Quick jaunt in Panamá, Costa Rica and Los Angeles

As I had not quite recovered from my stomach illness, and as my clothes were still wet and beginning to smell from the San Blas journey I didn’t meet the constant rain in Panamá City with much joy.  I wanted somewhere hot and relaxing to spend my last few days in Latin America, so what better place than the idyllic Caribbean resort of Bocas Del Toros in the north of Panamá.  I was heading that way for my flight from Costa Rica in several days time so got on the next available night bus after spending a grotty day in Panamá City.  I felt bad that I hadn’t given the city a good chance but I didn’t have much time left and was keen for the beach. Maybe another day I can have a proper go at it, because it certainly looked an interesting place with all these huge skyscrapers, and of course the Panamá canal which brings so much wealth and trade to the country.

So early the next morning I arrived at the bus terminal near Bocas where an onward water taxi was waiting to take me to the Bocas Del Toros island.  It was with slight dismay that I was told the forecast for the next few days was MORE RAIN!  So I trudged through the early morning rain to my hostel and as soon as I could, unpacked every washable item I had (as everything was damp and musty)  I took them to the laundrette for a full service wash.  I then spent the best part of a day on someone’s ipad arranging the delivery of a replacement screen for my netbook (which had been broken in transit on one of the mad San Blas speed boats) to my hotel in Los Angeles where I would be staying in four days time, and hopefully would be able to remove the old screen and install the new one with my trusty pen knife.  The next couple of days I spent waiting for the weather to turn so I could go to one of the beautiful beaches I had heard so much about but it never happened.  In one way it was not such a bad thing I didn’t really leave the hostel as I was making many trips to the loo because of my stomach issues (pesky yellow water from Colombia).  However, the night life was not put on hold because of the rain, and I spent one very fun night out on an adjacent island, where there is a waterside disco, with rope swings over the sea; and after a certain hour (when enough rum has been drunk) queues of people throw themselves in, wearing just their underwear.

So I left Panamá having seen about 3 hours of sunshine in 7 days, which was I shame because I felt it had a lot to offer and hadn’t been given a chance by the crappy weather.

I left myself a day to get from Bocas Del Toro to the Costa Rican capital San Jose for my onward flight to Los Angeles which ended up being plenty of time.   Can’t really comment on the few hours I had in Costa Rica other than it seemed expensive and geared toward the American tourist and there are lots of famous fruit companies there!  The following morning after a night in a hostel and an early start I found myself at the airport, where I was told I had to pay the $27 departure tax!  I was pretty miffed at this because I had been in the country less than 24 hours and so protested this point to the woman at the desk.  Unfortunately I could only waive the fee if I had been there less than 12 hours.  What I did next was a bit naughty and I don’t advise it, but I lied to the customs official and said I had been there less than 12 hours.  This was fairly unrealistic as it meant entering the country in the south at 7pm the previous evening and managing to travel through the night to the capital San Jose (I’m pretty sure the border crossing closed at 5.30pm!)  but fortunately the stamp on my passport only said I had arrived the previous day and not the time.  After feigning ignorance of the Spanish language when the official tried to ask a few more questions they eventually stamped my waiver and I was $27 better off – sweet!!

3 more flights later on Continental airlines via Houston and Denver I arrived in LAX, City of Angels.  Coming in over the city offered up some great views over the sprawling metropolis right upto the Hollywood Hills.  On arrival at LAX I called up the Marriott to send me my driver (;)) and I was soon relaxing in my king-size suite (As you are probably aware all paid for by my Marriott reward points courtesy of several UK corporates’ expense accounts..).  Added bonus was my brand new laptop screen had been delivered intact and I was able to install it successfully despite a few scares when trying to screw it in using the super sharp knife from my Leatherman.   For dinner I found an awesome burrito place and then spent the evening watching American TV shows in my over-sized bed until the wee hours (perfect saturday night after 6 months of travelling).

The next day I ate way too much at the complimentary breakfast bar and then had my bag packed and at the front desk so I could spend the day in the throngs of the city before my late evening flight (11pm).  My first stop was obvious: Hollywood.  This meant a cross-city Metro ride which took me through some familiar sounding neighbourhoods: Compton, Watts, South Central, Long Beach, Crenshaw, Slauson etc… I could feel the presence of Snoop, Dre, Cube, Eazy-E and Pac and it was quite exciting.  I was able to re-live much of my youth on the 1.5 hour journey.  Hollywood wasn’t much more than a street in a city packed with tourists with celebrities’ names on the floor.  I was glad I went and saw it all but I think you’d need to know people and hang out in particular spots to make the best of it.

The Man In Black:

Jack Nicholson’s hands and feet:

Hollywood. I was there:

View of downtown from Hollywood:

So after taking the necessary photos I caught the train Downtown for a look at the tall buildings.  After I’d had enough of that I was moving to my next and final destination: Venice Beach.  This is the bohemian neighbourhood of LA (kind of like Camden in London, or Affleck’s Palace in Manchester) and all sorts hang about on the boulevard playing music, selling incense sticks or just being a bit weird.  Surfing is also big on this beach but I arrived too late in the day and without the appropriate attire to give it a go.  So after another burrito I caught the bus back to the Marriott where my driver was waiting to take me to the airport.   It had been a whirlwind tour of the city and I still felt like I had only touched the surface.   Getting on the public transport was a good way of doing it though as you get to see loads of neighbourhoods:  Mexican, Korean, African-American, Chinese…all in all this was probably the most metropolitan city I’d been to.

Venice beach skaters. Gnarly dude:

Venice beach sunset:

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