Santo Domingo was absolutely beautiful and had enough diversity and worthwhile tourist destinations to keep me extremely busy. This was apparently one of Christopher Columbus’s favorite locations and it is possibly where his remains lie today. There is just a ton of history that I would love to tell you about, but I lost my digital camera and can’t remember it all. So I’ll just tell you what really stuck out to me.
I’m going to leave the Colonial Zone out of this for right now and focus on the rest of Santo Domingo. One of the friends I made in Santo Domingo has promised to send me some pictures that I can include in a post specific to the Colonial Zone.
There is a business district with modern malls, restaurants, and traffic. I didn’t hang out much there, but I did do a little shopping. I was actually in need of a new camera charger before I lost my camera and I was able to find a universal charger in one of the malls. The only thing that really struck me as odd in these modern malls were their primitive rest rooms. There were common U.S. restaurants like Hooters. I really didn’t see much in the way of excitement in the business district, but it was good to know it was there if I needed escape the local world.
There was also a China Town. Really not much to say here. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It was probably the most crowded area, but it wasn’t too overbearing. It was, of course, where I went to get my SIM card for my phone. I did appreciate their efficiency. I gave them my phone and the equivalent of $5 and it was magically working. No hassles, no time wasted.
Little Haiti was a different story. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a Little Haiti before and I can tell you that it was the only place I visited in Santo Domingo where I felt like there could be trouble brewing. It was dirty and most of the people eyed me like a target. The shop owners were nice though. They offered me shots of Mamajuana, a local cure-all remedy consisting of wine and rum in a bottle filled with “natural ingredients.” Natural ingredients seemed to be tree bark and spices. The stuff was terrible, but the bottles were awesome! Each one had it’s own leather case that was truly art work and seemed to be hand made. I purchased two, although I was never able to get them shipped back to The States. I was assured that I could pack them in my luggage, but since my next stop was not going to be mainland U.S. that wasn’t much of an option for me. And everything was half off! Of course, the price was doubled before they offered the half off discount, but they sure tried to sell it. I was able to do some reasonable bartering though.
I was there at a terrible time to experience the night life, but aside from what was mentioned in my intro to Miguel, I did go out a few times. Once to a small bar in the Colonial Zone and once with a couple of European guys (Swedish I think) that I met at the hotel. I had some plans for that day so they told me to meet them on Venezuela Avenue. This is apparently the place where all the night life takes place. There were tons of bars, but being Easter week it was almost dead. I will have to return here one day and see the place in full swing. It looked like it could have been awesome.
Final analysis: Santo Domingo is pretty cool, but the Colonial Zone is really what’s worth seeing. Getting by outside the Colonial Zone without speaking Spanish can be a bit tough but survivable. Bargain shopping was possible but the better the bargain got, the less I wanted to be there.