Barbados, BIM or B’dos as it’s often referred to, and the only English speaking colony in the area, is in the tropics, but 99 kilometers east of the Caribbean Sea in the Lesser Antilles. It’s situated 160 kilometers from the volcanic island of St. Lucia which you can see on a clear day if you hike up Mount Hillaby, the highest point on the island (343 metres above sea level).
BIM, unlike the rest of the islands which are volcanic, is comprised of limestone, a natural water filter.
The island itself is shaped like a leg of mutton but should really be a chicken if it were to represent the taste-buds of most Bajan’s (locals). Bajan’s eat chicken. Chicken, chicken and more chicken after a night on the town, which is every night not just the weekend. McDonald’s was very short-lived in this country, now Chefette (with it’s yellow and purple sinage) and KFC are where it’s at!
There are numerous things to see and do in BIM but the southern Parish of Christ Church is where it’s at if you are into the party scene. Here you will find the local fish market/bbq, a local hangout in Oistin’s. It is sandwiched between the Bay of Oistin’s on one side and a busy street on the other. It’s always hopping on Friday nights when cruise ship passengers land on the island and, further up the road, the posh nightclubs of the St. Lawrence Gap. A ‘gap’ is simply a road or street you will turn on to off a main.
An evening in Oistin’s is a frenzy of people; people eating, slamming dominoes on a board table, dancing, sounds, smells and rum punch – the local alcoholic drink. Of course there is beer and every other liquor you can imagine but you haven’t partied in BIM unless you’ve done it with a punch. There is even a poem about the recipe; one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak, a dash of bitters and a sprinkle of spice, man a rum punch would sure be nice!
You better be walking, cabbing or ZR’ing after a few rum punch and a night at the market. A rented moke, a convertible mini car with no doors or windows, is not an option at this point unless you have a designated driver comfortable with driving on the left-hand side of a very crowded road.
In the hub of the market, competing with the sounds of the ever diminishing tree frog melodies and waves gently massaging the shoreline of the bay, you will find Mr. Impact, the island’s best Calypsonian rocking the stage. This isn’t a place where you will stand around with your hands in your pockets bobbing your head a little bit to the beat, you will find yourself wukking, whining and grindin’ with some of the best local dancers on the island. If you don’t try because your shy, Mr. Impact will single you out and teach you how. And if he doesn’t, rum punch is always the best teacher. You can even challenge the limbo dancers and see how far you get! You won’t be ‘liming’ (relaxing) here.
Calypso is a very erotic type of music with sexual undertones so the more you can throw your hips around the better. But, you will never compete with a Bajan because they seem to have a joint in their spine that can swivel 360 degrees. Typically in Barbados, the dress code is conservative for a night on the town. Oistin’s is an exception, it’s outdoors and on the beach so wear whatever you like, just not a bikini, there’s too much action for that!
The south coast is all about action. In fact you will hear the locals greeting friends in a sing-song voice with, “Familyyyy, where’s the action?!” The younger generation of Bajan’s always refer to each other as ‘family’.
Entertainment in Oistin’s is segmented among the 30 or so food stalls that sell freshly bbq’ed marlin, dolphin (Mahi Mahi) and flying fish with a side of macaroni pie. Mr. Impact performs live front and center but a few steps away you will find people dancing to canned 40’s and 50’s music, steps further 70’s and 80’s and even country a little further on, all vying for your attention.
Vendors occupy the back-side selling some fabulous wares. You’ll want to check out my friend Neville Kamu Crawford, a local and very talented painter who is often seen around the island creating on-site landscape masterpieces with true Caribbean flair. His abstract art is also fabulous.
Whatever your style Oistin’s has you covered. It is a melting pot of fabulous, just make sure you wear some flats. In spots there is some pretty uneven cobblestone and you tilt off balance after a few rum punch. Especially, when you look up to see the jet’s flying so low you feel like you could reach up and touch them, as they coast into the airport bringing new friends to the island you haven’t met, yet.
If you are on a budget, pop over to the grocery store across the road or the gas station and grab a bottle of rum for half the price you would pay at home. Are you a smoker? They also sell ten packs of Embassy cigarettes for $4.50 Bajan ($2.75 Canadian) or individual for a dollar. Forgo the $26.00 BA marlin and feast on some spicy fish-cakes, or a Cutter and Three (the best salt bun filled with three fish cakes and a thick slice of Bajan cheese that has to be the best in the world). Maybe you like bbq’ed chicken necks, those are sold at a shop across the road too. Beer at one of the rum-shops across the way is $2.00 BA – a buck and some change CA.
If you’re looking for a party a little less ‘back-yard bbq’ then head to ‘The Gap”. The St Lawrence Gap. This is a curved 1.3 km cobblestone street tucked away off of highway 7, only 4.9 KM from Oistin’s. This strip has shops, a few vendors, small casinos; bar after restaurant after club. After Dark, a nightclub that was there for years, is now Lipgloss. The Gap is the place for hardcore night-clubbers; if you tire of one simply walk out the door and hit another.
Whether it be Sweet Potato, the Sugar Ultra Lounge which is the old Ship Inn or the open-aired Reggae Lounge you’re going to have a hoot. But remember, this is where dress code kicks in. No need to dress like a nun as long as it covers the majority of your body, skimpy, tight, short and sexy will be in keeping with local fashion. Just remember those cobblestones!
And if you miss the last running ZR don’t panic, they only halt service for an hour. So grab a bite to eat at one of the many vendors, pull up a bench on the shoreline and a ride home will show up before you are done.
All you really need to know about Barbados night-life on the South Coast is it is a party mecca and no matter where or when you go, there is always good food, good drink, good people, a good party and someone to pick you up and drive you home as soon as you step foot on the curb.
When you hear a horn honking that’s your ride and it will only cost you a dollar fifty Canadian.