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...

No comments: