One ridiculous, insane day in Panama City

Trip Start Jan 10, 2013
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Trip End Jun 06, 2013


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Today, what would be my 100th day in Playa Coco but is actually my first day out and about in the world again, marks one of the most ridiculous days of travelling to date. Oh Panama City. Let me paint this for you. I arrived, extremely early this morning, the city looked pretty cool when I arrived and I had read in Lonely Planet that Panama City had often been compared to Miami, except that more people spoke English in PC. Go figure. This meant that I wasn't going to have to work too hard with a very, very tired brain on my only day there. I was pretty excited; Panama City supposedly had this gorgeous old part of the city with decrepit colonial buildings, it sounded like a fun day for me. Except first I wanted to go and get a $5 yellow fever jab. Less exciting. Now everyone I had spoken to this about, who had been here before, told me they saw tons of signs for said jab. Remember it's 55 in England, I thought it would be clever getting it now considering it lasts for 10 years. Oh silly, silly Sarah.

It all seemed so easy, I found out where to go, what yellow fever was in Spanish and took everything I would need with me for the rest of my day. I thought I'd been done in half an hour. Again silly Sarah. After getting some much needed cash from money grabbing HSBC I hopped in my first taxi. Thankfully the taxi was a bargainous $2.50 for my journey. Unfortunately the driver was super chatty and I really did not have the brain function to speak in Spanish right then. I thought everyone spoke English here? I arrived at my FIRST place, take note of that, Seguro Social, which yes means Social Security but apparently it's a hospital, who knew! I was immediately stopped by the security guard who informed me that I couldn't go into the hospital in shorts...no seriously. I was confused to say the least, I didn't think I was entering a convent or a church but a HOSPITAL. No nuns do not work here. What if I'd been bleeding to death and they told me they couldn't treat me because my legs were out. Weird. Luckily I had bought my rain jacket with me and I managed to fashion a hideous but suitable jacket skirt to get into the bloody place.

I really had no idea where I was going and it was here I discovered that Lonely Planet is a mother trucking LIAR. More English than Miami my fucking arse! NO ONE spoke English. Not even the doctors or nurses. LIARS!!! I eventually was told that I apparently could not get the jab there so I was sent to another place...into another taxi I got! I eventually arrived and explained IN SPANISH, including showing them the piece of paper I had with 'yellow fever vaccination' just to make 100% sure. Apparently I couldn't get it done there EITHER. By this point I felt like screaming as I now had to get into my third taxi to go to a place called Miraflores to get the jab. This was now $5 rather than $2.50. Say WHAT. The driver asked me if I wanted to go to the canal on the way, or something, as it was on the way. When in Rome right, I hadn't planned to go there but thought I might as well do something productive as I was now 1.5 hours into my day with nothing productive to show for it. I had not been stabbed in the arm I had just spent an alarming amount of time in taxis.

Oh my, my. We eventually arrived to 'Miraflores' which apparently was the Panama Canals. I was VERY confused, I looked around to see if I could find some kind of hospital in the vicinity but couldn't so I went and spoke to the people who worked in the ticket office. I went and managed to find someone who actually spoke England, thank you Jesus. That took a LONG time. Anyway I asked about the hospital and that I was trying to find a yellow fever vaccination. Apparently there was no clinic there but in their exhibition at the Panama Canal they did have information or a history of yellow fever and what it did to the population. WHAT THE F!!!! HOW could someone think I wanted to find out the HISTORY of yellow fever when I clearly said I needed the vaccination. I will come back round to people always sending me to retarded places later.

As I was at the Panama Canal anyway I paid $5 to go to the viewing platform to check it out. Well that was another wasted $5. One side = ooh look a canal, other side = ooh look more canal. Yes it's a huge engineering feat and all that jazz but man it's boring to look at. So after 10 minutes I was back in my 4th taxi of the day or 5th if you count my first one from the bus station at 4am. These guys tried to charge me an absolute fortune to get back into town but I am not some stupid tourist and got them to drop their price by about 80%, amateurs.

Finally I arrived in Casco Viejo the old part of Panama City, finally somewhere I was meant to be today. I really loved it actually; it's also sort of the rough area of the city because it's kind of the dilapidated part of the city. But it is also really pretty, and I like dilapidated. All of the buildings are colourful and run down, or wooden or in ruins and all in a colonial style. There's also this amazing graffiti everywhere, you really have to call it art rather than scribbling on a wall. It's definitely a bit of a maze as well, I spent a long time trying to find somewhere for lunch before falling into an expensive cafe that had amazing food AND salt and vinegar crisps. I didn't have dinner last night so it's definitely ok to treat yourself every now and then, especially when salt and vinegar crisps are involved. Afterwards I decided to walk back into the city along the shore line because it gave great views of the city. It definitely did, although I also got shouted at by a police man for climbing on a wall to take a photo, nazi, but man it was FAR and it was absolutely boiling as well. After about an hour I got completely bored of walking in the extreme heat and got in my millionth taxi for the day.

I still had a lot to do today but it was seriously time for a nap after very little sleep on my bus the night before. Eventually I dragged myself out of bed because I had to go and get money changed for my San Blas trip. Apparently you can't change money in any of the places we stop in so it was get it now or sell my kidney on the street in Colombia. The guys at the hostel told me where to walk to, it wasn't too far but I was definitely tired of walking around today. I arrived to the plaza that they told me to go to, I imagined it to be some small plaza and I definitely found it but it was MASSIVE. Like at least 50 shops and I had to find one small money changing shop. Joy. Now this is where it all started to go a bit pear shaped again. Remember that I said I would come back to people sending me to retarded places? If you've ever read any of my blogs you'll know that this happens to me A LOT, Like the time I was trying to find a post office in Mexico for an hour. I ask people directions and without fail they will all send me in different directions. I have no idea what local told me this or where but a taxi driver once said to me that when someone asks them something, i.e. for directions, if they don't know they will just tell you that they do and send you off somewhere. Apparently they hate to say they don't know something. This means that when I asked about 5 people where said cash changing shop was 4 of them didn't know but sent me in a direction anyway. This resulted in me running back and forth at 16:30 in the afternoon for an HOUR trying to find this stupid cash changing shop in an area of about 100 metres. By this time I was so pissed off and fed up, why couldn't they just tell you that they don't know rather than just letting me run about like a crazy person to a place that you know isn't there! So annoying. Eventually person number 5 did know where the shop was and probably thought if he didn't show me I might murder someone in the street because I looked like some crazy, stressed person about to break when I asked him. So I'd finally found the shop and they only had about $40 of Colombian Pesos at the shop. Nowhere else was open or didn't have pesos either so after all of that I only had $40 worth, better than nothing I guess!

After all this I was kind of pissed off, fed up and extremely flustered, I was planning on going shopping but then remembered that I have absolutely no money. In the end I still want to the ginourmous mega mall (in another taxi) and decided to do something normal and go to the cinema instead. It was a perfectly relaxing evening. I immediately bought an amazing Cinnabon cinnamon roll, McDonald's fries, a smoothie and oh wait for it a HORROR film in the form of the remake of Evil Dead. I was totally excited; I've been wanting to see this for ages! It was so funny seeing it with the Panamaniens too, they totally screamed and cheered and went totally mental. It was awesome. It's nice to be normal every now and then and all for $2.50!

After the film I headed to the shop that was still open and stocked up for my San Blas trip tomorrow with tons of snacks (they had S&v crisps, say WHAT!), alcohol, water and hopefully much needed sun cream. Finally I got home and packed ready for the trip tomorrow, by the time I was done it was super late and I have to get up at like 4am for my jeep. So excited to head to the San Blas, gonna hunt me down some huge conch shells to smuggle through customs!
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