David, Panama City, Bocas del Toro
Trip Start Mar 20, 2009
12Trip End Jun 03, 2009
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Where I stayed
Right after I last wrote we all literally had to run and jump on to the bus as it was pulling away and we headed to David. Our plan was to take the overnight bus to Panama City, but we had a couple hours to kill first. Luckily, we discovered that they had a movie theatre so after a delicious dinner at a pirate ship themed casino bar, we watched "Wolverine". Super good, and so fun to watch a movie! Then it was back to the bus depot, onto the bus for a long journey to Panama City. The bus was super fancy, and we got the top level of the double decker, right at the front. It actually felt like we were in control of the bus! However, the driver was a bit too intense for my liking and I quickly pulled the curtain as we passed between two semi's (on 2 lanes of highway). Sketch.
We arrived in Panama City super early in the morning, the sun hadn't even come out yet. We waited at the uber fancy Albrook Terminal until the sun came out and cabbed to Casco Viejo where we planned on staying. The hostel there was a bit full but they told us to come back at 9 to see, and they let us store our luggage. Seeing as it was 6, we decided to go find something to eat for breakfast, and also to check out a few more hostels in the area. As we were walking, a nice car pulls over and two very concerned women ask us what we are doing. Pretty much they told us that this is not a safe place to be at this time of the day and we should definitely get out. We took the hint (later in the day we ran into them again and informed them of our adventures, but I'm getting ahead of myself).
We turned around to go back to where they said it would be safer to find a spot to eat. No such luck. Apparently restaurants in Casco Viejo don't open until after noon. Tired, hot, and super tired, we tried to figure out a plan. We decided that we needed to find food, and that we weren't too keen on staying in the area, especially if food is difficult to find. We decided to get our bags, find somewhere to eat, and then find a hostel. Step 1 complete, we began to fulfill step 2. Thinking that surely a restaurant named Crepes and Waffles would be open for breakfast, we asked the cab driver to take us there. It wasn't open.
After snakcing on some bread we had, we decided that maybe Step 2 could wait until Step 3 was complete, so off we went, in 2 cabs. Eric, Dan and I headed off with a very pleasant cab driver, who, it turns out, had absolutely no idea where he was going. He was very nice though and gave me his cell phone to try to call the hostel (whose number didn't work). We got him to drop us off and we bagan a quest of searching for our hostel (and now Annie and Ryan). Many, many people claimed to know where we wanted to go but only 2 gave us the right responses, a concierge at a fancy hotel and a policeman. Finally, we spotted Annie and Ryan sitting at a cafe eating pancakes and we rushed our poor sweaty, exhausted, and hungry bodies to them. They found the hostel but were waiting to see if they had room. We ate our breakfast and then discovered that they made a mistake and din't have room. Instead, they arranged for us to get a deal at a more expensive hostel across the street. Yay! Free laundry, cable, attached bath, 5 beds, a kitchen, and internet for $12 per person instead of $20! Woot!
We took a much needed nap before heading off back to Casco Viejo to see the sites. What a neat place! Very Havana-esque with crumbling buildings and narrow cobbled streets. Many impressive buildings (including the Teatro Nacional which was painted inside by Roberto Lewis, I thought that was interesting!) and so much history. We shopped a bit, I got myself a Panama hat, and we had some drinks at a small, sketchy pub. The evening was completed with dinner and Annie and I taking advantage of the free laundry and doing EVERYONE'S while Dan and Eric went to go see strippers (Ryan watched TV). They definitely owe us.
The next day was Panama Canal day. Eric, Dan, and I decided to splurge (I'm not sure with what money in my case) and go on a Canal Cruise. They only happen on Saturdays and since we were there on a Saturday I felt it was the fates informing me that I was meant to go throught the Panama Canal. I'm so very glad I did, it was unbelieveable! We got to go through 2 sets of double locks ( of the 3) and go through the Continental Divide. We got an endless supply of nonalcoholic beverages as well as breakfast and lunch. I even got to touch the side of the canal (it was slimey)! It was also neat to see Annie and Ryan at the viewpoint for one of the locks. They decided to do the museum and viewpoint instead. It's neat to see their pictures of us going through and our pictures of them watching.
After the drive back to Panama City, we met up with Annie and Ryan at Mi Pueblito. We thought that it was going to be replicas of different indigenous peoples homes but it was actually really run down and not quite what the guidebook told us (which has been common for Lonely Planet in Panama so far). We then headed back to our hostel to rest before and eat soup or Mac n' Cheese and watch MTV before our big night out on the town. Panama City is known for their elite party scene (cover can be $30) and we were hoping to get as much of a glimpse of it as our backpacker clothes would allow. We pregamed and listened to music before making the trek to Calle Uruguay.
We only had to briefly walk by one club, The Loft, before we were stopped by a guy and asked to come in. Turns out the guy was the owner of the club and it was his birthday. He really wanted it to be packed in there so he let us in for free! Woot! It was a pretty swanky club and we mixed and mingled with the best of them. It had a rof-top terrance so we were able to see what els was going on on the street but there was no way we were going to leave our "free" club (the drinks were a bit pricey though). Tons of fun!
The next day we were all exhausted and hung over. We decided to hightail it to Albrook Terminal to store our luggage. Due to our exhaustion, Dan, Eric and I decided to stay at the giant, air-conditioned mall attached to the terminal while Annie and Ryan went to Panama Viejo. Our time at the mall mostly entailed us sleeping at a table in the food cart and briefly checking out some stores. We then met back up with Annie and Ryan for another movie, Star Trek. Fun, although I struggled to keep my eyes open the whole time.
It was then time for another overnight bus, this time to Bocas del Toro. I slept better (due to a lack of sleep the night before and to my worsening cold). It was again an early, dark morning with the added excitment of a water taxi to the island. It was rainy and miserable. We arrived and decided to have breakfast first before the hostel. Delicious, expensive breakfast. Then it was the hostel. Very nice but definitely more of a party hostel than my sick, tired body was looking for. Dan (who caught my cold) and I slept all day (through construction on the floor directly above us). I left only to eat dinner and then went back to bed. Luckily, it rained most of the day so I didn't miss much.
The next day was more of the same, lots of rain and lightning. Our hostels bottom floor actually was flooded first thing but cleared as the rain decreased. We busied ourselves somehow, mostly by cards, chatting with others, and taking naps. We went out in the evening but again mostly just ened up chatting with others.
Today, it cleared and we took a bus to the beach (Dan and Ryan attempted to rent scooters to driver there but unfortunately the scooters weren't quite up to code and the road was iffy so they had to turn around). Chilling and chatting with new friends at the beach was mostly waht occred as well as searching for star fish in the water. I got a bit burned today. It hurts to be sitting here. Again, it serves me right and I deserve no sympathy.
Tomorrow, we head back to Costa Rica for more beach in Puerto Viejo. Here's hoping its sunny!