Tuesday 1-3-5 ( May 8th ) : Paul Clammer, travel book writer

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @paulclammer

MMPB : Can you present yourself : what brought you in Haiti, when did you arrive, where are you originally from ?

Paul : I’m a travel guidebook writer from Cambridge, England. I first came to Haiti in 2007 when I was working for Lonely Planet guides – I’m the head author of their Dominican Republic & Haiti guidebook. I moved to Port-au-Prince in October last year to write a new travel book about Haiti. It’s published in November by www.bradtguides.com. There’s no DR this time though – it’s 100% Haiti!

MMPB : Could you describe for us –  without revealing all the secrets of it of course – what being a professional travel book writer is like ? What does it take to write the perfect travel guide ? How do you start looking for places from scratch ?

Paul : If you’re writing a guide to somewhere like France where there’s already so much information out there, your job is to sift through all that to produce something new. With Haiti, the job is the opposite – there’s not much travel information, so there is quite a lot of digging. The first time I went to Jacmel I literally spent several days just walking up and down every street just to see what was there. Making local contacts is absolutely vital, and I spend a lot of time asking people where they go, what they like, what are the particular attractions or specialities of their area. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect guidebook, but I hope my new book will present a balanced picture of Haiti – as well as places to go, I’ve included lots of history and context, so people can understand Haiti a bit better. But it’s a process – this is the first time I’ve lived in a country while writing about it, so every day I learn something new, and also realise how much more there is to learn.

MMPB :  According to you and your experience in Haiti and also other destinations around the world you have experienced, what are the main strengths and weaknesses of Haitian Tourism ?

Paul : I’ll deal with the weaknesses first. Clearly, Haiti still suffers from an image problem in terms of trying to attract inbound tourism, and when you travel around the country there are problems in terms of infrastructure. Hotels are expensive and there’s not much of a service culture. Looking at the Caribbean, I don’t really think that Haiti can compete in the same way as the DR or Jamaica.

On the plus side, I don’t think Haiti needs to, because it has many strengths those countries don’t have – its history, its artistic heritage and so on. Haitian tourism shouldn’t just focus on cruises and resorts. It did that before in the tourist booms of the 1950s and early 1980s. I see cultural, adventure tourism as being a potentially huge draw. Hiking in the mountains, art in Jacmel, caving in Port-a-Piment, the Citadelle and so on. Local hotels benefitting the maximum number of people in the community. And then of course finishing up at the beach with a rum sour!

Read Paul’s reviews about his 5 fav places / spots in Haiti :

1. Boukan Guingette, Mole Saint-Nicolas : Mole Saint-Nicholas is a hassle to get to, but this place is worth it. It’s a classic place – simple tents and a few rooms, a thatched beach bar with great food, right on a beautiful stretch of white sand. You can snorkel here (the coral is in great shape) or go for hikes to the many historic forts in the area. It took me a few years to make it out here, but it was a revelation when I did. Heavenly.

2. Norm’s Place, Labadee : For my money, one of the most relaxing and best-value guesthouses in the country. Partly converted from an old colonial building, there’s little to do here but laze in a hammock, take boat trips along the coast to go snorkelling and eat some tremendous food. It’s near where the big cruise ship comes in, but the contrast couldn’t be greater. Wonderful.

3. Citadelle Lafferrière : Recommending Haiti’s biggest tourist draw might be a cliché, but it’s there for a reason. The Citadelle is without a doubt a world-class historical site, and a testament to the determination to rebuild the country after the Haitian Revolution. If you don’t have a vehicle then it’s a stiff walk up hill to reach it (animal lovers may have mixed feelings about the horses on hire to carry you), but the views are amazing. This place makes me want to run around like an 8 year-old, playing soldiers with the cannons.

4. Grottes Marie-Jeanne, Port-a-Piment : This series of caves is just a short drive from Port Salut, so beach weekenders can easily make the trip. They’re some of the biggest caves in Haiti, with beautiful stalactites and other mineral structures. The cave entrance is kept locked so too arrange a visit, call local guide Jean-Baptiste Eliovil (tel: 3638-2292/3782-3275), who helped map the caves. He can provide hard hats, but you should bring your own torches.

5. Assiette Créole : Consistently one of my favourite eating places in PV (or the new branch near the airport). There’s nothing fancy here, just big canteen plates, rice and beans, chicken and fish, with plenty of pikliz and bannan peze. It’s a lunchtime place, full of office workers filling up for the day. Always reliable and great value.

Pemba City Blog

1 Comment

  1. tifi , 7 years ago

    Great job to Manman Pemba for being such an awesome pioneer, and bringing something different to the table, and offering to the people of Haiti and Haitiphiles a service and a site they may have wished existed, but that didn’t come to fruition until ManmanPemba came on the scene, and to travel guru Mr. Paul Clammer, whose guide we all look forward to! Here’s to Haiti.


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