In the pre-colonial era of the New World, the indigenous Tainos settled an island as striking as the orchid and, inspired by the flower, named it Quisqueya. Today, the Dominican Republic is still regarded as a precious flower. Poverty is evident but the nation is blossoming in many ways, thanks in part to tourism, one of its major industries. Resorts touting relaxation and enjoyment abound, and while an all-inclusive beachfront villa may sound romantic and enticing, package deals tend to keep tourists 'trapped' on the pristine beaches and away from the colonial, picturesque towns. To see the real DR, take a trip to Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the Americas. A walk down its narrow streets will lead travellers through a myriad of whitewashed structures, peaceful courtyards and mahogany doors. They will visit cathedrals with stain glass windows and imposing towers, and bear witness to the veritable treasure trove of renaissance, gothic and baroque architecture that is the legacy of 500 years of colonial rule. The northern city of Puerto Plata, with a lush green mountain as its backdrop, is home to pastel coloured French colonial architecture, a cable car and the newly renovated 'Malecon', a roadway where ocean breezes meet the lively rhythm of the Merengue as musicians entertain the crowd. The donkey riding vendors are even louder when they yell out their wares. Near Puerto Plata, white water rafters enjoy the exciting rolls and crashes of the Dominican rivers and the beauty of its wild waterfalls. Some will embrace the sea by whale watching, parasailing or surfing, while others will be charmed by the smile of a little baseball player as he excitingly holds his bat on the field. Truly, it is the expressive Dominican people and their proud heritage that keeps this orchid in bloom. ~ Jason Trinidad Pucheu
Looking out the window of the plane and seeing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean was like meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of finally visiting the Dominican Republic after day-dreaming about it for so long. The first day in Santo Domingo I was all alone until my friends arrived, so I decided to explore while on my own. The place we'd booked to stay was in a non-touristy part of town, and I was a little taken aback at first. The streets smelled like garbage; I soon realized why. There was garbage everywhere, laying in the street and piled up in empty lots. This was not what I had imagined. How could this beautiful island be littered with trash and smell like rotten old fish? My heart sank as the vision I'd had in my dreams began to fade, but I continued on and found a great little restaurant across from the water. Rice and beans sounded pretty safe so I went for it and they were delicious! Who knew rice and beans could taste so good? The beans were soaked in a sauce and served with rice on the side. They practically melted in my mouth, and as I ate and looked out at the iridescent sparkling sea, all the worries slowly faded away.