Friday, April 27, 2007

Costa Rica and Panama

Smoking Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica

Crossing the border into Costa Rica, I was suddenly confronted with something I hadn't encountered for a long time, something alarming and humbling, embarrassing and annoying all at the same time---the place is full of American tourists. You get groups of high schoolers on their big graduation trips, families with sneering teenagers and fighting kids, hiking geezers with their specially bought brandname rainforest is shocking, and they're everywhere. If it weren't for the stunning beauty of the rainforests and the numerous active volcanoes, I'd have crossed the border into Panama much earlier. But I can see why everyone wants to come, it's really safe, and pretty amazing. There are monkeys eveywhere, and parrots. You learn to ignore the geckos attracted to the heat of your screen while watching TV, or sometimes you watch the geckos instead. I was hoping to see a sloth, but no luck this time.

Monkeys playing in trees, Costa Rica
In San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, I had my own American relapse. I ate french fries at McDonalds. Then I had lunch at Subway. They have Taco Bell here, Wendy's, KFC, Papa John's---for someone who hates fast food, I was dancing with joy! I went to the mall. And I found myself a precious jar of JIF peanut butter (creamy, of course). Honestly, I'm embarrassed about the whole ordeal, but really there's nothing much else to do in San Jose.

I came to Panama on Monday, and took a 45 minute ferry to the Carribean islands right near the border. Travellers all rave about this place, so I had to see it. The town of Bocas del Toro is hot and boring, but when you get out into the islands, to the beaches, it's pretty beautiful. Yesterday I chartered a boat with a group from the hostel to the uninhabited island of Zapatilla. With blue water, white sand, palm trees, and no people, it was everything an island should be. I saw real live swimming squid while snorkelling, that was super cool, I'd never seen squid other than the vaccum packed salted ones at the 7-11 stores in Japan.

Today I head to Panama City and wait for my flight to Peru on Monday. Until then!

Bocas del Toro beach, Zapatilla island, Panama


lachness said...

wow, your pictures look amazing! Jeez us lach girls and travel! I just bought a ticket last night to Argentina and South Africa this summer! Have you been to either place or have any suggestions? I am traveling my myself and I have no idea what I just got myself into!

Shannen said...

*Cousin Lachness*

WOW! Sounds like you've caught the travel bug! How long will you be in each place? I was in Argentina for two years, you are definately going to love it! (get your all-night party stamina ready) I can tell you lots about it, send me an e-mail and lets talk more! My address is my first and last name (no caps or anything)

Faith said...

Oh my goodness Shannen- you can start your own travel guide!! This is amazing and I just love your underwater pics too! You'll never want to go home! Do you have a fave place so far?
Love and Hugs!!

Shannen said...


You're right, I'm not ready to go home yet, actually, he he. My favorite place in Mexico was San Cristobal de las Casas with all the indigenous villagers, then Utila, Honduras for the great diving experience, then Nicaragua for the general vibe and the great friends I made there...Panama has been so many places, so little time, and money...

Take care say HIIII to Julianna from me!

Moe: said...

I recently ran across an expat living in Slovenia's blog which had a link to ANOTHER expat living in Slovenia's blog who was bitching about awful American tourists. What is it about the American tourist? What can one do to avoid it? Why aren't Canadians as retched?

I think you should start another blog on how to be a GOOD American tourist. Step by Step instructions. The rest of the world will thank you.

Shannen said...


Not ALL Americans are annoying, i must admit. Some are pretty cool. I think the problem is that when you leave the States you want to feel like you are getting away and having your own experience. When you meet big groups of them you feel like you can't escape. Hmmmm, what could the annoying ones do to be unannoying? The biggest American problem is that some of them brag too much about where they've been etc., and some think the US is some great power doing good in this world when everyone knows otherwise (because they haven't been brainwashed like we have...) Ooops, did I just rant?? Anyhoo, I'll work on those step by step instructions, he he.

Moe: said...

You have some good points there. I am looking forward to the step by step list. I'll post them up at every international airport in the United States as my civic duty to the rest of the world.

Looking forward to your next post!