Having a flight at 7am is perfectly okay except for the part where TAME doesn't have online check in and tells me to be at airport at 4am. Trying to get a decent nights sleep so I wasn't b*****ed for one of only two days in Panama, I went to bed a little before 10pm. I enjoyed 3 hours of sleep before I woke up due to a guy snoring really loudly. It was clear that he snored regardless but he definitely had a cold, making it louder and nastier to listen to. And so that was the end of my sleep. I dozed, almost reaching sleep before being jolted to alertness through a loud snore or a car alarm that went off three times. Given that Quito airport is right in the city (until Monday) I hedged my bets and decided to get up at 4am, change and leave just after. The taxi took all of 10 minutes at quarter past I was there. However in good old South American fashion TAME didn't open the check in counter until 5am meaning I hauled ass out of bed at an ungodly hour for nada. Not impressed. Then as per usual there were two airhead women in front of me in the check in cue with heaps of bags making a drama about everything. And just as it seemed they'd finally completed what is actually a very simple process, one of them was pulling liquids out of her bag and blathering on about how she didn't know you couldn't take them on the plane. However my flight to Panama was basically empty - approximately 80 seater plane with about 20 passengers, so I had two seats to myself and took full use of this as a makeshift bed.
Panama City is expensive. But when you see all the skyscrapers it makes sense. It's an emerging market here and very Western so the prices are set accordingly. It's just after the relative cheapness of South America, it's a little bit of a shock to find myself paying $10 for a simple meal again or taking a $30 taxi.
It's also hot, like properly Australian hot. 30 degrees, sun beating down. I should be used to this sort of weather but after all my moving around different climates, my system was a little shocked. Added to my tiredness, I really found myself struggling around 3pm.
I took a walk to the colonial area of town. The walk takes 45 minutes, so in hindsight it wasn't my best idea to wear thongs. After pretty much of all of my travel in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador required me to wear my hiking boots, I'm excited by any opportunity to rock my Havaianas. Anyhow about halfway there I realised I had a blister that had popped and my thongs rubbed it just the wrong way. Cue an uncomfortable afternoon out - but on the plus side good ol Mum sent me away with deluxe blister plasters so I whacked one of those on it this morning and it seems to be doing the trick. Thanks Carole! I was starting to wonder if I was walking the right way at all - I will know you know I followed the map and directions given to me perfectly Dani and Caitilin, and then finally I reached the fish market, which is really close. Casco Viejo is sweet. I much prefer it to the majestic skyscrapers in the newer parts of town. The roads are paved with bricks, the buildings are nice yellows, blues, reds and browns. It's a step back to a simpler time. Being super hot, it definitely called for some gelato. Perfecto.
After that I had intended to venture onto the Panama Canal. But by the one I got to Albrook Mall where you catch the bus, I was hungry and tired. So I wandered aimlessly round this MASSIVE mall, seriously it could rival Chadstone me thinks. It was exactly what my tired body and tireder mind needed. I even managed to replace my lost Kathmandu jumper (RIP) with a new Zara one for only $10. Wew!
BBQ dinner at the hostel. Easy. But no comparison to the BBQs of South America, especially Argentina. I got talking to some Swedish guys. One who had been traveling Central America, which was really interesting to hear about.
My second day started with dismay at the hostel provided breakfast. Pancake mix that you had to cook yourself. No thanks. So I went to a cafe brimming with locals (usually a good sign) and enjoyed a really nice, filling breakfast. For once I didn't mind eating he bread because it was real, tasty bread. So excellent.
After fueling up, it was time to hit the main tourist attraction of Panama, the Canal. While a pricy morning out, taking into account taxis to and from plus the entry fee, I'm still glad I went. It actually was really interesting to hear about the construction, transfer of from from the US to Panama and future of the canal. Luckily I got to see some boats pass through the lock. Some small yachts and a boat and one huge ass ship.
The taxi drivers of Panama have not impressed me as a whole. However the one I had back from the canal takes the take. I gave him my hostel name and full address in Spanish. However as we approached Marbella (the area I'm staying in) he pointed at an intersection and asked which way. I don't know know buddy. Obviously I'm not from here and that's your job and if you don't know, use a map. I even brought out a little map of the area given to me by the hostel and still he could not work out how to get to the hostel. The most frustrating part was knowing I was close to the hostel but not knowing exactly how to get there. He stopped to ask for directions twice. I always find taxi drivers asking for directions delightfully ironic. He kept saying to me 'look' as if it was my job to navigate the route. And apparently it was, because after almost ten minutes of driving round the area I got frustrated. He said look one last time time and asked me where my hostel is. I sort of explored. "¡No sé. Es tu trabajo!" Which means, "I don't know. It's your job!" And I then proceeded to throw (yes throw) the agreed fare into his lap, tell him not to worry, glare and slam the cab door. Mature it was not. And within a minute of looking at the street signs I found where I was using my hostel provided map, something that a tourist having been in the country for 24 hours can do but a local apparently cannot and easily found my way to the hostel.
And there so ends this post about Panama City, which is definitely my least favourite place. As far as I can tell Panama is a great country to visit...once you leave the capital.
Things I like about Panama City...
1 The weather.
2 A lack of unwanted male attention.