Has it already been a month since I last posted? Time really does fly during summer vacation!
I recently had the honor of visiting Puerto Rico with my family. We drove all around the island, and by that, I mean literally all around.
More or less the roads we took. Spread over two weeks, not one 17 hour marathon 😛
From the bustling city of San Juan to the golden sand beaches of Luquillo, from the rainforests of the East to the dry mountains of the West, we spent many hours out on the open road and got a very fine idea of this island. Before I tell you stories of specific adventures, I thought I would share some of my overall thoughts and observations on Puerto Rico, in between pictures of our trip – pictures which I took while sitting in the car, so do forgive any blurriness. 😉
We began our journey in the north east. This area typically gets a lot of rain, which explains the *coughs* rainforests. Everything was so green and lush and tropical, with palm trees, vines, and many other foliage I’ve never seen before. It was also interesting to know that we were on a tiny island almost 74 times smaller than my home state of Texas, yet there were huge mountains extending in emerald layers to the horizon. Mountains that are so much larger than I am.
It made me feel like a very tiny person in the grand spectrum of the universe. And, strangely, it was a comforting feeling.
Initially, I thought that because Puerto Rico is a US territory, everyone would speak English. I learned this was wrong day 1, when picking up groceries at a local Walmart, and had to dig back and retrieve the Spanish I’d learned way back in elementary and middle-school. It was funny because whenever I try to say something in Spanish, French words want to come out. In fact, I said Oui instead of Si a few times, and kept on saying words like “un” and “de” with a French accent.
In the words of a friendly waitress: “Hey, at least you tried.”
In fact, many things about Puerto Rico were much different from my expectations of a US territory. The roads were very good and well maintained. Signs, however, were often lacking, especially at exits. People’s driving was universally terrible, which is not a thing unique to Puerto Rico, but this was the first time we saw people changing their minds and literally backing down from a ramp into oncoming traffic, and cars suddenly shooting out into the main highway out of nowhere. Generally speaking, either the driving education needs to be improved, or people need to actually obey the laws.
The many bruised cars, frequent accidents, and heavy traffic was thus, not surprising.
Completely unedited. That color is really THAT VIBRANT and FIERY and EPIC
This tree goes by many names. Royal Poinciana, Flamboyant Tree, or Flame Tree in English, and Arbol de Flamboyán in Spanish. But my favorite name is its Vietnamese one: Cây Phượng Vĩ, translated as the Phoenix’s Tail tree.
Isn’t it so fitting??
This is probably my favorite tree, found very frequently in subtropical climates like Puerto Rico and back home in Vietnam. They are everywhere in Puerto Rico, alongside roads, in cities, hanging gracefully over cottages. I squealed in excitement whenever I saw one.
Driving on a highway through the mountains, we crossed over to the West, the drier side of the island. It was fascinating to see the gradual change, and then back into lush greenery as we headed down closer to the ocean. Again, I was struck by how majestic and seemingly never-ending the mountains were, while this was supposed to be a small island!
The highway cutting through the mountains was very large and well-maintained. I was so glad for this, because it meant we could avoid the lurching, twisting, winding (not to mention extremely narrow and steep) mountain roads.
To my delight, there were horses everywhere. Along the roads, grazing in fields, and even stuck in bushes. Many of them didn’t have any sort of rope attached to them, nor were they inside any fenced-in area. I thought they might be wild, but if they weren’t, I wondered how their owners found them again.
We stayed for a week in the West, in a little house right by the beach. In front of the house was a small field where a horse I affectionately named Bill lived. I may or may not have yelled out good morning and good night to him every single day.
Many of the roads winded through picturesque forests and hills, reminding me of the English countryside.
Absent in England, however, were towering bamboo trees, leafy stems sticking out of skinny trunks. This was surprising to me, because I thought bamboo only grew in Asia.
Alongside the roads, there are frequent little stands selling fruit. Pineapple, kiwi, mango, even honey. One man stood by a traffic light selling these huge avocados.
The time we were there (early June) was the start of the rainy season. We spent every sunny moment in the ocean, and drove mostly on rainy and overcast days.
Last but not least: the tropical flowers. Most of these are Bougainvillea flowers, but really they should be called iridescent jewels or something dramatic like that. They flourish in the warmth of Puerto Rico, with a color so vibrant it looks painted on.
If you’re curious about something in Puerto Rico, or have questions on anything I’ve mentioned, please let me know in the comments! I am by no means an expert, but I love sharing what I’ve learned in my travels. 🙂
Until next time,