Thursday, March 1, 2007
On a regular basis we are privy to constantly changing scenes and spectacles here at Playa Vista due, not least, to our south facing aspect which grants us the perfect opportunity to watch the natural daily transition of the sun in entirety from sun-rising east to sun-setting west. It goes without saying that this serves as the ideal backdrop to that other huge natural visual benefit we have: our very own reef protected lagoon… which in itself draws the other main spectacle, namely great numbers of colorful human beings from all walks of life passing by as well as sometimes, thankfully, also hanging around long enough to frequent our humble bar/restaurant on the ‘Terraza’ or enjoy the sun, sea and sand in front.
Here, however, we have decided to update you a little on the animal world at Playa Vista by presenting a small video clip to introduce you to the latest member of our family and at the same time to a recent visitor. The visitor is a nightingale who, incidentally, when not taken up with its own reflection in our one-way office windows, sings quite beautifully from the tree tops around us… and the family member is our previously introduced self-invited cat “Honey”, now very much settled in at the Playa Vista premises (see blog July 11th 2006). Honey, by the way has become such an established part of the Playa Vista scene that guests sometimes are noticeably disappointed when she doesn’t appear from one of her many daily cat naps.
Anyway, on this particular film debut-day Honey was very much in appearance trying frustratedly to haul in the nightingale who seemed to have a touch of our old Woody Woodpecker’s disease… an avid desire to destroy his territory-threatening own reflection in the one-way glass. The spectacle actually went on for several hours, but thanks to the unyielding window the protagonists remained unhurt to the end, so… again thankfully, we are still entertained by the mellifluous singing of the nightingale and Honey is left to stalk other prey, or simply nap!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Even in good old other-world Boca Chica telecommunications are absolutely essential… not least demonstrated by the increasing popularity here at Playa Vista of the Wi-Fi service we offer via our high speed internet connection. As you may or may not know ‘Verizon’ was the name of our telephone line and internet provider until very recently although presumably many of you will know that not too long before that the name was Codetel.
We have presented stories about these market dominating players before (e.g. 31st August 2003)… and although we are highly satisfied with our internet service in general, a detail of a thorn is pricking us again with regard to these drastic corporate changes. We, like everyone else in this country, had to adjust when Codetel became Verizon, and we accepted whatever hassle it took to change our stationery and specifically make allowances for the integral e-mail address change from Codetel.net.do to Verizon.net.do. Image-wise we actually thought it to be a step forward as Codetel smacked of old third world monopoly and Verizon had the fresh flavor of modern American competitiveness.
For your information – a little research shows that Codetel was originally constituted as a subsidiary of the Anglo Canadian Telephone Company as far back as 1930.
So… strike us down with a feather, to now learn that America Movil, the latest owner of the Dominican telephone-net, have decided to revert to the name Codetel for the telecom part of their business! That means all e-mail account addresses currently reading Verizon.net.do will again become Codetel.net.do. For the consumer an extremely irritating and costly little dance one step forward followed by another backwards!
Well, at this point we at Playa Vista are a bit tired of dancing entirely to the tune of the insensitive giants and hereby say ‘adios’ to Verizons and Codetels in the hope that you all will welcome our new easy-to-remember e-mail address namely: Email@PlayaVistaBocaChica.Net which functions nicely in harness with a little web site we have going illustrating what we can offer at and through ‘Playa Vista Boca Chica’… the official name of our cozy international beach-establishment here beside the azure blue Caribbean Ocean.
Keep in touch!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It was announced by the Ministry of Tourism last week that Boca Chica will not at this point in time be enjoying the revamping that has taken place on the beaches of Puerto Plata, Cabarete and Juan Dolio. The reason given by the Ministry was that one of the four large hotels, named specifically to be the Don Juan hotel, is not prepared to pay its share of the previously agreed private sector contribution. However… in this young democracy, government announcements are aplenty and one statement often contradicts the other, so who knows if we are dealing here with a special version of the many rumors always circulating – namely the latest ‘Government Rumor’?
Anyway… if the mentioned announcement surprisingly should turn out to be the last word in this tricky affair, there are two redeeming factors that we at Playa Vista at least can embrace – one is that the government in the same announcement indicated that they do have other plans to implement improvements in Boca Chica independent of the re-sanding project and secondly the standing plain fact that Playa Vista anyhow is blessed with a substantial sand frontage! Furthermore it would seem to us that because of a breakwater just to the west of our location it is pretty much a sure thing that we will be able to avoid the kind of sand erosion that has unfortunately affected other parts of the Boca Chica beach and therefore we will be able to continue to offer sun, sea and sand as well as excellent facilities for Playa Vista customers while we wait for the authorities one fine day to pull out their proverbial fingers and finally do the necessary for the well being of the whole of Boca Chica beach!
Meanwhile a mere seven years later we have photographic evidence of genuine change on the beachfront in Boca Chica:
It is eerily reminiscent of the extraordinary scenes of destruction we were left with after hurricane Georges passed through the center of the town in 1998 but this time it is man made and portentous of the change that has been bearing down on us over the years – however slowly that might have been. The Dominican ministries with the Ministry of Tourism in the vanguard say they are immediately to implement plans to reinvigorate the town. This is a photograph of a bulldozer making light of a couple of beach establishments immediately next to Playa Vista as, at the very least, quite a dramatic action of first intent for 2014.
Monday, January 8, 2007
An extremely good Playa Vista friend is our hero number 1 these days… not only for the purposes of this story, but even more so because he has been helping us uncommonly altruistically and manfully in the Playa Vista Bar in recent weeks. We say manfully not just because of the excellent supportive role he has been playing in the Bar, but also because a very painful dose of sciatica makes it difficult for him to operate without the smooth cooperation of that infernally irritating nerve.
His own diagnosis told him that the solution could well be a course of cortisone injections. After quite some understandable procrastination he finally bought himself a small bottle of what he thought would be the necessary liquid and a syringe. He then just had to find somebody competent to inject him. In the middle of the day he tried a couple of private 24-hour service clinics, but they were both closed! He then went to the public clinic where, to his great surprise, the doctor, who is normally sitting with a great long line of people waiting to see him, was all alone. The next surprise was that the doctor immediately discarded the cortisone idea and promptly gave our friend an injection of Dexa B-Tres (for the medically minded this is based on neurotropic vitamins and dexamethasone) which he said would be much better. Our brave friend of course took the rather painful injection in his stride and immediately thereafter limped to his computer to verify on the internet what he had actually been injected with. ‘Approximately 100 times the strength of cortisone’, he told us after the check! He was quite delighted with this, and all was well and good, but… this was a Friday and the doctor would not be available over the weekend for further injections.
On Saturday morning our friend turned up just as enthusiastically as ever with the one proviso of uncertainty as to how on earth he would be able to get his daily shot, as he placed his packets of Dexa B-Tres hopefully on the side of the bar. Exactly what his level of hope, or even his thinking, was… we don’t really know, because within a few servings of Piña Colada, Coca-Cola and Presidente beers an entirely first-time Playa Vista customer leaned over the bar to order his own variety of refreshment, noticed the packets and straight out asked if our brave bar helper had a problem with sciatica. “Why would you be asking that?” our friend replied in astonishment. “Well, I happen to be a doctor and I know all about that product sitting on your bar counter”. Almost before the next coke could be decapped the doctor newly-in-the-house took the matter fully in hand. He jumped right behind the counter and administered the injection there and then in good old natural Playa Vista style. Our friend clearly thanked the doctor and offered a well earned discount on his tab.
With Saturday’s injection well taken care of that just left Sunday to be negotiated, still without clinic and even without the new-found doctor. At this point another Playa Vista customer stepped up to the plate. One of the best patron’s of Bohemia beer that Playa Vista has ever seen was willing and eager to do the necessary ‘shot’ the next day. “Fine,” said our friend… “on the simple condition that you don’t start into your daily Bohemian ration until after the exercise has taken place!”
Sunday came and our trusted customer certainly achieved the goal of a Dexa B-tres injection, but… there were a couple of stumblings along the way. Firstly, he broke the capsule with the substance in it and cut his hand… and while they were trying to stem the bleeding, our indispensable bar-helper friend and faithful ‘Playa Vista soldier’ stood with his bare feet on the broken glass! However, once the bloody mess was cleared away injector and injectee went successfully about their business. Whatever the truth might be about keeping to his promise of leaving the beer alone until after the injection, the bad news was that ‘good customer cum-injector’ was off to Costa Rica in the coming days.
So it would seem… the next weekend would probably require a whole new seemingly coincidental Playa Vista saga to get the job done!
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
A little seasonal greeting from all of us at Playa Vista
The Playa Vista terrace bathed in Caribbean sunshine as is usual for the Christmas week! A Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year to you all!
Could this really be what rumor says it is – the support vessel for the Boca Chica beach revitalization project… or are we just dreaming festively?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Rumors are very much part of our small Boca Chica community and no less so concerning possible changes on the beach. We at Playa Vista have been inferring such for quite some time now (see blogs of January 27th, April 12th, May 17th) but we have been very reluctant to make any further announcements because those rumors tend to be no more and no less than… rumors.
It is a fact that a contract was signed with, amongst others, a Dutch land reclamation company to carry out a major revitalization project on five beaches in the Dominican Republic including Boca Chica which, in our local eyes, regrettably was positioned last on the list.
Well, the work began at the end of July on Puerto Plata’s Long Beach and reports made by visitors to Playa Vista from the north coast indicate that a very fine professional job has been done up there. It is also a fact that work has begun in Juan Dolio… the fourth beach on the list, but as we write, it is another sobering fact that absolutely no work has been begun in Boca Chica although numerous rumors have given numerous starting dates.
The Minister of Tourism made a television announcement that one of the three large hotels in Boca Chica (Hamaca, Dominican Bay and Don Juan) was now refusing to stump up its apparently previously agreed share of the funds for the work that was originally demanded by the public sector of the three mentioned hotels… and therefore the Dutch team of workers would be leaving after they finished in Juan Dolio if the hotel in question did not provide its share. The very latest rumor that we have heard – and we stress we still have not seen any action at all – is that unless the collective hotels comply with the funding requirement the authorities will remove the artificial barriers that protect or semi-protect the areas of sand in front of these hotels and allow the sea’s natural forces to take over. It is important to note that marine studies undertaken in the area have shown that the erosion of the beach is in some part due to the beach “modifications” made in front of these hotels some years ago, especially the stretch of beach immediately to the west of the groin constructed by the Hamaca hotel.
Will this operation with its supposed significantly positive impact on the entire Boca Chica beach take place in January 2007 as the latest rumor goes?… Excuse us once again because it looks very much like the answer is the now infamous but often uniquely appropriate “Time will tell!”
Thursday, December 7, 2006
If you had ventured down to the Boca Chica beach early on Sunday morning, you would –apart from yet another beautiful sunlit Caribbean morning– also have been able to see the beginning of an extremely audacious journey. At 8.20 am a young Dominican man going by the name of Marcos Diaz launched himself into the gentle waters in front of the Hamaca hotel with the intention of swimming not just the length of the tranquil Boca Chica lagoon but out into the open sea in Andres, against the currents that would have driven any normal mortal straight back into the bay, around the Caucedo peninsula and all the way down the coast to the Malecon in Santo Domingo – a distance of an impressive 50 km in all.
He began the swim with a great cheer from a large number of well wishers and was followed by a small escort vessel and also a very vociferous group made up largely of youngsters running along the beach enthusiastically encouraging him along. The aim for Marcos Diaz was twofold: to break a Caribbean and central American record for 50 km swimming in open waters and to do so in front of the Dominican public for the first time.
The brave swimmer was certainly unknown to us before Sunday –and surprisingly to rather a lot of Dominicans too– hence his desire to establish a record in home waters. In actual fact Marcos Diaz is a Dominican long distance swimmer of world renown. He has swum the English Channel and holds the world record for a return swim across the Straits of Gibraltar… and on Sunday he achieved his goal in the record time of 10 hours and 36 minutes. So, rather nice to know that the world famous also swim in front of Playa Vista even if they don’t necessarily have time to stop for a drink!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Boca Chica and Santo Domingo are supplied with water for domestic use by a government public service institution that goes by the name of Corporación de Acueductos y Alcantarillados de Santo Domingo (CAASD). In keeping with the general “modernization” trend of this country the concept that “user must pay” is slowly but surely being addressed by CAASD in particular, as they strive to install meters for all users. Earlier in the year a CAASD report indicated that only 50% of clients actually pay for their water, and only 25% had water meters connected to their lines.
We shall move swiftly over one observable kink in this story, in that here at Playa Vista we actually had a meter installed some years ago, but… in April this year the company obviously determined that it should be replaced along with all the others in the neighborhood.
First month everything went swimmingly, but when, in the second month after installation, we received an invoice approximately quadruple the normal level alarm bells started ringing. It jolted memories of our fiasco with EdeEste (the local electricity distributor) last year when, in spite of the usual very steady consumption, to our horror and grief, we received a bill five times higher than normal. (See blog Feb 5th 2006) Our experiences at that time led us to believe that unfortunately EdeEste obviously were taking the motto of ‘user pays’ one step further: “non-user” can also be made to pay if you flex your monopoly muscle the ‘right’(read ‘wrong’) way!
Meanwhile… enquiries at the Boca Chica CAASD office indicated that some kind of technical adjustment had been made to the new meter after installation and that this data was in the “archives”. Well, the archives remained well and truly shut for a couple of months and there was no movement on our account or any explanation until one fine day we called Mr. Steve Lora in the CAASD Santo Domingo office.
For those of you who don’t know the workings in this country too well, you should know that a phone call can be the beginning of a long and enduring journey that may or may not wind its way to a conclusion one day in the distant future. In this case the number we dialed gave us the precise man in question whose details incidentally were given to us quite correctly by the man who reads the meter. Mr. Lora listened attentively to our story, admitted he had no record of any problem on his computer screen, but if we could kindly ring back after 3 pm he would have an answer for us. A little after 3 pm we called -admittedly dubiously so- but again surprisingly got through immediately and directly to Mr. Lora himself. As promised he had the details and explained that we didn’t need to pay the current bill because the company did in fact owe us money; with two of our last unpaid bills taken into account precisely 26 pesos and this would be reflected in next month’s bill. And… surprise surprise it was!
People around the bar were quite staggered by this unheard of hiccupless tale and one of our good friends enlisted our help to talk to the same Mr. Lora recently to see if we could help to resolve his more serious problem with the same organization. As before Mr. Lora was there to field the call. As before he listened attentively… and then promptly shouted across the office to a member of his team to cancel the order to suspend our friend’s water supply! An inspector would be sent to find out why our good friend was being charged an excessive amount of money for a meter with a serial number unrelated to the one immediately outside his house!
The next week we called Mr. Lora again to get some news about the result of the inspection. He clarified that the problem was one of “crossed” meters, “but wait on the line, don’t say anything while I speak to my assistant”, he added. In addition to “user pays” often being a foreign concept here “transparency” is another concept that slides exactly into the same envelope, so we were amazed while we heard him explain to his assistant in customer-favorable tones that he must have the recalculated bill at the latest by the end of the day because he was talking to the customer right now. “Did you hear all that?” asked Mr. Lora. “Yes we sure did, thank you”, we gratefully replied. He then finished with, “Your friend’s next bill should see the matter sorted out”, which we surely now have to be far less dubious about.
So a big ‘thumbs up’ for Mr. Lora and CAASD from Playa Vista and perhaps, next month’s invoice permitting, one of Playa Vista’s good old friends too!
Thursday, November 9, 2006
We live on an island… which by definition means we and everybody else living here is separated from the rest of the world by water, and in our particular case rather a lot of it!
What about travels by sea then? It turns out that the only regular fare-paying route from our Caribbean island is to the neighboring island of Puerto Rico – officially a United States territory with Commonwealth status.
It was one of Playa Vista’s good customers who recently checked out this travel option and alerted us to the possibility. He explained that he boarded the MS Caribbean Express just up the road at the Sans Souci terminal in Santo Domingo ready for the 8 pm departure… and exactly12 hours later docked in the Puerto Rican port of Mayaguez.
He spoke very highly of the trip. The one way fare, including room, in his case was US$85. After that he paid a US$20 bus fare to get to the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. The restaurant provided an all-you-can-eat buffet at a very reasonable US$12.50 with drinks. Prices, in our friend’s opinion also, being moderate. On the boat there is a small casino area, but it was the four hour show of comedy, dancing and music that he was particularly impressed with. If you should need further information the web site address of the ferry company is: www.ferriesdelcaribe.com
There is a sea-going alternative to this pleasant cruiser-like trip, where you don’t even need a passport… but, the method, security, money involved and guarantees are of quite a different order. Here it is known as traveling by ‘yola’ (a small wooden boat) and you would have to know a man who knows a man who runs these slow moving vessels of questionable quality in the dark of night usually from unspecified locations in the east of the country. The intended destination is said to be some remote beach on that same island of Puerto Rico often close to Mayaguez actually and we have heard the fee is something in the much steeper region of 10,000 pesos, and that is if you know the man who knows a man very well. Unfortunately the lack of guarantees includes never knowing if you will arrive or not, and even more decidedly… whether you will even survive or not. So… we at Playa Vista would naturally recommend the MS Caribbean Express if you’re in the lucky position of owning something as luxurious as a passport!
Assuming you have the right passport you can of course buy a plane ticket and fly just about anywhere in the world from Las Americas International Airport tucked conveniently in behind the “MegaPort” on the Caucedo peninsula a kind of a stone’s throw from Playa Vista, but there is somewhat of a touchy passport issue related to the whole travel subject for most of the people who are Dominican nationals. A little research reveals that if you were to possess just a Dominican passport then the number of countries in the world that will accept you without first applying for a none-too-easy to achieve visa are in a very exclusive and quite fancy list, namely: Argentine, Chile, South Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Peru, Lichtenstein and Uruguay!
Our exotic Latin Caribbean island is of course glad of these few connections but surely needs to work at spreading it’s net of international ‘friends’ further… now doesn’t it?
NB: Unfortunately the last service ferry from ferriesdelcaribe.com sailed in 2010. Their twitter page claims the service ended due to problems with management at the Mayaguez Holland Group.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
As many of you will know… from the Playa Vista Terrace we look right out on rather a spectacular view! We much admire and appreciate the natural view of the reef, the Caribbean Ocean surf breaking on that same reef and the multi-hued colors of the tropical sea and sky at all times and especially at sun-down when we can take special advantage of that view directly from the bar. However, over to the west we have witnessed a much debated spectacular change taking place over the years, but in this case a change purely of the man-made type.
As we told you back in Aril 2004: ‘The only evidence of man’s engineering in the direction of the Caucedo peninsula used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal International Airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from Playa Vista’s central location. Over the years the skyline has changed quite dramatically, but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements – the kind of unfailing light-show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended black-outs’.
The first development was the construction of a large liquid natural gas (LNG) storage tank together with jetty, right on the tip of the peninsula, for the incoming tankers to berth and offload their cargoes. This development was followed by the construction of an electricity generating station immediately adjacent to the gas tank and then last, but most certainly not least, came the deep-water Caucedo ‘MegaPort’ itself.
The first two projects generate little observable movement except for the occasional Trinidadian tanker pulling in and discharging its gas, but the MegaPort facility is quite a different matter and in recent weeks we have noticed a considerable upsurge in movement to and from the facility.
In spite of the super-fast modern turnaround times some of the ship’s crews sometimes do find the time to visit us at Playa Vista, to touch firm ground and swig down a cold beer before they are off again. Recently we were visited by the captain of a Croatian vessel that has a circular agenda taking in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico before returning again 42 days later to Boca Chica. Others in the bar were sufficiently curious to pry other details from the off-duty Captain. As far as he was concerned his company, Hapag-Lloyd, now regard Boca Chica as the key port in this part of the globe and that the turn around times are particularly rapid… in fact just around eight hours! He also told us that as far as his ship was concerned, with a load of 3,500 containers, it was just of average size; some of the ships come in carrying over 5000 containers! On this particular day he said that they would be off-loading about 15% of their cargo, underlining the fact that most of the shipments are not in-bound, but destined to go out again as this port is specifically for trans-shipment.
All this extra activity is no doubt good for the contiguous areas of Andres and La Caleta, but actually has little direct impact on us in Boca Chica because those mariners just don’t get the time to hang around very long due to the modern efficiencies of loading and unloading containers. Right from the start there have been rumors circulating of further port expansion and development including provision for Cruise Liners. Now that would, for better and for worse, help liven up the immediate area in a big way! But, we are after all located in the laid-back sunny Caribbean so as usual – as with so many other rumored and/or planned projects – have to repeat the mantra: ‘time will tell’!