I just got back from a short trip to David, Panama to buy some motorcycle gear. I really wanted to ride my motorcycle to Panama but Flip flops and shorts wouldn’t cut it if I want to travel the highways to Panama or new and interesting places.
I took the Ticabus that left Tues night at 11pm and I returned around 2 pm on Saturday. The way there was on the executive class. The difference between executive and regular was the executive had cold air conditioning (my big ski jacket from Canada would have came in handy), we got fed a foam type cookie, a sandwich with 1 slice of ham, a slice of tomato and a piece of lettuce in between two slices of good old Central American Bimbo brand white bread, and a pillow with a blanket (which was well needed). The regular class on the way back had the AC on at a comfortable to slightly cooler than comfortable level, no pillow or blanket and we stopped for 25 minutes for food at El Brujo restaurante. The price for the executive class was $47USD one way and was $37USD. I don’t think it was worth an extra $10USD for use of a pillow and a blanket and a sandwich with a cookie. Oh and I did get a choice of half a cup of black coffee sin leche and sin azucar or a half a styrofoam cup of ice tea on the executive class. I tried to sleep as much as I could throughout the trip because it was very clausterphobic in the seats. I had to have my legs in the aisle because when the person in front reclined his seat all the way back it felt like being locked in the seat on a a rollercoaster ride with the bar across my chest! Speaking of rollercoaster rides, bus drivers here drive like most do here…. As fast as they can, full throttle and full brakes no gradual easy stops or getting up to speed. Just last week a local bus from San Jose to Alajuela careened off a bridge killing a mother and a child. I am glad the curtains were all closed so I didn’t actually see how fast we were going through the narrow mountainous turns. I have read that most drunk drivers survive crashes because they are limp and are not tensed up like the sober people they hit so because I didn’t have a big bottle of whiskey in hand, I just tried to sleep and stay “limp”! It was probably a good thing I didn’t have the whiskey because a trek to the bathroom at the back of the bus was an adventure in itself. It was similar to walking on the moving floor in the “Fun House” at the Calgary Stampede Midway! It’s a good thing they had the baggage compartment up top had a ledge to hang on to. Once wedged in the moving bathroom the adventure continued… Good thing I am a guy and that I only had to pee for two reasons… 1. no paper, 2. not very clean. I felt sorry for the ladies that had to go. Generally speaking, the public bathrooms in Costa Rica are not overly clean or well equipped. For guys there is usually a trough to pee and they may or may not have a toilet and for ladies they may or may not have paper OR a seat on the toilet. I am not one to whine as I am a guy and can go anywhere but for people visiting for the first time might want to be aware of it and prepare for it by having paper in their purse “just in case”. Enough about buses and bathrooms… on with the trip!
I decided to go low budget for a change and I stayed at a hostel. I did however get a private room with AC. It had the typical guests, backpackers, hippies, wannabe hippies and a few single people doing a little work in the area. I met some cool and some not so cool people. I slept well, The management and housekeeping staff were good. I did have some questions about motorcycle stores that they had no clue about but thats reasonable I wouldn’t know where to send someone here for sky diving equipment but would ask around to find out. I hung out with a couple and went around town to find a larger backpack for me to take back my goodies and we shared some drinks music and laughs. Michelle was from Memphis and her husband Jose was from Costa Rica. One night out back of the Hostel a bunch of us were hanging out while the boss man was playing the guitar and singing some old school hippie tunes from the sixties. A few people joined in the singing. Late in the evening Michelle pried the guitar out of the boss man’s hands and played a few tunes too which was pretty awesome. The pool was a little murky and they were adjusting pH’s and stuff so I decided to not indulge while I was there. Across the street they had a little soda that opened at 5pm and just served fish and beer. I had a spicy ceveche, a whole fish, patacones (flattened deep fried plantains) and a cucumber/mustard salad along with two beers for $7.70USD. The beer was $0.65 cents per bottle and they were ice cold. The outside of the beer bottles smelled fishy so I would imagine they were chillin’ with the fish!!
Shopping in David was pretty good. The motorcycle gear wasn’t all that cheap compared to Costa Rica but I almost got everything I went for. I wanted a protective armored mesh jacket and they only had “little people” sizes. They ordered me a big one from Panama City that was supposed to arrive Friday but this IS Central America and the truck broke down on the way so I didn’t get my jacket. Good thing I didn’t pre-pay or I might still be there waiting for the jacket! Food was cheaper in the grocery stores. Eggs were $1.59 in Costa Rica $2.50, Bimbo brand bread was $1 in Costa Rica $2, milk was only a little cheaper. Booze oh sweet booze was much cheaper. $0.35 cents a beer compared to $1.20 in Costa Rica. Wine was half the price in Panama compared to Costa Rica. Gasoline was cheaper too. I went to a chinese place and had their special fried rice (huge), a bowl of won ton soup and a beer for under $10. Taxis were REALLY cheap compared to Costa Rica. It cost between $1 and $3 for all my trips around the city of David.
On the way there, it took 3 hours to cross the border. It cost $1 and was seamless at the window getting the stamps. On the way back it took 2 hours, it cost another $1 and again was seamless.
At the bus terminal I took a private taxi to the Multiplaza mall to meet up with Rachelle. I negotiated the price of 8000 colones with the driver before getting in the car. During the trip I asked him how much he would charge to take us from Multiplaza to Grecia. He told me 30000 colones. I called my driver from Grecia and he said he would do it for 15000 colones so I told him to meet me there. Once we arrived at the Multiplaza mall and true to Costa Rica taxi “rip off the gringo” fashion he told me he wanted 12000 colones and not the original 8000 like he quoted. He wanted an extra $8USD! I told him to stuff it plus a few other choice words, put the 8000 on the seat of the car and went into the mall. The price changes are things that tend to happen often here in Costa Rica. If you are on vacation you may not notice it or care too much but when you live here and it happens time after time, for me it gets old and my patience for it has lessened. My preference is to avoid it by driving my own car everywhere but sometimes it is not possible and I must rely on the taxis. I usually take regular taxis with meters and insist they turn on the meter as ALL tourists should to avoid the games. I thought 8000 colones was a fair price so I went with a private taxi without a meter. Lesson learned…
I met up with Rachelle, Alice and Bill (our 75 and 80 year old friends from Florida that are going on 35 and 40 years old at tops) at hooligan’s Sports Bar in the mall, had a couple of wobbly pops and headed home to Grecia… home sweet home!