We’re excited to introduce a new series, “Meet the Local Expert.” Since the best travel advice often comes from locals, we’ve interviewed members of the tourism industry to get their insider tips on popular destinations.
Today’s local expert is Keirsin Tjon Pian Gi, the Sales & Marketing Coordinator at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.
Keirsin earned a BA in International Tourism Management and has worked at the Aruba Marriott for three years. She started at the front desk and now handles the resort’s social media accounts.
I met Keirsin this October when I visited Aruba for a destination wedding. I wast struck by her background, which reflects the cultural diversity of Aruba.
She was born in the Netherlands to ethnically Chinese parents who hail from Aruba and Suriname. She speaks six languages including Papiamento, the predominant language in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
Read on for Keirsin’s tips for getting the most out of your Aruba vacation.
1. Is there a classic Aruban food that every visitor should try?
Pisca cora with funchi. Pisca cora is Papiamento for red fish (red snapper). Funchi is made of corn starch and is considered a substitute for rice or potatoes. Other local favorites are pastechis and keshi yena.
2. What is your favorite beach in Aruba and why?
My personal favorite is Eagle Beach. I like to go there with my friends or my dog. It is not too crowded and the sea is crystal clear blue and has nice waves.
3. What music is on your playlist right now? Is there a song or band that is perfect for relaxing at the beach?
Local carnival music as we are now in the Aruba carnival season. I am in the carnival parade, so listening to the music really brings me in the carnival mood. Local band Honeypot has some great songs to listen to while relaxing at the beach.
4. What is the perfect way to spend a day in Aruba?
Rent a jeep and explore the “outback” of Aruba. It is very easy and fun to go off road and end up on the other side of the island by Baby Beach. Stops to make are Alto Vista Chapel, Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations, California Lighthouse and the Natural Bridge/Pool. If you like to be in the water, try one of the snorkeling trips with a catamaran or pirate boat, lots of fun in the sun!
5. Is windsurfing as hard as it looks?
It is not an easy sport, but if you are good at keeping your balance and have a bit of strength in your arms, you will do fine.
6. What is the best part of living in Aruba?
Waking up and realizing I am living on a beautiful island. It is so easy to hop in the car and within 10 minutes I am at the beach.
7. What types of activities would you recommend in Aruba for adventurous travelers?
A jeep safari tour to the Natural Pool, kite boarding on Palm Beach, hiking or mountain biking.
8. What is the best part of your job?
I meet a lot of new people and am able to travel for the job. It is a great opportunity for me to showcase Aruba and the Aruba Marriott to the world.
9. Could you recommend a local hangout that tourists don’t know about?
Zeerover and 080. Zeerover is located in Savaneta, where the local fishermen hang out and catch their fish. You can eat the freshest fish such as pisca cora. 080 is a small local pub owned by two Dutch men, where many locals go after work for a drink. In Aruba there are several local spots called “rum shops”, where you can have a drink and get to know the locals.
10. You’ve lived all around the world. How do the places you’ve lived compare to Aruba?
I grew up in the Netherlands and have lived in Asia for quite some time. These cultures are very different from the Aruban culture, therefore I can not compare them all together. I was able to gain a lot of knowledge by spending time in Asia. Although Aruba is a small island, it has its own flair due to the easygoing mentality and friendliness of the locals.
11. How many languages do you speak?
I speak fluently Dutch and English. Besides that I speak Papiamento, a bit of Thai and German and recently started with Mandarin Chinese.
12. How can Twitter and Facebook help travelers have an amazing vacation?
Social media is a growing trend and the Aruba Marriott does not want to stay behind. When guests ask about what is going on in the hotel during Christmas or where they can find carnival information, I am able to reach out to them on a more personal level.
For more info
Aruba’s 2011 carnival takes place in early March. Check visitaruba.com for parade dates.