Monday, January 9, 2012

Costa Rica

At long last, back to the keyboard!

A few random thoughts from Costa Rica:

- I've never been in a place where the speed limits on highways change so frequently. The base will be 80 km/h, but at the first sign of any human activity, it will first change to 60 km/h, then to 40 km/h (!!!). Even when there's scarcely any sign of human activity, and the road is completely straight. Apparently this is all in accordance with the 'All Speed Limits Must Be In Multiples of Twenty Act of 2004'.

- Related to the above, I got pulled over by a traffic cop at one point, notwithstanding that I was going the same speed as everyone else. Sure enough, it was going to cost me a fine of US$600 to be paid at the bank if he wrote up the ticket formally, but if I paid the ticket in cash right now it would only cost me $100. After such a sum changed hands, he was quite friendly. Moral of the story - if you look like you're shake-down-able, carry cash.

- Apparently in Costa Rica, they abolished the military altogether in 1948! Bizarre. The whole country thus seems to be a strong violation of Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation that "nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended."

- A guidebook description like 'awesome volcano where you sometimes see lava flows, located right next to scenic cloud forest' has a tendency in reality to resemble 'base of a hill-like structure covered in impenetrable clouds which they won't let you approach'.

- I spent New Years Eve in a beach town called Montezuma. Apparently Costa Rica has a very relaxed approach to liquor licensing, viz in practice anyone can drink anything anywhere. The bar I was at had a lot of teenagers who looked about 15, and two girls walking around who were clearly no more than 12. It's kind of jarring to see them in a bar drinking, but sure enough the world didn't fall apart. The bouncers were only concerned if you were starting a fight or throwing up somewhere, and had zero interest in who was entering or leaving, whether you were taking your drink out to the beach. In other words, exactly the kinds of voluntary transactions that people engage in when free of government interference! The lady who ran my hotel was saying that on the Nicoya peninsula, there aren't any traffic cops, so most people don't have proper licenses, and she once saw an eight-year-old driving a pickup truck.

- The combination of warm water and good surf beaches is hard to beat. If Hawaii weren't so far away, I imagine it would be a massively populated area. I imagine in time it probably will be anyway.

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