Samsara in Eastern cultures means the cycle of continuous flow of birth, life and death. It’s also the name of the small cliff side resort in the West End of Negril, Jamaica where my friend and I stayed this Easter to ponder life, breathe and recover from the moment of panic we both individually faced as we swam and snorkeled in the rough Caribbean sea!
The land was no safer! I had big plans to explore the street stalls for Jamaican food. However, another risk was possibly getting run over by the Jamaican drivers speeding along the narrow roads. When the roads were quiet, the alternative risk was getting accosted by the same neighborhood Rastafarian who offered daily to give us a ride in his car, smoke some ganja with us, attempted to extract hugs, and who tried to convince us to buy him a bottle of Magnum.
And so I too went with the flow. And like Samsara, every day was a flow of traditional Jamaican and new Jamaican food. Interspersed between meals we pondered the sweet and simple life, safely at the top of the Negril cliffs!
One of the least enticing things to me is buffet food. Yeah sure, I was the person who traipsed around Tokyo looking for a tabohodai (all you can eat!), but remember people, that was shabu shabu, meaning I do the swishing and cooking myself!
The thought of food simmering under hot lights, being reheated and touched by numbers of people is not so appetizing, and besides I have a weak stomach. I like my food piping hot or the appropriate temperature. So I opted not to go all-inclusive and preferred to try all the different restaurants available within walking distance. Samsara, though, has less than 50 rooms, so even if you opt for the all-inclusive, there is plenty of fresh, hot food served by hotel staff.
Down the street, we ate breakfast at Choices, where a few mornings I had the American Breakfast (500J) with a side of ackee and saltfish (200J) and a cup of Jamaican coffee (200J) from the Blue Mountains. Sure I could have had the Jamaican Breakfast, where you can get Fried Dumplings, Callaloo and such, but I prefer eggs in the morning! Down one storefront is Royal King where I ventured out and ordered the Callaloo and Cheese Omelet. Maybe it was the chef, or maybe it was the water left in this leafy green, but it made everything wet! So back to Choices we went!
I don’t know about you, but when I am in hot weather, one of the last things I feel like doing is to eat. Besides, we didn’t earn any meals from just lying on our lounge chairs and reading. But I did have a rotation of Red Stripe, Ting, water, Ginger Beer and Sorrel Juice!
When we got bored or scared of the Negril Cliffs, we took the courtesy shuttle over to Samsara’s sister hotel called Legends. Legends faces the Caribbean Sea as well except the water is calmer, crystal clear and has a beachfront! There are also reefs not too far from shore and for $25 US they will take you out for an hour in their Glass Bottom Boat and provide you with all the necessary gear. On the beach, there was a steady parade of vendors who sold anything from fresh fruits, cashews, cotton candy, popcorn, patties and mushrooms, the kind that will blow your mind! Vendors are easygoing and skilled at scanning the beach for any curious faces. No need to haggle.
The owner of Samsara and Legends recently opened Ciao Jamaica which is Italian food with some Jamaican touches. Most nights we forgot to take pictures as we devoured the Coconut Shrimp. But we did catch the Chicken Picatta and Linguini with Jerk Sausage. I really wanted to try the pizza, but was never in the mood for it in the afternoon and preferred a meal for dinner. Sorry Clarence!
Susan was on the hunt for oxtail and so we walked slowly and carefully against traffic for about 15 minutes until we came to Pushcart, a more casual restaurant connected with the Rockhouse Hotel. They had a great sunset view, live reggae music and a more casual dining setting with a more traditional menu. Susan had her oxtail and I opted for the Di Jerk Chicken both of which were bone sucking good, if you dared!
Dining at the Rockhouse was my favorite activity all week! Not only do they have a beautifully designed terrace on the cliff overlooking the sunset, charming wait staff delectable food with awesome presentation, but they also have a great lounge with wooden games like Connect 4, Chess, Checkers, Jenga and Scrabble! It is a fantastic way to end the evening. Susan will tell you that is because I beat her 3 out of 3 games, not to mention Checkers, but truthfully she was quite competitive and the scores were so close! Take a closer look at the words to get inside our heads! Who needs mushrooms!
In one last word: Happy!