. . .

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Philly day in San Jose, Costa Rica

Having spent the majority of the previous day in transport, and arriving at the hostel late, I woke up with a strong desire to shower out the exhaust and sweat that covered me.  To my chagrin, the 6'x4' window in the bathroom had no blinds. It was still early morning and the sun was barely awake itself, so an unexpected audience was unlikely.  Nevertheless, strange. 

Hostel Casa del Parque is located on the footsteps of Parque Nacional, a spacious park with palms and deciduous trees. As opposed to fireworks in Leon, the morning ensemble of noise was a mixture of chirping birds and the rumbling engines of cars. At the front of the hostel is Jardin del Parque, a vegetarian restaurant with quite limited seating. Shaded by a tarp-covered structure and surrounded by an ivy-covered fence, the restaurant provided an open view of the park across the street. In the evening, it was lit by bulbs covered in green glass bottles whose bottoms had been cut off. 

I spent the majority of the day walking through the surrounding San Jose neighborhoods. Within a couple blocks' walk is always a park, where it's possible to retreat into the shade and away from the sun. The capital city, and cultural center of the country, seems larger than Managua and much more commercialized, with the presence of American brands (e.g., Denny's) noticeably apparent. With the commercialization comes the high prices. A small glass of OJ cost me 1,000 Colones, roughly $2 and a small cup of coffee was another 1,300 Colones. Even Starbucks is cheaper when portion size is accounted for. 

Back at the hostel, I had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian who was traveling to the forest for an ecology study, an American on her way to the Cuzco, Peru forest to figure out her PhD thesis topic, and another American from Seattle who was taking a two week sojourn from work. 

David, the traveler from Seattle, and I decided to see what else was in San Jose before the impending rain. Having gotten my bearings straight from my earlier walk, I led the way. 

We passed by the "blue house," where it appeared the Chinese president(?) had stayed only a day or two ago. The remnants of his presence - Chinese flags hanging on poles and Chinese characters designating "Welcome" - had yet to be removed. We must had been in the nicer part of town, as around us were diplomatic posts from nearby countries. 

We eventually passed into the commercial part of downtown San Jose, which I recognized from the taxi ride the previous night. At what appeared to be the main square stood a 15 foot triangular-shaped platform, upon which the police stood with their watchful eyes on those below them. In the safety of daylight, there didn't seem to be any element of danger nor any attention paid to the Asian and Caucasian walking through. Well, except for one gentleman who, speaking little English, introduced himself via his license. Not really clear what he wanted, we quickly said bye. 

From the square, we turned into a row of stores all selling similar items - watches, clothing, shoes, etc. As we walked further down, the shops turned to selling perishables, with stacks of onions, oranges, lemons, garlic cloves, limes, and melons. 

When the rain started coming down on us, we managed to find shelter in an indoor market. Inside, we found more shops, mixed with small food establishments. It was similar to the Reading Terminal Market in Philly, except less spacious. It was poor timing since it was too early for dinner, but by the time I'd be hungry, it would be too dark to venture out into the downtown area. 

Of course, that didn't mean McDonald's was the next option. About three blocks from the hostel stood Alma, a vegetarian and organic restaurant surrounded by buildings decorated, so to speak, by graffiti. Though the neighborhood, by US standards, wouldn't look like a place to be past sunset, it was, not surprisingly, quite safe. At least safe enough to enjoy my "pollo" burrito. 

Overall, San Jose is like most capital cities. It sounds alluring from afar, but once on the ground, the reality is quite different. The buildings were mostly nondescript and lacked the elegance of Leon. The atmosphere was distilled and the city seemed to have yet developed a personality to match its stature as the capital. Nevertheless, with the exception of the brief rainfall, the weather was perfect in San Jose. Its high elevation in the Central Valley kept the temperature at a "not too hot but just warm enough" to remain comfortable. Plus, the tap water, despite warnings from the CDC, didn't cause me any distress. 

Next up, a day in San Salvador, El Salvador, shotguns and all. 


Post a Comment

Don't be shy, share your thoughts! Just be polite :)