Friday, December 19, 2008

notes from Jamaica

Last week I went to Jamaica for a destination wedding. The wedding was on Monday, but we arrived on Saturday afternoon and stayed the week, until the following Saturday.

Assorted travel and other notes...

It was 85 degrees pretty much the whole week, and a bit humid (although not as bad as Taiwan), so I actually preferred to stay indoors between 1-3pm. The mornings and the late afternoons were very pleasant. It was a bit of a shock to come back to the Bay Area to find 40 degree weather and heavy rain!

Air travel is getting worse and worse. On the way there, one group of friends were rerouted through Las Vegas, making their itinerary a two-stop rather than a one-stop. The first leg left about 3 hours earlier than the original flight. Another friend was rerouted through Chicago, also resulting in a two-stop itinerary. She lost her luggage during the 50 minute connection due to the inbound flight being 20 minutes late. The couple we were travelling with lost their stroller in Houston, along with two other couples with small children.

On the way back, our original flight schedule gave us a 1.5 hour connection in Houston. The airline rebooked us with a 50 minute connection. Our first flight actually landed on time, but after we waited 20 minutes for the gate to become free, we missed our flight. When rebooking to the next flight, although two of us were on the same itinerary, one person got a seat on the flight and the other did not. When we got to the gate we realized the same thing had happened for two other groups.

Here's the entertaining part: The standby list was ordered so that there was one woman in front of me. Her travel companion also had a seat on the flight. At boarding time it was determined that there were no extra seats, so the travel agent asked her travel companion if he would fly alone. He refused, so by rule the seat would fall to his travel companion. Except, we had just established that they would not travel separately, so theoretically the seat should fall to me. Unfortunately the travel agent also decided to ask my travel companion if he would travel alone. If he had answered "yes", then (counterintuitively) the seat would have gone to me. He answered "no", whereupon the travel agent gave his seat to the other woman, as she was higher than me on the standby list. It was classic game theory in action, yet we failed to realize it in time to take advantage! Actually, I had all the data and did figure out the right answer in time, but I hesitated too long, since the question was not directed at me. In the end, we were able to meet up with some relatives in Houston for a few hours, so it wasn't all bad. Anyway, it was an interesting episode.

On one of the last days in Jamaica, a group of us booked a private tour to Ocho Rios and the Dunn's River Falls. The falls themselves were super fun; we basically hiked up the waterfall from the beach to the source, led by a guide. It looked a bit scary at first but was really not dangerous at all and made for some great photos.

On the way to the falls we stopped by a souvenir shop where we saw the following box of cigarettes, which amused us very much:

It's probably much more effective than the American version that just warns against cancer!

Other than that, it was a pretty chill trip; we spent some time on the beach, some time by the pool, some time playing tennis, and lots of time playing board games. The villa that we stayed in came with several housekeepers and cooks, and it was interesting planning out our meals and shopping at the local fish markets so that we could experience lots of authentic Jamaican food. In the end we were able to sample jerk chicken, BBQ chicken, jerk pork, oxtail, curried goat, fresh fish "escovitch" (with onions and vinegar sauce), fresh lobster, conch fritters, pumpkin soup, plantains, beef and chicken "patties", coco bread, and more. The chefs did a really good job with all of our requests, and even made dessert every night, so we had several key lime pies, rum cake, and even a coconut cream pie.

Overall, it was nice to spend a relaxing week hanging out with close friends. I'm thinking of choosing a more eventful itinerary for my next vacation, though. Machu Picchu, here I come!

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