Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Welcome to Hell

Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Hell, Grand Cayman post office to send their friends and foes messages stamped with the infamous postal address. A tourist shack that looks strikingly similar to the "world famous red top fish museum" in Los Banos, California sells all things "hell," and signs dot the area with messages from the devil, kinda like the god billboards that took up real estate along the highways a few years back.

Perhaps the native sea turtles, who inhabited the islands up until 1670 when the Brits set up house, might call the lava-rock section of the island that was once home 'hell' because of the constant flow of people who now snorkel through their turtle condominiums and offer constant themed greetings like "how the -hell- are you?", but when I think of 'hell,' I think of the island at large.

Of course, after having spent a total of 4 months at sea over the last year traveling to places as amazing as Iceland, Russia, and Guatemala, I'm sure my opinion of the not-so-ethnic Cayman Islands as my last stop is admittedly a bit skewed. But I think it is fair to say that, comparisons aside, the Cayman Islands are like an overcrowded themepark with less attractions than Knotts Berry Farm.

Everyone kept saying, "Wait until you see seven mile beach, it's what it's all about." "Okay," I thought to myself as I briefly walked along the short, pedestrian-filled beach that could use traffic lights ... for most of these pedestrians are lost in ipodland, or are struggling to walk the strand in four-inch Via Spigas. It's somewhat pretty for an island that is as flat as the Mojave, but hurricane damage or not, nothing to write home about.

Point being, my idea of hell is this. SEVEN cruise ships filled with loud-mouthed, embroidered-hat wearing tourists who instantly double the population by docking and can't seem to learn how to walk, talk, and take pictures at the same time. Strip malls, jewelry stores, rum cake showdowns, and boutique shops selling things like sarongs and diamond flip flops.

Take the constant theme of "duty free," (what is the big deal btw of duty free perfume ... does it really cost that much otherwise), wrap it up in a package of "nothing to do but shop here," and seal it with "There's a hard rock cafe," ... and you've pretty much got it.

Now, the only thing of real interest was the tax sheltering, which is of course what they are -really- famous for. I kept looking out for a timeshare seminar, a bank tour, or a museum exhibition on evasion. But alas, no dice. Just some "avocado burgers" at a tiki-themed beach restaurant that looked partly owned by MTV, some over-priced rum punch, and a near-molestation by a giant Senor Frog.

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