Thursday, april 29th
Have slept badly at night, and it is not the best preparation for a long flight. There is a departure by airbus at. 7, and with KLM to Amsterdam at. 10. At 1 pm, KLM then flies to Panama City. It takes 11 hours and it's bad when you're tired. However, I can see most of 2 movies, even though I'm sleeping for the last 40 minutes of the "Murder in the Orient Express". Catering is hopeless.
It's about midnight when I land in Panama City. But the local claims at is 5 pm due to 7 hours time difference. Then through passport control, pick up luggage, through customs checks and into a taxi. It quickly take me into Hotel Bristol. Along the way you get past a lot of skyscrapers. According to the taxi driver, there is almost a new every day.
Hotel Bristol is a class hotel, and room 810 in one corner is a super. It's huge and have all the necessities. And it gets even better as the room service is showing up with 3 chocolatebites. There is just a time for a nap before I go down to the hotel restaurant to experience a decent meal today.
Friday, april 30th
Then I got into place and you can finally start being a tourist. It's Good Friday, so Panama City is unusually peaceful, most shops are closed and alcohol is banned.
I start with a magnificent breakfast table at Hotel Bristol before I'm going into town. This happens by hijacking a taxi, which can drive me to Casco Viejo, which is Panama City's old town. The use of taxi is the normal way for tourists to get around. They are cheap and the metro is not very useful. You just have to remember to agree on the price before you go. I agree 10 $ which will later prove to be in the top. However, I am safely driven down to Casco Viejo, where you can walk between the old houses. Some are set in good condition - others still need that. There are some beautiful churches and fun alleys to walk afound. The museums are closed, but I don't care about that. Some tourists are there too, but not overwhelming. On the other hand, it's very hot, so 3 hours walk is what I can take before the T-shirt is soaked and I will return by taxi. He only charget $ 5, which makes me suppose I was ripped off by the first one.
After a short break, it's lunch time. Most restaurants are closed so I have to go to KFC. The only positive here is the free refill on soda. So back to the much needed siesta. A term that makes sense with temperatures above 30 degrees.
At 5.30 im on it again. The Pacific is just a few hundred meters from the hotel. The plan was to look at it and then get some food. But plans have to change. At the sea there is a nice promenade that is not mentioned by my guidebook. However, the local has not overlooked it, so there is a cozy life with locals on benches, on foot, on bikes and on roller skates. It is complemented by a very nice evening without a cloud in the sky, and an accompanying beautiful sunset. When it's done, the moon will also take part and present the most beautiful full moon over Panama City's skyline. Needless to say, it takes a longer walk along the water, and the associated photo shooting with Nikon. After 2 hours I return for dinner. The plan was a restaurant opposite the hotel, but it's Good Friday and it's closed, so it will be in the hotel restaurant, which seems a little too expensive compared to the result. But it must be when there are apparently 8 waiters who have nothing to do. On the other hand, the hotel must be praised for the fact that there are chocolatebits in the room and that the slippers have been put forward.
Saturday, April 31st
Not all the decisions you make on such a trip are just intelligent. Eg. it is not smart to go out to Miraflores locks at The Panama Canal at 10 am. Then you arrive right after the morning traffic is over and there is 6 hours to the afternoon traffic. But you can look at the impressive building that can lift even the biggest ships so they can take a shortcut between the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. There is also an excellent exhibition where you can see how the Panama Canal was made and how the locks were built and works. So the only thing missing is some ships and I do not want to wait 6 hours for them. On Tuesday I would like to sail through. Then I have to see them there.
Back to the hotel and a short break before it's pizza time at Domino's. Then go back to a little longer break.
The evening walk goes down to my Pacific Promenade, which I am very fascinated by. Today, I turn left instead of right. The road ends at a small park with benches where you can sit and watch the sunset. There are no other tourists here but some of the locals have found the spot. From there, return to the hotel. The local restaurants are still closed, I do not want the hotels restaurant so I go back to KFC. So sad.
Sunday, april 1st
Today's trip goes to Parque Natural Metropolitano. It is a large park / forest / jungle located quite close to Panama City center. The trip is by taxi. It costs 5 $. It is apparently the standard rate. There is also a cost of $ 5 to enter. You get a little pamphlet with a guide before the tourist gets unleashed. I walk up some stairs. Looking for animals, but finding nothing but ants. Up on the top there are nice views of Panama City. Down again, and then I see a tree where there are 5-10 people underneath looking up. It's usually a sign of something interesting. And quite right. Up a bit, a sloth is sitting.. But the fun does not stop here. For now there is a car with 2 rangers, and they have a sloth that is to be set free in nature. It climbes out of the transport box before it moves into its tree at a very comfortable pace. Lots of photo opportunities for the happy tourists and locals who are present.
The time is approaching 1 pm. It's about afternoon heat so I'm returning to the hotel. Lunch is from Subway.
Later in the day a walk in my local hood. It is still hot. But everywhere there are sellers who sell a special kind of ice cream. They scratch ice of a large ice block, which they mix with some fruit stuff. It tastes great and does good in the heat. Dinner on the Friday's and yes fast food scene is also American inspired in Panama. Then I return to the hotel with coffee and chocolate in the room and baseball on TV.
Monday, April 2nd
It's time for a guided group trip. This means getting up fairly early before pickup with Barefoot Panama Tours at. 7.30. A small nice group of 7 people and an excellent guide. First, the bus runs along the canal to a place near Gamboa. Then we will be sent to a small boat, which through the Panama Canal sails up to some small islands called Monkey Islands. There is a reason for that. You can meet monkeys here. First Howlermonkeys high up in the trees, and then on to a place where there are Tamarins. They are small and naughty, and have a grumpy facial expression. They jump fast aboard the boat to get food. Finally we go to see some Capuchin Monkeys. Larger than the Tamarins, at least as naughty and they work team-based. One is doing some fun while another is on the boat stealing food.
From here on to a small Indian village where a small local tribe belongs. Fine enough, we hear about their history, see their city and their houses built of palm leaves, go for a nice little trip into the jungle, but their "gift shop" and final dance show could be avoided. Then return by boat and bus. Lunch on the return trip, and back at the hotel at 3 pm
That means relaxation for the rest of the day. Excellent evening meal at a local restaurant. It has now opened again, after most of it has been closed down in the Easter.
Tuesday, April 3rd
Eww. Get up at 5 am, to be taken for today's trip between 5.30 and 5.45. The trip goes on a boat to sail through parts of the Panama Canal. First, however, we are transported to a marina where the tour boat is located. It's nice and big. Space for 300. We are about 100 on board so there is plenty of space.
Anchor is released at 7 o'clock. Then we sail into the bay and under the bridge of the Americas, and then we are in the Panama Canall. Along the way we will pass through 2 locks that raise us 30 meters up to Lago Gatun, which is a major part of the Panama Canal. When the French first tried to dig a channel in the late 1800s, they would do it as ir was done in the Suez Canal. They wanted to dig so much that the lake was level with the sea, thus avoiding locks. However, it was a mistake because the slopes constantly toppled over the buildings and killed a lot of people. Therefore, the French gave up and the Americans took over.. They chose to make locks at both ends and raise ship traffic up to Lago Gatun's natural level. They had more luck with that.
That's why we first go through Miraflores locks, where we are raised by 2 locks. Then we sail a little and go through another lock at Pedro Miguel. There is a nice big container ship, Spring Breeze in front of us. It is very impressive that it can be done and a quite amazing experience. Otherwise, the channel seems primarily to serve as a cash machine and a bunch of jobs for Panama. The alternative for the big ships is a trip around South America. The tariffs that the Panama Canal takes to let the ships pass seems to show that Panamanians are well aware of this. This is monopolism in its worst form.
At noon the trip ends, even though we are only halfway through the canal. We are dropped off in Gamboa and driven in buses back to Panama City and our hotels.
The rest of the day goes well with a well-deserved nap and ordinary relaxation.
Wednesday, April 4th
Today's trip is for the most ancient of Panama, namely Panama Viejo. Here around 1519 the Spanish empire build a small town, which became the start of civilization in Panama. It only lasted 150 years. Then Captain Morgan (known for the rhum) came with 1,200 other pirates and supported by England and destroyed it, and then it was more or less over for Panama Viejo. Now there is only ruins left, and Panama's center was moved into Casco Viejo. I spend some hours walking around among ruins and seeing the local small but fine museum. Not many tourists, but that's ok.
Back at the hotel and lunch at the local place from yesterday. Great meal for $ 6. It is brought to the hotel so I can eat while watching Champions League.
Later in the afternoon a trip around the local neighborhood. Walking around here is not that easy. Partly because it's very hot and partly because the pavements are in miserable constitution. You almost have to jump around, sometimes walk on the road, other times of stairs along the shops. Such a classic sidewalk is not used so much. Traffic is, however, insane. My local neighborhood is a bit like Downtown in New York. Lots of hotels, banks and offices - but when it's about 5 or 6, everyone is driving home and traffic goes berserk. .
Dinner at 19 o'clock in another loca restaurant. Obnoxious early for the locals, so I'm basically alone, but I am hungry..
Thursday, April 5th
Granted - By the end of such a vacation I tend to get more and more lazy. A nice hotel and a damp heat outside does not help just that phenomenon. But something has to be done, so after breakfast a taxi is called at the curb. The tour goes to Amador Causeway, and a museum visit. The museum is called the Museo de la Bioversidad. It's brand new, the building was designed by Frank Gehry (Guggenheim in Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, etc.) and is spectacular and colorful. The museum is exciting. It contains a lot about Panama's geology, archeology, biology, etc. There are audioguides, friendly young hosts and a good deal of political correctness. "You have to take care of the earth" is the message, and that is reasonable. A couple of hours here, and overlooking the Panama Channel on one side and Panama City on the other, it's a useful and educational visit. So, return to Hotel Bristol again. The taxi passes through Chorillo. Here the guidebooks say that you should not walk around on your own. The houses are worn and everywhere there are "creepy" types that just sit on corners. The contrasts in Panama are great. I do not think they think much about biodiversity here.
The rest of the day is relaxation. Europa League football and US Masters golf on TV. A little nap. At night, a short trip to see the traffic. It is completely insane. Dinner at the hotel, baseball on TV, Spotify on the iPad and time in the featured E-book "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead.
Friday, April 6th
Have been granted late a check out, so I hang out at the hotel. In the afternoon, taxi to the airport. 40 $ if I need a receipt, 30 $ if it is not necessary. It is not. Lots of time at the small airport, with too few seats. Air France flies to Paris at 8. Full flight, but gets to sleep reasonably. Excellent catering and champagne as an aperitif is a bonus.
Saturday, April 7th
Landing in Paris at 1 pm. There is a flight-driver strike at Air France, so it's calm at the airport. Fortunately my fligth to Billund is ok, so I just have to kill 7 hours before take-off. Departure 8.30. 1 1/2 hour to Billund, bus and train back home. Tired.