Sunday, May 29, 2011

In the words of DL Roth: "Panama!!!"

A good day: Finding out that my job is taking me to Panama, a country I've never really had a chance to explore, and I will now have time to do just that. A great day: Learning that we are going to be accompanied by my buddy, Gabe, a real-life Panamanian who is eager to show us the sights and is unafraid of joining the demolition derby that passes for driving in his lovely city. A "how could this possibly get any better?" day": Enjoying a fine afternoon in said city with the aforementioned Panamanian when a text comes in informing me that my next trip will be...wait for Panama.

Thus I found myself in Panama City twice (for a combined total of roughly 4 days) in the last three weeks. By no conceivable account is that enough time to appreciate everything there is to see but it is certainly a good start. (Note to Francisco, my Panamanian friend who might mistakenly thinks I will stop nagging him now about a Panamanian getaway: the operative word in that previous sentence was "start." I want more!!!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So this is what it's all about... (Caribbean edition)

So, what do you think happens to a person who spends a lifetime pooh-poohing all-inclusive package tours and the people who take them? I'll give you one hint: I, along with my friends Ivon and Frans, just got back from 6 days in Punta Cana.  This is a part of the Dominican Republic known for nothing but all-inclusive resorts. I'm not exaggerating. For real, try googling hostels and Punta Cana. You know what you get: nada. This area is not meant for the likes of my ilk.  It is the capital of All-inclusive-package-Landia

Yet, here I was with an opportunity to fly there for nearly nothing and a slew of days of at my disposal. I decided it would be a test of my ability to sit still and "relax" (urgh!) without a plan, guidebook or agenda at hand. To emphasize this point, I was forced to relinquish control almost immediately when, 18 hours before departure (the time when I realized this was going to happen), I was struggling to find a single reasonably priced resort. I valiantly fought the urge to send us on a nicely structured week-long tour of the Dominican Republic instead and went to to participate in some blind bidding. For anyone not familiar with this, it is sort of like the Priceline bidding process, in that you commit to buy without knowing what property you will be booked into, difference being that you go in agreeing on a price set by Hotwire. With maybe 12 hours to go, I accepted a price of $71 per night (incl. taxes) and learned that we would be staying at the Barcelo Dominican Beach Resort. The relentless planner in me went to Trip Advisor to see what others had to say. The phrase "worst vacation ever" came up with alarming frequency. Then, I checked the weather. Every day featured a picture of a cranky-looking rain cloud. At this point, my inner planner went to sleep.