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Trinidad and its smaller sister island Tobago make up the Caribbean country the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Just a few miles separate the two islands (a 15 min. plane ride) but they are worlds apart. There are actually Trinidadians who live their whole life in Trinidad without ever visiting Tobago and Tobagonians who live their whole life in Tobago without ever setting foot in Trinidad. Tobago is the Caribbean you have seen on postcards of turquoise water and coconut trees. It is not as commercially developed as the majority of its Caribbean cousins to the north, there aren't elaborate resorts and casinos and spas in Tobago. It actually has evolved into an eco-tourism destination where they are trying to preserve the rustic environment of the island to be appreciated by nature lovers. Tobago days are lazy stretches punctuated with rooster crows. The people are polite but subdued, going about their business as if in quiet reflection. The sun encourages you to find shade under a thatched roof of palm fronds and to reach for an icy glass of refreshment. The night grows louder with the chirps of tree frogs and the sky bleeds red before turning black as pitch and sprouting millions of bright white stars. Tobago is a treasure on its own with conch fritters and goat races, glass bottom boats and snorkeling on the
Welcome to TnT (as it's locally called). The official hybrid name for the inhabitants is Trinbagonians, a mixture (or callaloo stew) of 2 islands and 2 peoples into one country both separated and connected by the sea.
Trinidad is as busy as Tobago is calm. Standing in the capital city, Port of Spain, you'll be hard pressed to prove that you are on a Caribbean island. The sidewalks are crowded with people and vendors, store displays spilling right out to the curb, looking up the sky is filled with the tops of buildings, compact cars fill the streets alternately speeding forward and jerking to a stop, lights and signs are blinking and flashing, music leaks out of storefronts and cars, this (along with the beeping of horns and the whistles of the traffic cops) helps to create a cacophony of city sounds. Trinidad is all business and even more pleasure. World famous for its annual pre-Lenten Carnival, Trinidad is so much more. Everyone in the country enjoys socially relaxing with friends, food, and drink - frequently. Trinidadians went so far as to invent their own word for it called "liming". Liming is done by everyone in Trinidad; young, old, conservative, executive, domestic, foreign, athlete, infirm. There are always fetes to attend, endless clubs, quiet rum shops to chew the fat, and Maracas Beach where you can wash down a hot shark & bake sandwich with a cold bottle of Trinidad's own brew,
Trinidad is different from other Caribbean islands, including Tobago, because it lacks the traditional touristy appeal of; a variety of beaches, water sports, bike rides, exclusive boutiques and such. Trinidad is more like a cosmopolitan city; hosting international sporting events (cricket and football), music concerts, pageants, conferences and political symposiums. Delicious Trinidadian food is found everywhere from an outdoor stall by the Savannah to the high end Sunday brunch buffet at the Hilton. A tempting and hearty mix of East Indian, African, Spanish, and French Creole culinary influences combine and succeed in uniquely Trinidadian dishes.
Its proximity to the equator and its rain forest climate, guarantee fresh seasonal fruit year round and is usually available by the bagful at intersections and roadside stands. Many sweet, tart, creamy and healthy drinks are omnipresent as are all forms of alcoholic drinks with rum and whiskey being favored over vodka and wine. And of course, Trinidad is the birthplace and current home of the secret
Angostura "bitters" used in cocktails around the world.
Rural Trinidad offers explosions of lush vegetation with rainbows of green leaves, some as large as boogie boards. Tropical flowers pop out of untamed shrubs in dramatic poses painted gumball colors. Roads lay through sugarcane fields like the body of a butterfly with the wings spread far out on either side. Dark lumpy mountains cradle the sky in the distance and wild, lime colored parrots fly home to their trees at sunset. At the
Asa Wright Nature Centre you can see the heavenly and completely unadulterated beauty of Trinidad via the Centre's vantage point which allows you to observe so many species of birds and flowers and butterflies or you could head over to see Trinidad's Leatherback Sea Turtles at Matura Beach.
Trinidad is music. Beautiful melodies humming all over the island, maybe that's why the national bird is the humming bird. Calypso and Caiso, Soca, and Dub, Spirituals, Opera and Parang. There's music in the iron pot as the oil sizzles and the heavy spoon turns the chicken, there's music in the footsteps of the little girls skipping to school with their plaid skirts swinging and their braids bouncing, there's music in the waves crashing on the rocks and in the call of the frogs in the night like a thousand dripping faucets. And there's music in the pan yards, nothing more than a parking lot, bordered on all sides with some rickety board or galvanized metal. In it there are some long, thin, spectator benches pushed off to the side and a barely elevated stage, covered with an awning where rows and rows of steelpans and steel drums (invented in Trinidad) are pounded simultaneously by a t-shirt wearing band, producing sweet notes and thunderous bass so exhilarating that your chest fills with joy and you can't stop from smiling.
It would not be fair to future travelers to not mention the
crime in Trinidad. Unfortunately it has risen to astronomic proportions. For a country smaller than the American state of Delaware it has had 384 murders and 210 kidnappings for ransom from Jan. 1, 2005 to Dec. 30, 2005. Citizens, residents and visitors are left feeling uneasy and tense. The government is at a loss for what to do, recently they; sought the advice of Scotland Yard and the FBI for instruction and strategy, dispatched a blimp to survey the city, and instituted a no-bail amendment for kidnappers but to no avail. Unfortunately, random kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, torture and murder has become a constant headline in the
daily papers. (click
here for additional information)
All visitors are urged by Trinidad and their home countries to exercise extreme caution while visiting Trinidad and retain a constant state of awareness (as well as the 24 hr. phone # of their respective embassy in Trinidad, if possible). http://www.iocp.us/