Panama

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.
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