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The Perfect Panama – Panama City, Panama

The Perfect Panama

Panama City, Panama

Women of the Embera
Women of the Embera
I spent a week in Panama in March. I used Lonely Planet as my guidebook, as it was the only one available at the time. It is an excellent guide to an excellent adventure.

The first night I spent in Casco Viejo, in Panama City, eating at an “Expensive” French restaurant. Though my 4-course dinner only cost about $30, it was an extravagant purchase in such Panama, where the normal dinner will cost you less then $2.00.

On the second day I rented a car and drove to El Valle. Though you can take the buses, or Diablo Rojas (red Devils) to El Valle for about $2.00, renting a car allowed me to stop along the inter American for amazing, and authentic Panamaminian cuisine, and to take pictures of the mountains, and explore little towns along the Inter-American.

Once in El Valle I took the Zip Line tour. This is worth the relatively expensive price of $35.00. Take the full hike up to the top, because it is amazing look into the rain forest.

The Zip line isn’t for the feint of heart, and if you don’t like heights DON’T GO! You will be stuck, because once you get to the first platform there is ABSOLUTELY no way to turn back, you need to keep going, and frankly it is VERY scary, but tons of fun.

The wild life in the area is amazing; I got to see a sloth up close and nursing her young. Also, butterflies and frogs are common in the volcano’s cater, so if you get lucky you will see some of the amazing fauna of the area.

I went horseback riding after the zip line, and I would suggest that if you are going to go up there skip this part, because it is very slow, and it eats up a lot of time. I wish I spent more exploring this charming little town.

On the second full day I flew to Bocas Del Toro, where I attended Blue Mondays on Isla Bastimentos. This party is well worth going to, but be careful, guard your money and pocket book, and don’t show any interest in drugs, which are easy to come by on the island. Most of the dealers are very disreputable, and if you start talking to them, even in a friendly non-drug related manner as I did, you might find yourself on the less then happy end of a knife/machine gun/machete or other such not so great situation, and the police are non-existent and are not there to help you.

On Isla Colon, I stated at Mondo Tiatu, which offers amazing, colorful and friendly, yet VERY rustic accommodations. I had a private room (only one left) for $12 a night. Keep in mind there are many very nice hotels on Colon, for $30/$70 a night.

Bocas Del Toro is a wash with a million fun and adventurous things to do.

My second night I camped out on a deserted white sand beach, and woke up to monkeys everywhere. You can camp on the beach for $10.00. Ask a water taxi driver to find you a place to camp; they will take you to the right place.

A Monkey as a Pet
A Monkey as a Pet
Camping in Bocas is also not for the faint of heart. There will be no toilets (just a giant litter box) there will be no way to leave the island you are on if you get sick, scared or attacked by one of the millions of wild animals. You also need to be careful in the water there are anemones, jelly fish and sting rays.

After I left Bocas I returned to Panama City, and stayed in the Voyager International Hostel for the night. The Voyager is a great and friendly place. The hostel takes up two floors of a huge apartment building. Ask for the 8th floor, because the view is amazing and it has air conditioning.

I hired a guide from Adventures in Panama to take me to an Emberá Village, and to go on a jungle challenge.

There is no shortage of tour guides that can take you into and Emberá or Kuna Village, but Adventures in Panama offers you the opportunity to spend the night in the village as opposed to taking just an hour there.

I spent about $385 on my trip to the Emberá village, however it included a guide picking me up at my hostel, driving me to the point on the Chagres River, a canoe ride to the village, meals, lodging (thatched platform, a traditional Emberá Building) an English speaking guide who stayed with me the entire time.

The package also included the Adventures in Panama Jungle Challenge. This is a pretty intense hike into the rain forest, where there is no visible path. The hike includes 3 separate repels down beautiful waterfalls. I saw some of the most amazing frogs on this trek, and got the chance to get physical in the jungle!

Staying with the tribe was a truly spiritual experience. Every person in the tribe will know your name in a matter of minutes and the children will be extremely excited to play and laugh with you, even if you don’t speak Spanish.

The tribe welcomes you as a member, and will even give you clothing to dress like them during your stay.

Though there will be other tourists in the village, they won’t be around for more then an hour a day. Spending 24 hours with the tribe will give you a true look into the life of the Emberá Dura, and leave you with a profound sense of respect for their amazing culture.

Women at Work
Women at Work
After returning from the Jungle Challenge, I went out on the town with some of the awesome people I met in my hostel. Clubbing in Panama is wild, but be very careful to follow common sense. Try to make friends with at least one person who speaks English and Spanish, because no one in Panama City speaks English, outside of hotel operators.

Other sites worth seeing around Panama City include the Mira Flores Locks, Panama Viejo, and Casco Viejo.

If you get the chance to go to Panama, it will be life changing. I love this country and hope I can go back some time soon.

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