Stuffy in Panama

Sunday, April 06, 2014
Panama City, Panama
Panama is hot. Not that that is a shock to anyone, but it's hot and humid like Costa Rica, and I now remember that feeling of walking outside and immediately dripping with perspiration. Night time is a bit better, at least with the sun down. It's stuffy both in terms of the weather and some of its people. I've come across some very nice people, but also some not-as-nice. Again, a difference from Costa Rica where everyone was pleasant.  

I also learned that cabbies honking at you as they pass by on the street aren't necessarily out to help . That could be the case, but it also might mean they suck as drivers and are pushy. Such was the case with "Manuel." He gave me a ride to Miraflores Lock, part of the Panama Canal. On two occasions, he spat out the window. He also was trying to convince me to let him pick me up when I was done touring. I told him I didn't know how long I would be there. He proceeded to give me his mobile (after I told him I don't have a phone) so we could "communicate." Yeah, that got tossed right away. Thanks, but no thanks, Manny. Most other cabbies have been fine. Monica warned me they will try to rip me off because of my hair color, and that has happened, so then I walk to someone else or ask them to lower it, and that has also worked.  

Once I got to the canal, it was pretty fascinating, watching 29 million gallons of water fill in that lock so the boats could rise. The canal is about 50 miles long and it takes ships about 8-10 hours to get through. I'm really glad I got to see that in action . There was a bit of TBH (Tour Bus Hell), but that was to be expected and I maneuvered my way around people well enough.  

After the locks, I rented a bike and took a ride down the Amador Causeway, a series of 4 small islands near the Pacific side entrance of the canal. The lady renting me the bike at Moses Bike Shop was also not pleasant. I wasn't fast enough getting my money out, and then when I realized I didn't have another dollar for the $3.50 bike rental and handed her a $20 bill, would think I had thrown a pie in her face. Sheesh. 

Once I got squared away with the Wicked Witch of Panama, I was on my merry way and biking the Causeway. The sun was out and it was scorching. Looking at downtown Panama City from this viewpoint was great. After this, I realized I had gotten a little pink and decided to head back to my room to rest. My guidebook even recommends staying in shade during the hours of 12-3 when the sun is at its strongest . I also remember that in Costa Rica we had to spend limited time outdoors, as it gets to be too much.  

I took a little nap, and made my way back to Casco Viejo, the historical area of Panama. The buildings are run down, but some are renovated. It's a poor area, but with a ton of character and tourists. At night, it's not recommended to be there, but during the day I felt fine. After having some lavender gelato from Granclement, I took a cab to Mercado de Mariscos and ate fresh ceviche with a cold cerveza among the locals and blaring music. That was pretty fun and very needed.   

Panama City has some lovely views and green areas. It's easy to get around, too. I don't want Manuel, Wicked Witch and some other minor characters to taint your impression. But it's also a large city, and cities tend to be different. Besides Barcelona, my favorite places in my travels are usually not the big cities, but the smaller towns, and I think there is a reason for that. 

This evening I had dinner at El Trapiche, a traditional Panamanian place, where I had sancocho, their national dish and some yucca fries. It was a nice way to end the day, and now I'm prepping for my day at San Blas Island. This is where the Kuna tribe lives, and I will be off the grid until Tuesday. It should be fascinating and interesting!  

Hasta Luego,


aunt sandy

Jamie it all looks fascinating as I once again travel vicariously with you..take care and BE careful...keep me in the loop love ya..aunt S


Lavender gelato? Mmmm... And I agree with you about small towns vs. big cities when traveling. Love following your travels, Jamie!

Scott Bader

Just catching up now on your entries....sounds like Manuel was a real punk, but things seem good otherwise. The see-bee-chay must've been pretty tasty!