Danki Masha danki – Thank You

Aruba was a much needed mini-vacation and I hope everyone who has been staying updated with my blog enjoyed and learned from these entries. I hope this archive of entries is helpful to all those considering or traveling to Aruba in the future. If anyone has any specific questions please feel free to write to me in the comments.

Soon I will be posting about different places I’ve been able to check out recently while traveling within the US but for now I’ll leave everyone with some pictures recapping the trip that never made it on the blog.

Xoxo

Good Eats

 

 

The food in Aruba is a great reflection of their culture. During my time there it didn’t seem as if Aruba had any signature dishes, fish however, is very popular in many restaurants

1. Pelican Pier: this restaurant is on the pier of Moomba Beach, if you’re there for dinner you get a seat with a great view of the sunset. My friends and I went for a quick bite and sat on the other side with a wall as a divider. The fried calamari was good but the sandwiches were average at best. The drinks had interesting combinations but didn’t taste like they had much alcohol in them. Given the location of this restaurant I considered it a place for tourists.

I like going to as many local restaurants as possible when visiting a foreign country so it was the first thing I asked my taxi driver about when I left the airport. He asked my definition of local and described it perfectly – when I think of local I mean a place where people from Aruba frequent and where you’ll find more Aruban people than you will tourist. He went on to state that many people say “local” and go to restaurants where no one from Aruba would be found.

2. Silla Bar: The same taxi driver recommended a restaurant Haitian owned and Dominican catered that he goes to almost every day for lunch. He didn’t know the name of it but said it was so well known that if you ask anyone in the area they’ll know exactly where it is which was exactly right. At first my friends and I were a bit hesitant like we didn’t know it’s exact location just a church it was nearby but we were so glad we took the chance! They give large portions and the food is delicious – we got an array of different meals and shared most things as a table.

3. Zeerovers: An outdoor seafood place that only serves the catch of the day and shrimp with different sides like fries and sweet (yellow) plantains. Everything in the restaurant is fried so prepare to forget about your diet if you want to check it out. I’m not big on seafood but I did enjoy the red snapper fish. I had never peeled shrimp before and given that they don’t remove the legs, tail or anything I probably chose the worst to learn with. As my friends were finishing their meals they began to grow frustrated with how much time peeling the shrimps were taking. The pricing is based on the weight of what you’re eating so be conscious of how much you ask for. The kitchen is open so you can see your meal being cooked in the middle of the restaurant – if you start taking pictures the chef might ask you to go inside and take a picture with him. There are different seating areas: some on boats, benches by the water or tables close to the kitchen area. It is a casual spot with a great ambience and lively colors and happy employees.

4. El Mexicano Aruba Snack Truck: This is a late night truck open from 9PM-6AM, perfect for satisfying the 3AM craving after a night out. This happened to be right next to the hotel we were staying in but there are various through the island that can be stopped at. I had a delicious torta and my friend had a tostada. The food tastes authentic and just like in Mexico the food wasn’t spicy but there were different spicy sauces available.

5. Pika’s Corner: This place was another recommendation by a taxi driver – he specifically said to go here and avoid the place next door. We went for lunch and shared fried Aruban pancakes and fried polenta with cheese as appetizers. For lunch I had their rice with chicken which was very well seasoned, my friends all had the fish of the day (red snapper) also with rice and sweet plantains.

6. Sweet Peppers: This was a restaurant located inside the resort we stayed in (Caribbean Palm Village). The owners moved from Venezuela 10+ years ago. My friends and I had lunch here before heading to the airport. It was a good place for a quick bite and they had free mimosas for Mother’s Day. They also have a daily happy hour from 4-6pm and 9-10pm, the cocktails are tasty and buy one get one free.

Mistreated Macaws

Another thing that was difficult for me was seeing mistreated macaws. The first time we saw one was at the California Lighthouse – there was a man with a truck selling ice cream and the macaw was sitting on the table. My friends had me rush over and told me it would be a great thing to post on my blog. However, I had a different reaction then they expected; I immediately got aggressive and asked the owner if the macaw could fly and how he got him. As could be expected the man’s attitude completely changed, he got very defensive stating that he got the bird because he owned the parents.

Why did I get this way? Because after volunteering in Costa Rica I learned several things:

  1. Blue macaws are native to Brazil and not Aruba
  2. When they can’t fly it is because their wings have been clipped so they cannot try returning home
  3. Macaws are meant to have one partner for life, being alone leads to unhappiness and a shorter life span

My best guess, this man purchased this macaw from a pet store that obtained it illegally and now uses it to attract tourists. Had I seen this a year ago I would’ve been just as excited as my friends and I’m glad my travels have taught me better and in turn I can enlighten others.

The second time we encountered macaws was in the resort we were staying in, I kept hearing birds since we arrived but didn’t walk around to see what they were until our last day. By the hotel restaurant we saw a cage depressingly small for a macaw enclosing two red macaws (native to Costa Rica). The restaurant owner shared my sentiment about them being enclosed and stated that the birds had been their from the previous owners of the complex (30+ years ago) and they knew that if they tried to let them out the birds wouldn’t be able to survive.

Not All Experiences Are Good Experiences

The night my friends and I tried going to the local bar at turned out to be closed we saw something I know we all wished we hadn’t. We had parked in somewhat of an alley way and when we got back into the car one of my friends noticed a man in the distance. As we were deciding where we would be going next my friend noticed the man begin to masturbate. As anyone can imagine this was disturbing to see and we attempted honking at him and everything but the man could not care less.

When I have encounters like these during my travels I am hesitant to write about them because I never want it to be the only thing others remember when they are looking into a country. However, I was challenged by a reader to go beyond what readers may need to know and given that it was part of my experience I thought I should share. I think things like this (unfortunately) happen everywhere whether in your hometown or abroad, it is most important to handle it as may be best in that moment remember your safety is most important.

Bushiribana Ruins Sunrise

My friends and I wanted to end our time in Aruba the right way so after our last night out we decided to stay up and travel to the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins to watch the sunrise. 

The taxi ride, $28 one way, was a bit expensive; depending where you are staying it might be better to rent the taxi driver which came out to $50 for the hour. 
When we got to the ruins the sun was about to rise – my friends and I (mostly I) started rushing to the top without looking or walking around. We went straight for the rocks and started climbing up just hoping the rocks were sturdy enough to not collapse under our feet. 

Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning and so we just caught glimpses of the sun peering through the clouds every now and then. However, it was a very peaceful experience by the water and I used it as an opportunity to reflect about the trip and what was coming when I’d be returning to the New York. 

The ruins themselves are quite small, at least in comparison to those I saw in Mexico. It is still incredible to think that these structures were made so many years ago by hand before all of the technological advances we take for granted today were even an idea. 

After watching the sunrise and taking photos (of course) my friends and I started looking for an easier way down – turns out there was a trail that at most had a small hill. I’m still glad we climbed the rocks but it was hilarious to see it was completely unnecessary 😂

One Happy Island

Aruba really lives up to the phrase “One Happy Island”. The people I encountered, whether they were people born and raised there or ones who lived there 5+ years and had immersed themselves were all very welcoming and friendly. An island full of happy people, who love the warmth and that their country strives off of tourism – I think there’s a certain pride that comes to living in a place that everyone likes to go to as an escape. 

It’s hard to really define the culture of Aruba as it is a blend of so much. You can find people, food and cultural influences from all over the world in Aruba. It wasn’t surprising that a country so heavily influenced by tourism has lost much of its indigenous roots and individualistic culture. 

The impact of westernization due to tourism is evident in many different characteristics of the island. Not only do locals admit it but you see it in the night clubs you attend, the restaurants, etc. There is little that belongs to Aruba, they don’t have things specific to them: food, sports, activities, etc. When I would ask a local (usually cab drivers) where to go for the best authentic/local Aruban experience it was difficult for them to answer. 

From my experiences there I believe their language and happy spirit are the most defining aspects of the Aruban culture and even if just for a few days I was happy to be a part of it. 

The Night Life

The night life in Aruba is definitely a good time – you’ll find Aruban locals along with tourists in many of the main party hubs.

The places we were able to go to all had a good mix of music with different genres. However, just by listening to the music it was evident how Americanized the club scene in Aruba was.

On weekdays the last call for alcohol and closing is around 1AM, on the weekends it’s around 2:45/3am with closing a little bit after 3am. On our last night my friends and I didn’t set an alarm – woke up and still went out arriving around 2AM and you wouldn’t have thought the bars were closing soon with all the vibrant energy.

Pricing was similar to what I often find in uptown Manhattan with mixed drinks between $8-12, beers at $5 and shots between $6-10. Sometimes the drinks didn’t seem very strong but whenever one of my friends said something the bartender added more alcohol. Most places also had hookah available between $20-35, they all used coconut charcoals that lasted most of the night.

After the bars and clubs close people go to The Mill (very well known in Aruba) and party until it closes. On Saturday’s they close at 6AM and charge some people to enter – my friends and I did not pay so I am not sure who exactly or how much. Every other day we went the entrance was free for everyone. There are many interesting things happening at The Mill after hours including prostitutes soliciting their services to men who arrive alone and people partying on wheelchairs.

I wish I could say I had more of an authentic Aruban experience with little to no tourist around but that never worked out. There were two different times where we were suppose to go somewhere more local. However, the first time the spot was closed and the second time it was 3AM and my friends and I were too tired after a day of hiking.

IMG_7753
Rounds of Free Drinks

 
Heard Daily:

  •  Vacaciones
  • Dile que tú me quieres
  • Despacito
  • OOOUUU
  • Lots of Soca

Where I Went:

  • The Sand Bar – outdoor but with a roof at the bar, mostly English music genres, comprised of a bar, lounge area and a dance floor
  • South Beach – outdoor party with a mixture of Spanish and English music
  • Heineken – attached to South Beach but apparently a separate establishment
  • The Mill (last image) – the after party, alcohol available all night and no hookah

Hurting

Saw this little guy as we were leaving Conchi. He seemed injured and hungry, I gave him a pack of Belvita biscuits I had in my bag and immediately wish I had a full meal to provide – injured and abandoned animals are definitely my weakness.

Throughout the island I saw several stray dogs – none of them seemed aggressive but they definitely looked hungry.

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