Three cities down: Panama City, Boquete, and David, we still have not found the paradise as described in International Living magazine. All three of them have their merits, but only the capital city is the only one that I would think persuade guests to come visit us. Yet, there the cost of living is far greater than other places offering retirement benefits for US citizens.
David was comfortable if you could get beyond the need for clean pretty streets. People in the smaller cities have been beyond pleasant often greeting us with good day or good afternoon, before we pass each other on the street. Yes, delightful people play heavily in the equation.
Today, we took what we thought would be a 4 hour bus ride to our next stop, Penonomé. Shockingly, the bus was a gorgeous, new Mercedes Benz double-decker. We were assigned at the very back of the bus, which was perfect for legroom. Appointed with beautifully upholstered, thick reclining seats, comfort was not an issue. Drop down screens showed movies, though only in Spanish without subtitles.One movie they showed was from Argentina, called Lotoman 2.0. It looked funny from what I could tell, but the crowds were roaring with laughter. I need to find a copy with subtitles to test if for myself.
When the bus stopped at Santiago, we thought it was just to let off passengers, but it turned out to be a meal break. Everyone had to leave the bus for the 30 minute stopover. Once we boarded again, we were at our destination after another hour. Quite funny was that we were the only two getting off at our stop. The ‘bus station’ sits directly in front of a hospital, but is surrounded by wooden huts where vendors sell everything from chewing gum to women’s personal needs. This sits on a major roadway, so getting a taxi was going to be an issue.
Gratefully, a gentleman who owned one of the stands, came to our rescue. He hailed a cab that actually stopped for us. He told the driver where we wanted to go, so I flung some of my things in the backseat, while Ron climbed in the front. After I positioned myself, I realized there was the most adorable little boy sharing the backseat with me. He smiled after his look of wonder. I doubt he has ever seen a white person before. Refusing to say a word in any language, he did give me the most flirtatious smiles, capturing my heart. When we reached the hotel, I gave him a quarter. It was a true bargain for the smile I received would have been worth much more.
Our hotel sits on the Pan-American Highway. We could tell from the looks that the reception staff gave us that they were not used to seeing white faces at check-in either, but regardless, they were extremely professional. The clue here lies in the fact that their website is in Spanish only without any other language options. With 84 rooms, it is dead quiet. There were a number of well-behaved people at the pool, but enough to dissuade me from venturing in. Situated next to the hotel is a strip mall with a supermarket, a KFC, Domino’s Pizza, Subways, McDonalds, Al Capone Pizza, in addition to clothing stores, a skin care center, municipal offices and assorted other stores. Across the highway are other small stores and two small, non-chain restaurants.
After going to the grocery store to bring some beers back to the room, we decided on going to the ‘Panamanian’ restaurant across the street. As it turned out, it is Panamanian-Chinese. Crossing the Pan-American Highway by avoiding traffic, had a similar feeling to being Pac Man all the while trying to avoid Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde soaring down the highway at German autobahn speeds. All during the dinner, all I could think about was having to cross the highway once again.
Why are we here? What is there to do in this region? Ron hadn’t a clue other than it was part way between David and Panama City. Even TripAdvisor is clueless on what to do here.