A travelogue entry about taking the 9:15 AM bus from Santiago’s Metrobus station in Los Jardines to Sosua on the northern coast. The two hour ride costs 160 pesos ($4.50) as of February of 2010.
“What do you think of this place?” I asked my wife, Chaya, as she peered out the window of the sleek bus that was shooting us across the north of the Dominican Republic to the beach town of Sosua.
“It looks like Central America,” she replied.
I looked out the window, too. It did. Colorfully painted concrete rectangular houses with corrugated steel roofs, palm trees on the side of the road, streets cut in grids. Our first glimpses of the Dominican Republic did looked a lot like Central or South America, except for the people. The average skin tones are darker here, the features are African and not Mestizo or Amerindian. We were someplace new: the Caribbean, a region that neither of us has traveled in before.
I squirmed in my seat, as I do each time I take a bus for the first time to a land that is completely foreign to me. The senses are sharper when you are in a place you have never been before, your wit gets toned when your senses are throttled. The show is always more interesting when you have not seen it before. I know few things in life more enjoyable than the first ride out into the countryside of a new county.
The buses in the Dominican Republic are top notch. This is another marked difference between this island country and much of Central and South America. If I was on the bus I was riding in in another land I would have figured that I paid for first class VIP service. But these sharp, clean, and efficient buses seem to be the rule in the Dominican Republic.
We purchased a ticket at a private bus station — Metrobus in the Los Jardines district of Santiago. The bus only stopped in designated cities, it is not my impression that these buses stop for passengers along the side of the road. Elsewhere, this type of bus would advertise itself as “ejecutivo.” Here, it is just normal.
The people sit on the buses in single seats reserved for one person each. The bus is not full, nobody is standing in the aisles. Everybody is looking out the windows, nobody is talking to each other, every other passenger has headphones on or is playing with a phone of some sort.
Riding the bus in the Dominican Republic does not seem as if it can be called a cultural experience. My friend Andy likened the buses here to hiring a private car — in terms of making cultural observations, I admit, there would be little difference.
Though the buses are not extremely expensive: 160 Pesos ($4.50) for a two hour ride. One US dollar per seat hour is a good price to pay, true, but $2 an hour is not bad.
We were soon dropped of at the bus stop. We were met by a crowd of taxi drivers trying to take us to where they thought we wanted to go. Shouts of “hotel” went up, a moto taxi driver tried reaching into the bus compartment to “help” Chaya with her bag, she helped herself. We have now arrived. I was getting worried there for a moment that this country would be too easy.