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Old Apr 21, 09, 11:00 am
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joker545
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: WAS / PAR
Programs: AA Plat, SPG Gold, AF Gold
Posts: 191
A Weekend in Panama

Just returned after spending a very relaxing three days in Panama. There was very little I’d change about this trip and the weekend seemed to last forever. As for flights, my friends and I booked $230 tickets on COPA Airlines for the direct IAD-PTY route and ended up getting upgraded to first class both ways (I'm CO Gold, one friend is NW Silver, another has no status but was allowed up as a companion upgrade. Here’s a brief rundown:

Friday:

After arriving at 10:30AM, we taxied into Casco Viejo and found a hostel to stay at (Luna’s Castle—recommended!). The rest of the day was spent touring around Casco Viejo and the ruins of Panama Viejo, before leaving at 8PM to catch a baseball game. It’s playoff time in the Panamanian baseball league so our hostel organized a bus to take people to the stadium—only $4 for a ticket and $1 beers, not a bad price to see pretty good baseball. That evening, we visited a few local spots around Plaza Herrera. First, el Bano Publico which was converted into a bar/concert venue from an old public bathroom and then La Casona de las Brujas, which was this really cool warehouse turned modern art museum that converts into a club at night. It’s known as more of a local hangout and attracted a really interesting crowd—the DJ’s weren’t bad either.

Saturday
:

Woke up around 9AM to stunning views of the Panama City skyline from our hostel window. After grabbing some food, we taxied out to the Miraflores locks where we toured the Panama Canal Museum and learned about the project’s construction. For lunch, we ate at the museum café which had a great terrace overlooking the locks. Our next stop was Gamboa, where we explored around the Soberania National Park. We organized a last minute boat tour of “Monkey Island” through the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, and while waiting for our tour we completed a short hike to a lagoon. Monkey Island was an experience—to get there we traveled through the canal past giant container ships, then we picked some berries from one of the other islands to feed the monkeys. Basically, we’d throw these berries (which tasted really good!) into the trees and watch the monkeys catch/eat them. For the return, we got dropped off on Amador Causeway where we ate dinner at a Colombian restaurant and then walked/taxied back to the hostel. When we got back, everyone was in a festive spirit so we hung our around the hostel for a while before visiting the clubs on Calle Uruguay, the clubbing epicenter.

Sunday:

After waking up at 9AM again, I walked around the city looking for a few gifts while one of my friends went to Spanish mass. We then visited the fish market for some delicious octopus ceviche and pineapple juice, before meeting back up at the hostel and checking out. Our next stop was Metropolitan National Park, where we got lunch from one of the local vendors and then completed a 3hr hike through the park. We ended up back at the hostel around 4PM, where we took a quick shower and then taxied out to the airport for our return flights.

Recap: All in all, it was a great weekend and I’m sure it will lead to many more Latin American adventures. The city had a very unique feel (part cosmopolitan and part old Caribbean), which may result from the fact that it attracts far less tourism than Costa Rica, its neighbor to the north. I really don’t know why it’s taken me this long to visit Latin America—it’s a low stress destination (Panama is on the US Dollar and they use the same power outlets), there’s lots of history in the region, the people are friendly, the food/drink is good and it’s really easy to get to. My next scheduled trip is to Costa Rica over Memorial Day, so if Panama was any indication, I’m sure it will be another excellent weekend!
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