Tag Archives: David Panama

David, Panama

Since being on the road I tried to make it a point to NOT be on the road… But in David, it was certainly hard to do!  David is a hustle-bustle city much like ones you would find the in the States.  Traffic, roads filled to the hilt with cars, wilderness stripped away, or in other words a typical settled city.  There isn’t a whole lot to do in David.  It really is just a stop over city to get you to your next destination.

I got off at the main terminal in David and true to my stubborn nature, I figured I could easily walk to my destination for the night:  The Purple House hostel.  I had earlier acquired a map of Panama at the tourist stop at the border and on the back it had a detailed map of David.  No worries!  I could find this place without help!

About a half hour to 40 minutes later, I threw in the towel of submission… I had been wandering around with all my things in tow and apparently was also going in the wrong direction.  The map and the streets (when they had street signs on them) seemed to coincide with the right direction, but then all of a sudden they wouldn’t!  Street signs would appear that weren’t anywhere on the map according to where I was supposed to be, but then a block over the signs would coincide properly so I thought I was going in the right direction!  Well, apparently not at all and as I said earlier I eventually submitted and walked into a used clothing store where a woman and 6 young boys were chattering away.  I plunked the map on the table and asked desperately “Donde estamos??”  (i.e. where are we??).  The boys immediately set to figuring out where we were on the map, turning it sideways, upside down, right side up and down again several times.  There apparent confusion indeed was a little worrisome as they didn’t seem to know where we were either on the map, but then again it made me feel a bit better about not being able to get my way around with it as well!

About 5-10 minutes later the eldest of the boys (probably about 10) declared he knew where we were on the map and asked where I wanted to go.  After giving me directions (I was 12 blocks in the opposite direction from where I was supposed to be!) I thanked them all and headed out again.  About 3 blocks into my walk, two of the boys from the shop, the eldest and a friend of his, came running up behind me and declared that they would take me to the house themselves.  How freaking cute!!

True to their word they walked ahead of me picking their roads carefully and avoiding the traffic where and when possible.  I was definitely thankful for them as guides at this point due to my mind and body getting very tired and neither wanting to think anymore.  We arrived at The Purple House hostel and as a thank you, I gave them both a dollar.  Ironically enough, I came to find out that if I had taken a taxi from the terminal to the house, it would have also cost $2!  This version however definitely got my exercise in for the day:)

The Purple House hostel in David is EXACTLY as it sounds… PURPLE!  The walls are purple, the sheets are purple the cups, plates, mugs, folders, towels, dog, shower curtains, or in other words everything is purple!  Ok, for those who were paying attention, the dog isn’t purple (her name is cute-si) but her collar is;)  The woman who owns the hostel is from NYC and has been living down here since 2004, I believe.  She has also lived in Israel and the Greek Isles prior to here, working as a runner in Israel for the original Purple House hostel there.  (Side note: a runner is a person who goes to the bus stations and waits for backpacker arrivals to take them to a particular hostel or to sell them on their hostel.)  True to the New Yorker way of life, she is a tough cookie!  Very friendly and very accommodating, but no one you would ever want to cross so to speak.

After settling in, I met a few girls from the States and joined them in a walk  to the movie theater to watch a movie at the Multicine National Theater.  A movie theater?!?!?!?!?!  I literally almost died when I heard them suggest to go and see a movie!!  In a theater no less!!  I absolutely adore movies and with the traveling, it’s obviously been hard to watch movies at all or to even see a television, let alone go to a theater!!  I can say for sure that I honestly haven’t missed TV at all, but movies on a big screen I do get nostalgic for.  In any event, we watched “Friends with Benefits” and cabbed it back to the hostel as it was pouring rain when we got out of the theater.

Once we arrived back, ironically once more, I met a couple who had been living in Puerto Jimenez for several months!  She was the schoolmaster and her husband was at that time still looking for work but being the “house-mom” in between.  I just couldn’t believe that we had been in the same place together for at least a week and yet I had never run into them before!  But, I suppose it isn’t that uncommon as there are areas that are more residential than the “tourist” areas that those who live there wouldn’t have any necessity to go in to.  In any event, they were down in David for their 90 day Visa renewal and were planning to stay a few days longer.  I dined with them that night chatting away about Puerto Jimenez experiences.  One of the things I recall the most was their thoughts on the Macaws… They cracked me up as they started in on how wonderful and beautiful and majestic they seemed at first, but how now they couldn’t stand the loud, obnoxious, always dropping almond seeds on our roof at all hours BIRDS!  LOL!!  I guess everything can lose its charm… Though I still maintain that they are wonderful creatures that though they may have their annoyances, we are better off with them than without them!

I stayed only a single night on this trip (ironically again:  I am currently back at the Purple House Hostel while writing this though it’s been 9 months since being here!  I warned you all that this blog wouldn’t always be up to date!!)  and the next day made my way to Boca Chica on the Pacific coast of Panama.

On the road again…

Early the next morning we all headed out for the early boat back to Golfito.  From there we said our goodbyes and all headed in separate directions.  Since I was planning to travel to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I thought it better to loop my way through Panama rather than to take the gruesome 8 hour or more bus ride back to San Jose, only to catch another 5 hour one to get to the Caribbean side.  So as the other guys all headed North, I made my way South to Paso Canoas: the Pacific border crossing into Panama.

Upon arriving at Paso Canoas, I will be the first to admit that I had no clue what to do or where to go!  There were no signs and absolutely no indication of where you were to go if you wanted to get into Panama.  Perhaps what was most shocking to me was that there was no gate or fenced area… Ok, perhaps I have just been too accustomed to the look of border crossings from my travels to Mexico to the States where there are huge signs and officers everywhere and lines of buses and people all waiting to get through.  This border crossing looked nothing like that.  In fact I kept thinking that you really had to want to do the right thing in order to get into Panama.  Otherwise, truth be told, had I known which bus I needed in Panama to get to David, Panama I could have simply walked across the invisible and non-guarded border and hoped on a bus.  But I digress…

I wandered around in the direction of Panama and finally came across some police officers and asked them what it was I was supposed to do.  They directed me to the immigration office on the Costa Rica side (no signs again) so I could get my exit stamp.  After several wrong stops to different offices, I finally found the correct one and stood in line to exit Costa Rica.  Of course as things would happen, the power went out so all the computers were down.  So I had no choice but to sit around and wait for things to come back online.  About a half hour later, people’s names were being called out one-by-one as the passports were being returned and I made my way to the Panama immigration office to get an entrance stamp.

Upon arriving there, I admit I was quite tired and honestly not firing on all cylinders.  And my tired frame of mind ended up costing me $20.00… You see, I had completely neglected to even think about how I would probably need proof that I was leaving Panama before entering it, just as I needed proof when entering Costa Rica that I would be leaving the country (though they never asked me for it).  So when the immigration officer asked if I had a bus ticket (he meant to prove that I was leaving Panama at some point) all I kept responding was “No, I am getting one to David once I cross the border”.  Try as he may to get me to understand where he was going with his line of inquiry, I failed to understand exactly what he was doing, so finally after about 5 minutes of his questioning (and me lacking to understand) he gave up and simply turned me away back to the Costa Rica side so I could purchase a bus ticket for $20 that showed a return ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama and back to San Jose.  Of course it wasn’t until after the purchase that I “got” what he information he was looking for and am completely convinced that if I had simply said “yes, I have a bus ticket back to Costa Rica… Would you like to see it??” that he would have said “no” he didn’t need to see it and would have stamped me through.  Instead I had to go and make life complicated for myself and apparently for him as well.

In any event, I trudged my way back to the Panama immigration office with my $20 ticket in hand and boarded a teeny air-conditioned bus (whoa!!!  civilization again!!) on my way to David.  About a half-hour later we were stopped at a police checkpoint.  And I chuckle every time I think of this moment because in the moment I kept thinking “man, it’s a good thing I crossed the border legally after all!!” but after the moment I thought “it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway” because the police officer boarded the bus, asked people to take out their identification, looked at 2 or 3 that were being held up in the air, glanced around the bus at people but not really looking at their faces and then exited…  LOL!!

On the way to David, new passengers came on board at various stops and one of them sat next to me.  He was a middle-aged gentleman who had a business and lived on the pacific coast of Panama.  We chit-chatted all the way to David and thankfully, he paid attention to the change given to me when departing the bus in David.  You see, in Costa Rica you either pay for a bus ticket before boarding the bus, or right as you get on.  In Panama, you simply board and pay according to which stop you get off at.  My bus fare was supposed to be $2.95 from Paso Canoas, but I only received $1.00 change when handing the drivers assistant a $10.00.  My bus companion noticed this (and since he knew I was coming from the border) and quickly stood up for me yelling at the assistant to give me the correct change at once.  How very nice of him it was indeed to do so!

So now I was in bustling David… wow… Where to begin…

On To Costa Rica vs Panama

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