Wanting to retire in Panama

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Panama Trip Part 2: Boca Chica/Las Lajas

After spending four days in Pedasi, we were back on the road again to Boca Chica.  The drive took about 6 hours and the highway was in great shape, until we hit the outskirts of Santiago.  Once we left Santiago we ended up on a portion of highway that was concrete and quite rough.  We have to remember that we are in Panama where road signs at the entrance and exits of town/city centers are almost non-existent so after driving for about 45 minutes on this section of highway, we decided to pull over to talk to the next radar police officer that we saw (and believe me there are a lot of them) to ensure we were on the right path.  He reassured us that we were going in the right direction and after wishing us “safe travels” we were on our way once again.   This section of road lasted for about an hour until we hit pavement again.  While we were driving we saw a lot of surveyors out and about doing their thing because there are plans in the near future to twin this section of highway as well.

We decided to spend three nights at the Bocas Del Mar spa and resort in Boca Chica to spoil ourselves a bit during this trip and we did.  This is a an absolutely beautiful resort, with nice rooms and gorgeous grounds.   However, the menu only had a few select items and it is the same menu for lunch and dinner so our third night there we decided to eat elsewhere.

View From Room

View From Room

Pool At Bocas Del Mar

Pool At Bocas Del Mar

Another View from room

Another View from room

Our room

Our room

D sitting outside enjoying scenery.

D sitting outside enjoying scenery.

We arrived around 7:00 in the evening so our first full day we just enjoyed relaxing by the pool and exploring the grounds and shoreline.  It was a beautiful sunny day in Boca Chica, despite it being the rainy season, so we thought we would take advantage of the weather.  The next day we decided to check out the boat tour that they have to offer and explore three of the surrounding islands and beaches.  This is a small charter boat so there was only one other couple from Austria with us.   On our way to the first island we were lucky enough to see a whale surface about 20 meters from our boat.  I guess they are in this area at this time of year, but unfortunately it was rather rough the day we went out, and this was the only visual we got of the whale.  Further on, during the trip, we met up with a school of dolphins!  Pretty cool just to sit back and watch them swimming alongside our boat.  We passed many islands along the way until we docked in at the first island.  It was absolutely stunning with the most incredible white sand beach!   We docked here for about 30 minutes and tried to do some snorkelling along the small reef area that was there but the water was too cloudy that day so were unable to see anything spectacular – which was fine – it was still a great place to get out of the boat and cool off.

Upon returning to the boat, the captain and his mate had cut open some fresh coconut with their handy-dandy machete for us.  Too bad there was no rum readily available :)!  We then headed out to sea for our second stop.  There was a real surprise waiting for us at this next island – crocodiles!  Upon disembarking we were met by one of the native village people who, just over the berm at the end of the beach, low and behold, there was a small lake, for lack of a better description, full of crocodiles.  The local villager had a pale full of crabs and proceeded to throw the crabs on the shoreline to entice the crocodiles to come out and eat – and come out they did!  Who would have thought we would see crocodiles in the middle of an island in Panama!

Our third and final stop was another beautiful island with yet again another beautiful white sand beach.  We docked on one side of the island and as we explored the beach, we realized that the other side of the island was mere steps away with yet another beach.  So many undiscovered little islands in Boca Chica – it was absolutely breath-taking!

Island #1

Island #1

 

Our captain and our ride!

Our captain and our ride!

 

D enjoying his coconut!

D enjoying his coconut!

 

One of our new friends!

One of our new friends enjoying lunch!

 

Our captain and the local villager.

Our captain and the local villager in blue!

Our final stop before heading back to the resort.
Our final stop before heading back to the resort.

 

Now that we had our fun in the sun days, it was time to get back down to business and the real reason we came to Panama – to find a place to call home!  After we checked out of Bocas Del Mar, we met up with a realtor who lives in Las Lajas to see some properties in Boca Chica and the Las Lajas area.   He showed us numerous lots for sale and beach houses in Las Lajas.  First, let me tell you that Las Lajas wasn’t even on our radar when coming to Panama, but once we got a look at the 17 km of nothing but beach and almost no people, not to mention the drive to Las Lajas which is beautiful in itself, we immediately fell in love with the place and the area.  In addition, Las Lajas is a very safe beach which does not have rip tides (like Las Barqueta which we also checked out with our realtor, whom I will refer to as E), and there are no jellyfish or stingrays to worry about.   I wasn’t sure what the big deal was with stingrays until E explained how they like to burrow in the sand when the tide comes in and when the tide goes out and you are walking along the beach you have to be careful not to step on them!  Hmm – something I had never thought of before!

Now to tell you a little about E and his wife C.  We hooked up with E via the real estate website – http://www.chiricquicoastal.com – and as it turns out – they are also from Canada and chose for their own personal reasons, to head for the tropics 5 years ago.  They initially spent 3 years in Costa Rica, then moved to Panama.   E and C went over and above what any realtor would do here in Canada.  Not only did E spend hours with us, driving/showing us around the different areas in Las Lajas, but then he welcomed us into his home to meet his wife C and have a few beer along with a locally grown fruit/vegetable?? known as Pifa which grows in clusters in trees in Panama and look like mini coconuts.  You boil them for 2 1/2 – 3 hours then peel them and snack on them with mayonnaise and salt.   Another nice thing with E is that even after spending all day with him, we never ever felt any pressure from him to buy anything – he knew what our story was and that we still had other areas to check out and told us to take our time and to get a hold of him if we had any other questions, or anything that we wanted to take a look at again.   What a nice way to end our day of house/property hunting!   We did not come away with a property yet, but the Las Lajas area has moved into first place.  Now it is time for D and I to head to David, where we are going to check out the hills of Boquete, Las Barqueta beach and the city of David in general to see what it has to offer.   Adios …… until next time.

 

 

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Panama Trip Part 1: Pedasi

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana” – Groucho Marx

Time Flies By So Quickly! I can’t believe it has been almost six weeks since my last post.  Where has the time gone? What have I been doing for the past six weeks you may be wondering??

I have been meaning to put a post on for some time now of our trip to Panama, but our schedule has been ridiculously busy since we arrived home.   We arrived back on Canadian soil on August 1 and immediately had a family reunion to attend to that weekend.  It was my parents 60 anniversary – wow 60 years and counting…. But, alas,  this post isn’t about that so all I will say is that we had wonderful weather and an even more wonderful time.   The next four weeks were spent finishing up the basement of our son’s home in Edmonton so our daughter would have a place to stay when she went off to university.  All while trying to pack up our house for our big move at the end of the month.

Well, I am now so happy to say, we got everything accomplished!   Our daughter has settled nicely into her new home and new routine (albeit not without some tears shed by both parties – lol) and we are settling into our new, temporary home.  With all those responsibilities finally behind us, we can once again, start focusing on our move to Panama.

D and I had an absolutely spectacular time exploring the beautiful country of Panama from July 18 to the 31st and made some amazing new friends along the way. We arrived into Panama City late the night of the 18th and took a taxi to our hotel.  On the recommendation of some fellow bloggers, we stayed at the Country Inn and Suites so we could see the Panama Canal and visit the Miraflores Locks the next day.  This is definitely a must see for anyone travelling to Panama.  What an amazing feat!!   We then went to the Allbrook Mall to purchase ourselves a cell phone.  We heard a lot from people about how cheap it was to get a phone in Panama.  So we went to the local cell phone store in the mall (Digicell) and purchased ourselves a phone!  And for the grand total of $28.00, we bought a phone which included a $10.00 pay as you go card, which even gave us 200 free minutes to Canada!!  You won’t find this kind of deal in back home!

After spending two nights in Panama City, it was time for us to get our rental vehicle and head out to Pedasi.  Now, I am not sure how we got this wrong, but for some reason we ended up renting a vehicle from Budget Rental on Balboa street (downtown) instead of the one at the Allbrook Airport (which would have made things much easier for getting out of Panama City being that the Country Inn and Suites was practically walking distance away and extremely close to the Pan American Highway).  After experiencing the crazy traffic of Panama City (and I mean crazy insane – lol), D was not looking forward to navigating his way out so we hired the cab driver and followed him out of downtown and to the Pan American highway.  It was smooth sailing from here on in.

On a side note – although we did have insurance through our credit card company and through our insurance policy back home – on the advice of others we had corresponded with (apparently even with this type of insurance, the legalities are an absolute nightmare in Panama should you get into even the smallest of an accident) we opted to pay the extra for their full package insurance. Did we get swindelled??? Maybe …. But after seeing the traffic in Panama City, it definitely gave us piece of mind (although it practically doubled our bill….. cost -> $1088 in total for 13 days rental of a Toyota RAV4 SUV) .

The drive to Pedasi from Panama City took us about 4 ½ hours and we stayed here for 3 nights.  There was a festival going on in Las Tablas so we had to take an unmarked detour ….  and got lost.  Of course, we had heard about how poor the signage is in Panama, and our experience with the detour in Las Tablas and driving in general, definitely confirmed this to be correct J.  But some nice locals were able to send us back in the right direction. .  We then managed to get lost again in Chitre, and once again, another nice local was able to get us back on the right path.  From here on in, for the remainder of our trip, we managed to get around with little to no difficulty.

Now back to our time in Pedasi.  Pedasi is a quaint little town in the Azeuro Peninsula in the province of Los Santos with many beautiful beaches close by.  Upon checking into the Casa de Campo B&B (this is a beautiful B&B and we would highly recommend anyone to stay there), we met another couple from Canada who also stayed at the Country Inn and Suites and had just arrived also – what are the odds!!  As it turns out, they are from Ontario and are also retiring in Panama and have chosen Pedasi as their retirement destination.  They are building a home in the gated community of Costa Pedasi and are going to be in their new home for Christmas.  We also checked out this gated community as well as other properties in the area and this development definitely topped our list; however, this was only our first stop after all and we couldn’t make a decision yet, there was still a lot of Panama to see.   We were also torn too on whether we wanted to live in a gated community or not????  Initially, we felt we didn’t, but after visiting this area, we realized you never know what is going to come screaming out at you – and if we find the right gated community, this just might be where we decide to settle down.

During our second night in Pedasi, we went out with another couple we had met online who happen to also be from Canada…. Edmonton to be exact!   She is an amazing blogger – check out her blog at http://indacampo.wordpress.com/.  They have been living in Panama for over a year now.  We met them at Smiley’s restaurant for some dining and music.  We did, after all, have to give them their “bendy” straws from Wal-Mart and screw bits for removing stripped screws from Canadian Tire that just can’t seem to be found anywhere in Panama.  How can one enjoy a delicious tropical fruity drink without a bendy straw!!

So after spending three glorious days in Pedasi, meeting some wonderful new friends, driving along the highway to Playa Venao and checking out various properties with the local realtor as well the Costa Pedasi development, we had some good information in hand, and were ready to move onto our next location – Boca Chica here we come.

The following quote says it all for us …. “We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams” J

House is Sold!

Well we did it! We have completed the first step to achieving our retirement goal and sold our house. Of course, this brings us into a bit of a dilemma since we are not planning on moving to Panama until next year – and that is “where are we going to live until then?” Many concerned family and friends have asked us this very same question . We also get the question asked alot “why did you sell your house already if you aren’t ready to move yet?” This too is a valid question and I am going to do my best to answer both.
First off – why did we sell already? For us, there was more than one reason.
Reason #1 – We currently have a very big house – 4500 square feet worth of house – and quite frankly – with our son having “flown the coop” in February and our daughter following close behind by leaving for university this fall – simply put – it is just “too much house” for only two people.
Reason #2 – As the real estate experts say, you must watch the market and follow your gut so this is what D and I had been doing for the last year – gauging the market and trying to decide when the best time to sell would be. As it turns out, the market in Cold Lake has been very “hot” this year and it appeared that a lot of bigger, higher priced houses that were on the market for over a year (some for as long as two years) were all of a sudden selling! This got us to thinking – “is this the right time for us to sell?” We were told that because of the size of our house and the price that it would be listed for – that we would have a very small window of prospective buyers and it may take awhile to sell. After much discussion, we decided that we did not want to wait for next year in the off chance that the market took a down turn and we would not be able to sell it right away…… which brings us to the situation we are in now!
Reason #3 – Try to bring our living costs down until we make the move. For anyone who lives in Alberta, they can relate to the exorbitant amount that we pay for heat (although natural gas prices have been holding at a pretty low rate for the last while) and especially electricity! and being that we currently live in the countryside, our costs are even more expensive because of the “transmission” fees. Last year, our average cost for electricity alone was 317.00 a month – over half of these fees being the “distribution and transmission” fees. This is just one of the areas where we will be able to save – although it will in no way ever be as low as the electricity costs in Panama!
Second question – where are we going to live now? Are we going to rent or are we going to buy a smaller place?
Cold Lake is fast becoming the next Fort McMurray of Alberta. With the new technology of SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage) for removing bitumen from the ground, the oil companies are quickly moving in and expanding, expanding and still expanding. This is causing a bit of a problem for the Air Force Base that used to be the main driving force for its economy. With all the oil companies moving in, it is making it unaffordable for your average joe to live. People are being forced out of their homes that they have been renting because landlords are jacking up rates. To rent an average run of the mill house in Cold Lake right now you are looking at between $2500-3500 a month – so much for trying to cut down our living costs until we move – lol! This is why we have chosen to buy again, although something much smaller that will be easier to sell next year and who knows, maybe we will make a buck or two if the market continues to jump!

Itinerary is in Place!

I woke up on the weekend realizing it is already June and only 6 weeks until we make our debut trip to Panama!    It got me panicking a bit, realizing we need to finalize our itinerary.   Alas, after “umpteen” emails and reservation requests, everything is now in place!   

I was talking with one of my wonderful sisters a couple weeks back about what we would be doing, where we would be exporing and the wonderful virtual people that we have met thus far that we are hoping to get together with.  Naturally, like any concerned loved one would be, this raised some red flags in her head and she made the comment, “you want to get together with people you met on the “”internet?”” – lol.   I assured her that I felt completely comfortable with these “virtual friends”.  These are people who take the time out of their day (some almost every day) to sit down and write about why they decided to move to Panama and the trials and tribulations they  encountered along the way (the paperwork they needed, the services they used, the contacts that they have been able to provide, etc, etc etc) and without this information, moving to a foreign country would be a much more difficult task.  It gives others like us, who are still in the early stages of planning , some reassurance that, although there are still a lot of hoops to go through, a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross,  it can be done and that it will be all worth it in the end.

So thanks to all you bloggers out there – you know who you are!

I’ve Heard So Many Great Things About Panama!

Dan and I for the most part are pretty private people and initially only told our family and close friends about our desire/plans to move and live in Panama.  Well, we decided a few weeks ago to put our house up for sale.  With us being “empty nesters” soon, we felt that our house was “WAY TO BIG” for just the two of us and being that it is quite an expensive home for the area we live in, thought we would get a jump start on trying to sell it.  So a couple of weeks ago the for sale sign went up.

Now keep in mind, we live in a very close knit acreage community just outside of Cold Lake, where if you are outside or just going for a walk, everyone is always welcome to “pop in” for a “cerveza” – (I am definitely going to miss this and hope to get into a community in Panama where this will continue).  So, naturally, when the for sale sign went up in front of our house, a lot of our good neighbours were not only shocked and sad (it’s a good feeling to know you will genuinely be missed) but curious as to what our plans were?  So we have been telling them all about Panama.

You never know what kind of a reaction you are going to get when telling people and most of you who have made the move (or are about to) can attest that it is not always positive and it most surely will be followed by an onslaught of questions.  However, to my surprise, now that more and more people know of our plans, most of the reactions have been extremely positive!  From all the neighbours and friends who insist we have a place for them to stay, because they will definitely come and visit us, to the coworkers who have also been and seen Panama and who fell in love with the place and are “jealous” of our plans.  Then there are the people who say, “a neighbour of ours at the lake lives in Panama year round, and only comes to his cabin a few weeks a year in the summer”, to “my seamstress just recently moved to Panama, so I had to find someone else” to the developer who developed our community who said, “wow, I can’t believe it …. a friend of mind just bought an island in Panama and wants me to come down and develop it for him!”.
So today, we are getting together with some other neighbours, who just returned from vacationing in Cuba and low-and-behold saw “the sign”, for some barbecuing and croquet. I am sure there are going to be a lot of questions again …. but I am OK with that…..  because when sharing your plans and ideas with friends who are so encouraging, it really confirms for us that we are making the right decision!