Panama

Panama – Last stop in our Central America trip before hitting South America.

Here we continued the island life, I tried surfing for the first time and had to be hauled back to land by a 10 year old kid named Junior Jorge because I got sea sick after 15 minutes, went further down south to the capital & recuperated at a friend’s house for about 10 days after being on the road for a few months, visited old city of Panama, had Asian food after a few months and it felt so good, jogged at night in the parks and felt safe – which felt liberating after months of heading back indoors once the sun set, swam at night and watched the stars, had a free hotel stay as the airline overbooked the flight we were on, watched the whole 90 episode of this awesome Chinese drama series 步步惊心 in about 10 days – booyah, bought this cute little green umbrella which made it with me all the way to Machu Picchu but think it broke after that, had fresh cerviche here at the fish market, basically really relaxing way to wrap up Central America.
Was a bit hard to go from living in a friend’s apartment with awesome views to going back to hostels again in Colombia but who ever said it was easy eh 🙂

BOCAS DEL TORO

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After Puerto Viejo, we bussed down to the top of Panama – Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Where you see a plethora of star fishes as you wade through the clear blue water.
Where everyone surfs.
Where life slows down.

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Since everyone surfed, I had to try it once, and where else but the famous La Escuela del Mar Surf School, Panama.

Verdict : Well, I blame it on weak arms and not taking a motion sickness pill. I was basically unable to fight back the waves while paddling back, drank too much sea water, and had extreme seasickness.
Jorge (That kid in blue, he’s only 10 but super awesome surfer) had to drag me all the way back to shore where I proceeded to vomit & purge out everything I had that day, mostly sea water and collapsed on the white sand, laughing at how Jorge, only of 10 years of age, had the strength to drag lousy me all the way back and continued to wade back into the big waves and do his crazy good surfs.
Lesson: Seasickness pills are that important. And if you don’t have muscles on your arms, forget it. At least for me.

PANAMA CITY

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A friend generously gave us a room in his beautiful apartment to rest in this stop.

I recall  being picked up by the friend on a cab (yay to not having to figure out connections), arriving at the awesome white apartment, bbqs by the pool one weekend, Icecream in the old town of Panama, night jogs to a nearby park. I remember doing some Mandarin translation for his work, quite fun. I wished I repaid this generosity back then with a meal or something, but money was a bit tight especially months on the road. Definitely makes me even more grateful to them.

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The crew in Old Panama city after ice cream.

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Sun set. New Panama.

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Night scape of the city.

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Panama definitely had a lot more Asian stuff going on with a small population of Chinese immigrants from Canton, thanks to the Panama Canal and trade that goes on around it.

I needed to satisfy my intense craving for Asian food, and found a place run by Taiwanese couple. And spoke some Chinese. Home! I know, I’m supposed to embrace the lovely Latin American culture but sometimes, its just nice to see someone who looks like you, behaves more similarly to you and have some food that is familiar to you.

Here in Panama, they even have Decaffeinated Diet Coke, I almost cried when I saw it. If you guys didn’t know, I’m a decaf coke-aholic. Rehabilitating pretty well now, I go on for months without it, occasionally succumbing to 2-for-$3 sale and having them with breakfast. A food let in – Coke and Spam : Best combi ever.

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As our flight to Colombia was overbooked (airline’s fault), we got treated to a huge fancy hotel suite at Hotel Panama and best hotel buffet in the best hotel in Panama! (According to lonely planet)
Such luxury on a backpacking trip is like giving me a pot of gold. Hot water shower, proper toilets, nice beds, TV, AC, nice food. Definitely welcomed this change.
Courtesy of Copa Airlines 🙂 Gracias!

 

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View from the room – Downtown of Panama, I remember walking so much in this city. Like we literally walked everywhere.

I guess when you travel on a shoe string, you really rough it out. I’m glad I did it once and seen most of it.
If I were to do it now, I might just pick a country or two, explore it more for maybe a maximum of 3 months and maybe not rough it out that much anymore.
I mean, 5 years ago my bones could do it, now…

Final thoughts : New Panama was all glitz and glam with nice apartments, usually meant for foreigners who came here to work. This part of the city is advancing/developing at such a rapid speed it makes me wonder about its sustainability. Cross over to another part of town and you see the real Panama, the one where the locals lived, locals left poor, parts where they live were messy and undeveloped with money mainly seeping into the pockets of foreigners who went there for work. Just my thoughts and opinions of course. I recall feeling back then that an uprising could occur. It just felt so unfair. But then again, I am just passing through, what do I know.
Big plus point for foreigners thought-no tax on your salary. NADA. Man, that is one huge carrot hung in front of your face.

It was definitely a much need rest stop here before taking on South America, where bus rides were no longer 10 hours but 30 hours each leg, where experiences got even more amazing, where we got stranded at the bolivia-chile border near Atacama Desert because the last bus at 9am left and what else could I do but sat down, took out my book calmly and started reading by the police shack, where I saw the beautiful country of Bolivia and spent nights in Amazon basin, tasted the best grapes in Chile, saw the mighty Andes Mountain at Macchu Picchu, walked down streets of Bueno Aires, and got blown away by the gorgeous Christ Redeemer in Rio De Janerio.

So excited just recalling all these memories, can’t wait to share more ! Stay tune

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