Posts Tagged With: travel blogger

Things To Do In Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

If you plan to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, it would make sense to rent a car. This would enable you to spend time outside of your resort. There are good restaurants, beaches and other spots out there for you to explore.

Playa Macao

Playa Macao isn’t very far from where all the resorts are located. You need to keep going straight on Road 3 and you will come to an intersection that will indicate that Macao is on the road that goes right. The narrow road will lead you straight to the beach. This beach gets high tide making it popular for surfing. Make sure you are strong and brave enough to go into these waters because the waves can be really high and strong. The sands are pure white and soft and the water is really clear. There are patches of seaweed but lots of clean areas. There are a few snack shacks there which will sell beer, water, chips and provide lounge chairs for rent. Outside the beach, the other activities I noticed were horse rides and ATV rides.

The waves were too strong for me. So I just sat at the edge of the wet sand and waited for the mellowed down waves to reach me. This was one of the best times I had during this trip. The water temperature and color was just right and it was an amazing feeling.

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Source: Pinterest

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And that’s me

Bavaro Village

This is the closest downtown area. If you are bored of being stuck in the resort and want to walk around a bit, you should go to Bavaro city. It has 2 malls (one high end and one local), lots of resorts and restaurants, shops and a beach. We went there multiple times to eat and for rescue shopping at the mall (did I mention I simply LOVED shopping at their fashion accessories store called KB?). I am going to talk about some of their good restaurants soon.

Bavaro also has some good accommodation options. If you are going to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, then it would be a good idea to stay in a resort for some days and stay in one of Bavaro’s hostels or apartments for some time (Check out Whala). This way, you would be in the heart of the city and be surrounded by a lot of energy. On the couple of times we went there for dinner, I found that the energy of the young tourists was contagious.

La Casita De Yeya Restaurant, Downtown Punta Cana

This restaurant is located right at the intersection of Road 3 and the road that leads to Bavaro village. It is a popular joint for local Dominican food. In a tourist heavy place like Punta Cana, we had a hard time finding anything authentic and this discovery was heartening. We were sick of having pasta and sushi and breads at the resort and really, we did not fly here all the way from California to have pasta!

The interior of the restaurant is simple, cozy and traditional. The place was full of tourists and locals. We ordered for fresh pineapple juice, chicken stew and Fajitas. The pineapple juice was A+ class – huge serving, really fresh and pleasant. The chicken stew, served in their typical metal bowl (I wish I knew what the bowl is called and I wish even more that I could buy some for myself) was very authentic, with a mild flavor but something that grows on you. It was great for my pregnant state that is off spicy and alien food. My husband said the fajitas were the best he has ever had.

The staff has problem with English but they do have an English menu. Do ask for it if you have a hard time communicating in Spanish.

Their menu is full of traditional dishes like Mofongos, Sancochos, etc. If you are a foodie and love tasting local flavors, you must visit this restaurant and let your taste buds go wild.

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Source: Tripadvisor

Pranama Restaurant, Bavaro

After having said that we enjoy local food, we do crave for Indian food once in a while and don’t miss an opportunity to hit a good Indian restaurant, if available. Pranama had got rave reviews online – listed in the top 5 restaurants in Punta Cana by Tripadvisor and we went there drooling.

The restaurant opened not long ago in August 2015 and looks like they are still trying to get a hold of things. They are clearly understaffed (probably even in the kitchen). On top of that, Dec – Jan was peak season for the town. We had a total wait time of 2 hours there. I am sure it was only due to the peak season.  We had Rose Mojitos (virgin for me) in the meantime and they were delicious.  You must try them. For main course we ordered for Madras Chicken Curry, Goat Masala, Rotis and Mango Rice. Because the owner was Indian too, we asked him to make the curries spicy. The food was great. We managed to finish everything.

They have lot of Indian dessert options but we went in for their homemade Chocolate Mousse and it was one of the best I have ever had!

If there isn’t much rush in the restaurant, try talking to the owner, Krishna. He truly embodies the famous Indian hospitality and is very warm, helpful and friendly.

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Source: Pranama Facebook Page

2-day Trip to Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is the capital city of Dominican Republic. I did not see a lot of tourists there and I wonder why. The city has several historic architecture and places. Apart from that, if you want to enjoy Domincan Republic like a local, this is the city to be in. You can roam around Zona Colonial (a historic neighborhood in the city) and enjoy local flavors, sights and architecture. The neighborhood has a ton of colonial style architecture and bigger structures like Fortaleza Ozama and Cathedral Santa Maria La Menor. The Cathedral is majestic and the entry fee is pretty minimal.

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The beautiful cathedral

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The streets of Zona Colonial

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Some fun sights at Zona Colonial

We were in Santo Domingo for barely 2 days and I feel those weren’t enough. There is so much to see around the city. Sit on one of the benches at Parque Colon (a central square facing the Cathedral) and look at locals passing by. Eat Chicken Stew and Papaya Juice with Milk at El Conde Restaurant and look at the group of men who always hangout under the tree opposite the restaurant. Walk along Calle del Conde (a pedestrian only street lined with street vendors, shops and cafes) and buy fresh coconut water along the way. If you are courageous enough, go to D’Comer Colonial, a basic dining place on one end of the area and have really local Dominican food.

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The typical chicken stew bowls

This area is super fun.

We had rented a car and drove around the city. You need to be brave to drive around the city but that’s the only way you get around. Moreover, the drive along Road 2 is pretty as you drive along the ocean. We never stop and go near the water but we could see that the waves were wild.

Another restaurant I want to talk about is Cappuccino, an Italian café. There are two restaurants of a similar name beside each other. One is a fine dining restaurant whereas the other is a café-cum-restaurant. We went to the latter and had one of our best meals in the Dominican. We ordered for a simple Veggie pizza, some wine and fruit juice and ended with ice cream. The staff was pleasant, the décor was very elegant and pretty and food was A-class. I am very glad we stumbled upon the place.

There are lots of hotels in the city around Zona Colonial but we stayed in a rented apartment in Jardines Del Sur, which is right by the ocean. It is a quiet locality and isn’t very far from Zona Colonial.

One general tip I will give all travelers is that you must know basic Spanish to manage in Dominican. English is quite rare there. Carry a translator or a book of basic Spanish so you can converse easily.

Anyone other there who’s been to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana? Do share your experiences.

Categories: Dominican Republic, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

{From the archives} Budapest

The moment we enter Budapest, I know why it is known as one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. This place IS beautiful. Nice roads, beautiful stone buildings, statues and castles and bridges. The normal buildings around the city area also look like historic buildings. The weather is pleasant – not nippy and cold.

In the morning, we have left at around 8 am from Prague by bus. The view isn’t very scenic; its just lots of fields and land. I pass my time by listening to music and chatting with A. We stop for lunch at a boat restaurant (a botel) in Bratislava, Slovakia. The food is greasy but the view and the weather is amazing. We walk along the river watching cyclists, joggers and people sitting at cafes enjoying beer (do these people ever drink water?). We cross over the Futuristic bridge and touch the highway again.

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We have to take ‘comfort stops’ in between because it is compulsory for driver to take rest after every 4 hours. There’s a tacometer fitted in all buses which keeps track of the time the bus has been continuously driven and how many breaks have been taken. Breaks in between are a must; so is the 11 hours rest per day.

We reach Budapest at 4.15 pm. Our hotel is located on Buda side of the city. I have a nice view of houses and churches, which are slightly uphill, from my room. We have half an hour before we go for a cruise over Danube.

On way to the cruise, we cross a tunnel, beautiful buildings and the grand Chain Bridge. Chain Bridge and many other bridges over the river Danube connect Buda with Pest. Chain bridge is a lovely piece of art. The walls of the bridge are mesmerizing and lion pillars greet on-comers on both sides of the bridge. We immediately decide to come back here to have a better look.

Its nice and sunny when we board the top most deck of our small cruise ship. On the Pest side of the river bank, are huge buildings of Intercontinental hotel and Mariott hotel and some other office buildings and educational institutions. As we begin the audio tour on the cruise, the temperature dips suddenly and I am shivering soon. The cruise takes us till the equally beautiful Elizabeth bridge, crossing many other pretty bridges. We go under them and wave out to pedestrians walking by. I can’t concentrate on the commentary because I am so busy looking at all the beautiful structures and clicking snaps.

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After clicking each other’s snaps, trying to handle our bags and stuff and the headphones and after the waiter accidently drops lots of beer/champagne/wine on me, I think I’ve had enough confusion to last for the coming 2 days and I ditch the audio commentary and sit back to enjoy the view and get lost in my thoughts. My 12 mp point-and-shoot camera can in no way do justice to the amazing scenery and I drop clicking snaps too. We cross the spectacular parliament building and it takes my breath away. It can easily be mistaken to be a king’s palace. We are later told that the expenditure that goes in maintaining the parliament is enough to build up an entire new city!

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I’ve had a glass of red wine (I don’t drink but thought I should try it out) and I feel dizzy and sleepy. Or I THINK that I feel dizzy. It was just a glass after all and it tasted horrible!

We have dinner in an Indian restaurant called Salaam Bombay. I feel really tired and cold but I still agree to walk back to the hotel with A and S instead of taking the bus. I don’t know what most of these buildings are but all of them are a piece of art. Each one out does the other. All of them have grey or beige stone walls, carved wrought iron balconies, doors and windows and statues put up on the top corners.

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The Chain Bridge and the river side looks dreamy at night with all the lighting. We click whatever photos our simple cameras will permit and cross several Japanese tourists to reach Buda. By the time we reach the tunnel, I’m half frozen by the cold. My nose is blocked and hands are ice cold. I’m dying to run into the warm blankets of the hotel. Roads in Buda are almost totally deserted barring a cafe-cum-bar with red lighting which has a couple of occupied tables. The church opposite it, which had looked so pretty in the morning, looks eerie during this time.

Its good that we have free Wi-Fi in rooms; gives me chance to connect with my friends in free time. Not that we have much free time, anyway, because we use up all the free time loitering in the streets, wherever we are!

I wonder how Budapest will look like during the day. Excited about touring the city tomorrow!

To sum up, I’ve had breakfast in Czech, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Hungary. Not bad. Not bad at all!

(Written in Sept 2011)

Categories: Europe, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur CA

I had a chance to visit Henry Miller Memorial Library when we visited Big Sur during the 4th July long weekend. Big Sur is a beautiful place with lovely restaurants, excellent food and breath-taking views. It also houses some art galleries and this quaint library dedicated to the American writer, Henry Miller.

Miller lived in Big Sur from 1944 to 1962. He wrote his memoir on life in Big Sur here where he described the joys and hardships of escaping ‘the air-conditioned nightmare’ of modern life. His writings were unconventional and often controversial with topics ranging from character study, social criticism and philosophical observations. His language was often explicit and several of his works have been banned over various time periods.

His writing style was a mix of memoirs and fiction that gave a surreal impression.

The library is a non-profit organization showcasing Henry Miller’s writings and some of his possessions. It has converted into an art centre where some or the other culture event is always happening – be it book signing, music shows or local artisan displays. It is indeed a very interesting place.

The interior of the library is eccentric, quirky and has a very artsy vibe. Books, posters and vintage records are available on sale. While most books are by Henry Miller and on Big Sur, you will find popular bestsellers too.

We almost missed the place but I am glad we dropped in. it is a beautiful place. One can wind up their Big Sur trip with a trip here.

Information sources: http://www.henrymiller.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Miller, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Sur

Location: Highway One

Landmark: Opposite Nepenthe Cafe

Verdict: Must Visit!

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

Can you spot a cow head skull on the top?

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Preparing for a book reading event in evening

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Big Sur Art Culture

Don’t forget to peek into the bathroom

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The housecat. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Magical, surreal world

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

One can spend hours looking at the wall posters, paintings and slogans.

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Vintage records on sale. A collector’s paradise.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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