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Yet, none of what I have read throughly prepared me for what I really got to see and experience. I will just use one example to — hopefully — make my point. On 16th January , I set foot in Bocas del Toro archipelago, whose marvels I had read about in the Lonely Planet which lists it as one of the top 16 destinations in Central America, somewhat of a lost paradise.
The reality of things, however, is very different. What the Lonely Planet fails to say is that Bocas del Toro can get extremely crowded with tourists, mostly young travellers in search of good waves, who are in to surf and get cheap booze.
And booze is just about the only cheap thing in Bocas del Toro, which is unreasonably priced. Mind you, I am one who eagerly pays for a service. But the problem in Bocas del Toro is that no matter how much you can pay, there hardly is any service. Another thing the Lonely Planet omits is that half of the islands of Bocas del Toro are owned by Americans — restaurants, hotels, bars, diving companies.
The other half is equally shared between Italians who have loads of restaurants and hotels, although apparently lots of restaurants who have an Italian name or label are actually owned by Spanish, Panamanians and what not and Chinese who have their hands on the only reasonably priced and consequently the most crowded hostels and on all of the supermarkets. It also forgets to say that there is a serious problem with the sewage system: sinks and showers empty directly on the ground or in the lagoon.
And, worst of all, there is no garbage disposal system in the archipelago. So, as you go for a quiet walk to get to the beach or around town, you come across dumpsters with piles of garbage, nicely left in the sun where they can rot faster and spread all sorts of illnesses and become a health hazard and — remember what I said before — the islands are crowded, something which makes it easier to spread disease.