Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dominican Republic

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This time around, Dejan, Boris, Page and I decided to explore the beaches of the island of Hispaniola. It took us few months to organize the trip and take couple of days off work. The Dominican Republic was probably the least expensive weekend getaway destination we could find for this time of the year. For just over $600US we booked a vacation for mid November, hoping for good weather.

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The Dominican Republic is a country located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. Hispaniola is the second-largest of the Greater Antilles islands, and lies west of Puerto Rico and east of Cuba and Jamaica.

A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule lasted for much of the 20th century; the move towards representative democracy has improved vastly since the death of military dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1961. Dominicans sometimes refer to their country as Quisqueya, a name for Hispaniola used by indigenous Taíno people. The Dominican Republic is not to be confused with Dominica, another Caribbean country. (w)

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Departure flight was quite early, around 7am. I’ve decided to take a metro and almost missed my flight. Boys were already checked in, relaxing at airport Starbucks as I was rushing in from the escalator. Couple of hours later we landed in Miami and got some extra cash at the ATM just to make sure we have enough funds for tips etc.

Around 3pm, we arrived to DR and passed the customs with ease. Just like in many other beach destinations, we were greeted with music, this time it was famous Dominican Merengue. Our luggage was intact and as we were exiting the customs we were charged a tourist tax of $10US. Our driver was waiting outside and shortly thereafter we were on our way to our home for the next 5 days, Barcelo Beach Resort, Punta Cana.

Barcelo Beach Resort is located some 20 minutes drive from the airport. There is a major road construction going on as the Dominican government is working on a new highway to connect Punta Cana and its airport. The works should be done within the next couple of years.

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As we pulled in to the resort, we passed by a mini train that caries tourists between restaurants, shopping, casino and nightclubs. This was our main mode of transportation in the next few days.

Checking in were probably the only frustrating moments in the entire trip but it was our fault. The reservation we made was for a “Quad” room but nobody really paid attention at the time of booking. The resort management insisted on putting four (4) guys in a single room with two (2) king size beds! Heh, this one was kind of funny. It took us over on hour and $200US to resolve this problem and we had what we wanted, two rooms with two full beds. We were now happy to explore the resort.

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Barcelo Beach Resort is a part of a larger complex of resorts and it includes many restaurants, bars, swimming pools, casinos and miles of white sand and coconut tree shaded beaches. We had access to it all. The weather was absolutely perfect. Caribbean sea was comfortably warm, pretty much the same temperature as soft and windy air we enjoyed while hanging out on the beach drinking cocktails.

Piña Coladas, Cuba Libres and Banana Bombs were our favorite drinks in the resort. Bartenders were quite generous and drinks were made to perfection. During the day we would get few brick oven pizzas to snack on and local Presidente beer to quench our thirst. Pizza was the only food available between lunch and dinner.

Most nights we dined at the nearby steak house. Steaks were absolutely delicious and the wait staff was professional and friendly. After dinner we would visit local discos, casino or just hang out at the beach bar. One night we even ventured out to a locally famous night club.

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On a third day we decided to go for some deep sea fishing. The weather was perfect. At first, Dejan was little hesitating but he got himself some Dramamine from the nearby pharmacy and we were ready to go. Russian speaking Haitian immigrants were quick to organize a half-day fishing trip for $70US per person.

Few minutes later and couple of miles of the coast of this beautiful island I started to feel little shaky and lied down inside the cabin to rest. I took some Dramamine but it was too late. Next thing you know I lost both my breakfast and pizza. Page followed me right after. The end result of our fishing trip; 2 Mahi-Mahi and a Barracuda. The steakhouse chef was happy to prepare our freshly caught Mahi-Mahi for lunch next day.

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While sitting back and watching depressing “breaking” news in a cold and rainy Washington DC, I must admit that this trip was probably one of the best short vacations I’ve ever had. I hope I will be back again...

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