Sunday, February 15, 2009
Dominican 2009 - Thu Jan 22
Time to head to the Airport
Our flight left at 6AM from Vancouver, so we were at the airport at 4:40AM or so, set to arrive at our destination 7PM local time.
The flight was fine. It is a charter so the seats are small, the food just ok, but the service was fine, and the plane looked new and sturdy. It was going to get us there and that is about all we cared about.
Puerto Plata airport was our first stop, but it was closed due to a big rain storm (I read the next week that 2 of the local people died due to flooding and roaring rivers) and so we got to go straight to our destination of Punta Cana and arrived at around 5PM local time. Well, this was good news for us, because to try to keep on our budget of $100 US per day, we had to take a local bus, or gua-gua (pronounced wah-wah), from the airport to our hotel as a taxi would of been $40 (due to the airport taxi monopoly) and getting in early meant it was still daylight when we arrived - the sun sets here at around 6PM.
The aiport was a breeze. The customs guy didn't even look at the customs cards we had to fill out, he stamped our passport, and just waved us through. We had arrived in the Domincan Republic
Disclaimer: don't take the local bus when you get to the Punta Cana Airport
Not unless you speak Spanish, or you have done it before, or you are incredibly cheap, or adventurous (I'm not sure which is us, but Mimi only speaks a little tourist Spanish and me hardly any). It took us way over an hour, we had to change gua-guas 3 times, and it was pitch black for most of the trip to our hotel. It is quite a ways from the airport to town.
But if you want to go that route, you can find the bus stop on the main road just outside the airport. Just walk past the baggage area, keep on walking, ignore all the taxi drivers that yell at you, and walk out of the airport, keeping to your right, and you will see the bus stop (I wish I took a photo of it). You will have to speak some Spanish, or find someone who speaks English (good luck), and ensure you get to your hotel somehow. We paid about $20 pesos each for the first two gua-gua connections, and $30 pesos for the next one, and our grand total was about $3 US dollars - not bad for our first adventure.
I'll talk more about gua-guas later.....
El Cortecito Inn
Our first nights accommodation (the most expensive of our trip) was the El Cortecito Inn, a pretty ok place across the street from the beach. It is located in El Cortecito which, in the sprawling suburban style mess that is Bavaro, is the closest one can get to a downtown area.
The hotel cost $70 US, it was the cheapest I could find in town that I was able to book (through www.skoosh.com, and the hotel didn't have my reservation when we got there, but gave us a room at no charge just the same), and you could of easily had a room just walking in off the street. January is a semi-slow-season for the Dominican. I suggest you just email the hotel directly and reserve a room: CORTECITOINN@CODETEL.NET.DO
The hotel was a bunch of 2 storey buildings spread around a swimming pool and inner courtyard with some grass and palm trees. Breakfast was included (didn't get to try the breakfast) and the place seemed fine. The room was decent with two beds, a good bathroom, and had a nice patio.
Don't Drink the Water
Our first task after we settled in was to get out and get some bottled water for our room.
The street outside our hotel (the main strip) was totally dead and the grocery store was already closing, and after checking out the tourist bars around our area we ended up in the town "pool hall" that Mimi spotted on the walk in and totally surprised the locals by ordering a large Presidente beer (which you will be hearing more about later) and taking a seat.
Our waitress was totally wasted, and she kept leaning into me and slurring something Spanish into my ear, but was definitely friendly as was everyone in the place. And by our second beer Mimi had already bumped into a friend she had made.
His name was Joseph and he lived right in El Cortecito (he helped us off our bus at the right stop earlier and took us to our hotel). He spoke English also (a rare thing) and we drank some beers together (and started into a pack of vacation Marlboro's) and somehow we ended up heading off with him to do some bar hopping. After a detour into a cigar store, we ended up in this bar at the end of the strip with blasting Merengue music, a small dance floor, and some very pretty working girls.
One guy, who was a very good dancer, had a large pistol poking out of his back pocekt and was with an extremely good looking Haitian girl (he was the local cop), lot's of expats were hanging about (they looked Canadian), and I ended up having a few (too many) beers along with a couple of sandwiches and by 11PM it was time to get back to our hotel.....
Total bar tab including a pack of smokes: $850 pesos. We got two sandwiches at close to the local price (as we were with Joseph) for $100 pesos. Remember - 35 pesos to the US $.
Don't forget the water....
Ah, we forgot to buy water! Our first night in the Domincan and I was slightly drunk and we were back in our hotel with no water to get us through the night. How was I going to swallow those aspirins ?