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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baja Mar

'baja mar' (pronounced 'ba-ha') means 'shallow seas' in Spanish. Where beaches stretch endlessly into the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, like a sandy field where you can run freely amongst the waves.

The Bahamas consists of 700 islands, out of which only 17 are inhabited. 700 sounds like a mighty big number, until you remember that our friendly neighbour Ms Philippines has more than 7,000 to call her own. Still, it was a very pretty sight to behold as we were zooming in on New Providence on our JetBlue flight from Florida.

Then came the not-so-good part. We arrived in Nassau (the capital) safely. But my backpack didn't. My stomach churned in unison with the circling luggage belt which carried no sign of my bag. When the belt finally stopped, my heart sank. The staff at the JetBlue counter took down our particulars while I strained to remember a couple of unique items in the bag to describe to them (my green-yellow-blue sarong and a book on photography), and they promised to try and locate the bag. It was past 8pm and there was nothing else that we could do except to hail a taxi to bring us into downtown Nassau for the night. On the bright side, at least our stock of clean underwear arrived together with Dan.

A painful US$27 later, we arrived at the Mignon Guest House, which we had called just minutes after we landed, to check for room availability. At US$55 a night, inclusive of taxes, this was one of the cheapest places to stay at in the Bahamas. Mignon certainly met our basic expectations - clean air-conditioned rooms, working hot-water showers and a stable WiFi connection, but it was the wonderful hospitality of the owners, Steve and Mary, an elderly couple from Greece, that knocked our socks off. Mary is a sharp, feisty, funny lady, with a personality bigger than her petite size, and so wonderfully motherly. I regret not taking a photo with her before she kissed us goodbye and sent us off with an instruction to "make good children".

Mary gave us the bigger room meant for 3 guests because "you have such big bags". That was just Dan's bag. Mine was still lost in outer space.

Dressing up in my husband's clothes isn't exactly a favourite pastime. But it'll have to do.

It was a busy Sunday in downtown Nassau with cruise ships calling at the dock, churning out gut-fulls of cruise passengers, all toasted in various shades of pink, from sunkissed peach to downright painful cringe-inducing lobster red. We filled up on BK Budget Meals (sad, but true) and hung around the dock watching other (richer) tourists queuing to board hedonic 'booze & cruise' excursion boats and snorkeling tours on giant catamarans.

Streets of Nassau

Hedonism pulling into the port of call

Crowded crowded crowded! Everyone wants in on the boozin' and cruzin'

Long queues for the snorkeling tours. Unlike the little chak-chak sampans used in Malaysia, huge catamarans ferry passengers to snorkeling spots - the fun is being onboard the luxury boats, more than the actual snorkeling!

Huge market offering all sorts of handicrafts and pirated bags along the dock

Watching the local kids perfect their cannonballs at a small beach near the dock

Thankfully, after a day of sweating it out in town, my bag arrived intact at Mignon, together with fresh clean clothes and all our toiletries. Yaaay, we could finally brush our teeth! :)

The following day was a quiet one, with all the cruise passengers shipped out of town and the rain taking their place. We decided to enjoy Nassau like a local, which meant taking the public bus, eating at local eateries and spending the day at the public beaches.

Because the streets are so narrow, the bus system is essentially made up of 19-seater coaches put-putting through town, the various ends of the island. It costs US$1.25 (the Bahamian Dollar is pegged to the USD and completely interchangeable) per person per way. The bus drivers don't give change, so make sure you have the exact amount in hand before you board. Which is difficult because prices in the Bahamas are to the nearest whole number and there is no sales tax, which means you hardly every get any change in coins. We ended up paying US$3 for both of us on each trip, but our first bus driver was nice enough to offer us 25 cents change, which I guess were all the coins he had.

Full bus. 2 of us squeezed into the front seat next to the driver. Dan's sitting on my armrest-that-transforms-into-a-seat.

'Fish Fry' lunch - a whole snapper and fries - at US$7 is probably the most value-for-money meal you can have. Locals spotted lunching too

After 'fish fry' at the Heritage Village on Aracay Bay (a row or 10 or so eating houses offering fried and grilled seafood, similar to our East Coast Seafood Centre), we went in search of Cable Beach, said to be the prettiest beach in Nassau. Needless to say, the loveliest stretch of beach in town is always backed by a whole row of 5* resorts - massive slabs of concrete standing in between us and miles of sandy heaven. Well, the best thing about looking like a tourist (there is obviously no way that we can blend in with the locals given our Asian appearances) is being mistaken for a hotel guest. We strode through the Wyndam and plonked ourselves on the resort deckchairs laid out invitingly on the beach. After soaking ourselves silly in the beautiful water, we nonchalantly strutted out through the neighbouring Sheraton, chattering in Mandarin throughout (to appear as foreign as possible) and even politely declined the doorman's offer to call for a cab. Tee hee.

In the looking glass

The best thing about the Bahamas is that the locals are really really friendly and very helpful. We must have looked mighty lost most of the time, cos friendly Bahamians would stop to ask us where we wanted to go and tell us how to get there. Fellow passengers on the bus would tell us where to get off and ask the driver to stop for us. Our taxi driver who took us from the airport to Mignon chatted throughout the entire 20-minute ride, telling us everything about the Bahamas and Nassau, more like a dedicated guide than a driver. We were so charmed that we happily rounded up the $27 cab fare to $30.

More tales of the Bahamas to come! Stay tuned to our blog!


Read it! Or else!


WeLoveRoy said...

Haha lucky your luggage arrived... else you will be wearing Dannie's only shirt.. or maybe he has a whole luggage of brown shirts... :D

Lint said...

Things with the cruises wld've been different if the banker was there......

Charpin said...

wah lau... super envious of you both lah....
Can you scuba dive in Bahamas?

Yi Lin said...

Roy - haha, the Puma singlet is an all-time favourite for hot weather. I must say its very comfy! He has Ts in more colours lah - remember the pic of him on FB at Six Flags New Jersey, in yellow T and yellow berms, looking like a banana?

Sis - yeah. We thus task you to escort the banker and hand him over to us SOON.

Charpin - you scuba-addict. I'm the one who's envious of you actually getting below the water surface in the Maldives and Sabah. Yes you can dive here! You can dive anywhere in the Caribbean but it costs a super bomb. It was around US$130 per person for 2 dives, excluding guide and equipment. I shall never take cheap diving in Asia for granted again. Here, we can only afford to snorkel at the public beach.

YULI said...

your last photo really looks so cool! :D

Yi Lin said...

YULI - thanks! :) That's the perk of having a swivel screen camera!

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