Dream come true: Visiting Dominican Republic for the very first time

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Arrived at Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic!
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Outside the Santo Domingo airport

Wow! I finally made it to Dominican Republic!!! What a dream come true! This place is beautiful and the people are nice! The weather is great; it’s in the 80s degree right now, so it’s not too hot….. Everyone who knows me well, knows that I love the Dominican Republic, the culture, the music, the dance, the food and the people. My love from Dominican Republic started in 1996 when I moved to Washington, DC from England, and met Dominicans who I thought were just the most beautiful people in the world, especially the men!!! Talk about FINE!!! There was a certain swag about them…. I instantly fell in love with the music; bachata, merengue and salsa and I picked up on the dance styles effortlessly, without anyone really having to teach me. I felt the soul of music in my bones and all I had to do was spend a few minutes watching people dance to it and voila, I got it! I’m a natural dancer; dance come naturally to me, throw me any music genre and give me a few minutes to see how it’s danced and voila! I love to dance so I guess that helps….

Anyway, back to my instant love for the Dominican Republic… Yes, the fine men attracted me to this country and a few months later after my learning about the country, in 1997 I fell in love with my first high school sweetheart who was from the Dominican Republic. To cut the long story short, we are still the best of friends today. Me and Dominicans just get each other…. 😊. I’m often mistaken for being Dominican when I’m around Latino activities and perfectly dancing to bachata and merengue, the music originating from Dominican Republic. I tell everyone that I was Dominican in my previous life…. 😊

So yes, it feels great to finally be in my Caribbean “home”. It took me over 20 years to make it here but the wait has definitely been worth it. I believe I came at the perfect time…. It pays to stay true to your dreams and make them a reality, no matter how long it takes… I’m definitely not disappointed. I have only been here for a day and I literally feel like I have been here before. I fit in perfectly and I’m having a blast!

For those who don’t know, Dominican Republic (DR) is a Caribbean Spanish-speaking country, on the La Hispaniola island which it shares with Haiti. The capital city is Santo Domingo (SD), where I landed from the USA. For more information about DR, please consult our friend, Google. 😊…

And if you’re wondering what I’m doing here and haven’t watched my opening video above, I’m here for vacation and for global health volunteer work. Every time I travel to a country, I like to do what I’m passionate about which is give back by doing some volunteer global health work,which includes biometric health screenings, health coaching and fitness demos and dance fitness/Zumba classes, through the Global Health Fitness Initiative organization, which partners with organizations like the YMCA do to global health work.

Day 1 – Tuesday October 31:

I arrived in Santo Domingo at 12:56pm with American Airline, wearing a big smile on my face and thanking the good Lord for the opportunity to come here and live my dream. Santo Domingo is full of energy, clean and by the ocean.

That first day after I got settled in Santo Domingo, I went out to eat with a great person at Adrian Tropical, which is right by the ocean (the Malecon). It was a beautiful first day!

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First lunch in Dominican Republic at Adrian Tropical in Santo Domingo
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The menu – great food!
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Paradise on earth…. This all natural, freshly made mango juice was the best I have ever had!

 

Day 2 – Wednesday November 1:

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Meeting with the Director of the YMCA of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Andres Fortunato.

I went to meet with the YMCA staff about the global health work volunteer work that I would be doing for the next couple of days. It was great meeting Mr. Andres Fortunato, the Director of the YMCA of Dominican Republic. His staff was very friendly as well. Mr. Fortunato took me to different YMCA branches in Santo Domingo and told me more about the wonderful work that they do. The YMCA of Dominican Republic focuses more on education and skills development. Watch the video below to learn more about the YMCA of Dominican Republic.

 

Tour of Santo Domingo:

After my meeting with the YMCA Staff, someone special took me on a tour of Santo Domingo. It was great getting to know this beautiful city.

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Columbus Lighthouse – Faro a Colón,in Spanish
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Columbus Lighthouse – Faro a Colón,in Spanish
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Enter a captiThe Alcázar de Colón is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santo Domingo. The building dates from 1510 and is the oldest vice-regal residence in the Americas.on
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The Alcázar de Colón is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santo Domingo. The building dates from 1510 and is the oldest vice-regal residence in the Americas.
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Beautiful view
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View of the La Obelisca – a sculpture of a male figure next to the female constructed on the Malecón during Trujillo’s reign. See video below for better view.
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The La Obelisca – a sculpture of a male figure next to the female constructed on the Malecón during Trujillo’s reign. See video below for better view.
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View of the La Obelisca – a sculpture of a male figure next to the female constructed on the Malecón during Trujillo’s reign. See video below for better view.
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Malecon Center….At the Malecon / the seaside/oceanside… very Pretty!
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Malecon Center….At the Malecon / the seaside/oceanside… very Pretty!
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Malecon Center….At the Malecon / the seaside/oceanside… very Pretty!
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Malecon Center….At the Malecon / the seaside/oceanside… very Pretty!
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View of the La Obelisca – a sculpture of a male figure next to the female constructed on the Malecón during Trujillo’s reign. See video below for better view.

 

Here is a video of me of me exercising/running/jogging at the Malecon. The view of the Malecon is beautiful and therapeutic. I encourage anyone visiting there to go for a walk/jog/run along the Malecon. It’s very safe. Watch this:

 

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Calle El Conde, a cozy pedestrian street and one of the oldest and most popular streets in the city
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The park at Calle El Conde, a cozy pedestrian street and one of the oldest and most popular streets in the cityption
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Calle El Conde, a cozy pedestrian street and one of the oldest and most popular streets in the city

 

It was a beautiful second day. I had so much fun with great people in this beautiful city and I felt right at home in Santo Domingo.

Day 3 – Thursday November 2:

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Doing global health volunteer work with the Global Health Fitness Initiative and the YMCA of Dominican Republic
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Doing fitness with the kids. So preious….

I started my volunteer work with the YMCA. I did health screenings most of the day and taught dance fitness/Zumba classes. I had a great time. Watch videos below:

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Had a great time dancing with these beautiful and friendly kids

It was a long fun day, from early morning to late afternoon. I enjoy promoting healthy behaviors. I was quite tired by the end of the day so I just took it easy for the rest of the day and chilled with good company.

Day 4 – Friday November 3:

After a delicious and chatty breakfast with good people, I went to teach dance fitness/Zumba at the park nearby, right across from the beautiful Malecon. We had so much fun. See video below:

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My Zumba/Dance fitness crew after leading a high energy and fun class

 

 

After the morning dance fitness/Zumba session at the park, I relaxed and chilled for the afternoon and got ready to go out dancing with friends. We went to El Conuco, a very classy restaurant with a good dance party. We danced to Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. It was my first party in Santo Domingo and I had a lot of fun.

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Out with friends dancing to bachata, merengue and salsa and eating great food

Day 5 – Saturday November 4:

I had a morning session at YMCA where I did health screenings such as blood pressure, body fat, BMI. I also did wellness coaching/health counselling where I was able to give people advice based on their health numbers. I also answered any additional health and fitness related questions that they had. I attended to a lot of people that day. It was a great busy day doing what I love.

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Doing what I love – Global health
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My passion – global health
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My souvenir/gift from the YMCA of Dominican Republic.

After the health screening session, I went to the beach in Boca Chica. Boca Chica is about 30 kilometers from Santo Domingo. It’s one of the most popular beaches in the country. This beach is an ideal weekend and holiday getaway due to its proximity to the capital city.  It’s also close to the Las Americas International Airport. We arrived at the beach a bit late to avoid the crowd because it is a very popular beach. It turned out to be an incredible night at the beach; great company, great food great music!

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Enjoying Boca Chica at night… Great food, dancing to latin music on the beach etc…
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Boca Chica, looking for something to eat at one of these eating places
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Yummy! I think I was the only one eating sweet yellow plantains in DR. Dominicans only like eating the green non sweet plantains which I can’t stand…. Sweet yellow plantains are not as popular there… I thought that was strange….

Day 6 – Sunday November 5 – Beach Day 2:

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Juan Dolio beach – lovely beach, great vibe, not overcrowded

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Beautiful beach – Juan Dolio
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With love from Juan Dolio

Today, I made another trip to Boca Chica because yesterday we went late to avoid the crowd. But I wanted to see how it looks like in the day. But boy, when we got there, it was so crowded we couldn’t find parking and we were being hustled left and right. It was just to busy and quite chaotic. So we decided to go another beach nearby called Juan Dolio. The people I went with said Juan Dolio is quieter, better and more classy than Boca Chica. We definitely had a great time in Juan Dolio!

Day 7 – Monday November 6:

This day was a public holiday in Dominican Republic. It was the Constitution Day. I chilled most of the day and then went to one of the best malls in Santo Domingo. It was actually my first time there. I wanted to get some news shoes for a party I was going to in the evening that day.

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Out shopping at Sambil mall – lovely mall!

Initially, the plan was to go and party at Jet Set but it was close so ended up at Merengue Bar at Hotel Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua. There was a live band playing salsa, merengue and bachata! It was a fun night!

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Partying at Merengue Bar inside the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel and Casino in Santo Domingo

 

Day 8 – Tuesday November 7:

Today I chilled most of the day and prepared for my trip to Haiti the next day. I went to Capital Bus Line station to buy the two way ticket to Port-Au Prince, the capital city of Haiti. One way ticket was US$45 and a return ticket was US$75. There was also a border/immigration fee of US$10. I prefer to travel by road between countries so that I can sight-see and get to know the country/countries better. When you fly to neighboring countries, you don’t really get to see and experience anything special.

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I highly recommend taking Capital Coach Line to Haiti and back to Dominican Republic

Day 9 – Wednesday November 8 – Off to Haiti:

I woke up early and made my way to Capital Coach Bus Line to catch my 8am bus to Port-Au Prince, Haiti. Unfortunately, when I got there, the trip was postponed to 1pm because there was a strike at the Haiti border. Apparently this happens quite often. I read about it when I was doing my research on taking the bus to Haiti. I was annoyed about arriving in Haiti when it’s getting dark. I wanted to get a good first glimpse of Haiti upon arrival since it was my first time there.

Nonetheless, I decided not to wait at the bus station until 1pm so I went back “home” to catch up on my sleep. I was a bit scared that the strike wouldn’t be over by 1pm but they Staff at the station assured me that the strike would be over by then. I wondered how hey could be sure of that. They said to call before I come and that’s exactly what I did. The 1pm bus departing at the scheduled time.

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Inside Capital Coach Line bus on my way to Haiti. Very nice, comfortable and professional
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Capital Coach Bus Line gives you lunch. I have the best seat on the bus for videos and pictures
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I highly recommend you take this bus to Haiti and back to Dominican Republic

The Capital Coach Bus Line is very professional, quiet, clean, and comfortable. They give all passengers lunch (water, juice and sandwich) as pictured above. I was very fortunate to get a front seat on the second floor of the double Decker bus. I had a good view for taking pictures and videos. The trip to Haiti was wonderful and scenic. The roads were good in Dominican Republic but the roads were not so good in Haiti. below are a few pictures and videos:

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At the Haiti Border: leaving Dominican Republic

 

Day 10 – Saturday November 11 – Back in DR from Haiti:

I had an good time in Port-Au Prince, Haiti. Click here to read about my time in Haiti and to see all the videos and pictures from there.

Below, please see pictures and videos at the Dominican side of the border. Things were more strictly at this side of the border compared to the Haitian side of the border. Security was tighter and there was more passport/immigration control, for obvious reasons. Dominican Republic has the biggest Haitian immigration population in the world, despite the fact that Dominicans and Haitians don’t like each other. Their sour relationship has a long story so I encourage you to google “Haiti and Dominican relationship.”

At the Dominican Republic border, we had to get off the bus and line up at passport control and then we got back in the bus. Later after comfortably seating on the bus, we were told to take our luggage out and place it on the table in the immigration control area to have it searched. You will be hustled while trying to take your luggage out with people forcefully volunteering to help you carry it for you to the search table. Luckily, a fellow passenger who figured out that I was knew to this got off the bus with me to make sure that I’m not being taken advantage of. She went with me to get my bag searched. I wouldn’t even really call that a bag search. The person only touch a few things for exactly 2 seconds and closed my bag. He expected me to give him some one however the lady told me that there’s nothing in my bag to warrant me giving him money so I shouldn’t and I didn’t. And of course the person who grabbed my bag from the bus trying to help me carry it to the search area was also expected me to give him money. He followed me all the way to the bus entrance. He couldn’t speak English and all along I was trying to tell him that I don’t have cash on me. He was obviously disappointed when he realized I didn’t have any money to give him. Personally, I don’t like being hustled and duped into giving people money. I felt annoyed to say the least. But I understand that this is how they make a living….

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At the Dominican Republic side of the border. I’m standing inside the passport control area.
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At the Dominican Republic border, waiting in line at passport control
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Immigration control area at the Border of Dominican Republic and Haiti.

See video below taken at the Dominican side of the border. Interesting…

 

The rest of the bus ride was smooth until we got to a road block. The bus stopped and a few people where told to get off the bus and get their luggage to be searched. This was a bit strange considering that we just left immigration control where our bags were “searched.” I don’t know if this was a random selection or if they were suspected of something. The passengers on the bus, most of whom appeared to be Haitian, didn’t seem pleased with this search. Everyone was staring outside the window. It must have been quite embarrassing for those who were being searched. See pictures below and video above.

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Road block search soon after we passed immigration control
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At the road block
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A few people being searched at the road block

I eventually arrived at Capital Coach Bus Line in Santo Domingo. The whole bus ride, including the stops, took about 9 hours. The normal drive with a personal vehicle takes about 7 hours or less. However, it didn’t feel that long because I was entertained by favorite music that I was playing on my iPod while enjoying the scenery and zoning off into my happy and peaceful world. The journey to Haiti and Dominican Republic was definitely therapeutic. I love taking bus rides between neighboring countries because of the opportunity to sight-see and see more of the countries and interact with the local people; a great travel adventure and you really get to know the country and its people that way in a way that you can’t by taking plane. And an added bonus is that, it’s also cheaper to take the bus than to fly.

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Back in Santo Domingo via Capital Coach Bus Line

It was nice being back “home.” I spent the remaining few days hanging out with wonderful people, shopping and preparing to return to the USA. The night before leaving Dominican Republic, I went to Adrian Tropical restaurant for dinner. I love being by the water and I like the fact that this restaurant is by the ocean/the Malecon. Beautiful view, great food. It was raining that day so we at inside the restaurant.

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Out and about the night before leaving…. Having a great time!
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Great food, great company.

Day 13 – Tuesday November 14 – Last Day in DR; going back to the USA

On Tuesday November 14, I flew to Washington, DC from Santo Domingo early in the morning. All through out my flight, I played my favorite bachata song by Aventura – Cuando Volveras (when will you come back) – the English version, nonstop and reminisced about the amazing and unforgetable time I had in the Dominican Republic. I shall be back……! I’m grateful to God for making this trip a dream come true!

Click here to see MORE pictures!


UPDATES:

I went back to Dominican Republic, for the 2nd time on December 30th, 2017 to celebrate New Year’s over there. I had a blast. Every year, there’s a free New Y ear’s Eve concert at the Malecon. It’s free and features top Dominican artists singing bachata, salsa and merengue. It’s definitely worth checking out… Here is the video:

 

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