Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with Dominican Republic

Because of a bumbling border guard in Vancouver, I had around three weeks of my schedule to fill in. Despite having flights already booked from New York to London, as well as many other indicators that I’m just a normal old traveller, I suddenly had a shortened trip to America on my hands that completely made a mockery of the reason I was given it.

Given that it cost more to change my flights than it did to book them in the first place, and buying a new ticket would be much more expensive, I decided to hop over to a Caribbean island for a few weeks, hoping that there’d be no problems when I tried to fly back into JFK to make my flight to the UK. According to the guy in Vancouver, I wouldn’t be allowed back into America until I’d spent ‘considerable’ time back in my home country, but this, like everything else he said, seemed to have been pulled from his not inconsiderable “ass”. There’s some local lingo I picked up.

The following three weeks don’t give me much material to write about. My standard day was a couple of hours’ work, six hours or so by the beach or pool reading a book (with a quick stop for lunch), get changed and go for dinner and then just relax and have a lazy evening.

Not always this quiet

I moved around three ridiculously cheap resorts: the first on the south coast in Boca Chica and then two right beside each other in Puerto Plata on the north side.

Arriving at the BelleVue in Boca Chica, I thought we’d done okay for around $70 a night all inclusive. There was a nice pool and a few minutes away was one of those picture-perfect beaches — white powdery sand and turquoise waters. It’s basically why people want to go to the Caribbean. For the first few nights there was also some sort of Miss Teen competition on. If only I wasn’t there with my girlfriend etc etc.

bellevue-dominican-bay

After a while I was glad we hadn’t spent the full time in just one place, the food was a bit rubbish, often served cold, and the specialist restaurants weren’t amazing, also they had an annoying habit of playing loud music by the pool. I was going to return in a fortnight anyway so I was glad it wasn’t a complete dump.

Having said all that, despite being relatively quiet during the week, at the weekend it got completely packed out by locals looking to enjoy cheap drinks deals.

A six hour or so bus journey later, for around $6, and I was on the opposite side of the island. Here I would spend a week at the Lifestyle Tropical Resort and the next week at Cofresi. These are side by side and run by the same company and, apparently, I shouldn’t have been able to book the $50-a-night special at both, but I did.

Effectively these two places are the same, sharing the same beaches and restaurants, but in a pointless game to fill up space, which was better: Lifestyle vs Cofresi?

Cofresi.

Although both sharing most of their facilities, the better ones were mostly on Cofresi’s side. Better pools, a much better buffet restaurant and a nicer room. The biggest problem was that at one point of the resort the sewage pipe was far too close to the surface and let out a horrible smell, luckily my room wasn’t anywhere near that.

The old 'reading upside down' gag with a modern twist

Lifestyle does have a much better beach than Cofresi and a nicer quiet pool, but it’s possible to walk across if you’re up early enough to get one of the sunbed lounger things.

lifestyle-tropical-beach

Just be sure not to go to your ‘welcome tour’ as this is nothing more than a sales pitch for some timeshare nonsense. If you avoid your guide a few times he stops hassling you. Also avoid the Wednesday night party where they give you nicer food (and close most of the other restaurants), serve better alcohol but force you to watch mediocre performers, sales pitches and a revamped version of Gangnam’s huge hit with ‘LIFE STYLE’ dubbed over the top. It’s worse than it sounds.

After that it was back to Boca Chica for a few more days of this beach, before flying back into America. (Where, after waiting in a queue for about 45 minutes, the immigration officer asked where I was flying to, added ‘London’ to where I’d written ‘in transit’ without asking to see tickets or anything and stamped me in for a full 90 days so that I could catch my flight a few hours later. Moral of the story: don’t enter America by train.
Nice beach at Boca Chica.

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