IBIZA ROCKS!

I first heard about Ibiza 12 years ago from Arjan of the Green House in Amsterdam. “It’s the most beautiful island in the world, and the best place for parties,” he told me. “It was rediscovered by hippies. Many people who visit never leave. It’s a very spiritual place.”

Located 50 miles southeast of the coast of Spain and 100 miles north of Africa, Ibiza was first settled by humans over 3,000 years ago. In 654 BC, the Phoenicians founded the town of Ibiza, one of the first towns created in Europe. It quickly became a center for trading as well as a favorite target for pirates. At the time “white gold” (salt) was the most important export.

Ibiza was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs and Moors, forcing the inhabitants to eventually build walls, forts and towers to fight off future invaders. The local farmhouses have an entirely unique architecture that has changed little since the Stone Age. Because of the lack of private property, Ibiza is a great place for hiking, and the local vegetation is wonderfully unique due to the island’s isolation from the rest of the world.

But today people don’t go to Ibiza to hike or look at the architecture—they go to party. In fact, over the last few years, it’s become the prime destination for English, German and Scandinavian tourists, who descend in droves during the summer. During the day, they hang out on the crowded beaches (there are more than 70 on the island), but at night they pack the monster rave clubs and listen to pounding techno music. Some clubs hold more than 5,000 people and come complete with swimming pools and foam cannons. It’s a very hedonistic environment, and many of the clubs put on circus-style stage shows that rival anything found in Las Vegas. The nightlife scene doesn’t really even start until after midnight and goes until dawn.

The first annual World Marijuana Film Festival (WMFF) was held in Ibiza from May 28 to June 3, when the island is warm enough to enjoy the beaches but slightly ahead of the major tourist crunch that begins in June. Any devoted stoners considering a trip to Spain or Europe should make the WMFF the focus of any future trip. Not only will they be relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, they’ll also be in a country that has completely decriminalized marijuana and is rapidly becoming known for some of the best outdoor-grown cannabis in the world.

And they’ll also be enjoying a sneak preview of some soon-to-be-released films involving marijuana. Since the WMFF happens the week after the Cannes Film Festival, we’re hoping some prominent members of the film community will start making the annual pilgrimage directly from France. This year the award-winning documentary AKA Tommy Chong (directed by Josh Gilbert) was the featured documentary at the festival. The film is due to have a theatrical release in the USA begining in mid-June 2006.

Another advantage to attending the WMFF is rubbing shoulders with many of the biggest names in cannabis. Arjan of Green House, Derry of Barney’s and Reeferman of Reeferman Seeds are just a few of the cannabis celebrities who will not only be in attendance, but will also be bringing films they produced to debut at the festival. Naturally, you’ll be able to sample the local cannabis and hash while watching all the films.

If you do decide to make this trip, bring plenty of money, especially if you want to sample the nightlife: Drink and food prices are relatively high for Spain. Also, keep in mind that local law enforcement has a reputation for strong-arm tactics when dealing with drunken tourists. Be polite and obedient if you run across the police and you probably won’t have any problems. And remember that while possession of small amounts of cannabis is entirely legal, trafficking is not.

If you’re interested in booking an all-inclusive travel package to the next World Marijuana Film
Festival, go to www.apothecarytravel.com. —SH

NEGRIL'S POT PARADISE

Negril is just 45 miles west of Montego Bay and is located on the beautiful west end of the island of Jamaica. Once a hippie enclave in the ’60s, Negril maintains its liberal roots and day-long party atmosphere, which has made it a cult vacation favorite for hip modern-day stoners. With its seven miles of white sand beach, sunsets over the ocean and towering coral cliffs, Negril is the jewel of the Caribbean.

Upon arriving in Montego Bay, known as Mo’ Bay, you will immediately be immersed into Jamaican culture by introduction to its people. Ganja is everywhere and will be offered to you frequently, probably even before you leave the airport. However tempting, it’s best to wait as you will get better deals in Negril, which is just a short and scenic drive by taxi or bus.

The town of Negril is basically split up into two areas off one main road. First, there’s the beach, and a few miles further west are the cliffs. The cliffs provide the deep cover that a pot smoker needs to openly enjoy his indulgences, and the beach offers the perfect place to sit and drink a frozen rum punch and play in the sun. There are many restaurants and bars along the beach that offer drink and food specials all day and night, and many offer live entertainment in the evenings. The cliffs offer private dining and drinks among tropical gardens overlooking the crystal-blue waters. There’s nothing more peaceful than the sound of the waves crashing against the coral rocks while you’re enjoying fresh lobster or spicy jerk chicken. The key question is: Do you get a hotel on the beach, or do you stay in the quiet privacy of the cliffs? This is a dilemma many people solve by staying a few days at each location and then switching hotels in order to get the best of both worlds—the beach and the cliffs.

The food in Negril is as amazing as the scenery. Of course there are the must-haves—grilled jerk chicken, patties, rum cakes—but my favorite food comes from a street vendor named Leroy. Located across from Catcha Falling Star, Leroy primarily works by appointment only, providing you with your own privately catered dinner and some of the best and truly authentic jerk chicken with rice and peas that can be had.

Although drugs are illegal in Jamaica, they are prevalent everywhere. Many different varieties of ganja can be had for a fraction of the price we pay here in the States. ’Shrooms are openly sold and can even be bought in milkshakes at Ted’s, which is located off the cliffs on the west end. Hash is also available, but be very wary—it’s usually scuff, a surprisingly convincing blend of shoe polish, wax and broken-up herb. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is: If the locals aren’t smoking it, neither should you.

Negril is truly a paradise, but you need to watch out for potential buzzkills—dehydration, sunburn and over-intoxication can all be trip killers. Be careful when venturing out at night and stay off the roads. Negril can be a dangerous place if you get too careless, so try to stay sharp.

You’ll find that Negril is the premier pot-smoker’s destination in the Caribbean, and once you go there, you’ll be back again and again. Just trust me and do like the commercial says: “Come to Jamaica and let’s feel alright.” I know I’ll be there! —PS

AMSTERDAM: CANNABIS CAPITAL

Amsterdam is truly one of the greatest party cities in the world, especially if you’re a pothead. Not only is it home to arguably the best marijuana in the world, but it’s also the freest in its attitudes toward smoking pot. Personal amounts of marijuana can be purchased and imbibed in any of a hundred different coffeeshops. Keep in mind that outside of coffeeshops, smoking is still frowned upon, so it’s not a great idea to light up in the streets. Before lighting up in a bar, be sure to ask the bartender if they allow cannabis smoking—most of them don’t.

One of the best things about the city is that it’s small enough that you can get just about anywhere on foot, so just pick up a map (preferably one from our Cannabis Cup Guide, which has the better coffeeshops marked) and start wandering around. Sure, you could rent a bicycle, but navigating the city’s busy, unfamiliar streets while high (and possibly drunk) is not very stoner-smart.

Dam Square toward the north is basically the heart of the city, surrounded by concentric semi-circles of streets (straats) and canals (grachts) that spread out around it toward the south. Cutting almost straight down through the middle is the main shopping strip, Leidsestraat, which ends at the bustling Leidseplein Square, filled with some of the best bars, restaurants and stores. Along the way, you can veer off to visit some of the chillest coffeeshops in the city—among them, de Rokerij, de Dampkring and one of the several Green House locations. For some of the best hash in the city, in terms of both quality and variety, head southeast of the Dam to the Bluebird, which has two binders displaying tons of domestic and imported hashish. In addition, there are numerous shops around town that sell fresh mushrooms and peyote if you’re in a psychedelic mood.

When the munchies hit, the Leidseplein has some great Indian, Thai and Italian restaurants, Argentinian steakhouses, killer falafel spots, as well as fast-food favorites like Burger King and Mickey D’s for the less adventurous. If you’re feeling homesick, the Marriott and American hotels serve a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day (but make advance reservations!). Whatever you do, avoid the street-side food dispensaries like FEBO, as there is a high potential for “contamination,” if you take my meaning. And if you want ketchup with your fries, you’ll have to ask for it—the Dutch eat theirs with mayo.

For art lovers, there’s nothing more fun than chowing down on a space cake and hitting a museum, particularly the Van Gogh or the Rijksmuseum, where you can see the gigantic Dutch Masters paintings come to life before your eyes. In fact, this year is the 400th birthday of Rembrandt, so there are special exhibits on display in many of the city’s museums. There are also the less conventional museums devoted to hash, sex, erotica and torture, as well as the sobering Anne Frank House.

After a long, hard day of getting high, you’ll be ready for some nightlife, and Amsterdam has something for everyone. For those into hip-hop, house and trance, there are happening dance clubs like Sinners in Heaven and Odeon. Those who lean more towards hard rock can hit dive bars like The Cave, Korsakoff or The Black and White. For live music, the Melkweg and Paradiso book major international acts, or you can check out some cool blues or jazz at Bourbon Street. If you’re in it for the long haul, there’s always after-hours at the Dolphins café. And, of course, there’s always the infamous Red Light District, where the randy and curious stroll the streets ogling the semi-nude prostitutes standing in the windows.

The weather around that time is pretty chilly and rainy, so be prepared to bundle up. Sure, the weather there may be a bit nicer in the summer, but there’s just no substitute for that last week in November when the Cannabis Cup rolls into town. Coffeeshops prepare all year to impress the thousands of stoners who descend upon the city, rolling out the special offers and free samples—and HIGH TIMES throws one hell of a party, featuring big-name musical performances and a gala awards show.

Bottom line: If you’re going to Amsterdam for the weed, you want to go to the Cannabis Cup. —BB