Nassau, Bahamas: 6 days
Burnt out from work and bitten by the travel bug, I thought about where to have my next adventure. Kyle, my best friend Reese’s college buddy, had recently visited San Francisco and mentioned that we should check out his hometown in The Bahamas. Opportunity! Reese and I, along with another friend, Rhonda, started planning a trip to visit Kyle. Although now way into our twenties, we tended to revert to our teeny-bopper high school selves when together, gossiping about boys and laughing hysterically about nothing. In the spirit of celebrating our dorky high school days, we decided that we would name our trip the Way Cray Vacay.
The year before, I had made a big stink with American Airlines about my flight cancellation to London and a 15 hour layover in Chicago. To make up for it, they sent me a voucher of $200 to be used on my next flight. I was happy to get some form of compensation, but not too excited that I had to fly American again. I sucked it up and used the voucher to purchase my flight. Rhonda and I flew together, while Reese flew separately using her mileage.
Kyle told us that he would be waiting at the airport to pick us up. We flew on a red eye to Miami, and had a layover for a few hours. It was 5am when we landed, and freezing cold in the airport. Since we had packed for tropical weather, we had no warm clothes to wear. Rhonda and I huddled together on the unwelcoming metal chairs in the waiting area, and tried to take a nap.
Finally, after a fitful few hours, we boarded our next flight to Nassau. The moment we touched down, we were bursting with excitement. We power-walked through the airport, eager to lie on the white sand beaches and play in the clear blue ocean. When we got to customs, the attendant asked us, “Where will you be staying?” Shoot. Kyle hadn’t given us his address or his phone number. Embarrassed, we told the attendant that we didn’t know. Since two little Asian girls looked incredibly dangerous, they QUARANTINED us. I told one of the guards that my friend was waiting outside and could provide the address, but he refused to let us exit the airport, so we sat there in an awkward standoff, staring at each other. After ten minutes, he realized that it was ineffective to keep us there, and walked me out to find Kyle, on the condition that I left Rhonda behind as collateral. I guess that was enough to promise I wouldn’t make a run for it. We walked out of the airport and there was Kyle, greeting me with a big friendly smile and a hug. He talked to the guard and told him that we were with him, and the guard smiled and let him follow us back into the airport. Kyle strolled through security checkpoints seamlessly without even being checked. Apparently, the staff is more concerned about harmless little tourist girls than a local stranger.
We finally left the airport and Kyle drove us along the beautiful coast. With the warm breeze flitting through our hair and the colorful beach houses lining the roads, we were ready to start our tropical vacation. Instead, when we got to his house, we passed out face down on his soft, fluffy pillows. A few hours later, we woke up disoriented, wiped the drool off our chins, and headed back to the airport to pick up Reese.
Nassau. Such a small, beautiful little coastal town. Kyle drove us through the island pointing out different areas that he grew up in, worked in, hung out in. His interesting fact of the day was that James Bond Casino Royale was filmed in Nassau:
The buildings were weathered from the salt and sand from the ocean. Kyle told us about his random hurricane survival stories (none too serious), and how his family had hurricane proofed the house.
We stayed with Kyle’s family in their two-story house. The three of us stayed in one of the bedrooms, which was well equipped with a bunk bed.
Kyle is from a biracial/bicultural family. Mr. Chea is Chinese and Mrs. Chea is Bahamian, and he has two very sweet sisters, Christie and Rachel. Kyle’s family was amazing. So friendly, hospitable, funny, close-knit, I loved them all. Mr. Chea had a great corny sense of humor, I couldn’t stop laughing. Mrs. Chea was so down to earth, a strong and kind woman, I felt so at home with her. Christie was adventurous, soon to be embarking on an amazing study abroad year, and I envied her ambition and passion. Rachel, the baby of the family, was adorable and incredibly sassy – always making fun of her brother and embarrassed by her dad’s jokes, you couldn’t help but want to spend more time with her. Their family dynamic was definitely a high point of my trip.
Conch everywhere (actually pronounced “conk”). Say it fast enough and you might offend a few people. Conch is a larger edible sea snail, although it is more known for hearing the sounds of the ocean:
Bread it, fry it, eat it raw – the Bahamians sure like their conch.
Conch fritters – thickly breaded and fried conch. Mrs. Chea made some delicious homemade fritters the first night we arrived in Nassau.
Cracked conch – deep fried conch. Kyle took us to one of his regular spots, which sold cracked conch and french fries doused in a lot of ketchup. Heart attack on a plate, but wonderfully delicious.
Conch salad – this was my favorite. Raw conch diced with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, fresh lime, orange juice, and salt. Very reminiscent of ceviche, and definitely one of my favorite foods in the Bahamas.
A few other memorable items were sky juice, which is just gin combined with coconut water, and Mrs. Chea’s homemade crawfish. We were in for a treat when Mrs. Chea made grilled and fried crawfish, which was absolutely delicious. We did our best to repay the favor by baking char siew bao with one of Kyle’s old family recipes, which actually turned out pretty well. The biggest surprise to me was that the secret ingredient is Coke! Who would have thought.
Clubbing at the Atlantis Hotel was our first stop. The hotel itself is themed after the lost city of Atlantis, and is decorated lavishly with large aquariums and random glass sculptures sprouting up across the casino. Kyle lucked out, being the only guy among us three girls. When we got to the club, we danced like it was high school prom again.
The next day, we all went to the beach. It was just as beautiful as the photos I had seen, although a bit windier than we expected. We walked for miles of beautiful white sandy beaches.
After the beach, we went home and cleaned up. Kyle invited us to a formal Chinese New Year banquet with his family, and we had to get ready. When we got to the venue, we were surprised to see that there was actually quite a large Chinese community in the Bahamas.
The third day, we explored some of the local sights. Kyle took us to Fort Charlotte, an old British-Colonial fort. There was not too much around the area, but the view of the island from the top was amazing. Apparently, the fort has never been used in battle before.
That night, we went back to Atlantis to tour the aquariums. We watched as the giant manta rays dove through the waters, the moray eels glared at us through the thick glass, and the reef sharks lay in silence… Kyle was craving some sort of action, and used his foot to get the attention of the reef sharks. Boys.
One of the days, Kyle took us to the country club that his parents were members of. Reese thought it would be a good idea to kayak, and volunteered to go alone, since she was an experienced collegiate rower. She told Rhonda and I to share a kayak. However, Rhonda and I did not trust each other with the boat, and we all thought it would be best if we took turns so that we could both have Reese in our kayak. Rhonda and Reese went out first. The waters were so quiet and I watched as they rowed out lazily with no issues in getting back. My turn. I jumped in the kayak with Reese and off we went. There was not a trace of wind or waves – such a beautifully calm ocean. After a while, Reese advised me to turn around by using hard strokes on the right side of the kayak. Over-ambitious and overconfident, I eagerly proclaimed “RIGHT! RIGHT!” with every rowing motion. Little did I know, I was paddling so aggressively, that all of a sudden, I tipped the kayak over and we fell into the ocean.
The both of us were laughing so hard that we swallowed a ton of water between breaths. With one swift motion, Reese professionally flipped the kayak over and climbed back in. I also tried to get on, and clumsily crawled onto the kayak in any possible way I could. I somehow got straddled over the front of the kayak facing the wrong direction. To turn around, I stood up on the edge. A quick slip and SPLASH. Into the water again. The perfect formula for nonstop laughter.
The last day, we went to Breezes Resort. Kyle had a family member working at the resort, so she took us for a free delicious buffet and the all-you-can-drink bar. It was very relaxing. That night, we had a wonderful home-cooked meal with the Chea family, and played one of those DDR type video games. Reese and I were extremely competitive to the tunes of Proud Mary, which resulted in an hour of nonstop giggling:
Rhonda left Nassau a day before us. Reese and I flew out around the same time, so the two of us headed to the airport together. We were on different flights and had to part ways. I happened to have a long 7-hour layover in Miami (bad planning), which I was not looking forward to. With my bad luck in traveling, unsurprisingly, when I landed in Florida, it was announced that my flight had been delayed another 2 hours. Of course. I buckled down and suffered through an excruciating 9-hour layover before boarding my plane and heading back home.