Today’s Opinion: Doing things right

POSTED: 03/15/11 11:58 AM

Trinidad and Tobago is a lot of things that St. Maarten is not. Two islands, one country versus one island two countries for instance.
But what strikes first time visitors most is the friendliness the Trini’s bestow on their visitors. The immigration officer who hears that a visitor is thinking about holing up at the Airport suites Hotel shakes her head and says to visitors that that is not the best hotel in town.
She sends visitors with such ideas to the Tourism Information Office that is neatly situated just near the airport’s exit.
The young men working in that office match the immigration officer in friendliness. A hotel for around one hundred bucks a night? Not a problem. They offer two options, and the visitor who picks the Rockity Guest House is in for a couple of pleasant surprises.
First of all, there is no need to take a cab, because the hotel offers a shuttle service. Now most hotels offer shuttle service with a bus or some other sturdy vehicle. The Rockity Hotel sent a luxury BMW – and the price of the room is just $75.
Upon arrival Maria, the hotel owner who drove the BMW-shuttle herself, asks her guests whether they would like a cup of coffee or some refreshment.
The rooms at the Rockity are simple, but they are clean and there is a fridge as well as a TV with so many channels that it makes your head spin.
The hotel also offers a stick to hook up to the internet. That the connection is extremely slow is a bit of a disappointment, and that you have to go and sit next to the swimming pool because there is no network coverage in the rooms is one of those things that would drive anybody nuts under different circumstances.
But because the reception in Trinidad is so hospitable, and because the hotel owner is going the extra mile for her guest, this inconvenience becomes a minor issue.
Though the hotel does not have a bar, the thirsty traveler only has to indicate his wishes and somebody is ready to take his money, make a beeline for a local supermarket and bring the desired goodies to his room.
Compare this to the attitude of the fat bar keeper in the upstairs watering hole at the Princess Juliana Airport’s arrivals hall, who managed to completely ignore the Trinidad-traveler on Sunday, and never served him, but did have time to munch on a sandwich behind the bar in front of his customers.
A taxi ride from the hotel to Port of Spain is all yours for about $35 – and the ride is a bit over an hour. Compare that to the price for a twenty minute ride from the airport in St. Maarten to just about anywhere.
The shuttle to and from the airport at this quaint little place works at all hours of the night and day. Even a trip that requires Maria to get up in the middle of the night to deliver a guest at the airport by four thirty is the logical thing to do for this hospitable family.
Of course it was one-dimensional to state here that Trinidad has no problems. There are traffic jams like in St. Maarten, but with a population of 1.5 million that is no surprise. The infrastructure is pretty good though.
One striking detail is that adventurous Trini panhandlers dare standing between the second and third lane of highways selling nuts and soft drinks. Most of the times, cars just roar past them.
Port of Spain is an interesting jumble of historical buildings, derelict junk yards, typical Indian stores and spanking new superstructures, mostly housing insurance companies and banks. At the beginning of Independence Square the national cricket hero Brian Lara, who is just in his early forties, already has a statue that immortalizes his achievements.
The Trini’s somehow manage to do everything that matters right. Two islands, one country – a place that could easily lay claim to the honors title The Friendly Country.

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