Hola amigos! Como estas?
Hmmmm…Why is Cam greeting you in Spanish?
Well… If you have been following me on Instagram, you would have known that Rory and I spent 10 days in Central and South America. Now that we are back in The Bahamas, I am excited to share my travel experience with you. When I think South America: Colombia and Brazil come to mind. They seem to be the most often explored by travel enthusiasts. We wanted to experience countries off the beaten path; Peru and Chile sparked our interest the most. Since our travel route to Chile and Peru was scheduled to take us through Panama, we decided to spend a few days there.Rory and I made a spontaneous trip to Panama for the very first time in July of last year. Although we only spent 3 short days, we were blown away by Panama and her people and couldn’t wait to re-encounter this beautiful place.
We took a direct Copa Airlines flight from Nassau to Panama. The flying time was a little under 3 hours. As soon as we touched down, Rory headed straight to the Ferragamo and under Armour stores- such a shopaholic. After browsing through a number of stores, we proceeded to immigration and customs.
The immigration officer was such a sweetheart and though the lines were long at customs, it was a smooth sailing operation. Quique, ( A Panamanian friend we met on our previous visit) picked us up from the airport and in less than 25 minutes we were at our hotel.
Hard rock Hotel was our home for the three nights we were in Panama. We chose this property because it was just 10 minutes from our favorite shopping mall- Multiplaza and right across the road from Metro mall.
On our way to the room, we discovered that the elevator was not functioning properly which was quite frustrating. We were also greeted by an unpleasant carpet odor in the hallway which spoiled the ambiance. The room was not what we expected, we were hoping for one with a more scenic view and modern amenities- similar to what we had at Trump Plaza on our last visit.
“Jeeze yu a spwile wi experience Hardrock!”, I said to myself.
After agonizing for a while, we decided to upgrade from a deluxe room to a junior suite which was more appealing.I must admit that the hotel staff were pleasant and extremely helpful. The restaurant at Hardrock serves an incredible breakfast buffet for $18 per person which is quite reasonable AND The roof top on the 62nd floor has a spectacular view of the city at night.
The jewel of the visit is definitely shopping. There are several malls scattered throughout the city. The largest is Albrook which features over 200 stores, restaurants, cinemas and the whole works.
Multiplaza is one of Panama’s finest shopping malls which feature all the well known brands including high end brands. Quite naturally, we shopped till we dropped and burned a hole in the credit card too…oops!Some of you asked if it’s cheaper to shop in Panama, It depends on what you are looking for. As it relates to brands you will pay the same price as the US. If you are looking for basic clothing then you can find pieces as low as US$1.99 or even less at Los Pueblos Mall. Albrook has some reasonable priced items as well. I am pretty sure there are other malls that are wallet friendly. Oh, Causway is a duty-free zone. It’s the perfect spot for electronics, perfumes and other sundries(ensure you take your passport to get the duty-free price).
The first time I tried Panamanian food I was pleasantly surprised…It has a unique flavor that my tastebuds were digging. We had traditional breakfast at Trapiche-a popular spot for Panamanian cuisine. The breakfast consists of black beans, fried eggs, bacon, white cheese, tortilla and a serving of Plantain Empanada.The Plantain Empanadas were my fave… I will fly to Panama just for Empanadas!
While strolling through town, I was shocked to see a vendor selling green mangoes with salt and pepper.
“RHAATID… DEM DID AV DIS DUNG YAH TU?!”
It brought back sweet memories of Jamaica. I used to enjoy this tongue tingler during the summer days after playing a round of cricket with makeshift bat and ball…those were the good old days I tell you.We stopped for dinner at Tataki – a modern take on restaurant presentation. The menus were all electronic; each person had a hand held device where you could see the dishes being ordered. We were able to select and send our order straight to the kitchen. The food and service were impeccable. The owner was very friendly, he spent a considerable amount of time talking to us about what to expect in Peru and Chile.
We made a quick stop at the local market for some fresh fruits. The colourful stalls remind me of a slice of Jamaica’s market. I tried to show off my Spanish and it went like this:
Me to the vendor showing him 6 ripe bananas,
“senor, quantos anos tienes?”
“Tengo cuarenta y ocho anos”, he responded.
Quique looked at the vendor and they burst out in laughter. I was actually asking the man’s age and not the price of the bananas. How on God’s earth did I pass Spanish? Well I guess that’s what happen when you don’t use the language.
If by any chance you end up in Panama, Casco Viejo is a must see. We had the privilege of visiting this gem. I often see this picturesque neighbourhood on Instagram and I knew I had to set foot there. It has so much color, character and charm. Before the modern Skyscrapers, Casco was the second old capital of Panama.
It is the perfect place to get your Panama hats and souvenirs too.
A FEW TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO PANAMA:
- Most Panamanians speak Spanish; if your Spanish is malo( bad) like mine, I would recommend that you download the “iTranslate” app, it saved our boongie(Bahamian term for butt) during our stay.
- The temperature in Panama is muy calor( very hot),so pack your summer clothing.
Here endeth my Panama leg. Stay tuned for my next destination, PERU.
I hope you have a fabulous weekend… adios!