I have now been in Panama City for ten nights, and it has seriously been the time of my life. My originial intent was to only stay for a few days and the sail out to Colombia, yet it didn’t work out exactly the way I planned.
The one thing I was looking forward to the most of the entire trip is the boat to Colombia. There is no road running between Panama and Colombia in hopes of minimizing drug trafficking (which by the large presence of drugs here, not exactly sure how successful it has been). If I had a sense of adventure, I can make a land crossing in a 4×4 jeep, but doing so is asking for a death sentence. The only options I had was to fly or sail. The latter would be a five day trip and make a stop off in the San Blas Islands. We’ll…that’s a no brainier…think I’ll take the boat. I seriously thought I could just jump on a boat anytime I wanted, but upon arrival in Panama City, I found out that I would have to wait almost two weeks until the next boat would take off. I weighed my options and decided to stick with the original plan, and in the mean time, enjoy the hell out of this city.
I’m going to attempt to explain what I have been doing for the past ten days, but I truly think that my writings will not ever be able to give this city the justice it deserves. The first few days were rough. Plagued with heat and humidity, I was unable to catch a break. I constantly had a head ache and all I really wanted to do was sit there and stare at the wall (which I did a lot of), but I finally began to adapt. Obviously, I did the touristy things such as the Panama Canal and Panama Viejo, but the real joy came from just wandering the city and accomplishing absolutely nothing.
I’m staying in a hostel in Casco Viejo, which is the colonial part of town. It’s not exactly the safest in some parts, but absolutely beautiful to stroll during the day. Currently, there is a renovation going on, so I have a feeling in about ten years, this area will be truly amazing. The locals are starting to recognize me, especially at the restaurants I continuously go to. They see me walking up and prepare what they already know I will order…my type of service.
Hanging out at the hostel is always enjoyable. I have been able to reconnect with numerous individuals I have met along the road of travel, and even spent some time with people that I met back in Guatemala. Crowds usually gather in the lounges in the early evening to grab a beer and join in singing American Pie, which of course was led by an Irish lad.
The nightlife in Panama City is amazing, especially along Calle Uruguay. This string of bars and clubs are for the beautiful people, so of course, I blended in perfectly. I was able to check out a few dance clubs, but by far my favorite was a rock bar called Sahara. The music was great, the cover band knew what they were doing, and I was able to finally have a whiskey/coke (whiskey is really expensive down here). But walking around, Calle Uruguay has its fair share of hookers, but the huge police presence keeps it relatively safe. By the way, here is an interesting fact for those who are interested. It is illegal to sell pornography in Panama, but prostitution is legal. Bust that out next time you are short on words at your family get together.
I’m pretty good at understanding a place within a few days. By day 3, I already knew the best places to eat, drink, shop…you name it…I had the advice. You looking to grab a drink? What kind of drink? Beer? How cold would you like it? 29 degrees or 34 degrees? 34? Ok…cool, head to Avenida B to a place called Eric’s Tavern. Trying to get to the canal? Take cab there, pay no more than $5, tell them Big E sent ya, and then take the Albrook bus when you want to return to change it up. Everyone I met thought I worked at the hostel, but I corrected them and said I was only the “in-house entertainment.”
By the time most of you read this, I’ll be out sailing. Updates will come when I reach Colombia. Now, excuse me…I need to go sing Don McLean’s tune with the Irish.