If you’ve read about my arrival in Santo Domingo, you’ll know that my first night there I was hungry, tired, and a bit irritated. And that is where this story starts off. I had just checked in to the hotel and asked the receptionist where I could get something decent to eat. She recommended a place about three blocks away on one of the squares and gave me a map. Good enough, I was on my way.
Bombarded in Santo Domingo
I hadn’t made it half a block when I was bombarded by peddlers of all kinds. Art, clothes, music, taxis, and flat-out bums. Normally this doesn’t bother me, but this time I was really hungry and they were additional obstacles. As politely as I could, I told them all to get the hell out of my way. It just so happened that one of them spoke English and would not get out of my way. He insisted on trying to have some long drawn out conversation. I explained that I had just landed and was starving and that he really needed to leave me alone. I later came to learn that Miguel was many things. Pragmatic was not one of them; persistent was.
He insisted on showing me some of the local restaurants, “the best in town” he claimed. “Come on man, you don’t want this tourist food! It’s way too expensive and no good.” I finally broke down and explained that I was going to the restaurant the girl recommended and he could walk with me if he’d like, but if he kept me from getting there any longer I was going to punch him. He obviously took it as a joke because he laughed and said, “OK, I’ll show you where it is.”
He was right of course. This restaurant was a nice place for a date, but not for a hungry man. I ate there anyways. Never go to strange places with strange people on an empty stomach! He sat at the table with me like the unwanted long lost friend and gave me his life story and all the details on Santo Domingo. I finally got sick of watching him sit there while I ate and bought him a beer while he told me all about his glory days hanging out with the U.S. Navy guys when they used to (dock?) in Santo Domingo and how he used to have lots of American friends. Same old song and dance.
After finishing my meager meal I was in a much better mood and far less concerned about getting mugged on an empty stomach. He offered to show me the bar scene and I agreed. He did warn me that it was Easter week and a lot of places were closed. We walked through the Colonial District and into a less dense area full of dark streets until we reached the general area of the bars. Most were closed and we ran into a few Americans that he introduced me to. He asked a group sitting outside of a store what was opened and they told him.
When we arrived at what was apparently the only bar within walking distance that was open, Miguel excused himself while I went to the bar and ordered a drink. The place turned out to be more of a brothel than a bar and the girls lined up behind me as I placed my order. Nobody in the place spoke English, so I had to wait for Miguel to return to tell the girls that they could go back to whatever it was that they were doing.
After a few rounds, it was time to go back to the hotel. This time we took a cab. Miguel lived right next to the hotel so we would be getting off at the same spot. I paid the driver and waited for Miguel to start the speech. He only asked for $20, which I thought was a reasonable price. For the rest of my time in Santo Domingo we had a general rule of $20 for half a day and $50 for a full day anytime he worked as a tour guide for me. The two aggravating parts were that he asked for money even when I didn’t want/need his help and that he always gave this “we’re friends” speech. I’m a firm believer in paying for services, but I like to keep things business if they are business. If we’re friends, hanging out should be free.
I’ll include Miguel in some future events, but all-in-all he was a good tour guide.