My first hangover and today we have to get to Santo Domingo. Woke up at 10:10AM, just in time to miss the breakfast buffet included with our room. And the water and coffee I desperately needed. So I made a quick trip outside to grab some water from the grocery store down the street and headed back to find those aspirins
Santo Domingo express
We had to catch the 2PM Santo Domingo express and so we packed up and then went down to see the Caribbean for the first time in our lives. We marched across the street and down to the beach, looked left, looked right, was totally blinded by the brilliant blue water and white sand....my headache was saying gotta go....and we marched right back to our hotel. Took a couple of photos which didn't turn out. Sorry....
So it was beautiful, there is no doubt, but we weren't here to see this place, and we strapped on our packs and decided to walk the 2km to the bus station.
First lesson in the Dominican....nobody walks anywhere. We had the whole road to ourselves as we trudged under the blazing sun, motorcyles and taxis buzzing around constantly trying to get us to take a ride with them. But you know, if you ride all the time, you miss a lot, so we kept on walking.
Changed $300 dollars to pesos at a bank (10,500 pesos), bought more water, and made it to the bus station. Tickets were like $300 pesos each (don't quote me on that) and the ride was 4 hours.
Chicken and Fritos
One thing you will find a lot of in the Dominican are Chinese restaurants. Most of them sell plain fried chicken and french fries or fritos (fried plantains). We bought some lunch next to the bus station, had our first taste of delicious fritos, and then we were off to Santo Domingo.
The trip was fine and the road in pretty decent shape, with a stop along the way at a rest stop (our bus had no facilities) and right on time 4 hours later we were dropped off in the Gazcue neighborhood, which is a nice urban/residential neighborhood pretty close to where our hotel was located in the Zona Colonial area.
I think it was like a 2km walk to our hotel (why do we keep walking?) and if we had of known our way around better, we could of jumped off the bus from Bavaro at a spot pretty close to where we were staying. We'll save those tricks for the next visit.
Hostal Dominico Mundial
Our hotel was the Mundial and I can describe it's virtues in two words: location and price. It was definitely cheap, but what a location. Right across the street from Duarte Park and in the heart of the Zona Colonial. You can stay here too, for just $30 US dollars a night, but be prepared for a small room, with a small bed, with smaller sheets, and a bathroom that was a classic: toilet too close to the wall to sit on and an electric heated shower head that gave you a shock every time you tried to adjust it.
The owners were super friendly and spoke absolutely no English. I think we were the only people who were staying there on a nightly basis too. Everyone else seemed to be living there?
It would not of been the same trip if we hadn't stayed at the Mundial. We had the park across the street, and it was worth the price we payed (or didn't pay) as it filled up every night with tons of young people who were drinking beer and Cuba Libres and playing their car stereos, talking in groups and some even dancing, and having a great time. A lady barbecued chicken wings every night, and the hamburger truck was there, along with three places selling ice cold beer and everything else, and there was even a small place with a dancefloor.
The Zona Colonial is also a great neighborhood to explore from. Totally safe at night and right next door to some other really interesting areas.
For $80 bucks you can also stay at the El Beaterio Guest House, which was a couple steps away from our place. We saw the lobby and it was impressive. The hotel clerk was impressive too and the one we chatted with spoke great English. We never saw a room, but I can confidently say this was a nice small mid-range priced hotel.
Our place, though, was closer to the "beer store" and we were quite fond of our shower. And we were paid up for four nights already.
The culinary tour continues.....
After the sandwhiches and fried chicken we had eaten arlready on our trip, we were ready for a real local culinary experience. It was around 8PM when we headed out for dinner and we were more tired then we thought and thus ended up just going out for a nice safe pizza. It sounds bizarre considering we still hadn't had a true Dominican meal yet, but that's the way it ended up.
We ate on the Calle de Conde, a long pedestrian mall which stretches from the river to the Parque Independencia. I won't describe it as quaint, but it was a good place to watch people and had at least 7 or 8 places where you could get a pizza. Our chain-style choice was Pala Pizza where we had a very delicious pepperoni and onion pizza and two large Presidente for about $550 pesos.
Saved by Duarte Park....
We ended our evening having a few more beers in Duarte Park that evening, just across from our hotel, and enjoyed the collection of trendy young people and very unselfconcious gay men who crowded this small square after dark. If only we had one place like this back in Vancouver.