Panama = Paradise

Trip Start Jun 23, 2008
Trip End Aug 10, 2008

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Flag of Panama  ,
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I think that the word "paradise" can properly sum up my trip to Panama. If you were to look in a dictionary i'm pretty sure that you would find a picture of Bocas Del Toro there.  It has to be one of the most amazing places that I have ever seen.  And if I had 200,000$ I would have bought a over the water home or some property right then. Anyways, more about my trip.....
So on Friday I had my final at 9 in the morning and was done a little before 10. Then after that I had to go buy a bag, because I needed to get before I leave to come home so that I won't be overweight, again.  So we headed off to HiperMas, which is owned by WalMart. It was so weird, because it was like a ghetto walmart.  And I say that because it was really badly laid out, and had the most random stuff.  But all the signs were exactly like the ones you would see in WalMart except all in Spanish.  Luckily I found a huge bag for 14$, but I had to pay 8$ for a freaking box of tampons. Which is absolutely ridiculous. So after that we got all packed up and said our good-byes to the rest of our house and headed off to the bus stop.  We barely made it there on time and literally bought the last two tickets, and it ended up that Amy and Me couldnt set together. Which was good for her because she was able to set by this British guy the entire time, which I was in the front setting by a rather large Costa Rica woman, and another woman setting in the floor with two huge garbage bags full of stuff. So that ended up being a really boring bus ride to Puerto Viejo.It was also bad because I could actually see how bad the bus driver was, and I dont know how we didnt have a few head on colisions.  At first there was this little boy on the bus who handed out these papers to everyone, saying that he was 16 years old and how his family didnt have any money and all this other stuff, and so he was asking for money.  And since everyone around me was giving him money, I felt bad saying no, so i gave him a little bit of change.  After that it seemed like we picked up almost every random person on the side of the road, mainly because Costa Rican bus drivers cant say no.  And they didnt even pay.  We made it into Puerto Viejo around 6, and had no idea where we were going to stay.  So we just walked up the road from the bus stop to a little hostel, who happened to have one room available so we just took it.  We dropped off our stuff and went out to eat at this place called Cafe Viejo, Amy had eaten there the weeekend before and had heard the pizza was really good so we went there.  It turned out to be an expensive disappointment.  The pizza wasn't that great but we were so hungry we ate it anyways.  After that since it was so early we wandered around the vendors for a bit before going back to our room.  Our room was so freaking hot, one the ceiling fan wasn't very good, and there was no air conditioning.  There was a table fan but it had an one hour timer.  And another thing that was strange was that we couldnt flip a switch to turn our light out, we literally had to unscrew the light bulb.  It was a good thing it was only for one night.  Because I could hardly sleep. 
We got up around 530 and got ready and we were at the bus station by 550.  We werent really sure what to do because the station wasn't open so we couldnt buy tickets beforehand.  And it turned out we weren't even at the bus stop, and some nice Tico told us where to go.  The bus was late, as usual and we didnt even leave Puerto Viejo untiil around 645.  The bus ride between Puerto Viejo and Sixaola was interesting.  The bus would get so crowded then everyone would get off.  And there was this one woman setting across from me who decided to just breastfeed her baby, with everyone there and not even trying to be descret.  So akward. So we made it to the border around 8, and had no idead what to do or where to go.  We saw a sign that said Panama and headed that way.  Crossing borders in central america are so different.  First you have to get in a line in Costa Rica, there you have to fill out a form, and get your passport stamped.  That line took almost an hour because there were so many people.  After that you literally walk across a bridge.  The bridge was originally built for trains but pretty much all of central america has pulled out all of their trains so the trackes ended at the ends of the bridge.  So to make this bridge where you can walk on it, they just hammered down some2x6's and added a metal sidewalk hanging off of part of one side.  This had to be the most sketchyest thing ever. First of all the metal sidewalk is dangerous looking because its rusting and there are parts missing. And if you walk on the boards its hard because they aren't laid very consistantly and if you step off wrong you could get your foot caught between the railroad ties.  So after crossing the bridge you have to get in a line for Panama customs.  But first you have to pay 5$ for a tourist card.  There we waited another hour in the most horrible heat ever.  We were also harrassed by kids, seriously around the age of 5 to 10 asking for money or trying to help you with your bag in order to get money, and trying to do other stuff. Also, there were people asking if you were going to Bocas, and offering rides.  Even though we thought it wasn't a good decision at the time, we decided to take one of the rides.  But we only decided that because there was a group of 9 girls, 4 girls from Chile. We just assumed we would be more safe with them there too because they speak spanish and they would be able to understand what the guy was saying and there 3 other girls from California. So after our bus ride we were taking to a water taxi. Where we were harrassed by kids yet again.  But the water taxi was so cool, it took almost an hour of navigating through canals.  Then we finally made it to the islands of Bocas Del Toro. Unfortunately it was raining a little bit when we first got there and we were actually on the wrong island, so we had to take a water taxi across to our hostel.  Water taxis are the only way to get around, and its pretty hard trying to get one. Most of them dont have cell phones.  So you either have to be a good whisltler and hope they hear or stand on a deck flailing your arms until them come over.
  Our hostel was called the Aqua Lounge.  It was so amazing. First of all the hostel was over the water, and driving up you could see people on the trampoline, thats in the water.  People jumping off a diving board into the pool (actually the ocean), which is actually a large oval cut into the deck so you can swim, and there were two swings that you could swing over the water and a little cafe and a full bar.  There were hammocks in all the archways, And all the water around the hostel is the most gorgeous green blue color ever, and its crystal clear and you can see all the way to the bottom and its almost 20 feet. (You can see the bottom on most of the boat rides to, where it is more shallow) Also in the hostel the floors are slats and you can see down inbetween them and see the ocean too.  When we got to the Aqua :Lounge we were kind of nervous because they dont take reservations, but luckily they had enough space for us.  So we got our stuff situated and we weren't really sure what to do, so we asked this guy who worked there who was so freaking hot.  And he suggested this beach on another island called the Bluffs.  He helped us flag down a driver to take us, who actually had to go get another boat.  So while we were waiting we were talking to this amazingly hot guy. (Which I had heard rumors about before from other travelers). So he was telling us about how he lived for 3 months on an island in Panama with indians then he had been living in the hostel for two years, but his best friend was the owner.  And when we asked him if he ever wanted to go home (hes originally from Flordia) he said he never wanted to get on a plane again.  Because he had been a model for 13 years and tired of traveling and flying.  We didnt ask questions, but we are assuming that the rumor about him being a Calvin Klein model was true.  He definitely had the body and face to be one. So after that we headed to the Bluffs with our taxi boat driver.  The beach was absolutely deserted and we were the only 3 people.  There was golden sand and it was so amazing because it was like walking on clouds, I have never felt sand this amazing before in my life.  There we laid out and waded around in the water, there were some big waves so we didnt go out to far.  And Amy and I are convinced that our boat driver was triyng to play a prank on us and pretend he was drowning..  We stayed there for about 2 hours and then we left.  Getting off the island was a chore.  First we had to move the boat back into the water and push it out a ways.  Then the waves were getting so large that it would push the boat right back to shore so we kept having to jump out and help.  I was just sure that we weren't going to make it off without flipping the boat first.  But our dirver managed to get us safely off, we might have been soaked in the process but we got off.  And had so much water in our boat.  When we returned to the hostel we found out that the water wasn't working, which happens quiet often.  And that really sucked because we were covered in sand and salt and there was nothing we could do.  So we just took a nap, hoping that the water would come back on.  Which it didn't. So we got ready and went to eat at this resturant called Dona Mara. The food was okay, but nothing to special.  When we got back to our hostel, we had met these two girls from California and one from Costa Rica.  They talked us into hanging out and drinking a little bit at the hostel. It was a good thing that it was ladies night there because we were able to drink for free, but we didnt stay out to late because we wanted to get up early and have all day. 
We got up early because we were going with a group on a tour.  So we were ready around 9ish, and so were two British girls from our hostel.  All four of us loaded into the boat and headed across to the other island where we were supposed to meet 5 other people, who ended up not showing up.  Which was a real problem, because most people won't do tours with less than 6 people and we needed two more, for 20$ each.  So he resorted to asking hostels and people if they wanted to do the tour, and no one didn't. And we waited for almost an hour.  So while he was gone we decided to try and negociate a price so we could go.  He eneded up taking us for 25$ a person which really isn't bad. First he took us to a place where there are dolphins, and we were able to see around 20. Next we went to Caya Coral to snorkle. It was made up of one larger building, two smaller thacked roof buildings and a lot of decks, all over the water.  The water was only about 10 feet deep and perfect for snorkeling.  We took turns watching the stuff.  The snorkeling was amazing.  You could see all the way to the botttom and it was so clear.  I was able to see so many coral and colorful fish and even sea cucumbers.  If the waterproof camera hadn't sprang a leak and died I could have been able to take so many pictures. This place was seriusly out of a postcard it was so cool.  After a little bit of snorkeling we were taken to Red Frog Beach.  Where you entered on the opposite side of the island and hiked across.  The beach was your typical white sandy beach, and the water was clear there, except for some seaweed washing up.  There we stayed most of the day, laying out and swimming.  After all of that we returned back to the hostel.  And luckily the water was working and we got ready to go out to eat.  Me, Amy, and this British guy took a taxi over to the other side of the isalnd to eat at a Purvian Resturant.  Where I had really good grilled chicken.  The service wasn't that great, but the food made up for it. After that we decided to walk back, which probably wansn't a great idea but we made it just fine.  We hung out for a little bit before deciding to go to a bar called the Sunken Ship, which literally had a sunken ship in the middle.  We didnt stay out to late because we were so tired from the day and knew it was going to be a long ride home the next day.
Today we got up early because we knew we had to be at the border by 3pm to catch the last direct bus to San Jose.  So we got up hailed a water taxi and went to the main island to grab breakfast, book the water ferry, and go to a few gift shops.  Our ride home was definitely an adventure in itself.  First we took a water taxi to the water ferry, next we took a water ferry. Then we took a van with some other people to the border. There we went through Panama customs and crossed the bridge and went through Costa Rican customs.  We didnt realized to get back into Costa Rica you needed to show a ticket to when you were leaving, or a student id of a university here.  I had mine, but Amy had nothing.  So we were freaking out because the guy wasn't going to let her back in, but finally I guess he felt sorry for us and just stamped her passport.  We ended up arriving back into Saxaloa around 12, which was way earlier than we thought we would be and we forgot to take into account that Panama is an hour ahead.. So we asked around where the bus stop is and waited there. We found out that there was a bus that could take us from there to Limon where we could catch another bus there.  So we were like, sounds good and got on the bus.  Which was so horrible.  It was hot and crowded. So we decided to not take the bus all the way to Limon but to get off in Puerto Viejo because there was direct buses to San Jose there to. So we get off and go to buy our tickets and the guy is pretty much a jerk. He doesnt want to help us and tells us there is no space and that we need to get back on the next bus to Limon and then take a bus back to San Jose from there.  So we were frustrated because we had to pay again for another bus that we had already paid for. So we decided to go eat, and we had the best pizza ever.  So we road the bus from Puerto Viejo to Limon, and when we got to Limon they just dropped us off on the side of the road, no where close to the bus stop. So after asking around we ended up having to take a taxi to get to the bus stop.  We arrived around 530 and we were able to get tickets for the 6pm bus.  The bus was actually really nice, asides from the fact that there wasnt air conditioning.  And we even made one 15min stop.  We got back into San Jose around 9ish and had to take a taxi back to the house, but first we stopped at Burger King because we were starving. 
Now I have to get my stuff ready to leave for Manuel Antonio early in the morning. Im taking Interbus so it will be airconditioned and not crowded.
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