Indolaysia took a break from frigid upstate NY for a beach vacation in Punta Cana, D.R., last week. This is a new vacation concept to us: going somewhere without any intention of doing anything except for sitting around, getting sun, and playing in the water. This is the type of vacation that a 2 1/2 year old will enjoy.
Punta Cana is the place to do this. I had never even heard of it before we started looking for tropical islands within easy striking distance of Newark. We did not encounter anything like “culture” or “history” or even “nature” that could be explored. It’s not like Cancun, which is near interesting ruins and an interesting part of Mexico. Punta Cana is the beach and the sun, plain and simple. This is not to say that there is no culture or history or nature around; rather, it’s not for sale as a tourist commodity, in the way that these things are for sale around Cancun, or Siem Reap, or Bali. The closest thing to “culture” that you encounter as a tourist is rum (Ron Brugal: [El] Ron [de los] Dominicano[s]!) and mamajuana.
- Sandakan because of its physical appearance: warm and clearly tropical but not particularly lush, very sandy soil, pretty flat. (Sandakan is very different when you move inland and away from the airport, which might be true of this part of the D.R. too.)
- Siem Reap because of its infrastructure and economy: massive poured concrete resort hotels interspersed with lots full of trash, some of it on fire. The entire economy is devoted to the tourist sector.
- Ottawa because our hotel was full of people from Ottawa. Also, because you get the sense while visiting that Punta Cana was planned, it did not emerge naturally. This goes along with the emphasis on the beach and the sun, rather than local culture or history or nature.