Mar. 8th, 2009 07:08 pm
[personal profile] akarasuma
This is it! The final part of my Central America trip last year: Panama.

This little guy welcomes you to this post:

I don't know what it means, but doesn't it get you in the mood? HA!

Bocas del Toro

From Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica we walked/took a taxi/took a water taxi to Bocas del Toro, Panama through Changuinola. If you've looked into traveling to Panama, you've surely heard of it: it's a group of islands on the Caribbean, most of which are gorgeous. We stayed at Aqua Lounge, party central in this party town. The hostel itself has an amazing atmosphere. It's literally on the water, and some of the commodities include a trampoline, swings and a diving board. There is a "pool" on the deck that is actually just a hole so you can jump into the sea. Great fun, although maybe not the best place if you want to get some rest while you're there... It really is noisy, and you can take a water taxi to party for a little while anyway.

We were there on a Saturday and had LOTS of fun, despite everyone's complaints that the DJ sucked. By 2am, half the people were already in the "pool".

We took a tour to Red Frog Beach, and it was beautiful. We got to see dolphins! I bet it would have been ever more awesome if it hadn't started raining like crazy, like it almost never happened during our trip.

While walking around town looking for a restaurant we came across the horny crustacean or whatever the thing at the beginning of this entry is supposed to be.

Boquete, Panama
From Bocas del Toro we went on to Boquete, a gorgeous town in the mountains, where coffee is grown. We went there to do a coffee farm tour (Café Ruiz: guess what? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) that included a little tasting seminar... Since it was apparently all there was to do there, we thought it wouldn't be as popular a destination as other places, but surprisingly (to us, at least), it was the only place where we could have used a reservation, since everything was completely booked. The town is beautiful and the tour is definitely worth it.

The coffee farm:

Coffee beans:

The red ones are ripe and ready to be processed.

The seeds are what actually become "coffee"

After all the drying, weighing and everything, but just before they're roasted:

Then they're handpicked to remove whatever damaged beans, dirt or rocks that could have escaped the first few filters. We thought that was pretty amazing:

It's a really interesting tour, definitely recommended.

Panama City

Ah, Panama City. Getting there was an experience of its own, thanks to the world's coldest double decker bus ever. For real, the Canadians from Alberta in our group said they'd never been colder. But I digress.

We stayed at "Panama by Luis", BY FAR the best lodging option in PC. Believe me, we looked around and could not believe the other places were deemed acceptable by our Lonely Planet guide. The city itself is very nice and feels very safe, as long as you don't mind being constantly whistled at (and called things like "angel" and "beauty") while walking around the street. It drove us four girls crazy. Later on, when we were leaving, an immigration officer did it to one of us, and she was so mad she told him she couldn't believe how rude he was being; he was genuinely surprised and told her it was a common courtesy to make women feel beautiful. Truth or excuse? Who knows. The fact of the matter is, even little old men and well-dressed executive-looking people did it to us all the time.

Beautiful Casco Viejo, the old part of the city.

And of course, you can't visit Panama and not witness this:

The people on those boats probably felt like rock stars. People watching from the observation deck were cheering, waving, taking pictures... All of the history and the engineering behind the Panama Canal is nothing short of fascinating. Seeing it at work almost feels like a little miracle of human will power. I know it sounds dramatic, but I'm not kidding: the actual crossing of the canal is so quick and effortless you'd think designing it was the easiest thing in the world. You really do have to see it to believe it.

After that we went shopping, but I think I'll spare you those pictures. And then after that we flew back to Guatemala (which I already posted about) and then back to Mexico. If anyone is interested in the details I beg you to let me know, as the way back into Mexico was HELLISH and I really wouldn't like for any living being to have to go through what we did because they didn't know what they were getting into.  
The trip in general was great. I had a great time and did so much, learned so much and met so many great people it's hard to even put into words. It's funny because I agreed to go on the trip with my friends since my plans to go to Japan fell through and it was cheap enough to not damage my finances at the time, and for real, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Date: 2009-03-09 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, That looks like it was such an amazing trip! I really would love to go there someday...if only I had more money to afford all the trips I want to go on. You have traveled to so many places! I'm jealous, but I love hearing about your trips. Thanks!

Date: 2009-03-11 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you're enjoying them! And for real, Central America is a very inexpensive destination... all you need is airfare to get there, and a big sense of adventure :P

Date: 2009-03-12 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I booked 36 hours in advance to go to Panama City. It was $350 round trip from Chicago... so as a place to go, pretty affordable, more so if you do the hostel route and you can speak some Spanish. Panama is supposed to be much more tourist friendly to a degree than say Costa Rica which is supposed to be much more expensive.

Date: 2009-03-09 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lo que quiero saber yo es por qué esa langosta tiene tetas. jaja

Wow, todos los lugares que has visitado son hermosos. Espero poder viajar así algún día.

Date: 2009-03-11 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Créeme: todos queremos saber por qué la langosta tiene tetas o_O

Ojalá te animes... de verdad que ha valido la pena :D

Date: 2009-03-10 01:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It sounds like you had an amazing time. I really enjoyed reading this. And seeing the pictures. I find the canals pretty awesome so I can only imagine what it would feel like to see them in person. I'm glad you had a great time.

It sounds like it was an excuse but whatever. At least he tried to explain himself and didn't just blow it off. I had no idea that coffee beans were in pods that turned red. That's amazing! Learn something new everyday. :)

That sucks that your Japan trip fell through but it seems like it ended up being a good thing. Where else have you been to?

Date: 2009-03-11 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Who knows, though... I swear, you'd see the most elegant men in the nicest cars doing that! I am really interested in finding out... I need to find a Panamanian girl and ask her if she feels flattered when people do it to her :P

I'm hopeful that trip to Japan will happen eventually... probably not this year, but it'll happen. I've been around, I have to admit... I've traveled around the US a little bit, Canada (Toronto and Quebec), parts of Mexico (the South East, mostly)... I've been in Portugal and Spain, with a day-long layover in Amsterdam, and the United Arab Emirates.

I wanted to go to Europe again this year, but the $ituation is far from perfect... I'm trying to plan a trip to Chicago or Boston this year. We'll see how everything goe$ :)

Date: 2009-03-11 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is so weird. Men would be slapped left and right here for that! If/When you do find out, let me know. :)

I've wanted to go to Japan too. Good luck with making it happen. You have been around! Money is such a hinderance on life. I would travel so much more if I had more of it. :) Let me know how Chicago and Boston are. I've been meaning to get up to Boston to visit a few friends but haven't yet.

Date: 2009-03-12 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Amazing pictures, thanks! And I'd certainly love to hear any additional info you want to give - I'm jonesing to go to Central/South America so bad. Hearing about it is always awesome. :)

Date: 2009-03-12 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I don't know if you have any specific questions... I'll tell you, we never felt unsafe, and if anything, we wished we'd had more time to explore. The one thing that really really bothered us about Guatemala was people CONSTANTLY trying to rip us off. Really, this only happened there, and waaaaay more than once. I think I should really post about our way back into Mexico, because really, it was a nightmare.

In all honesty, having been through the experience, I think if I ever go back to Guatemala, I'll book a tour from Mexico, where I'll have paid for *everything* in advance, in Mexican pesos (or U.S. dollars at the official exchange rate).

Everywhere else it's just perfect... as I said before, all you really need is to be there, and to have a little sense of adventure. It's definitely worth the trip :D

Date: 2009-03-12 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I went to Panama City in January. Stayed at Panama by Luis. (which was in the middle of changing locations the last two days I was staying there.) Two French guys staying there were robbed of $200 and I had a device like a PSP stolen. Luis was really nice about it to the degree that he could be. He suspected the guy stole from them and kicked him out but between him being kicked out and actually leaving, the guy stole from me. Luis called the other hostels to let them know about the guy and paid for my taxi to the airport. There wasn't much more he could do and didn't feel like much reason to go to the police. but outside that, nice little hostel. :)

I had a similar experience with immigration. Going through airport security, the one guy who worked there told me I had great breasts which was very WTF? Can relate.

Your pictures are lovely by the way. :)

Date: 2009-03-12 09:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, that's horrible! I'm sorry that happened to you... When we where there, Luis said he was planning to buy lockers. Looks like he took too long to do it.

So you stayed where the perfume shop was, right? Had he put up a sign yet?? And the even better question: did you happen to visit that place like three doors down from him? Can't remember the name, but something like Zitti's, or Zizi's, or something like that?? Seriously, my friend Christine said she'd rather sleep on the sidewalk than there.

Date: 2009-03-12 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When we where there, Luis said he was planning to buy lockers.

He got them. The guy who stole from me was another person who had been staying there for about 10 days and after 10 days of staying with some one, well... I just let my guard down. The French guy's had their stuff buried deep in their backpacks when it was taken. I think they went out for dinner after dumping their bags.

The place had no sign and was right next to a bar that was kind of open to the street. Cafe Azul was right near by.

I heard about the one other hostel when I was there. It didn't sound like a great place. I chose Panama by Luis because it was cheap and offered wireless Internet in the city. I needed Internet for work so yeah. If I saw the other place, no recall. :(

Date: 2009-03-12 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, wow. I'm really sorry :(

Believe me: if you had seen the other place, you'd remember it. It was gross.

Date: 2009-03-12 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much for sharing these pics. I'll be going through Panama on my sailboat in a few years, and I love seeing the canal.

Date: 2009-03-12 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How AWESOME!! I'd die to do something like that!! I know you won't be doing it for a few years, but I'll tell you right now, I'm looking forward to your pictures :D

Date: 2009-03-12 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Beautiful pics! I never thought about all the hard work that goes into making my morning cup o joe!

Date: 2009-03-13 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you!! And I have to admit I never did either before my friend brought up the coffee farm tour... It was great :D

Date: 2009-03-13 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The canal is really cool! =D

Date: 2009-03-13 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's awesome :D


Date: 2010-01-09 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
nice, i'm just seeing this post now. i dont remember the part about one of us yelling at an official for being inappropriate. i also agree it was one of the best experiences ever. btw this is christine, jaja.

Re: meeeeeeeemories

Date: 2010-01-09 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, Shay-Lee! I think the guy did a smooching sound or something like that.



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