05 November 2016

Paradise Found

Boca Chica (did not look so lovely in person)

I was in Santo Domingo for 12 days, which was probably five or six days too many. I liked the capitol and all the historical sites, but nearly two weeks of that wasn’t necessary. Also, I really didn’t need all the noise pollution that I experienced in my hotel rooms. The room I had at the first hotel was on the ground floor and it sounded like everyone passing by on the sidewalk was actually in my room. My second place was great, and way up on the 4th floor, but that meant that I was constantly bombarded with the noise from the air-conditioning units on the roofs of all the surrounding buildings. It was never quiet. No wonder I got caught up in the city; I couldn’t think straight.

So it was time to head down to the beach at Boca Chica, a forty minute taxi ride from Santo Domingo. I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant about going there. One can never entirely tell by what’s on the travel sites and in the guidebooks, but it did appear that Boca Chica might just be a little more popping than I wanted.
Then I remembered being in Vietnam and taking the bus down to Mui Ne. I knew that particular locale had a reputation for a jumping nightlife, lots of bars with lots of Russian tourists, and all that goes with that – not at all what I wanted. However, I figured it was the beach and surely there had to be somewhere nice. And there was. I stayed in the place I found for two months and it was one of the better two months of my life. Up at 5:30, a walk on the beach, eat something, work on my latest book, jump in the pool, take a short nap, and return to writing. Later there’d be another stroll or two on the sand, a talk with the fishermen and copious amounts of shell collecting. How could it be that hard to find something similar in Boca Chica?
Balcony at Rig Hell
I diligently read through everything I could find out about budget accommodation in Boca Chica, and finally settled on the Rig Hotel. That way, I would have a place to stay at least for the first night. This trip is the first time in my life I have actually booked a hotel in advance anywhere in the world. Unlike in days gone by, you can now read reviews, supposedly get deals – even on budget hotels, and apparently feel fairly confident that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised. Add to that, that I am past the age of walking around town until I find decent, affordable lodging.
The ride down the Caribbean coast was spectacular. The highway goes right along the coastline and it was the first time I had a really clear view of the Caribbean.  Yeah! I was on my way to the beach. But as we started to enter an urban area, I began to worry. Is this Boca Chica? I asked my driver. It was.
Possibly it was because the clouds now covered the sun, casting a dismal grey onto the small streets teaming with people and cars and noise and dirt and confusion. The closer we got to my hotel, the more concerned I got. Boca Chica simply couldn’t be this grungy. Surely we were still on the outskirts. Regrettably, we were one block from my hotel.
According to reviews on booking.com, and the photos, I thought I had gotten a good deal for only being a block from the beach. Booking.com flashed a Deep discount/special offer all because I was signed in.
Rig Bathroom Window
I almost told the driver to take me straight to the airport when we got to the street – more of a filthy alley, that housed Rig hotel. Dumpsters overflowing with garbage, surrounded by piles of litter, covered the length of the small block. To the right were three towering construction projects, one of which looked like its funds had run out. Rig hotel didn’t even look like a hotel and it seemed to be encased in barbed wire.
I paid my $32 and was led up to my room – the one I had paid more for because it had a mini kitchen and a balcony. Traipsing up the narrow, filthy stairwell, my heart sank even lower. When the owner opened the door and I went in, I couldn’t even talk. After he left, I walked around the room in a state of shock.
Hellhole comes to mind. I have always been a budget traveler and prefer simple accommodation, but this was beyond the pale. The balcony consisted of an eight inch ledge and a lot of barbed wire. There was no fridge in the room, and the kitchen was simply a non-working sink and a non-working burner. The bathroom had a clear window that looked directly onto the construction site across the street. And every square inch seemed to be falling apart and filthy, save the floor in the main room. I could not believe I had been this badly suckered. This is my breakup with Booking.com.
I sat down for a moment, thought about what to do, and then figured I would have to stay there one night. But I was going to find something else right away. I hated leaving all my valuables in a room that could be opened with a hair clip, or possibly a hard shove, but had no choice.
Paradise Found
First, I tracked down a place someone had recommended. It was neat and clean and brand new, but too costly. It sort of looked like a high-end Motel 6. And it was still in the middle of what I took to be the insanity of Boca Chica.  Walking further, I recognized the name of a hotel I had remembered seeing on some travel site. It was further up a street and off the first few blocks up from the beach. I had already realized right on the beach was no place to be.
The very nice manger told me the prices and they were way over my budget. He then started telling me of other places, and eventually had an employee walk me about four blocks further away from the beach.
Soon we were walking down lovely streets – you’d never know it was a tourist town. I could feel my spirits lift. It looked like I might not have to take that next flight out of the DR. Even before I walked in through the gate, I knew I was in heaven.
The beautifully landscaped garden surrounded a sparkling clean pool. A covered restaurant area and a small bar stood beyond and to the right. Everything looked shiny and new and well tended to. If the manager from the last hotel hadn’t said that this was the place I wanted, I would not have believed it to be affordable.  
I was shown an immaculate room that was more than spacious enough. The bathroom looks like one of those TV show makeovers and not like anything I had seen in my previous three hotels. There is no A/C, but there is a floor fan. No TV, but I am rather tired of all the political stuff anyway. The only real drawback is that there is no mini fridge, something I have come to rely on in my traveling. But at about $20 a night, I’ll make do.
It did not take me long, sitting out in the peaceful garden, to make the decision to go back to the Rig Hotel from Hell, check out, loose $32, and come right back to my new lodgings. 
This morning, I set out to take a walk on the beach, since that is what the beach is for. As soon as I stepped on the sand, I knew this would be my one and only visit to the beach of Boca Chica. At eight in the morning there were few people out, but there was also not a lot of open space. Every square inch of the sand, from where I stood all the way up the hotel area, had lounge chairs from the side-by-side restaurants that covered the beach.
Looking out at the still, glassy water, I asked a waiter about the lack of waves. He assured me that there are indeed waves. I can’t imagine that they are ever really large. I continued my walk up the beach, greeting the guys cleaning the sand of all the trash from the day before and setting out chairs. From the look of what was sitting at the water’s edge, I don’t think I would really ever want to swim there. And there wasn’t a whole lot of beach left between the chairs and the water. It didn’t appear that there were any shells.
Boca Chica beach: been there/done that. Now back to my little piece of paradise and talking to folks along the way. It was sometime yesterday that I noticed the sounds of birds against the stillness of the air. I try to spot them and get an idea of what they are. Yesterday, I swear I saw a woodpecker, but do they even have them here? They do indeed, and a whole flock was working on the tree just down the street. I was told this by a gardener, who told me the name in Spanish, (no, I don’t remember) and I told him in their name in English. 
Lovely street away from maddening crowd
My room in my little bit of paradise is quite stuffy and hot at night, and I do wish I had a fridge. But I also can sit in here with the door open, fan blowing, and feel completely comfortable with anyone walking by. Last night at about 3am I had to open the room door and it didn’t worry me at all. It is quite refreshing outside in the in the middle on the night in November and I wish I had a little more cross circulation.
I feel like I can finally relax, maybe for the first time since arriving in the Dominican Republic. Maybe I will be able to figure out what I am doing and where I am going.