The Charm of Santiago de los Caballeros

Published: August 6th 2007
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22 May 2007

It was 10.30 pm when the Caribe Tours bus pulled into an empty station in Santiago. We had just wasted four valuable hours in a bus after we missed our stop at La vega. There were two taxis and a gua-gua. We grabbed a taxi and in 15 minutes we were at Hostal del Cibao. Room 10 was reserved. The room was clean, bright and had cable tv. About two feet from the bed, on a raised platform, was the bathroom and toilet. It was unique to say the least but the practicality of it all, and because we had seen worse, won us over.

The next morning we asked Anna-Maria, the housekeeper at the hostel, to wash our dirty, smelly Pico Duarte clothes. She charged 200 pesos (USD 6) and then we set about exploring the city. It was founded by Batholomew Columbus, Christopher´s elder brother, in 1495. Around the first corner was a breakfast spot where we had the breakfast of champions: sandwiches and jugos naturales. The city itself was cleaner, more organized and friendlier than Santo Domingo. Neat city blocks and brightly painted houses added an "Oldschool" warmth. At the centre of the city was Parque Duarte - a big square where oldtimers and youngsters alike congregate under the trees and where pigeons refuse to move when humans pass. Shoeshine boys and men resurrect lifeless zapatos with skill and dexterity and ladies rock babies to sleep. It was the kind of place to which you would go to escape the buzz of the surrounding streets.

The busiest street by far was Calle del Sol, the undisputed shopping location. Everything could be found on Calle del Sol: food, clothes, shoes, jewellery. You could sell gold and buy gold, buy knock-off baseball caps and ripped dvds, fake Lacoste and RayBan sunshades (we bought 1 each for USD 10 total and you can´t tell the difference) and surf the net for free. And that´s what we did next. "Indotel" is a government-sponsored technology institute where anyone could walk off the street and use any of the roomful of computers. You would only pay if you pass 1 hour. We spent two-and-a-half hours sending blogs, checking mail and chatting and paid USD 1. Indotel rocks!!

At lunch we had vegetable fried rice and spring rolls from a highly-recommended chinese restaurant. The rice had to have been refried several times cause it tasted old and hard and the rolls were mediocre. We ate some because we were hungry and because we had to pay and then we vowed never to eat again at a chinese restaurant with an attached nail studio.

There was nothing particularly exciting to do in Santiago so we strolled along Calle del Sol and people-watched, we complained that the drivers sounded their horns continously and we window shopped. When night fell, we were only too happy to go back to Number 10, pack the neat piles of clothes Anna-Maria had left us and watch CNN. And apparently we hadn't missed much: there was still a war in Iraq and 'terrorists' terrorising and predictions for an active hurricane season.

Tomorrow, we would head further north to Sosua and then a nice-sounding, small fishing village called Rio San Juan. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 24


Jugos NaturalesJugos Naturales
Jugos Naturales

Cereza 30 pesos
Fearless PigeonsFearless Pigeons
Fearless Pigeons

in Parque Duarte
Shoe ShineShoe Shine
Shoe Shine

a familiar sight in Parque Duarte
Shades ShoppingShades Shopping
Shades Shopping

On Calle del Sol

In fine style

Fastest internet ever

26th May 2007

Your jugos naturales sounds very that aspect of Mexican culture. Your park sounds like what we call Zocalo here...good Sunday hang out and your knock of market sounds like our Fayuca, you do get alot of really good bargains there...LOL
29th May 2007

Vibes and Shana that toilet thing by the bed there is something else. lol. First time i see that, thanks for the laughs. Very informative though. keep enjoying evey bit of it. God's guidance and protection.
29th May 2007

happy birthday
Trust that you have a wnderful day this 29th May. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Vibes. We wish u Jesus!!!
30th May 2007

following you on your epic journey
Hey stay cool, como estan? han aprendido estanol? Cuando van a tener ninos? les amo Seeee yaaaaaa
10th November 2010

Clean rooms at Hostal del Cibao
Well, in 2010, precisely October 16 to November 8, rooms at Hostal del Cibao are NOT exactly clean. My towel would come with many brown spots or ragged on the borders. Room no. 6 smelled feces and I had to buy clorox, a brush and rubber gloves to complete the cleaning job with the help of Yaquelin, a week-end cleaner .
7th December 2010
Hostal del Cibao

Photo hides hostal rooms dirtiness
I spent 3 weeks in this downtown Santiago hostal and I live to regret it. The owner, a pleasant lady, does not spend the time to really manage the place : rooms are on the second floor on both sides of a 6-foot wide hallway where even during the day it needs to turn on the lights. In room #6 where I stayed , the room smelled feces , the toilet bowl showed solid rims of feces stains and the bowl outside as well. I was provided every 2nd day towels with ragged sides, red-brown spots and the mattress showed signs of holes and rusted springs. Roaches seem to come out at night and roam freely. Photo hides bad management of room cleanliness.

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