I just made it into Panama City on Wednesday afternoon. It was an 18 hour bus ride from San Jose, counting about 1.5-2 hours at the border crossing. The cost of the trip was about $35. I could have gotten cheaper, but I opted for the executive bus which cost $10 more. I'm not really sure what I got for my $10, but for 18 hours, I was willing to take a gamble. When I got to the border crossing there was a big sign on the window stating that you are supposed to have proof of onward travel (bus or plane ticket out of Panama) and proof of solvency (at least US$150 in cash) to enter Panama. I had neither, but I was not asked to show either despite many Nicaraguans and Salvadorians in front of me having to do so.
I'm a little unprepared for Panama. I haven't bought a guidebook or really made any plans. All I had was a recommendation from a friend for a place to stay.
Panama is very modern with many tall skyscrapers. I'm a little disappointed however, that there is no Club LaVela (Just kidding). It is very reminiscent of Miami. But I'm staying in the Casco Viejo neighborhood - the oldest part of town. It's a handsome, but still a bit shabby part of town with many old buildings. It fell into ruin over the years, but has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage sight and efforts are underway to restore it. It looks a lot like Havana, Cuba (or at least what I imagine Havana, Cuba looks like).
It's funny how we never appreciate buildings until they get old or until we're in danger of loosing them. All over the US, downtown areas and older neighborhoods that were fled by the middle and upper class in the 50's and 60's have been or are being restored and are trendy places to live, eat, and shop. It makes me wonder whether in 50 or 100 years middle and upper class people will flee the suburbs. Will Cool Springs or Bellevue fall into ruins? Will there be community efforts to restore them to their former glory? Will we ever feel nostalgic about strip malls, big box stores, and office parks?
I bought a camera on Amazon, had it sent to Heather, and she brought it down to me. The screen didn't work. So she is going to send it back for me and I am off to buy camera #4. I've had the worst luck with cameras on this trip. Luckily there is a pretty big mall near the bus station and prices on electronics should be cheaper here than in Costa Rica. I'm also going to try to find a dentist. I'm overdue for a cleaning and for some reason I can't get floss between two of my teeth. I hope I can get an appointment soon.