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.

Summer Time and the living is easy (in Panama)

Summertime finally has arrived at bambu hostel in David Panama. What does summer mean in Panama. First it means that the rains have mostly stopped. Panama has a long rainy season from May-November. In Panama they don't say rainy season, they say 'green season' or dry season, which is summer. At the Hostel our new Pool is the center of attention. For some reason we seem to popular in the early summer months with Girls from Finland. These Finish ladies travel in groups of 3-6 and are fair-skinned sun worshippers. It must be ungodly cold in Finland now!
We also just opened our bar which unveiled a few challenges. The first is the challenge of a drunk backpacker. I called Gregg last week (I'm still in woodstock) Gregg who lives in Panama year round suffers through a nearly 24 hour job these days. The other night he was fast asleep when he awoke to see what he thought was a drunk backpacker in his room. Gregg yelled at him to get out of his room at which point the guy picked up greggs little dog Izzy and tossed him on to gregg's bed. Gregg was not happy and pushed the guy out of the room. When he got up a few hours later he saw that the bar had suffered some damage, a broken speaker wire and broken glass.

Later when the australians awoke he sat down with them and asked them what was going on. Apparently the 7 foot tall Aussie suffered from a severe form of sleepwalking and had done the damage and gone into gregg's room all while asleep!

Gregg should get some kind of award. He is really amazing he never loses his temper and treats all the guests even the more challenging ones with tremendous respect.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai events and impact on central american backpackers


I was thinking about the overall effects of the attacks in Mumbai where backpackers were targeted at the Cafe Leopold in particular would Israeli Backpackers begin to avoid India and instead increase their numbers in Central America. The fact is that Central America and in particular Panama is very safe in general for the backpackers. It is an alternative to traveling to restive spots on the globe. As alternative travel becomes increasingly popular decisions regarding destinations will more than likely be based at least partially on issues of political stability and geo-political realities.
At Bambu Hostel we are gearing up for a great season and welcoming folks that might have been South Asia bound.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last night there was terrible flooding in the boquete area of chiriqui, early reports are of up to 6 deaths, bridges out and lots of people left homeless. Here is a more or less first hand account that i recieved on an expat forum

"Last night there was a sound that was like a roaring, like when summer winds are blowing. It turned out to be a horrible flood of the Chiriqui river. The bridges up to Cerro Punta are out. Many people have been lost to the flooding and houses lost, too.

Help is needed for all those affected. The catholic church in Paso Ancho is accepting donations of blankets, food, diapers, clothes, etc. There are people being housed there, too. I am sure all of the churches up here would be greatful for any and all donations." There are photos of the destruction on line and less than a week ago there was an earthquake in the same area that registered 6.3
I also wonder how and why these natural disasters occur in pairs like this.

Meanwhile at the hostel last night (11/22) a large group showed up at the hostel workers for an upcoming presidential campaign..they were due to stay one night but are now stuck there as bridges and roads in the bocas del toro province are currently impassable, so the hostel is full for the first time since we opened in July, Gregg is working hard as is benny..

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How will economic conditions affect backpacking in Panama and Central America

Hi all,

As a world wide financial panic sends market down, I wonder how this will impact the alternative traveler, here I refer primarily to the 'backpacker' these travelers live dirt cheap, these roaming nomads follow a long tradition of free thinking bohemians that live day to day at times with no particular plan, nomads going north,south east and west, these Hostel dwellers live on 10-30 dollars a day, use public transportation and even work for lodging and food. I have posed this question on a variety of blogs and forums and the consensus from those in the industry including the Hostel Management Website is that Hostel will enjoy a boost given the current economic conditions. Those at the very bottom of the tourism rung, 'the backpacker' will continue to travel regardless of the condition of the markets. Why? Because they have a limited amount of disposable income that is committed to long trips on the trail, well worn by thousands on the same path. They live on a few dollars a day and keep moving, they travel because they must. At Bambu Hostel we have noticed a decrease in American travelers and more Euro, Aussie and Canadian travelers. What we have noticed is that they are more sensitive than ever to price points and in reaction to that bambu lowered dorm beds to $8 from $10. The competition has gotten fiercer for the backpacker dollar, but they do keep coming and i doubt they will stop.

As for airtech we have noticed too that price points determine sales, we have had to raise prices due to fuel and tax increases and notice a decline in sales related to that, our new web 2.9 site here is a reaction to that, we are using a new business model so we are not so dependent on ticket sales to survive. But the community of alternative travelers live on. Even more so now, especially for the Americans traveling out there this is a great time to be able to answer the question 'where are you from' without getting an angry look. Many backpackers from USA took to sewing canadian flags on their packs so they wouldn't get yelled at. What a horror the last 8 years of neo-con fascism has been. What a relief the new election has brought us.

I would like to hear responses and input here...

Mike Esterson
President Airtech and Bambu Hostel David Panama

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hello I am Gregg co-owner Bambu Hostel David Panama

Hi I am Gregg, Mike Esterson the owner of Airtech and I own Bambu Hostel a backpackers Hostel in David Panama. Last night there was a minor earthquake. I slept through it! Here is what was reported

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A strong earthquake of 6.2 magnitude and at a depth of 30 miles struck Panama overnight, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Wednesday.
The quake hit 35 miles west southwest of David, Panama, at 0611 GMT. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, the USGS said.
The USGS originally verified the quake at a magnitude of 6.5 and depth of about 9.3 miles."
I can thank Abuelo Rum for the deep sleep, which of course I only drink for medicinal use...the name Abuelo means Grandfather in Spanish, it is amazing Rum dirt cheap and doesnt leave you to fuzzy in the morning, yet strong enough to keep you sleeping through a 6.2 quake! This area is Volcanic, nearby there are Hot Springs called The Caldera Hot Springs Caldera means soup Caldron! Dont stay in there too long..they are awesome though, it cured my bad back last winter..and only 30 minutes from the hostel.
We are in David Panama and Bambu Hostel is a great jump off point for journeys into the awesome beauty of Chiriqui Province I lived in NYC for 20 years and one day realized that if I didn't follow my dreams and leave I would be there forever. That is the way New Yorkers are they just stay and stay and wake up old one day..

Life here is good. Everyday I wake up and give thanks for being in this awesome country. Come to Bambu Hostel and spend a few days at the hostel, we have a sweet pool and a mayan style rancho, and there is always a nice crowd of international backpackers and others there. I will post again soon.

See ya in Panama,


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bambu Hostel announces new Tours, to mountain, Rain Forest, Pacific and Caribbean..more

Bambu Hostel Saturday 11/15/08

Howdy all, we just got our tour page fired up we have some great tours listed..

Bambu Hostel is proud to offer tours to Lost and Found Jungle Lodge in the Fortuna Rain Forrest, Hot Springs , Swimmable canyons, bird watching, trails and surfing as well as surf and fishing excursions. Optional transport to Bocas Del Toro, Hot Surfing beaches and more available. All the tours can be found here

Los Quetzales Trail Tour

Option 1
Pick up at 7am in David, transport to Cerro Punta trial head. Arrive at Cerro Punta Trial head at 9 am...
Hike through to Boquete town.
$110 for the car for up to 4 people.

Option 2
Pick up at 7 am in David, transport to Cerro Punta Trial head. Arrive at Cerro Punta Trial heat at 9 am...
Hike through Boquete town
have pickup at Boquete trial head with your logage ready for you in our truck.
Drop off at lodging of your choice in Boquete or return to David
$160 for the car for up to 4 people.

Overnight at Lost and Found Cloud Forest Ecolodge
2 days/1 night.

Pickup in David at 8:30 am, stop at a river canyon for swimming at 9:30 am. Next get up to the lodge and have lunch. That Afternoon, learn about cloud forest animals and about the jungle. Have a relaxing time in the afternoon, possibility for short guided hikes. Have dinner, and watch the nocturnal animals, take a short night safari, weather permitting.

Use the lodge facilities for night entertaiment, sleep. Have a Breakfast, take 3 hr guided hike to lookouts and a secret river in the cloud forest jungle, have lunch at the lodge and then drive back to David or drop off in Boquete via a different scenic route.

The only thing not included in the following price is the food and drink.
$55 per person minimum 2 people.

Hot Springs and Petroglyphs

Half day

Visit the Hot Springs and ancient Petroglyhs with return to David or drop off in Boquete
$30 per person, minimum 2 people
$10 extra each person

Isla Boca Brava

Full Day
Transportation to and from (includes boat transfer costs)

$100 for the car up to 4 people.

Transport to Bocas (Almirante) With stops at the River Canyon and Secret Waterfall ( Palo Seco Park )

Full Day
Leave Bambu Hostel at 9am
Stop at River Canyon for swimming at 10 am
Hike to the secret waterfall at 1 PM
Arrive to Almirante afternoon

$150 for the car for up to 4 people

River Canyon Swim, Hot Springs , Petroglyphs, Animal Rescue Center .

Full Day
Return to Bambu Hostel or Drop off in Boquete
$55 per person, minimum 2 people

Long Distance Transportation

Prices are for the car, Maximum 4 people per car

David to Bocas $130
David to Santa Catalina $210
David to Santiago $130
David to Chitre or Las Tablas $160
David to Pedasi (Isla Iguana) $210
David to El Valle $260


All tours are a minimum of 4 up to 12 hours long depending on destination and weather conditions.

Las Lajas:

$80.00 a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car), surf/tour guide, ice chest.

La Barqueta:

$60.00 a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car), surf/tour guide, ice chest.

Boca de Hacha:

$75.00 a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car), surf/tour guide, ice chest.

Puerto Armuelles area:

*Includes spots like: Los Olivos, Tortuga , 4:40 and more.

$95.00 a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car), surf/tour guide, ice chest.

Morro Negrito (Isla Ensenada) and nearby islands:

*Includes spots like: La Corocita, Playa Ensenada, Silva Afuera, Silva Adentro and more.

$210.00 (surfing only) a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car & boat), surf guide, ice chest, fishing equipment.

$260.00 (surfing & fishing) a day from 1 person to groups of up to 4 people.

Includes transportation (car & boat), captain, surf/tour guide, ice chest, fishing equipment.

Surfboard rentals

* Taking a tour: $10.00 a day.

* Only surfboard rental: $20.00 a day.**

** Must bring a copy of ID or passport.

+ There are restaurants in most areas, bring your own snacks/food if you wish.

+ There are no available restaurants in the Morro Negrito and nearby islands area so tourists must bring their own snacks/food.

+ Trips all over the country are also available, please ask for more details since this are usually custom made tours and will vary in price.

+ Also available, nature, fishing, camping and more!


All trips are a minimum of 4 up to 12 hours long depending on destination and weather conditions.

Mangrove Fishing (departing from Punta de Tierra):

*Includes spots like Punta de Tierra, Isla Batipa, Bahía de Muerto, Isla Muerto, Isla Chalapa, Los Lajones and more.

$160.00 a day for 1 to 4 people.

Includes: Light meals & snacks( granola bars, cookies, salads, fruit, etc.), soft drinks (water, sodas, fruit juice, gatorade, etc.), tour guide (captain & sometimes an assistant), fishing equipment, transportation to departure point, ice chest.

Boca Chica and surrounding areas (departing from Punta de Tierra):

*Includes spots like Isla Boca Brava, Isla Zaíno, Isla La Ensillada**, Isla Viuda**, Isla Ventanas, Isla Carey Macho and more.

$185.00 a day for 1 to 3 people.

Includes: Light meals & snacks( granola bars, cookies, salads, fruit, etc.), soft drinks (water, sodas, fruit juice, gatorade, etc.), tour guide (captain & sometimes an assistant), fishing equipment, transportation to departure point, ice chest.


Bambu Hostel, Benny Olmos or Gregg Lapkin
Office Phone: (507) 730-4851 Mobile (507) 646-78552 or
Se Habla Espanol

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Link on Dr Hostel

Hey all we just got listed at Dr. Hostel this is a great site for hostel reviews check it out!

Bambu Hostel in David Panama, A luxury hostel at $8 a night


What started out as a dream about ten years ago in NYC has turned into our new reality! Me (mike Esterson) and my buddy Gregg Lapkin got together and bought a large family house in the San Mateo section of David Panama complete with a 3000 SF garden in march. For me I was correctly convinced that the US economy was in the toilet, the little that i had in my 401k was not growing, so i pulled it out of the market and made the decision to invest in Panama, a better investment in hindsight after seeing the market hear collapse.

Bambu Hostel is a labor of love, Gregg and I have created an international backpackers hostel and resort. It has a sparkling swimming pool, in ground of course, and really nice gardens to relax in..the rancho bar is an authentic central american rancho with hand woven roof and rustic wood construction. We built brand new showers and bathrooms and our dorm rooms have AC or no AC, we charge $8 USD for a dorm bed but you can feel like you are living large.

Bambu Hostel is fun, Gregg and I are both professional musicians, He plays guitars and sings kind of a human juke box and I play hand drum bass and sing as well...we both have had major label deals, Gregg with the legendary Rakes Progress and Me with the infamous and first live hip hop group Smokin Suckaz with Logic.

Nightly there are jam sessions and guest DJ's popping through and often there are bbq's and pool parties..

please come to David Panama and check out our place, stay a day or a week or a month, chill out with me and Gregg and our Panamanian Lothero Benny!

see you in Panama!
Mike Esterson
Co-Owner Bambu Hostel