island. Though this tiny country is in turmoil, embedded in corruption and hit with natural disasters through this tiny island many times, yet locals tend to keep on surviving in this paradise island in the middle of the Caribbean sea.

Our tour guide was very informative, descriptive and passionate about her own people. During the tour, we were shown how the village people improvise trees, plants and bush materials for various purposes. 

Canoe
Building materials
cooking show
Over hot-plate
Final product
coco chocolate
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IMG_3116

It was totally a learning curve for everyone of us on the tour. I just felt totally exhausted by looking at what they had to go through to survive. Many times we take things for granted in our own comfort home where everything is easily accessible and yet we are constantly complaining.

After the tour, we had a relaxing time swimming and having few more local style mock/cocktails which absolutely tasted very tasty with a touch of fresh coconut juice. Finally, it was time to go back home and sad goodbye to the local people.

From a personal perspective: Taking time to visit this poor countries with poor standard of living, I seems to find that most them are very happy the way they live, especially on the coastal areas where it is unpopulated. They may not see the outside world in their lifetime but at least they see the outside world from the people that are visiting them. They seems to enjoy the material things they have with less complicated lifestyle. This way of living does remind us of our past what our forefathers have lived.

 

Mexican’s Paradise island – Cozumel

Cozumel


Cozumel just off mainland Mexico is a Paradise island with its beautiful white sandy beaches but has a mysterious history that puzzles the historians for decades – The Mayan Ruins.

Paradise island with mysterious history

Cozumel, a Caribbean island just off the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico is a gem for beach lovers. This tiny island, mostly undeveloped Mexican island is located in the Caribbean Sea and is a very popular port of call for mega cruise-ships. Cozumel has great beaches, nice people and safe streets, with prices comparable to other Mexican tourist destinations. It was badly battered in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma, but with few exceptions, has been completely repaired. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and no wonder tourists keep going back to this island.

Cozumel terminal
Beach at cozumel

All about Cozumel

The main town, San Miguel and dive operations are on the west side of the island, but if you rent a car or scooter then the east side of the island is the place to go. The east side of the island is mostly undeveloped, but there are beautiful beaches, big waves, and rocky outcrops over the ocean. If the waves are sufficient you can find a few small low homes. However, be aware that the waves and attendant undertows can make swimming on the east side very dangerous.

Why go there?

Most of the visitors travel to Cozumel to dive and see its wonderful underwater life. While there are quite a few beach clubs that offer snorkelling and the main attractions are the reefs offshore. The multiple dive shops and operations are always ready to take you there. At Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, there are diving spots around a section of the Mesoamerican Reef and the Museo Subacuatico de Arte’s submerged sculptures. Chankanaab is an eco park surround a lagoon with underwater caverns, home to dolphins, manatees and see turtles.

Apart from the natural attractions, Cozumel also offers several Mayan archaeological sites. The most extensive vestiges are those at “San Gervasio”, an inland site a few miles north of the :Carretera Transvesal” highway. There is another site located near the village of El Cedral, inland from the “Carretera Costera Sur” highway. In Puntra Sur Park, at the southern top of the island, there is the “El Caracol” temple, believed to have been used as a lighthouse by the Mayans.

With all its natural attractions and archaeological sites, Cozumel has no shortage of things to do. You will always find something different to do when you visit this beautiful island in the Caribbean. This Mexican island has much more to offer that we haven’t yet done. 

Dig into the Past

Apart from bargaining with locals on cheap merchandise in every corner, wining and dining every night almost to nothing is the way of life for visitors. You can almost taste the flavours of every food of the globe in this beautiful condensed tiny island  and you will try almost something new every day. The people are extremely very friendly and you feel like you have known them for years.

My time on this beautiful island was nothing more exciting then a visit to see the Mayan ruins in the Tulum area – Taking a trip into the past. This place certainly makes you dig into the past and simply just take a step back in time and explore this ancient Mayan ruins. Even if you are not a history bluff, the ruins will take your breathe away. It is totally amazing to learn about the historical aspects of this Mayan people and it sill puzzles the archaeologist scientists, even today. As you begin to explore more of the ruins, you just have to imagine having made all of these pyramids and structures without the use of any modern tools we have access to today. To learn about how people in the past lived and how they have survived always fascinates me.

There are hundreds of Mayan ruins throughout Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala but the Yucatan Peninsula – where Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are have some of the most impressive ruins. Mexico’s rich and mysterious past is still visible in the amazing ancient ruins scattered throughout the country.

Mayan Ruins in Tulum area






The Tulum ruins are the only ones that are built by the sea overlooking the Caribbean Sea to Chichen Itza, the 8th wonders of the world. A great place to go for a swim in this calm white sandy beach. This Mayan ruins of the Tulum are awe-inspiring and profoundly provide a deep understanding of Mexican history.

Chichen Itza Pyramid
Beach at Mayan ruins in Tulum area

From Personal Perspective: I have visited some of the most beautiful modern cities, with modern technology and architecture styles but when it comes down to history, it melts my heart. I am most fascinated about history, how people live the way they live, skills they had to build buildings that survived for decades and  how they survived but most mysteriously how they disappeared or vanished. How these people have progressed is anyone’s guess.

We travel to broaden our mind to experience and learn about other country’s history. Visiting historical sites and ruins certainly is the best place to start.

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Tracing the birthplace of Reggae icon

Visit to the birth-place of Reggae music

Love the life you Live, Live the life you Love

By i.c Golina

Falmouth, a town in Jamaica is the capital city of Jamaica’s Trelawny Parish. It’s a busy cruise-ship port that lies between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay on the island’s north shore. The city is characterized by its Georgian architecture, concentrated in the Falmouth Historic District. To the south, the 18th-century Good Hope Estate was originally a sugar plantation. East, near Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Falls cascades over limestone rocks.

As soon as I set my foot on this little seaside town of Falmouth, all I wanted to do was to take a road trip to Nine Mile. This was the birthplace of world famous Reggae singer- Bob Marley, grew up as a child.

Nine Mile is a district in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, a few miles south of Brown’s Town. On February 6, 1945 the Reggae musician and peace activist Bob Marley was born there, and later buried there.

The Bob Marley Mausoleum is a tourist attraction located in Nine Mile, managed by members of Marley’s family. It has many historical artefacts including guitars, awards and photographs. Nine Mile is where Bob Marley’s musical career began and also influenced many of his songs.

I spent few hours navigating myself in and around Falmouth township. From what I have seen and witnessed, taking this road trip to Nine Mile district wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. It has a dark side of the area where it is unsafe to drive in certain parts of the town and in rural areas. I made the right decision not to hire a private taxi because they would have taken me anywhere. There is a high rate of crime activity, especially when you are detouring from the township. Growing up in a third world country in a similar environment, I knew exactly what “dangerous and unsafe” meant.

IMG_3224
Rural roads on the way to Nine Mile district

I then decided to go on a small tour group about 15 tourists. As we headed out of the township of Falmouth, on the way to Nine Mile, I started to noticed the huge difference. The roads were rough, narrow, washed out potholes and without any road markings, which made it even more dangerous but other parts were smooth. It was nothing new to me but it just reminded me of how similar to what I have grown up with. Along the way, where the road needs repair, there was a entire team of construction workers in presence but there was little concern for the safety of the workers. For how long will this construction of the road will be is questionable when they are under equip with high power equipments. For a country that is rich in its resources but the corruption is incurable then justice of equity is somehow a myth.

IMG_3184
Road workers along the way

As we continued further into rural areas, I noticed that the roads along the way were getting narrow and narrower. In some sections where the roads were under repair, there is no other way to detour. The traffic had to come to a complete halt in either direction for good 30 minutes before directing the traffic to flow again in one direction. The movement of traffic slowing down in almost every 100 meters became a constant routine for the duration of our trip. Along the way, we passed few communities that were run-down with little or no facilities.    

IMG_3220
Communities along the way

As we continued further into the mountains, I also noticed that the scenery along the way were just breathtaking. The communities or villages were surrounded by the natural world – the pristine and lavish environment but the dark side of it all, the people were poor and the suffering faced by the people can be witnessed through their eyes, actions and despair. However, they look so happy to me.

Finally, we made it to our destination, the very place where world famous reggae entertainer Bob Marley grew up as a child. The place is surrounded with high walls – a place of shrine. The area is well kept, considering how poor everyone in that community is. This very place reminded me of Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, the resting place of King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley when I visited the place years back. Every year millions of visitors flock the graveyard with the everlasting flame.

After spending few hours there, I continued my journey through different route which took us another 4 hours to get back to Falmouth township. It was very interesting to notice that, the road was a little better and lot more smoother this time. Along the way, we stopped on the side of the roads at various places of interest and bought few artefacts, souvenirs from the locals and even eating some of their local cooked foods. I must admit, I really enjoyed their local flavours which were authentic. As we headed towards the township of Falmouth, it was a sight of relief and most of all it was a safe road trip. However, my thoughts keep reflecting back on what I saw, especially how and the way, the people live in such conditions.

From personal perspective: As a tourist travelling to third countries where people live in poverty and suffering, we need to travel beyond hotel comfort zone to see and understand the local way of life. The tourists don’t see anything outside or the dark side as they are confined in fenced areas where locals are not allowed unless they are working there. This segregation, not between black and white race but between rich and poor is very noticeable. To me, the tourists and the government officials need to go out and see the standard of living faced by the majority of the people.