Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saying "Adios" to the DR

   So, we spent nearly a month in the Dominican Republic. Overall, we enjoyed our time.  Walking through many streets, markets, and stores, talking to locals, and visiting a few towns gave us a pretty well-rounded, interesting experience.  Here's our tour of the south coast of the DR in a nutshell . . .

This was the "only eat local" restaurant
   Restaurants can be pricey but, not typically.  On the whole, we found very reasonably-priced meals and often the food was good.  We sampled everything from seafood to chicken, tacos to pork chops.  One particular spot appeared to be rather high-end but, when the bill came, including the tip, our total was $20 U.S.  We also discovered delicious tacos in, of all places, a cafe attached to a gas station.  On the other hand, we were taken to a restaurant by a guide associated with the customs office that he claimed, had "very good food, especially pizza" . . . hmm, I know, pizza in the Dominican Republic . . . We tried it on his advice and my advice is, don't try the pizza.  We did feel that, given that the place seemed to be a popular local hangout, if we ordered something less "foreign" the result would be better.  So, the next time around, we ordered two local dishes and really enjoyed our food.

Fresh Pineapple!  Yum!
   Now, as you know, we cook quite a bit on the boat.  This, of course, requires groceries.  Groceries in the Dominican Republic are amazingly priced.  Whether in a large grocery store or an outdoor market, prices can't be beat.  We became partial to one vendor at the market in Barahona; he helped us pick out what we needed (at times, even picking from other vendors for things he didn't have) and gave us advice on how to prepare everything.  Both times that we visited him, we walked away with a large bag of produce for less that $2 U.S. Even in an Ole (their version of a Walmart), we found really tasty potatoes for the equivalent of 20 cents per pound.  Was it all good?  No.  If you ever go shopping in the DR, the one thing I'd recommend shying away from is the beef and prepackaged meats (i.e. sausages, bacon, etc.) There is nothing spoiled or unhealthy about these products; they're just not good quality and the beef always gave the impression (no matter how long I cooked it or how I prepared it) that the animal to which it was formerly a part of was fond of chewing on rubber plants. The chicken, on the other hand, was always quite good.
The Pineapple Stand

One of the many stalls at the market - Our guide, Fernando,
is on the right (he wanted lots of propinas, too

Beaches and Water:

An exception to the dirtiness
   I have one word for the beaches in the DR: DIRTY.   There were a couple of rare exceptions to this but, typically we stayed away from the water.  We only swam in water that was well away from big cities and that we could see through (the same rules applied when running the water maker).  Even when we stopped in a marina for a few days, we were warned by the locals not to use or drink the free water offered.  Efforts to clean up litter are only slightly better here that what we found in Haiti.  Although, we were able to find actual trash cans (no such thing in Haiti).  Trash is often scattered along the sand; it even floats by your boat as you sail a few miles off shore.

Cool Tree

Typical Dominican Street

Nicer, slightly cleaner part of town

The People:
Art anyone?
   The average Dominican seems to be easy-going and helpful.  They love their food, culture, and icy-cold Presidente beer (the local brew).  Art abounds in the DR. This is especially obvious in their homes and businesses.  Blue, pink, green, and yellow are all typical colors for exteriors.  Even brighter displays are found on may shops; the more obvious the building is, the more likely you are to stop in.  For security reasons, gates are often a fixture at the entrance to driveways.  These are certainly utilitarian but, their owners have also taken it upon themselves to make these works of iron eye-catching.

One of the more unique homes
One of the many gates

This looks like it belongs in the
Secret Garden
This was at one of the Restaurants

   We did, unfortunately. find that many of those employed by or associated with the government are prone to take liberties with their given roles.  "Propinas" is a word often seen and used.  It means "tips".  It is typical for propinas to be given if someone has be especially helpful or done a service for you.  However, we found that many customs officals try to mandate propinas on top of already paid fees.  Some ask but, drop the idea if refused (and are actually happy to except a beer instead). Others are a bit more insistent but, not pushy.  We did come in contact with one official, that when refused (he insisted on $20 U.S.), became angry and threatened to take back the paperwork he had issued us if we didn't leave immediately. . . Yes, the Dominican Republic is still a third-world country and therefore, there really isn't anyone to enforce rules about such matters.  

Most Unusual Experience:

   We had an unusual experience with the officials in Palmar de Ocoa. Instead of coming to our boat in a dinghy or having us go to them in our dinghy to check our papers (as is typical), they sent a man, who we can only assume was the most junior, to retrieve our current papers and deliver our new ones by swimming out to our boat in his underwear. I handed him the papers in a plastic zippered bag to keep them dry; he carried the bag in his teeth so as not to impede his swimming.  We voluntarily gave that guy a well-deserved beer. . . and no, I didn't take a picture of the official in his underwear . . . I didn't want to embarrass him further . . .

   Overall, our impression of the Dominican Republic was positive.  We enjoyed being able to soak up some local color and experience the south side of the country.  Our only real problem with our time in the DR was the officials and their questionable habits. We met a lot of these guys and, unfortunately, the many of them were a bit crooked (Barahona was a pleasant exception).  Would we go back?  I think so, simply because there was quite a bit that we didn't get to see and do. Hopefully, in the meantime, the government will crack down on these "necessary" propinas.

Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

1 comment:

  1. As always, your blog is a delight to read. Love your description of the beef in DR! Pictures are great and the markets there sound like a treasure to shop. Pizza in DR was probably a disappointment because Bill bakes the best! Love the picture of that really cool tree. Glad to hear your visit to DR was overall a good experience, even though you continue to encounter officials that have their own agenda and their own interests at hand. Hopefully as you continue on your journey, you will encounter more professional and honest officials. Have fun and be safe as you continue to explore more islands. Look forward to your future blog updates. Fair winds and smooth sailing....


Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments.