I had been to the Tocumen International Airport four times before, but I had never stepped foot outside. This was my chance to finally explore Panamá on my own terms.
I traveled by bus from Costa Rica where I passed the border into Panamá. At the border, I was pressured to buy a return ticket to Costa Rica which was assurance that I would not remain in Panama as a vagrant.
My travel buddy had been luckier than me as he only had to explain that he travels often and never stays in one country but his own, America! With a quick look at his passport the immigration attendant had sufficient proof that he was telling the truth.
I am suspicious that him being a “gringo” also helped.
This is where my travel to Panamá takes a turn for the negative.
It was several hours after my encounter with the immigration official who demanded that I buy a return ticket that I was on a bus headed from the city of David (pronounced Dah-veed) when I and the other gentleman seated next to me were accosted by another immigration official or police man.
Two officers bordered our bus at a checkpoint and they announced that they would check the bus for stowaways. Sadly, the only people he remotely thought were traveling illegally were the two negroes — me and the guy next to me.
Welcome to Latin America? I guess.
The experience did not dampen my spirits, but it put an imprint on my experience that I probably will never forget. Thereafter, I have had lots of fun in and around Panamá.