Archive for the ‘Dominican Republic’ Category
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.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Here we are able to present yet another enlightening and certainly entertaining Dominican Republic Boca Chica story, this time at the expense of one of Playa Vista’s best friends from the cold North who reports with such descriptive pathos we quote him word for word.
Taxi to the bus station – Caribe Tours in Santo Domingo – was fine, arriving at 6:25. Headed to the ‘Bileteria’, asked for ticket to Sosua – “No” – “Whadya mean, no?” – ” Last bus at seven” – “But it’s only 6:30″! – “Bus full”!
Oh my God! Recurring visions of last year’s rescheduling. “Only bus is to Santiago at 8PM” – “OK. I’ll take it” At least it would get me beyond half way. I ask at the ‘Informacion’ if by any chance there’s a bus from Santiago to Sosua. The girl consults with another and says there is and that it leaves at 10:30… exactly the time the first one gets there. She assures me that it will connect! An hour and a half later, just to be sure, I ask the driver as I’m boarding the bus, if the other bus will wait for this one. He tells me there is no other bus, well not Caribe Tours, anyway. I will have to get a taxi to another bus station in Santiago for the bus to Sosua.
On the way, the air conditioning is so cold that water is condensing on the luggage rack and dripping off a joint above my head right onto my glasses. I recline the seat a bit more and soon my chest is soaking wet – can’t move, the bus is jam-packed.
Arrive at Santiago and there is one taxi who tells me there is no other bus station or company! I figured it was the old trick to get me into his cab and there was no one else around to ask. “That’s it,” I thought, “I’ve missed the plane again and I’ll be stuck here until morning.” He says he’ll take me all the way to the airport. I figured that if it cost $180US to get from the airport to Boca Chica last year, that Santiago to Sosua is going to be around $80US and I knew I hadn’t got anywhere near that much on me. “Mucho dinero.” I say. He pulls out a cell-phone, punches the keypad and shows me the figure RD$1600. I didn’t bother to figure what that was in dollars – I just put my hand in my pocket and pulled out what I had – 1640 pesos. Whew!!! “Bueno!” I said… grabbing at the offer like a drowning man, which I pretty much was.
I still had four hours to be safe for the plane and I asked him how long the trip would take. He told me about an hour and a half. I had noticed, whilst negotiating with him, that both his eyes looked in different directions but it wasn’t until we had been traveling for about ten minutes that it became fairly obvious that he couldn’t see worth a damn. He never exceeded 40MPH and overtaking cars were whizzing past us by the dozens. When anything came towards us in the opposite direction, he would slow almost to a standstill and, at the last moment, swerve violently away from it, the right-hand wheels gong off the edge of the road. Of course, he had to slow down for those really bad, pot-holed patches, but he would jam on the brakes on smooth roads for potholes that weren’t even there! I was convinced that we were not going to make it all the way without some terrible calamity. On top of all this, the radio was on at full volume the whole time and the window on my side wouldn’t go up, so when it started to rain near Puerto Plata, I got soaked (some more). The rain reduced what little visibility he/the cross eyed chauffeur had, and with it, our speed down to around 20MPH. The whole trip took two and three quarter hours.
The saga is not finished yet, my friends. When, after the long wait with only 40 pesos in my pocket, which is insufficient to buy any refreshment at airport prices, I reached the boarding gate clutching my precious obligatoric $10US only to be told that I had first to go to another desk and pay a departure tax of an additional $10US. I told them I hadn’t got it and had not been advised that I would need it. “Well, you can’t get on the plane until it’s paid!” Arguing the point was futile – they took away my boarding pass! Then one of the agents at the gate made an announcement to the waiting passengers asking if anyone could lend this gentleman the necessary sum. Three people instantly stepped forward with $10 bills and I was saved. Believe me, at that moment, I was on the point of breaking into tears of relief!
Everything went smoothly after that, and my wife had a $10US bill with which I was able to repay the kind lady from whom I had borrowed it. I was so glad that it was all over, that even the twenty centimeters of snow that started to fall as soon as I arrived, seemed quite welcoming.
It must be pointed out that the recurring visions of last year’s rescheduling that our indomitable traveling friend had, were due to the fact that, because of a long sequence of quite different crazy occurrences, he completely missed his plane in Puerto Plata!
Well back in the cold North we asked our comrade if his unplanned departure-adventure would put him off visiting the Dominican Republic and good old Playa Vista again? “It would take a lot more than that episode to discourage me. Of course I’m coming back again” he stoically responded without hesitation.
So… thanks to the good old bull dog spirit we look forward to seeing him again very soon, and naturally we at Playa Vista will be waiting with open arms to again offer the kind of welcome that such a spirited and playful actor on the Boca Chica stage deserves.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Randall, again not the infamous western-Kentucky farmer, but the author of ‘The Xpatriot’ (see March 2, 2005 blog posting), may have helped to reawaken a general reading interest as well as start a welcome trend, because we have been asked quite a few times by some of our regulars if they could have a sneak preview of his book by borrowing from our slowly growing library. His Xpatriot book, by the way, has generated a lot of positive comments… and judging from the commonest one of all: “Yes I enjoyed the read”, it strikes us that the borrowers were doing more than sneak-previewing.
While we are on the subject may we mention that Playa Vista does have a small library of magazines and paperbacks, all but a select few unsigned copies, for customers to borrow. This mini-library can be easily found in the corner of the bar as you enter the door on the left. There is no ticketing system whatsoever… we just ask for people to observe standard rules like return the books when finished in the condition they were borrowed. Naturally if any of you would like to add to the library that would be appreciated by all the thirsty re-aroused readers around here too.
Now back to the welcome trend because Greg – from that other but much larger North American country – is the latest to provide us with a personally signed copy of a publication that he contributed to in a major way. It is titled ‘A Chronicle of Images – Canada/Republica Dominicana 50+’ and contains both photos and text on relations between the two countries over the last 50 years. It is a very well presented compilation with text in Spanish, English and French. Gregg himself was, among other things, responsible for the art direction, design and production. By all means ask at the bar if you would like to view this nicely documented work, as was Gregg’s intention when he handed it over!
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Hurricanes come and thankfully they go… and even more thankfully sometimes they go without ever coming. We left you last time seemingly looking down the barrel of a gun called Ivan. It looked like there was no escape, but remarkably we managed to slip free yet again and this time in large part thanks to another hurricane. While Ivan was advancing into the southern Caribbean, Frances was still active over continental America. This created a ridge of pressure over the Caribbean which forced Ivan to take a more southerly route than has been seen in many many years affecting islands such as Curacao and Aruba and even parts of Venezuela that have never seen such phenomenon before.
Here in Boca Chica we waited and watched from the Playa Vista Terazza as Ivan whirled by several hundred miles to the south. At about 10 pm on Wednesday the sea rose to start flicking the terazza wall, and for 24 hours we watched the grand spectacle of extremely large rolling waves breaking onto the reef sending spray dozens of feet into the air and surf surging well inside our paradisal lagoon even as far as the steps leading up to the terazza itself ultimately licking the topmost step. In contrast to the roaring sea the air remained extremely placid, and a light cloud cover brought merely a sprinkling of rain on just one occasion throughout the entire time it took Ivan to swirl by. Mercifully the sum of our damage was no more than one broken plastic table leg which was crashed into by a couple of logs that floated by during the marine melee.
Some of the worst Ivan affected islands in the Caribbean this time around have previously claimed to be hurricane-free in their efforts to attract visitors… perhaps the Dominican Republic should now take the slogan up instead!
Meanwhile seven years later:
That was of course very much tongue in cheek. So far we have averted such hurricanes as Katia, Nate and Maria but September still has a long way to go so fingers crossed.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Last time around we referred to some of the events behind the Dominican Republic’s independence. In order to fill out the history plot a little more we have to point out that the first hiccup to the country’s independence arrived in 1861 when Spain, clearly not being able to break with an old habit, decided on re-annexing the country. Power swayed to and fro between the Spanish rulers and the supporters of independence for four years before full independence was restored and it is the anniversary of this restoration which is celebrated each year on August 16th as ‘Restoration Day’. It is a national celebration and a national holiday usually bringing a great number of people out on to the streets even in the form of carnivals. This year’s ‘Restoration Day’ on Monday will be a particularly auspicious day, for it is also the day when Leonel Fernández begins his four year term of office as the new president carrying many hopes for a return to the steady progress that we witnessed up until 2000 in his previous term.
After a very brief flirt with the outermost effects of hurricane Charley earlier in the week the weather is currently at its very best with almost constant sunshine and light winds drifting along the beach every day. A festive hopeful mood of renewal is in the air and we expect there to be a very big crowd at Playa Vista celebrating in happy good-humored fashion on our “double whammy” Restoration Day!
Meanwhile seven years later:
And the people will be out on the streets celebrating again in glorious color and good humor. Everybody loves a party but in our experience the Dominicans perhaps a tad more than most.