Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting out of Panama

The sailing trip was made fun with friends on the Fritz the Cat. What annoying me were the promises made by the captain. When I first shake his it was rough. I knew that he was a working person, not the soft type that uses pen or the computer a lot. I paid US$300 for Hope Too. Captain said it include everything. When I ask ‘what about this, what about that?’ he replied ‘I said everything and I mean everything, trust me’.

So the issue was he did not give me a proper import permit. He went to the immigration office and got a stamp on my owner’s registration paper and he try to convince me that it was everything that I need to have. I was not satisfied so I proceed the journey, left the boat, to Panama City. That was a Friday.

I couldn’t do much paperwork with the government officials on Friday late afternoon, Saturday and Sunday. meanwhile the captain ask me to keep in contact with Erica, which she promised us that she will meet us on Monday to bring us to the custom office in Panama city to get a proper paper.

We call her on Saturday and whole Sunday morning she didn’t pick up the mobile. Until they really pissed me off in the Sunday afternoon conversation. Erica told Sam many excuses for not to meet us, things like:

The US$300 was only documents on Columbia side.
the bike was initially charged US$375 but we charged you US$300.
We are busy on Monday

then I talked to the captain, he ‘explained’ to me:

look, we have things to do on Monday. if you insist us to go to the custom with u then we have to charge you for the job we had to be done on Monday.

trust me, I had ridden central America with a bike, like you before. that piece of paper that I gave you is enough. (that was 11 years ago).

we will help you over the phone. Erica will sent u an email on where the custom is. If you have any problem, call us and we will talk to you.

we didn’t have a good sleep for the past 3 nights while waiting for Monday to come. luckily, on Monday morning, we reached the custom office, did the paperwork in 15 minutes, get back to the hostel, pack up and leave this busy city.

But we had wonderful time in the busy Panama city, not the usual experience. We went to a laundry shop across the street. it cost us US$1 for a whole bucket of sweaty and salty laundry. It was a Chinese owner. Out of the 3.2 million populations in Panama, 10% were Chinese. The lady owner had 4 kids here, which all 4 held Panama citizenship but not her. We get to know about her life being away from China and coming to Panama to survive. Nice chat with the locals here.

The casinos here are really happening. Unlike in South America, casinos there are only machines like jackpots and only to get to play with computers. We went into this casino in Panama City and they had everything including blackjacks, poker, bacarat and dice game. not to mention about the jackpot machines. its managed by a five star hotel and yet we walked in with shorts, singlets and sandles.
Does Panama City looked like Singapore? Property is blooming here.

While waiting for the laundry, 2 Panamanians young chap started the conversation. They spoke understanding English and just friendly chat to know more friends, not about trying to know foreigners. Later we got to know from the Chinese lady owner that these 2 young guys were from the country side of Panama.

The entrance to the Chinatown in Panama City. we took this photo from the taxi as the driver warned us not to wander around the streets here, even we are Chinese.

Big shopping malls are so common in Panama City, as big as Suntec City in Singapore. The food court had wide varieties of fast food chain. I noticed the fast food in Latin America is not really fast. Example in KFC, we would queue up to take the order, make payment, get a recipt and go to the next counter and wait. The staff at the next counter will look at a computer screen analyze what was the order and try to put in in a tray. when my number was being called, i would collect my food. Unlike at home, the cashier took the order and will gather the food himself/herself. When the cashier is taking the order, he/her had already had the item in his/her mind and thus making the gathering of food much faster. I think the system here only trust one person on money, that´s why it´is abit slower. when i said abit, it doesn´t really mean abit. Also the person clearing trays in this huge foodcourt, they also had a trolley for trays and rubbish collection. In Singapore, any uncle or auntie would do the work much faster by pushing the trolley to the table and clear the trays and rubbish into the trolley BUT here in Panama, I saw the trolley was being used as a central collection center (where there is also one main collection center at some corners) and staff would walk around and collect the trays and rubbish with their hands, walk back to the trolley, walk back to the same table, clear again (because they only have 2 hands that carry limited) and back to the trolley. sometimes we saw 2 staff clearing 1 table. It would be much efficient if any property management from Singapore to come here to work.

Forget about telling you about the old city of Panama and the museums but something that got me interested was the relationship of Panama and USA. The USA administration was not out of Panama until 1999. There were also some contract between 2 countries about the Panama Canal.

We escaped the busy city, getting away from backpackers and Israelis, did a camping by a beach of Pacific coast at Las Lajas before reaching Boquete. The property owner in Las Lajas welcomed us. One of the co-owner often walked pass us to have a short and warm conversation. The conversation was not about where had we been, where we come from and how big was Hope Too. It was a human conversation that we would like to reply with our heart.

Again, we were welcomed in Boquete with the rain. the only affordable lodging we could stay in with proper bike parking was taken up by the English speaking bag packers. Then we have to go around in the heavy rain to look for another affortable and safe place to stay. Boquete became very popular when an American magazine for the retired rated Boquete as four top places in the world to retire. Not to be surprise as the property here rose and American product rained everywhere here. From my point of view, Cameron Highlands of Malaysia could be rated as the first in the magazine.

While searching for a place to stay in Boquete, the black cloud is chasing us.

what you think about Panama? Jungles? Panama Canal? Panama City could be as modern as Singapore. Condominium rose and properties bloomed. It seems to be Dubai of Central America. We saw sign board that was selling the property, having a swimming pool being the second largest swimming pool in the world.

We will get to Costa Rica soon after I celebrate Sam’s birthday here. We need to go to San Jose, capital of Costa Rica to apply for Nicuaragua, El Savador and Mexico visas.

we saw this advertisment on the TV here. It´s a channel from USA. it was saying something like: create jobs for America, not China. Are they trying to brainwash the citizen that China is taking away their jobs? are they trying to tell the people that China is their enemy now?

1 comment:

Las montañas said...

Panama is the most advance country in central america as you can see from the skyscrapers of Panama City. Did you see lots of circling black vultures? These big birds are as common as our local crows, just much bigger and scarier.