Friday, May 29, 2009

Bambu Hostel readies new website by cutting edge Dutch designers

In a week bambu hostel will launch an all new JOOMLA website designed and programmed by awesome dutch web company style shift this new site will be user friendly and feature more social networking devices like TWITTER, facebook and more. There will be new and better fotos and all in all it will be a much better user experience. Look for the new better site coming very soon!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Alternative travel: A voyage to Chiriqui province Panama

Dear Techies,

Sorry for the long delay in writing, like all of you I am riding the waves of change, recession and searching for what's really important in life.

As many of you know, last year I opened a Hostel in David Panama, 25 miles from the Costa Rican border in David Panama. It is we had an awesome season there selling out on many nights. We feature a lovely new pool, tropical gardens with fruit trees all over the property that provide, avocados, coconuts, papaya, passion fruit and some strange stuff that is white and sweet with large black seeds! We also have a mayan style rancho, and there we have nightly jam sessions, we have hand drums and guitars for guests. Otherwise chill out by the pool listen to our sound system, or head out to the center of David and enjoy fresh sugar cane and lemon juice, nothing better than that.

David, Panama while not considered to be a tourist destination is a great place. Located less than hour from the famous Highland paradise of Boquete and half an hour to the nearest surfing beaches of the Pacific coast, and 3.5 hours to the Caribbean jungles and reefs of Bocas Del Toro

David is a crossroads and Bambu Hostel is a backpackers paradise with lovely gardens, a brand new pool and $8 dorm beds.

Currently flights to Panama are available for as little as $250 roundtrip from many places in the US. You can search at click on 'lowest airfare' airplane icon and enter your dates and etc. the best link that i found there was for ATI flight..

Prices are dirt cheap in Panama, bunks at bambu are $8 and a seafood dinner across the street from the hostel will set you back $3, beers are sixty cents. Also if you need Dental work done is is %75 cheaper than in the US, I used Dental Esthetic that blog was where I found it. I saved 1500 dollars doing my dental work in Panama, with what I saved it paid for the entire trip including the airfare!

David is a great base for many trips with an hour, for example you can go soak in the Hot Springs at Caldera entrance there is $2 and you can stay all day lounging in the springs or swimming in the river. Another trip is to boquete where you can hike, see coffee plantations and rainbows and swim in waterfalls.

About an hour away from David is the amazing Lost and Found Jungle Lodge the only Hostel in a National Park (Fortuna) in Panama. Beautifully constructed in the rain/cloud forrest, you can hike, ride horses and swim, or just read a book in a hammock as you watch magnificent condors fly at eye level. Dorm beds average $12.

There is a lot to Do in Panama if you like to surf, sail, birdwatch, snorkel, scuba, swim and bike. There are always incredible 'Faerias' going on around the country, huge county fairs where you can dance till dawn to the dynamic panamanian music mix which includes heavy doses of reggaeton, reggae in Spanish as well as Rock salsa and merenque.

So if you are looking for an adventure and you dont have a lot of money to spend consider coming to Panama, come to bambu the beer is on me! There we will help you plan your itinerary, we are all experts! If you have general questions about panama feel free to write me 212-219-7000 x1 (lv message)

One last note: Hawaii is still available and can be booked 7 days or less before date of travel, after 4/15 prices average $250 each way.. 212-219-7000 x1

Europe from NY Boston and Florida $359 one way to europe, about $400 one way back no advance purchase neccesary, this is good for last minute unplanned trips when prices have gone sky high...

Well thank you for your time, i hope that this letter finds you at peace and in health.

Mike Esterson
President, airtech and owner bambu hostel

Monday, March 2, 2009

Early flight to Panama




3:00 AM Jan 15th, Newark New Jerseny and zero degrees Fahrenheit, I lug three heavy bags, into the car service, on way to Liberty Airport. I cant complain though, as it was only $250 incl tax roundtrip flight to Panama City, and then on to David Panama to my hostel I cant believe I am off to Panama for 6 weeks, 6 weeks to soak up sun and hang at bambu.. I arrive at the airport, two hours early, breakfast is bad coffee and salty eggs, foreshadowing the lame breakfasts and surprising dearth of great coffee in coffee producing panama. I feel guilty about the food, i lead a fairly organic life in woodstock..but when i travel i tend to eat and drink stuff that i usually avoid. Stuff that is greasy and salty and generally bad for you.

I get to Houston, the layover is brief in fact i only have 30 minutes to make the flight! i make it to the gate and we take off, i sleep for the rest of the flight and then i am in Panama City.

I am giddy as I clear customs and feel that blast of heat. I get a taxi for $25 and head straight to Mamallena's a classic and well run Hostel. Stuart, owner is a hospitality industry veteran. He runs a very good hostel that is always full. It is a 24 hour operation and I eagerly watch how they pull this off.

Keep in mind that although i own bambu hostel i still have not been there in person since its opening in July 2008. The last time I was at my hostel we had just started the buildout and before we had the pool and rancho built. At Mamallenas at least it looks like hard work. There is traffic night and day, no rest. The hostel is a hub for backpackers some there for a day or so some for a few weeks. Most are going to or coming from Columbia. Some are there to take tours to the kuna islands, the Caribbean pearls of Panama..

I am in Panama for two days but last only a day at the hostel. Honestly i am about to go live in a hostel for six weeks the one that i own and decide to opt for the comfort of a hotel. Ok I admit it here i am not a backpacker, please dont tell anyone. I find a great place called Hotel Andino near Calle Cuba and sixth street..about $35 dollars a night and includes wifi AC and hot water. Surprisingly the place is almost empty. Panama city is popping, and I went to a few hotels at $25 a night that were all full..i guess that it is the price point of $35..

One of my goals of this initial part of my journey to Panama is to meet the co owner of the lost and found jungle lodge the only hostel in a national park and rain forest in Panama.

His name is Patrick and apparently is quite the expert on Panama City Nightlife, a bit of a bon vivant i am told.. and after a few emails and messages to his mobile we agree to meet for a chat and an inspection of Panama City at night. Patrick is an extremely charming and bright Canadian. He has worked variously as an English Teacher and tour guide and is currently writing a virtual novel about backpackers in Panama. We start in the Casco Viejo. This stop includes an entertaining belly dancer and $5 drinks, New York Prices. Impresive.

Next we go to the entertainment district in the new part of Panama City, actually everyone in Panama City and Panama Call Panama City 'Panama' if you are in Panama and someone says that they are going to Panama they mean Panama City..

The next few stops are good, one is a dark lounge with sultry electro music. We are into our 5th round of drinks, i am drunk. We are drinking the national rum, its' called abuelo, or grandfather, its great stuff. I drink it on the rocks with a twist of lemon, Patrick as cuba libre, or rum and coke.

Then we find ourselves at the famous hooker bar 'Bodegita' as promised it features beautiful Columbia women. many appear to have had surgery of one kind or another, these women are hookers, and they are all very friendly, we have more rounds of drinks, there is a lot of hazy dancing and a lot of toasting, then a taxi ride to a strip club..that is pretty lame and we leave fast, Patrick 'forgets' to pay the bill and we end up paying $20 to an angry bartender that chases us out to the street.

One last whirl to a an alternative crowd party in the casco viejo..a few more drinks and i am officially 4 sheets to the wind.

I make it to hotel andino, amazed at the lateness, the heat, or better yet the lack of cold. I gratefully turn on the AC get into my bed fully clothed and fall into a drunken spinning sleep...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bambu Hostel: Existential Angst? Or who are we?

First of all I send New Years Greeting to all that read this! A better time is coming, we have arrived!

Bambu Hostel in David Panama is many things. But the first important thing to thing about is that we are less than 6 months old, and really the 'hard' opening occurred after construction of our Pool was completed in Late August 2008. Running a Hostel is a learning curve. Most of the people that come through really love the place, it has a very tolerant atmosphere that allows for people to have a good time, i mean a great time! But we are now learning that we have to have a certain amount of rules to keep the whole place flowing right..for example, we had no curfew for the music, now it has to be turned down after 11PM. That is for the benefit of neighbors and guests..we will make some exceptions for weekend parties. We did get some negative feedback about the place it read:

"The guy is just starting out.. 3 months now.. it's a nice place to stay without lot's of rules.. but they do lack the experience and discipline other hostels do have. They have to start run the place instead of being everybody's friend. "

That is very fair, and we took a lesson from that. But there is a fine line of running a tight ship and creating a place that feels to controlled, too many rules, thats not fun..

Gregg and i are both types of guys that have always played life with our own rules, one can argue that the rules help or hinder..either way backpackers on the road need to relax and have fun. We are striking that delicate balance at Bambu, that allows one to have fun, listen to some music, dance or drum.. without trampeling on the rights of others to have peace if they want that.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Security is a surety

Hi All

at we just finished making the hostel more secure, with a better locking system on the giant gate at the front of the hostel as well as a gate buzzer and a few other measures..we have had zero problems with security, but till we got the lock system fixed we had to leave our main gate open all night long or get up to let folks in that tended to stay till the clubs closed at 5AM! So now guests can stay out all night and let themselves in...

In other news, bambu hostel is enjoying a good season with over 60% occupancy..not bad for a hostel that opened in July 2008..we also have some amazing interns that have been helping out here at the hostel, it is a great opportunity to stay for free and learn how to run a hostel if you are interested contact the hostel for an internship/volunteer..

well people, the year comes to an end. and what a year it was, we have a president with inegrity, a looming depression, all of it coupled with the hope that we can have a better day..from all of us at the hostel, Me (mike esterson) Greg lapkin, and benny olmos, blessings and peace to all..Happy new year..

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eating Healthy Food on the road

One of the great challenges of any backpacker/traveler on the journey of a lifetime is eating well. For me eating well means eating a diet that is primarily plant based and when possible organic. The problem is that in most places particularly in Central America, the diet is animal based. There is never a lack of meat and dairy products available, and there seems to be a lack of good fruit vegetables and legumes. At the hostel the debate that we are having as we try to create our bambu hostel menu is how far we can push our food ideals to others. Gregg my business partner and friend of 20 years was a vegetarian in New York City. After moving to Panama he adopted a 'local' diet which primarily consisted of chicken and white rice. After a year of that he got sick. No energy, headaches and a nagging cough. I had met a lady on my trip to David Panama in April that was promoting vitiamins, herbs and vegetarian lifestyle. She was a pioneer in David. The day i found her, I had been drinking rum the night before. I had drunk so much rum that i decided to go for a run in the 95 degree heat to sweat out the toxins. It started out ok but after an hour i realized that i had no idea where i was. David really doesnt have street names or much in the way of signs. As I walked (it was too hot to run at that point and i was dizzy) i passed by a house with a sign that said 'Vitaminas Naturales' I stopped in and was greeted by a very nice woman form Panama City that was selling herbs and vitiamins. I drank her tea and she gave me a banana for the hangover which worked. I kept her card and sent gregg to her after being sick for months. She gave him teas for his asthma and digestion and a vitamin mineral supplement powder. In a few days he was feeling better again and we both figured it was a form of malnutrition that he was suffering from..

That brings us back to menu. I want to have a menu that offers for dinner a choice of fish, vegan (with tofu or beans as the protein) or yard chicken, which is free range and organic. I dont want factory processed meat and would also like to offer some organic food as well. Gregg feels that if we do that we may cut out a large percentage of folks that want to eat pork and beef and really dont care what they eat as long as it is cheap.

The other issue is global warming. the consumption of meat is one of the top producers of CO2. Thus by offering meals that dont participate in factory meat we are doing our best to keep this world around for future generations.

Flashpacker it is described in wikipedia as "A flashpacker shares some of the characteristics of a backpacker: a sense of independence, no fixed itinerary and relatively long periods of travel to more exotic and far-flung destinations. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget" This term seems to have sprung up back in the old days of backpacking otherwise known as 2006 (it seems like such an innocent time)My question is, now that we have started this worldwide recession/depression will the flashpackers flourish? Once 5 star travelers are now slumming it with the 20 something backpackers that criss cross the various trails in Asia and Central America. They do tend to favor private rooms over dorms and they have far more disposable income then their $30 USD a day backpacking counter parts. By the way $30 a day seems to be the typical budget of backpackers, that includes food and transportation (buses). As far as alternative travel goes, Flashpacking fits in nicely. It is a style of travel that seems to call for more gadgets to record the journey as well as stay in touch with family and business while on the road. That is why all hostels everywhere find themselves providing so many extras to satisfy them. This includes high speed internet, printers, computers and cable television. An entire industry has sprung up around this demographic as well and now packs with all kinds of extra storage for laptops, cell phones and GPS systems abound. I recently purchased the URL and I intend to start a site that will be a meeting place for traveling flashpackers, a .mobi site that will be easily viewed on the high tech PDA that they all seem to carry.