Moon: Jamaica, by Oliver Hill
In looking at guides to Jamaica, this book does what one would expect and there is nothing wrong about that. Like many nations, Jamaica is somewhat torn between the need to appeal to tourists, which requires a certain attitude of friendliness and gracious hospitality, and its own cultural and domestic political aspects of authenticity, which involve a high degree of violence and a culture that is necessarily focused on customer service. Indeed, with a high degree of endemic corruption and a low degree of development of customer service attitudes among the greater population of Jamaica as a whole, there can be a bit of a sense of unreality between the physical beauty that people appreciate in Jamaica with the somewhat sad reality of the country as a whole in terms of high amounts of violence, high degrees of unemployment, and an occasional sense of resentment that people have when they are dependent on others. If this is easy enough to understand, it is not what people want to read about when they go to a place, so one relies on tourist guides to present savvy advice about a country that convey important truths to tourists to make them alert and aware but also not discourage them too much from wanting to go to a place and see what it has to offer. That can sometimes be a tricky matter, obviously.
This book is about 350 pages and it is divided into several chapters, mostly on a regional basis but somewhat on a thematic one as well. The book begins with an overall look at the nation that talks about top experiences to find in Jamaica, spas, music, beaches, and cuisine. After this the author explores the sights, beaches, recreation, entertainment, shopping, food, accomodations, information and services, and transportation that can be found in the Negril area and nearby. This is followed by a look at the same factors in and around Montego Bay as well as the Cockpit country that lies to the south of the city. After that the author continues moving east along the northern coast of Jamaica to the area in and around Ocho Rios, including various bays and parishes that are in the area. After that the author looks at Port Antonio and the East Coast, which was the first tourist area for Jamaica in the late 19th century but which has fallen on harder times these days as far as tourists are concerned. The author then turns to the South Coast area in and around Kingston before looking at the area to the south of Mandeville. This is followed by a background primer on the land and history and culture of Jamaica as well as essential information for travelers and some resources for readers.
When one thinks of Jamaica as a place to visit, it is striking how different the country is when one reflects on it on a regional basis. Jamaica has a few coastal areas of note, like Negril in the west and Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on the north, and a sizable portion of the population of Jamaica is focused on its capital, Kingston, in the south central part of the island and on that city’s suburbs, including Spanish Town. There are areas that are relatively undeveloped, including the Eastern coast area as well as the cockpit, and other areas that have attracted a great deal of old and new money, like Mandeville. By and large, though Jamaica is by no means a united nation in the sense that its infrastructure is limited and its development is focused on a few select areas that have gotten a great deal of money and attention from other areas. This is by no means a necessarily positive development, but it is worth noting and tends to encourage a regional approach when one looks at travel to the island nation. And quite unsurprisingly, it is a regional approach that is adopted by this particular book, which is something that many readers will no doubt be able to greatly appreciate since their own travels are likely to be regionally focused as well.