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Discussion in 'Americas' started by salcar, Nov 27, 2007.
Oh! I didn't have a clue!:huh
Missing JM,? Your ban button gettin rusty?
You should start an info thread.
Cops in Panama ride dirtbikes, two-up. One guy drives. The other carries an Uzi.
They have a ZERO TOLERANCE for mis-behavors. Their main job is to get to crime scenes through traffic, but they totally love to arrest average trouble makers. And they have radios.
Panama City is more like an island than a regular city. The Canal is on one side, the Pacific Ocean is on one side, and only a few roads leave to the North and East. Even though there's a million people, everyone seems to know everyone. Six degrees of separation in the world equals about two degrees in Panama. If you have a big bike, especially a big orange one like a KTM, you're going to be known. If you ride like a nut, well, I'm pretty sure they'll just take it away from you. You'll be able to argue, and maybe they'll give it back. Even if you're, like, rich, or powerful, or your dad is important or something, it won't matter. Only the pizza guys get to ride like idiots.
That doesn't mean you don't have to be aggresively defensive. You have to be. And you can't show any weakness. But Panama drivers are also capable of curtesy. Most of the traffic rules are organic- streets don't have signs, and drivers ignore most every logical rule. But it works. And if you're riding, just make eye contact and you'll get an awful lot farther than if you ride like a dick.
Lane-splitting is only for delivery drivers.
If you crash, it's going to be a while before you get to a hospital, and if you crash on a bike, you're going to get zero sympathy from the cops or the ambulance drivers. If it's nasty, you'll get your picture on the cover of one of the newspapers. And it's going to be your fault, because you're the one on a motorcycle. And if you crash and need an ambulance ride, it's not like you're going to have awesome paramedics taking care of you.
And if you have to go to jail... it's gonna suck.
This is for Panama Ciy, not for the rest of Panama.
Ultimately, you're going to have to decide for yourself how you want to represent yourself. I try not to lose my temper, but once in a while the traffic makes me go balistic. I don't trust myself on a motorcycle in Panama City. I've ridden dirt bikes in the interior but not in Panama City. I'm not looking forward to it.
The biggest risk in Panama- road hazzards. Dirt, leaves, rain, mud, blind corners- I know a guy who bit it on the road to Puerto Bello. It had rained higher up one of those little storms where it's dry one place, wet somewhere else. A driveway going up from the road was just a little river that brought red clay onto the road, and it took the tires out from under him.
HU has an "expat on the road" feel to it.
For local knowledge, ADV is mo' betta.
This site is so huge and bad ass we could harvest all kinds of great info. I would help a moderator gather. although I will be back to work soon and floating around the oceans doG know where.
Later maybe I'll copy-and-paste some of this to a new thread.
Getting to Panama: I've only driven it once. Others have better info regarding border crossings. My impression is that it's pretty straight-forward.
Getting there: most flights come in through Miami. The new airport is big and modern. It takes about half an hour to get from Tocumen Airport to Panama City. Americans can get in with a normal passport- no visa required. They have to pay for a tourist visa that's issued on the plane. I travel on my Panama passport so I don't know how much it costs, but I think it's about $5. Getting out through the airport everyone pays $20.
If you get a cab from the airport, it costs extra. It's better if a friend picks you up, or you have your hotel send a cab for you.
Panama uses US money. They call a dollar a "balboa." Don't believe that it's different from a dollar. A dollar is a balboa is a dollar. Quarters and nickles and dimes and pennies are the same, too. Panama is a global banking center. You can get money from cash machines everywhere around Panama City. Elsewhere you're going to need cash. Some gas stations take credit cards, most take cash.
You can drive with a US drivers license. I haven't been stopped for speeding for an awful long time (damn- I just jinxed self?) so I don't know if cops will take advantage of Americans. My experience has been that cops in Panama are no different from normal cops anywhere else.
It's against the law to drive and talk on a cell phone and a lot of Panamanians try not to break the law.
Shopping and stuff: there are a few new malls that are better than any mall I've ever been to anywhere else in the world. Way, way better than The Mall of America, for example. There's a food court in the big one where you can get shrimp and fried plantains for $5.00. Delicious. Elsewhere there's shopping- you can buy anything you want. Anything.
Concealed weapons are legal, if you're Panamanian.
Most of the good and lots of the old and cheap hotels are around Via Espana. You can stay at super-expensive Marriot or super cheap push-buttons. There are new hotels on the Causeway, in what was the Canal Zone. Lots of hotels also have casinos. If you see pretty girls in the casinos... they're probably exactly what you think they are. It's legal and regulated but it's not all legal and not all regulated. The simple way to find out is to just ask. If it's legal, they'll have a license, and they have to show it to you. If they don't have a license, don't buy it.
The things to see in Panama: CARNIVAL! But Carnival doesn't happen every day, so- go to the old city.
Wait. The coolest thing is the Panama Canal Authority Building. It's on the hill above Balboa, right up hill from the old Balboa Elementary School. Inside the Panama Canal building there's a mural of the men building the canal. Around it are plaques and stuff from famous people who contributed to the canal, and there's an awesome quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Hardly any tourists go to see it. It makes my spine tingle. Just tell the guards that you want to see the mural.
There's Old Panama and the French Embassy. Of course Old Panama is the worst ever, but it's not as bad as Colon. Be careful, but walk around, and walk to the end of the wall by the French Embassy. The French started the Canal, and there's still a connection between the French and Panama. Around Old Panama there are art galleries and shops but I don't go there much because it's a pain to get in and out. Also, the Panamanian Presidential Palace is down there so security is a nightmare sometimes.
There's also a street called Sal Si Puedes. I dare you to walk it.
Ride, walk, run, or drive to the end of the Causeway. All the dirt that makes the road from Balboa to the islands came from the ditch that became the Canal. The islands used to be off-limits to Panamanians. You can still see remnants of what used to be.
Also on the Causeway is a new stadium. I like the boxing. Panama has great boxing.
At the other end of the bay is Panama Viejo. It burned a few hundred years ago. The ruins are cool.
Before Panama Viejo is Paitilla. Sky scrapers full of expensive apartments. Donald Trump has a casino and hotel. It's just like... it's a Panamanian version of Miami.
Panama has a new system of toll roads. Use them. Use them carefully, though.
At the end of the causeway you can take a boat to Taboga. Taboga is fun. Good diving around it and some of the other smaller islands. If you see a scuba mask off the little one to the South West, it might be my daughter's.
There are also boats to Contadora Island. I used to go to Contadora every year, but I haven't been back for a long time. Everyone says it's changed. I might check it out again pretty soon. It's easier to fly to Contadora than take a boat. Contadora has Panama's only nude beach. I've never seen any actual nudes though. Panama is a pretty conservative Catholic country. People don't even sunbathe topless.
When I said that you could get into serious trouble on the Darien, I hope that everyone will believe me.
I have an attitude about adventures. The harder it is, the more fun it's going to be when I remember it later. I don't complain about the people who live where I go on my adventures. I might be thinking it's an adventure, but other people actually, like, live there.
A few years ago one of my neighbors took her daughter on a trip to China. My daughter said, "Isn't that cool, dad? Hardly anyone gets to go to China." I said, "Honey, most people LIVE in China."
Panama City has embraced tourism. A few years ago most Panamanians resented rich tourists. Now they love them. Panamanians are trying to learn more and more English, so that now most non-English speakers can get by just fine. But outside of Panama City, Spanish is still pretty much the only language. The farther away from the main cities that you get, the less likely you'll find an English speaker.
Even as I'm writing this, things are changing. Americans are buying more and more land everywhere, and you never know when you'll run into one. They come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Some are super nice, and some are hiding- hiding themselves, hiding from everyone. Panama doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US. People like to go there and hide.
And then there's the "anonymous corporation." These work like the famous Swiss numbered account. Most American ex-pats have them. If you want one, all you have to do is walk into most any bank. The bankers will speak better English than you.
One last thing: the Bridge of the Americas. I'll try to post a photo later. You've GOT to walk it. Riding it- I've never ridden a motorcycle over it but it's got to be an amazing bridge crossing. I've crossed the big Duluth/Superior bridge, but... the Bridge of the Americas has got to be awesome.
This bridge closes the gap between North America and South America. Even when the Canal was American, the bridge was open to Panamanians. It's a very big source of pride for all Panamanians.
The same rules apply here in Quito and I,ve spent a bit of time in Panama city as well with that bank account thang and I also own a Ktm Duke in Lima as well and if you actually read what I said you,ll see I was a delivery driver for seven years and no chicken shit pizza boy I was a despatch rider that means 10 to 12 hours a day in a city that was designed 2000 years before anyone thought of Panama city.So lane splitting is part of my soul and I see it as an artform,to pick my way through the mobile chicanes at speed is as good a high as I can get daily!!!!to site an old saying"the only rule is that there are no rules"if you cant lane split,you cant read traffic and if you cant read traffic you,re going to get hurt.
LEARN TO LANE SPLIT NOW,IT MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIFE!!!
Have you ever been to Panama? Ever lived in Panama? What can you add, from first or, at most, second experience?
There are some people in Panama who have an extremely low opinion of humanity. Some people disrespect life. I don't know why they're like that.
What I've seen in Panama since I was a little kid is a kind of machismo and selfishness that attempts to place ones own banal priorities over the very lives of others. Speeders or drunks will flaunt the traffic laws just because they feel like they're above the rules. But for the last ten years (about ten) there's been a collective growth of self esteem. I think it has to do with the complete reversion of the Panama Canal from US control to Panama control.
The Canal has always been a source of pride for Panama, but it was also a source of uncertainty. It took 25 years to negotiate the return to Panama, and even during the transition, there were a lot of doubts. Some of the questions were about Panama's ability to efficiently run the canal. Some worried about corruption. Others worried about growing influence from China.
Eight years now since the transisition ended, and the Canal is operating at record capacity, the Panama Canal Authority is flush with cash, and work on the new locks is going forward. For Panamanians, this is like winning the super bowl and the world series. People are nicer to each other. More people are making more and more money. The middle class is growing at an incredible (and probably unsustainable) rate. The lower classes are shrinking. And Americans are coming back, spending money, and helping Panama's economy grow even more.
And the drivers are getting better. They're not as rude. Sure, there are still more rude drivers than in, for example, Des Moines, and Panama City traffic is as bad as ever, but people are just... nicer.
The cars are getting better, too. The buses that used to toot-toot-toot like crazy? They're quieter. Buses all go through the central terminal, and regulating them has improved. Check out the mall that Aleman built. Everyone said it would fail. But it's successful, the buses are going through it, and people are driving better.
The cars are better, too. Since more people have more money, they're able to buy and maintain better cars. Car maintenance used to be a disaster. Now it's only bad.
If you live in Panama for any length of time, you'll see the changes. It's really exciting.
An ideal tool for lane splitting practice is a Husky 610 supermoto.It,s light about 280lbs and has half a Ducati 999 front brake and a 120x17 sticky front tire and will stop on a dime.Oh yes a Leo Vince pipe that,ll let them know you,re coming!!!
LANE SPLITTING AND COLOMBIAN GIRLS,THE TWO BEST THINGS THERE ARE IN LATIN AMERICA
I'm impressed that you rode to Ushuia, but all you did is go through Panama- you didn't actually live there, did you? If you did, then please correct me.
One thing for sure, I'm not trying to kiss up to anyone or make any new friends. All I'm trying to do is convey what I think is important for anyone riding through Panama.
I'd like to take that big schooner some time, but I don't know when.
For some people it's easy to travel in different countries and with a little bit of politeness have a wonderful time, maybe even an adventure. For others, travelling gets a little... overwhelming. They out-pace their abilities and they start to get cross. They start to get an attitude of superiority. Often they're much richer financially than the people whose lives they're looking at as if through the glass at a zoo. Panamanians can tell the difference between the seasoned traveller and the pompous gringo. Working-class Panamanians exact their only revenge by being un-helpful, slow... expensive... and rude. I was thinking that if you were good enough to make it to Ushuaia and back, then you must be a seasoned traveller, patient, and worthy. But instead of taking a moment to look closer at what I was offering GatoGato, you jumped on the Bash-Bananaman wagon. I'm disapointed in you. I didn't expect much from a few of the others, but, seriously, I'm disapointed in you.
So. Since it was my idea to put an ADVrider book somewhere handy but challenging in Panama, I'm going to declare that you don't get a vote for where to put it.
Just spent almost a full week in Panama City. All bikes lanesplit, as did we on our big KTMs. It would seem stupid and unsafe to ride a motorcycle in that city without lanesplitting. Just sayin'
I'll agree with half of that. You can keep the lane splitting!
Forget Karate,My martial art is traffic and the old Ktm 950 is great in traffic,good turning circle and high bars make for silly stuff in town.
God bless you my man and all who sail in you
Lane splitting daily in Quito Ecuador
I changed my mind- instead of merely agreeing, I'LL AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY WITH HALF OF THAT! YOU KEEP THE LANE SPLITTING, AND I'LL TAKE THE COLOMBIAN GIRLS!
I'm pretty sure that you and I have very different riding styles. That's ok. I'm comfortable the way I ride... (drum roll here)... and the Colombian girls would agree!
I know for a fact that they love to lane split amongst other things!!!!
Oh yeah I forgot,I,ll be getting to them first,other people will still be waiting in line!!!!
I'd like to keep up with this bravado but you're obviously faster than I am. Darn it all! Well, have fun and be safe- or as safe as you want.
Later- I'm out.