July 29, 2010
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July 12, 2010
Panama City to Isla Contadora
When researching where to go outside of Panama City, I found myself overwhelmed with choice. We knew we wanted some beach time and the Bocas del Toro islands, San Blas Islands, Pacific Coast beaches, and the Pearl Islands all looked interesting. Ultimately it came down to cost, weather, and ease of access. I’d read that Bocas was very rainy in July and the airfare there was more expensive so, out. The San Blas Islands were “rustic” but did not come with a rustic price tag so, out. The Pacific cost beaches, specifically Santa Catalina were very appealing but a six hour drive to get there was not. Out. That left the Pearl Islands in the Bay of Panama on the Pacific side of the country. If you are a fan of the TV show Survivor you might recognize the name as a few of the shows were shot here.
Isla Contadora is only about a mile long and less than half as wide and is home to about 350 full time residents. There are two airlines which fly there; Aero Perlas and Air Panama. We were told by more than one person that Air Panama has a horrible reputation and is known for redirecting flights based on cargo, not passengers. Meaning, you might get on the plane, expecting to go to Panama City and end up making two other unscheduled stops on other islands before you get there. There used to be a ferry service from Panama City, but it’s not currently running.
July 27, 2010
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July 11, 2010
Panama City, Panama
We woke to cloudy skies and a desire to get out for the day, but first, breakfast.
The Toscana Inn hotel includes breakfast with the rate in a room off the lobby and unfortunately this is probably the hotel’s weakest point. It’s not for lack of choice either, it’s just that none of it was particularly appetizing. The hot choices included an odd re-fried bean/meat/green olive concoction, limp bacon, scary pale things which looked like fingers but were probably sausages and overcooked hard boiled eggs. There was cold cereal and milk, fruit, and toast. Coffee and tea or $3 extra for a badly made cappuccino.
Our loose plan for the day was to check out the Miraflores Locks and then find some place to watch the World Cup Final game, possibly in a bar either near the hotel or in Casco Viejo.
First, a note about Panama City:
Panama City is a huge, sprawling, modern city filled with skyscrapers and varying states of construction. I didn’t realize this until I saw pictures when researching for the trip. This is no quaint, Central American small city with low slung buildings. It reminds me more of Bangkok in the spread of high rises than even Los Angeles where the tall buildings are clustered in “downtown.”
Unlike Bangkok, I didn’t see any big open markets and there’s no street food visible anywhere. Like Los Angeles, it seems that things are spread out all over, and there’s no good public transportation system like a subway. Yes, there are buses, but as a tourist and not a local I was hard pressed to find a bus map, let along figure out where they went and how to use them. That means that cabs are the way to go, and again, being from LA, jumping …