Panama City & El Valle – Panama

First things first, to get in the mood for our next post please play this song for your listening pleasure!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-NshzYK9y0

Day 1 – Settling into Panama City

We landed in Panama City and it was clear right away that we weren’t in Kansas anymore! Immigration services was super organized and the authorities were using facial recognition software and finger and thumb print scanners. After getting our closeups taken, we walked five minutes out of the airport to a bus stop. Rather than paying $30.00 USD for a taxi or shuttle, we paid a a couple of bucks to jump on a bus playing Need For Speed in Spanish, equipped with sub woofers and BLASTING the AC. We had forgotten what AC felt like (but we would be swiftly reminded!) We had rented a studio apartment through Air B&B in the hip downtown area of La Cangreja. It was clear there was $money$ in the city and also a Freshii! We’d made some friends in Nicaragua who’d given us the lowdown on the public transit system in Panama and raved about it’s efficiency. BUT FIRST, you need a card for the bus. They had given us their old one so we were able to load it up with $5 and cruise on the AC controlled buses and metro to our hearts content (buses @ 0.25 cents/Metro @0.35 cents and works like the London Tube if that means anything).

Day 2 – The Panama Canal

A commercial ship going through the locks of Panama Canal.
A commercial ship going through the locks of Panama Canal.

What do you do in Panama? You visit the Panama Canal! Tickets aren’t cheap at $15.00 USD pp but you get access to a birds eye view, a short film, and a tour of the museum. Tourists are able to look at the old but still operational Locks. As a result of bigger ships being used for commercial transportation, a new lock system was completed in July of 2016. Unfortunately, the tour doesn’t take you to the new system. We wanted to see a boat passing through the locks so we were told to arrive between 9AM – 10AM. Apparently if you arrive after 11AM the Locks close (or are not as busy). After checking out the Canal we stopped in at Albrook Mall, which is also a main transportation hub for the Metro. It is massive and super modern.

Day 3 – Casco Viejo

 Casco Viejo is such a treat! It’s really a cute colonial town with lots of nice shops and restaurants but be prepared to pay for it! Clair paid over $10 for a Mojito! Maybe we’re still in a bit of a sticker shock since Nicaragua but MAN the American dollar is KILLING US. Panama has their own currency, the Balboa, but they basically use the American dollar interchangeably. Lesson to us all, buy when the dollar is high! We cabbed home from here at night as apparently the surrounding areas are kinda sketchy.

Day 4 – Walking the Cinta Costera

Panama City skyline
Panama City skyline

We were really lucky to find a small gym in Panama City (literally in the back of a parkade where it looks like you’re going to be murdered) but on Sunday you go to the Cinta Costera. It’s a coastal strip along the Bay of Panama connecting the new downtown area filled with skyscrapers with the old Casco Viejo district. Fun Fact, Panama City is rated 22nd in the world for the amount of sky scrapers in a city. Every Sunday this coastal highway closes to traffic between 6 – 11 am. This scenic stretch transforms into an exercise playground overtaken by cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, etc. We decided to walk along the strip, but of course it had to be an absolute scorcher of a day. Pretty sure Kik was seconds away from collapsing of heat stroke. We actually had to sit in the shade for a few minutes so he could regroup like an old man. We made it home alive and ate a bag of Cheetos, drank a bottle of wine, and watched the Detroit Lions lose (again). As if we were nocturnal, we waited for the sun to set to once again walk the streets. Conveniently, movies in Cinemas are shown in English here with Spanish subtitles. We went for a late movie at 10:25 PM, Clair lasted 15 minutes before she was fast asleep (Clair – I’m f@#$ing adorable.)

Day 5/6/7 – Off to El Valle de Anton

Atop La India Dormida, El Valle de Anton - Panama
Atop La India Dormida, El Valle de Anton – Panama

 

 

Having spent a couple of days in the big city we decided to check out what the countryside had to offer. We were really interested in heading out to Bocas del Toro and Boquete which are very clearly the most popular destinations in Panama but it was nearly 10 hours to get up there and we couldn’t justify the travel when realistically we had to be moving on to Colombia soon.

ANYWAYS, after some research we headed to the Albrook Bus station and hopped on a micro-bus ($3.50 USD pp). After about 2.5 hours we arrived at the Bodhi Hostel and Lounge (one of the best hostels we’ve stayed at!). Bring a sweater on these micro-busses as they crank the AC and you can’t control it. El Valle is higher up in the mountains and nestled in an old volcano crater so the weather is quite cool. It reminded us a lot of Monteverde, Costa Rica. We made some really good friends at our hostel (all German!!) and together we hiked La India Dormida ($3 USD pp). We went by the back side of the mountain which took us about 2 hours. There was only one short steep part so Clair didn’t completely lose her mind. From our hostel you could see that a pink tarp had been laid down on one of the peaks. We later found out it was covering one of the ‘breasts’ of the Indian Dormida as a reminder of breast cancer awareness. Near the end of our hike there’s a waterfall and pools that you can swim in (SUPER FUN!).

Swimming in a waterfall pool in El Valle de Anton - Panama
Swimming in a waterfall pool in El Valle de Anton – Panama

 

 

Finally we were off to the hot springs to soaks our legs ($3 USD)! There’s also some mud you can smear on your face… So of course we did. It’s a fun thing to do but to be completely honest it’s a little grungy and kinda reminded us of the bottom of a pool in a shitty zoo…

We walked back to the hostel via Calle de Millionares (yes, that translates to the Road of Millionaires) and it’s aptly named for the beautiful yards and homes.

After (another) pancake breakfast, we hopped on the micro-bus heading back to Panama City and met up with our group for our tour of the San Blas Islands with San Blas Adventures that we will be heading out on at 4:30AM tomorrow morning!

We can’t wait to tell you all about upon our arrival in Colombia!

 

 

 

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