Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Panama Trip--Bliss

To begin, I just have to say that Panama was incredible and I really needed the time away from the office. We were in Panama from Dec 15-24, and I loved every minute of it. While there, each day I would type out what I had done, seen, etc., so I would not forget. Below is my diary kept during the trip. I have tried to put in links to different places we went and such.

I highly recommend the trip. Panama really is for everyone. It has nature, beaches, oceans, resorts, city life………….

Here are the links to my pics, both the slideshow and the pics.

Panama Trip Dec 2007

December 15 2007

Flight from Detroit to Miami left at 720 AM. Flight went great, landed in Miami at 1015 AM. Found our way to the next terminal, had a quick bite to eat, and then our flight to Panama City left at 11:20 AM. We are in the airplane right now as I type this. We are sitting next to a doctor from Panama City who is really interesting and giving Kurt advice on places to stay at and such. So far, trip has gone really smoothly. (BTW, by the end of the flight, said doctor was less interesting and we were ready to not talk to him anymore, LOL). Flew American Airlines again, and I am in love with this airline. We have flown them for every Central American trip we have taken, and the flights are always early or on time, very little or no turbulence, and on luggage lost. Not to mention best prices.....

Arrived in Panama City. Customs was very long lines though, ugh. You had to buy this tourist card and then wait in line to get through. Getting through was easy, and our luggage was waiting for us (because of the long wait at customs). Getting the rental car through Dollar was super easy and the car is very kewl--Toyota Land Cruiser. Drove to the hotel we wanted to stay at--Canopy Towers. The place is very different and I love it. We stayed on the top floor of rooms, which meant we were level to the treetops and could hear all the birds and animals. It is a former military base that was converted into a lodge. Dinner was incredible and the observation tower is so awesome. Met a couple who are scientists and here doing research….very interesting people. It was interesting, they had a teenager who was somehow able to travel with them for research and attend high school mostly online, out of Vancouver (where they live).

Had such a great first evening in Panama.

Dec 16 2007

Got up early to do a walk on Pipeline Road with a tour guide from the hotel (included with our room price). The hike was long and lasted from 630 AM until around 1215 PM. We saw a ton of really kewl birds, as well as Capuchin monkeys, sloths, agouti, coati…..Saw my fav bird, the toucan, and also saw a really kewl woodpecker I have never seen before, turkey vultures, motmots, blue cotingas and a yellow headed eagle (as well as a lot of other birds, but I am not good at remembering their names). There were four others on the tour and the one chick was soooo annoying. She had something to say about everything. We were ready to get away from her at the end of the walk. If you saw a sloth, she would have a story about a sloth or some fact to cite…..ha. I saw a snake at one point, and was like “it was probably a lizard that looked like a snake”….so, we just ignored her.

Had lunch at the hotel and then went for the drive across the country to David. The drive took longer than it should have because it was a torrential downpour most of the way, on and off. So, picked a good day to drive because we prob would not have done any more hiking in that weather. I got a semi-migraine on the drive that I got rid of around when we got to David. Then Kurt got a headache and is resting right now while I type. We just picked the first place we could find to stay at in David. David is crazy tonight, there is some kind of Xmas festival and parade downtown, so while Kurt is resting, I watched a parade and fireworks from the window seat in my room, which was pretty kewl. I am starving now, so I am hoping Kurt feels better soon so we can go out. On the drive when I was awake, saw some awesome birds flying and off the side of the road. Parrots were everywhere. It is so kewl to see parrots just flying in the wild.

Kurt woke up, and we went out to dinner next store to our hotel at a place called Café Jenny. The place was VERY Panamanian, I think Kurt and I were the only English speaking people there. We got SOO much food, and two pops. I had rice with shrimp and Kurt had fish and fries, and our bill was less than $10. Craziness. The parade I had been watching just got more insane. It has now been going on for like 4 hours and has not stopped. It’s like a huge party in David. We went outside and watched for a while, then went to the casino in our hotel to play Blackjack. Rules are slightly different here, and I thought the game was actually more fun. Joked around (as much as I can with my limited Spanish) with the dealers, pit bosses and other players and we came out like $27 ahead (most of it me, hehe). Went to this store across the street too--a grocery store like place. We needed contact solution and my face wash. Customs apparently went through my bag (checked) because we had one of those “we searched your bag” tags in the bag. They opened our contact solution and left it open (meaning most of it emptied out) and they TOOK my face wash (OK, updated after I got home, WHOOPSIE, my face wash was on my counter, no stealing by customs, LOL). No clue why, it’s not prescription or anything. So odd. Of course, all my “Americanized” products are more money here, but I was just thankful to find the right stuff, as I am picky about brands and beauty products.

Anyway, back in the room now and looking at where we are heading tomorrow. I am thinking either Volcan Baru or La Amistad, but who knows……..

By the way, the hotel tonight was only 22 dollars, which I thought was hilarious. Prob the cheapest place I have ever stayed in. But, because of the parade and craziness in this town tonight, we could not drive the main drag and look for something else, and I kinda like the place anyway……….Night.

Dec 17 2007

Got up early again and drove to Volcun Baru National Park. Found the hiking trail that we wanted, which is known for quetzals. Just the hike from where we parked to the ranger station was like 2 miles, up hill, on ground that was volcanic rock. About ¾ of the way up a taxi was coming down, and we asked for a ride. Paid the ranger, and headed down the trail. The trail is all downhill to the town of Boquete and about 6.2 miles. Sounds easy, right? Not. LOL. It was downhill, wet, muddy, slippery, and extremely dangerous. We went about two miles and it started to downpour. The next leg of our journey was almost straight downhill, and I really did not want to chance falling off a mountain, so we decided to turn around and head back to the car. We did see some kewl birds though and I love hiking through the cloud forests. By the time we got to the car, we were soaked to the core and freezing (which is funny since we are in Panama and it is hot here). Did get some great pics of the cloud forest though and the views from the high altitudes we were at. It was a gorgeous hike, despite the rain. Drove next to the little town of Bambito and got a room at Hotel Bambito. Our room is gorgeous, with a balcony that overlooks a pond with fish , ducks, birds, and lots of flowers. We are showering because we are freezing from the hike, then heading out again. More later. OK, went and walked around the hotel property. They have a really nice walk area with ponds and fish and ducks and other birds, and flowers galore. Booked two massages, then went to dinner at a place next to the hotel called Parilla Argentine. Our food was incredible. Had seafood soup, followed with tilapia for Kurt and some kind of fish for me too--don’t really know what kind, but it was incredible. The menu was all in Spanish and was argentine, so we were having issues with some of the language. Good whatever it was, LOL. Just had my massage, and it was awesome. I am so sore from the hiking (especially today’s terrain) so the massage about killed me, but I needed it. Kurt is getting his right now. I think we are going to had to La Amistad National Park tomorrow, and then possibly Bocas del Toros the next day, but we will see……

Dec 18 2007

Got up this morning and had breakfast at the hotel (free with our room). Headed to La Amistad Park just to have to turn around because the road was being worked on and nobody could pass. Bummer. Although we can apparently also get there from Bocas del Toro, so maybe we will go then. Stopped in David next and bought plane tickets to Bocas del Toro for tomorrow. Decided to head to Boquete instead. Boquete is supposedly a really “Americanized” area meaning mostly that a lot of Americans are moving there. The area is totally cute. Reminded me a lot of Jaco in Costa Rica. Really laid back environment. Anyway, we had lunch at this awesome place downtown called Delicias del Peru. The food was incredible. I had a seafood soup to start with, followed with a sea bass that was awesome. Kurt had some odd appetizer that was something potatoes with cheese, followed by some kind of spicy fish. After that, we headed to Finca Lerida to hike. It is a coffee plantation, that it surrounded by primary and secondary rain forest. Did two of trails there, both of which were very kewl. The first was on the edge of the mountain with really kewl views of the mountain, forest and coffee fields. The second was though the forest and awesome. I don’t think many people hike there because a lot of it was overgrown and hard to find the trail to walk on. Saw lots of little birds. Sat in an opening in the field after the hike and just listened to the birds and forest and relaxed, then hiked back to the car. Next, we drove back into Boquete and bought strawberry milkshakes to cool down (they grow a lot of strawberries in that region of the country). So yummy. Then, we drove back to David for the night and we are staying at the Gran Hotel Nacional. Our room is really nice. We decided to go and walk around the shopping downtown area, which totally reminded me of San Jose, Costa Rica (but slightly less insane). Went in some stores to check out the prices and they have some amazing deals on tennis shoes here. Pumas are so much cheaper than in the US. Anyway, after that, had dinner in a pizzeria/Italian place at the hotel, which was so good. I had shrimp pizza and Kurt had pizza with olives and onions. Checked out the casino next (at the hotel), but I decided to come back to the room because I am exhausted, and kurt went to go play blackjack for a little while. Night…..

Dec 19 2007

Got up and checked out of our hotel and headed to the airport for our flight to Bocas del Toro. Flight was great even though Kurt was freaked out by the small plane with two propellers on the front. The landing was awesome, better than any big plane I have been on. Got there and hopped in a taxi to the hotel I had picked out, the Bocas Inn, hoping there would be a room. There was. Got the room for two nights, and headed to lunch. We had lunch at the Hotel El Limbo Restaurant on the water. Super good. I had lobster crepes that were to die for. Kurt had tuna and olive crepes and we split an appetizer of bruschetta. Yum. After that, headed back to the hotel to change and talk to the tour lady about doing a jungle tour tomorrow. Set that up, then headed to a water taxi to go to the beach. Red Frog Beach is what we wanted. Got the taxi and took the 10 minute boat ride to Isla Bastimentos which is where the beach is. Hiked a short path to the beach and saw two red frogs on the way. They are totally adorable. Got to the beach and basically lazed around all day. Slept, walked on the beach, etc. it was really, really nice. Hopped on the taxi back to the main island, showered, than walked around the downtown area. Really reminds me of Tamarindo in Costa Rica. Stopped into a couple bars for Happy Hour and had a banana daiquiri and a pineapple daiquiri at two different places. The one place was kewl because the deck was surrounded by water on two sides. After that, had dinner at a place called Lemongrass which had amazing food. I had shrimp stir fry in some kind of spicy sauce and Kurt had some kind of king fish meal with rice. We split spring rolls as an appetizer. Walked around more downtown, then headed to the hotel to sit on the deck overlooking the water. It started to rain, so now we are in our room for the night. Night.

Dec 20 2007

Today we took a tour with Ancon Expeditions. We first went on a boat to Isla Bastimentos to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere Had to put our food order for lunch in the morning so it would be ready. Then we headed to an indigenous village on Isla Bastimentos where a villager took us on a tour of the jungle and the village. In the jungle, we saw a 2 toed sloth, a 3 toed sloth, night monkeys, a basililk (a lizard like creature that can kill a dog in a fight), red poison dart frogs and a caiman. The village was pretty kewl--all the younger kids ran around naked or half clothed saying “Hola”. After that, we headed to a coral reef for snorkeling, which I have never done. It was incredible. I saw so many colors of coral and a ton of fish, my fav was the parrot fish. Then, we went to lunch which was awesome. After that, headed to Red Frog Beach to relax. Swam in the ocean and saw a girl almost drown. One of the ladies on our tour helped save her. Took a long walk on the beach and relaxed. After that, came back to the our hotel and headed to dinner and for drinks. Had dinner at The Reef and had Panamanian food tonight (creole red snapper for me and garlic red snapper for Kurt). Hung out at the hotel with people we had met the rest of the night on the deck over the water. Tomorrow morning we leave for David. Night.

Dec 21 2007

Got up in morning and ate breakfast at the hotel, then headed to the airport to fly back to David. Flight left a little bit late, and we got to David at around 1030 AM. Stopped at an Internet Café to book our room in Panama City, then started the long drive back to Panama City (was a lot quicker this time with no rain storm. Got to panama city and finally found the hotel, which was a crazy thing. Panama city is INSANE. People drive like maniacs, honking, don’t use turn signals, etc. Hotel is super nice. Kurt says he thinks it is the nicest place he has ever stayed in. It’s a Wyndham, called Veneto. I picked it because there is a casino in it and restaurants, but we have not yet used the casino or ate there. Went and walked around to a bunch of stores on a main road and bought Kurt some sunglasses. Then went to dinner at a place called Madame Changs, which was incredible. Yum. We split a Spring Roll (which had the most amazing sweet and sour sauce with it). Had a Szechuan shrimp meal and Kurt had a black bean fish meal. Awesome food and service. Got back to the hotel and went to bed.

Dec 22 2007

Got up today and had breakfast at the hotel (included with room). Great buffet. Headed to the Pacque Metropolitano Nacional to hike. It started pouring on our way there, so we headed instead to the Albrook Mall (an outlet mall near Panama City) to walk around. While walking around, we saw a dentist office offering laser teeth whitening for cheap. Went in to inquire and found out it was much cheaper than the US, so we decided to go for it. The process worked awesome, although it was kinda uncomfortable, sitting there with your mouth held open for an hour and a half. After that, had lunch at the mall and headed back to the park. Hiked one of the longer trails and saw a bunch of agouti, a quetzal, and a lot of other birds. After that, headed back to the hotel for a quick nap, then headed to the spa at the hotel for massages. The spa is super nice. The women’s area has a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, showers, etc. The massage was really good, and we then headed to dinner at a place called Café Pomodoro. Cheap and SOOO good. I had capellini with spicy marinara. Back in the room now and going to sleep…….

Dec 23 2007

Got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Then headed on our tour. The tour started out with an aerial tram tour of the rain forest. Very kewl. We saw this awesome toucan on the top of a tree. With the tram tour, you started by taking this tram to a part of the rain forest, it went slowly above the trees. Once you got there, you hiked through some rain forest, and then walked up this 90 foot structure to a viewing platform. That is where we got to watch this toucan. Anyway, the views were incredible, we could see the Panama Canal, Gatun Lake, etc. Took tram back and had lunch at Gamboa Rainforest Resort (where the trip started). Then, we headed on the Monkey Island tour. This was on a boat, and went into the Panama Canal and onto Gatun Lake. We saw a lot of kewl stuff on this tour including a boa constrictor swimming on top of the water, howler monkeys in the trees, including a baby howler monkey that had to be about the cutest thing I have ever seen. He was so brave, at the top of a tree just swinging thru branches and hanging by his tiny little tail. Went Monkey Island where I saw the most capuchins I have ever seen at once. The monkeys come up to the boat and we were able to feed them bananas and grapes. One grabbed a piece of banana from both Kurt and my hands. Also saw some kewl birds. After that, headed back to the hotel and went shopping on the main strip near our hotel. Kurt bought a wood necklace with a toucan carved into it for himself and a little carving of a red poison dart frog for his desk at the office. I bought a wooden bowl that was carved by the Embera Indians in Panama. It is very kewl. I may put it on my desk at the office or in my china cabinet at home. Kinda odd because we rarely buy anything on vacay. Had dinner at the same place as last night, Café Pomodoro. It was pouring rain but we still got to eat outside because part of the outside is covered. It was really nice. After that, went to bed.

Dec 24

Today, we had breakfast and are just relaxing and chilling before packing to leave on our trip home. We are both really worn out and cant wait to see the pugs and Bugsy…….Merry Xmas!


Amanda said...

Awesome. And what a great idea to keep a journal and transcribe it here....I LOVED your pictures, too!!

.................Nancy said...

Lori, as always your pictures are amazing!! I almost feel as if I was there!.. well it's snowstormin' outside so not quite, but it made me feel as if I 'discovered' Panama a tiny bit hehe.

mw said...

Nice overview of Panama! Thank you! I'm thinking of going in March and April so this helps me get a great idea of what it's like. Sounds like you had a great time.

Panama City said...

I love the way you described Panama. I loved it as much as you and thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about this wonderful country with us. Who knows maybe we see each other one day in Panama :)

Anonymous said...

Fabulous blog. Thanks for posting. We have been to the Osa many times and love it there but thought we would try Panama. Please advise if Panama wildlife viewing is as prolific as the Osa.
Have a great day,