Check out pictures of Panama Here. Enjoy!
Filed under: Panama
Currently typing from an internet cafe in El Valle, just got here about an hour ago. Yesterday was another fun day in Panama City, but it was a tiring one- I needed some space. It is really nice to be out here in El Valle. It is much quieter, much more homely, and I feel a lot safer. I am almost reminded of Thailand being here- there is greenery everywhere, and it is a very laid back place.
Yesterday I braved El Diablo Rojo again (those crazy Panamanian buses) and made it to Panama Viejo, the old part of the city. There were crumbling ruins everywhere. Now, I am not really much of a person for crumbling ruins, but it was still interesting to check out. What was the most interesting to me was that the guards were so concerned about my safety, because I was walking down the path alone (Panama Viejo is not in an enclosed space, in fact it is in between a road, so many cars drive by). After debating about what to do for about 10 minutes, the guards decided that one of them was going to follow me around on his bike and stand around menacingly while I was allowed to take as many pictures as I wanted. Though I thought this a bit unneccesary, I deeply appreciated the extra precautions. Panamanian people are so nice.
I then headed over to the Panama Canal, the Mireflores Locks (one of the locks in Panama Canal that is probably the most famous since it is the tourist destination to see the Panama Canal). Wow. It was really, really interesting. I got there at the time when huge cargo ships were passing through. I just sat there in awe for over an hour, watching them move these huge cargo ships from one higher body of water to a lower one. Intense.
I ended my day at Albrook Terminal, which is basically the largest bus terminal in Panama. Right next to it is HUGE mall. I wandered around a lot licking an ice cream cone. I was shocked to find that in most cases things were MORE expensive than they were in the United States. Since the US dollar is used here, I dont need to do crazy conversions in my head to figure out how much I am actually paying. I found a really cool pair of boots- $125 dollars. WHAT? No thank you.
However, I DID decide to finally watch The Hangover (which in Spanish is, ¿Que paso ayer? This means “What happened yesterday?”) and it only cost me $3.25. Exact same kind of movie theatre, same popcorn, same exact theatre. $3.25. This makes me very angry at the US for charging an obviously exorbitant amount of money to go see a movie. Also, a small popcorn was $1.30. Screw you, American movie theatres. I am glad I got to see the movie. It was hilarious, and even more so with a group of Panamanians, who appreciate everything (the movie was in English, with Spanish subtitles).
Panama has been a great experience, and I am enjoying El Valle. But I am definitely ready to go back to Costa Rica, to a nice bed with a hot shower. ¿Que pasaré mañana? We shall see.
Filed under: Panama
Pardon the lack of conjugation since I am typing from a Spanish keyboard and am not yet used to one.
Panama is absolutely crazy. I dont even know where to begin. I started my first experience in Panama by braving the Diablo Rojo, an bus that is just about as crazy as the country itself. It is basically a school bus in brightly painted colors, and they are used for transportation all over Panama City. Most tourists take a taxi from the airport into the city. However, a taxi costs 7 dollars, and a bus costs 25 cents. Besides, what is better than the experience of an insanely crowded bus, all goggling at the only strange white tourist?
The strangest part about Panama is that the US dollar is their currency. I did not expect to be using the US dollar here, but I am. I paid a quarter for the bus ticket. There are a few things I promptly realized when I started paying with US currency here. One, our coins are freaking tiny compared to other countries. Two, I felt as if I had time warped to the 1950s, because everything is SO CHEAP here that I feel I could recount the stories that your granparents told you- ´´when I was a kid, a sandwich only cost 10 cents´´ kind of deal.
The city. Panamanian crazyness. I dont know if I can last too long here. It is absolutely chaotic. I am happy that I am staying in probably the safest area of Panama City- the business district, El Cangrejo. Apparently next to five star hotels, there is one for eight dollars a night. Its in a safe area. I am happy.
Yesterday I went to Casco Antiguo, the old part of town. I have never in my life seen such a stark contrast of rich and poor. There are absolutely GORGEOUS buildings- they look like they were imported directly from Tuscany, Italy. And they are standing right next to crumbling, dilapidated slum houses. I have never felt so confused. There were cobblestone streets leading into wineries and restaurants with impeccably dressed waiters greeting you politely outside. Then there were people from the slums, dressed in dirty clothes, the frown lines in their face set in deep from so many years of hard work, dragging their children down the street. It was the most beautifully depressing place I have ever seen.
Like I said, I am staying in a very cheap hostel. I am staying in a room with five other people, with no fan (and the Panamanian sun is the devil, all right), a substandard shower, and a pretty unclean hostel. Thats ok, I can rough it for a few days. What I DIDNT expect was going out to dinner (especially dressed how I was and after sweating all day) to one of the nicest restaurants in Panama. I went out to dinner with two fellow hostel girls from Switzerland, who said that there was a Swiss restaurant in Panama they really wanted to go to because they had been traveling for a month and a half and missed home. When we showed up at the restaurant, my jaw dropped. There was a man dressed in a suit playing dainty music on a white piano. A live lobster lay on a dinner plate in the middle of the piano. This was by far the nicest restaurant I have ever been to while traveling.
But I decided to go along with it. Sometimes, you just need to treat yourself well. And let me tell you, nothing is better than expecting you are going to rough it for a few days, and then suddenly you go out to an unbelievably nice dinner. Also, in reality it wasnt VERY expensive- this is Panama, after all. I had a sudden hankering for Salmon when we were there, so I ordered Salmon carpaccio for dinner-12 dollars. It was some of the best salmon I have ever had in my life, and I felt that the 12 dollars were well spent. The conversation was great, the food was great, and the bathroom even had lotion that I ended up slathering all over my dried up shoulders from so much sun. It was a great way to end the day.
Today I plan to go to Panama Viejo, ruins in Panama City, and finally check out the Panama Canal. I got some sound advice from the two Swiss girls to go to this place called The Valle, a little town in the mountains two hours away from here. I think Im going to head there tomorrow- theres only so much time you can spend in this city.
Until then friends, much love,
Is that there is only a certain amount of time you have to be in one place, and SO many things to choose from.
I am going to Panama for four days this weekend. I am very, very excited, because I have never been to Panama before, and who knows whether I’ll ever have such an experience again? This is how I go into traveling- ‘I may never have this experience again.’ The anticipation of being in a country for only four days makes me feel very rushed. I’ve been poring over Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring; Panama section.
I first planned this ridiculous itinerary that was somewhat affordable for my price range. I get into Panama at 10:50 AM tomorrow. Then I will run over to Casco Viejo to check out the old part of Panama, catch this crazy bus to the Mireflores Locks to see Panama Canal, and end the day in Mi Pueblitos, a kind of old town of Panama that sells indigenous crafts, food, and has dance performances. After that I would take an overnight bus to David, Panama’s second largest city (and for those of you that take overnight buses, you know I won’t be getting a lot of sleep). Then I would arrive in David at 3 AM (ouch, sketchy), and take an hour long bus at 6 AM to Boquete, this amazingly beautiful village (from what Lonely Planet describes at least…and let’s be honest here, can we REALLY trust Lonely Planet?) that has gorgeous views and lots of places to hike around. Then the next morning I would take a four hour bus to Bocas Del Toro, the ‘party’ place of Panama where apparently all of the gorgeous beaches in Panama are. I would hang out there for a day and half, finally taking an overnight bus back to Costa Rica.
First off, that entire itinerary sounds mouth-wateringly amazing. Here is the problem. A) There is no way that I can feasibly accomplish all of this and enjoy it at the same time, B) there are ALWAYS going to be problems that will pop up- my flight will be delayed and I won’t have time to see the parts of Panama City I really wanted to, the overnight bus to David will break down in the middle of nowhere (yes, this happened to me in India), Boquete is apparently cold at night and I will freeze with the small amount of clothes I have to take, etc. Will I see a lot of sights of Panama? Yes. Will I take lots of beautiful amazing pictures that look like I’m having the time of my life? Yes. Will I actually get to ENJOY being in the country? No. I will be majorly tired from driving around to a million places.
So, I decided to scratch the itinerary and just kick it in Panama City for the weekend. There’s a million things to do there, a million things to check out, and I feel that I need to give it at LEAST three day’s justice to see everything that I want. That gives me enough leisure time to actually get even a moment’s glimpse of what the life is like there, instead of always on the road.
This is the choice that I made. I wish that I had two, or three weeks to check out Panama. I wish I had a few days to check out Panama City, then I could leisurely make my way to David- then Boquete- then Bocas del Toro- and then even get to visit the indigenous Kuna islands in the south. But I have four days. And I am going to make the most of four days, even if that means just hanging out in Panama City.
In my opinion, this is the problem with traveling. When I was backpacking through Europe, I went to Switzerland for about four days. I totally panicked- ‘this could be my ONLY time in Switzerland, I have to see EVERYTHING, I have to check out Interlaken and Bern and Laussane and head over to Zurich-’ well guess what. It was my worst travel experience. I was trying to experience everything SO much, that I completely tired myself out and just ended up kind of passing out in my hostel room for most of the time that I was there. My iPod got stolen on the train. I felt homesick. I don’t want to have that kind of experience again.
I am going to be traveling around South America for six weeks, and I am having the same problem. I want to visit EVERY country on the continent. I know that this isn’t feasible at all. I’ve cut it down four countries. I’m sad that I won’t get to check out Bolivia, or Uruguay, or spend a lavishingly long amount of time in Brazil (let alone go there at all). I’m sad that I’m not going to see Easter Island in Chile (well mostly this is because the flight there was $800. Ridiculous.) But I would rather spend my time enjoying the fact that I AM in one country, rather than preparing myself to dash off to the next one.
So that is my tip of the day friends. Chill out and enjoy the place that you’re in.
Panama adventure starts tomorrow. I can’t wait.