Panama in 12 days

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leela
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Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:24 pm

...which isn't long. Some recommendations would be welcome, as would suggestions regarding tying an itinerary together without wasting too much time in transit between places (Though overnight travel would be ok). We can probably run to one internal flight.

Definitely want some time in the highlands, some beach (I like snorkeling) and a three toed sloth sighting. And as we're travellers and not tourists, maybe a little bit of time away from the hordes. Budget only slightly more than backpacker.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:48 pm

I saw sloths in the parking lot of a restaurant Portobello on a trip to see the Black Christ.

Colon is very interesting if you can find a guide. I went there with my friend and her family. She'd done her master's thesis on the architecture and knew locals, so I was pretty lucky.

Fort Sherman has an abandoned US military base, but it also has historic presidios and untouched jungle.

The canal zone is interesting and there's a surprising amount of nature stuff there.

I would be inclined to save the internal flight to get to San Blas for some beach time.

The Pacific Coast has some magnificent stretches. Pedasi is a nice Pacific beach town.

I found Bocas Del Toro OK, but overall very overrated compared to the rest of the country. I was also underwhelmed by that Boquete.

Panama City is one CA city worth visiting.

It's a very small country and getting around is pretty easy (nice-ish roads, etc.)
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Bill Barilko » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:20 am

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:25 am

Thanks S8. That's useful stuff. The 'standard' short itinerary seemed to be Panama city, Boquete and Bocas del Toro. So if they're somewhat oversold and there are less touristed places that offer a similar experience, that would be useful to know.

We'll definitely spend at least a couple of days in the city. Canal, old town and one of the nature parks?

Colon sounds a bit dodgy (to say the least) for independent travellers. Shame,as there's a train there and I like train journeys. If a guide is affordable, maybe...

Where would you suggest instead of Boquete?

Also thanks Bill. But at a brief glance, those tours seem well out of our budget.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:34 am

I went on an embera day tour. I'm usually not into that sort of thing, but it was great.

I think a split between highland or jungle stuff and beach time is doable in Panama in 12 days without too much travel.

Boquete is fine, and may serve your needs well for getting into the highlands while having a decent range of services and hotel options. I just wasn't blown away by it. I'd skip Bocas if I had the chance to go to just about any other beachy area. I can't think of a good alternative to Boquete if you are interested in the highlands. I'll post any of they pop up in my head.

In PC, Casco Viejo and the Canal are must sees. We made day trips from PC to the canal, Colon, and the Black Christ without feeling worn or rushed. Some people do day trips to Isla Grande, too.

Two places I really want to see the next time I am there are Isla Coiba and the Darien area around La Palma.

I can ask my friend about guides for a train-colon trip, if you are interested. For what it's worth, I didn't find Colon as fearsome as described in LP.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Bill Barilko » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:35 am

less touristed places that offer a similar experience...

Pedasi as mentioned or Santa Catalina but you'd need your own transportation.
those tours seem well out of our budget.

Panama isn't for the impecunious.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Homerj » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:57 pm

Traffic in PC is appalling and road signs are optional, even your GPS will get you lost.
Everything else has been covered above.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:28 pm

It seems like Panama has gone from cheap-cheap to not a huge bargain over the past decade.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Lincoln » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:01 pm

Before going to Central America everyone was telling me how Panama City was the best capital in CA...i didnt get it at all,sure its safer and nicer than other capitals but its nothing special.

Another "Authentic" Panamanian city would be David..i liked the place alot.

Boquette is a must,Section8 sucks donkey balls if he didnt like that place,it wasnt at all busy or over touristy when we were there,we stayed in a fantastic place that wasnt cheap but was so well worth it,you can go visit coffee plantations (i can reccommend one ran by a cool old hippy from calafornia who produces ethical coffee and who will show you around his place).

BDT is worth a visit but is overdone somewhat,you will see the Sloth here and the snorkelling is great,we stayed at some bungalows ran by the rudest American woman i have ever met,it was a challenge to stay there as she was a horror show but in the end i wore her down with kindness and she arranged a great trip out at sea for us.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:08 pm

I liked David, too, but I'm not sure why.

Lincoln likes Boquete because it's easy to get drugs there.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Lincoln » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:13 pm

^ Sucks Donkey balls^

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:17 pm

Lincoln, how did you find the costs in Panama compared to the other countries you visited?
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Lincoln » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:23 pm

It was more expensive but not massively so,actually i just remembered we stayed in a hotel in PC next door to Roberto Durans house,it was a decent little area with loads of restaurants thatwerent too pricey...to be honest Section8 Panama was the last place on our visit through all of CA and we'd already blown the budget and i knew i'd soon be returning to the UK and a shit load of debt so i thought "Fuck it" and we stayed in nice places and ate and drank what we wanted.

I liked Panama alot,the canal region is well worth a visit.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Lincoln » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:24 pm

Why didn't you like Boquete BTW?

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:26 pm

I liked Boquete but just wasn't blown away by it. Everything I heard and read was that it was one of the best places in Panama. I did some nice hiking and the scenery in parts was appealing. Overall, it was not bad but I wouldn't plan to go back whereas there's lots of other places in Panama I can't wait to get back to.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by simon_in_exile » Tue Feb 02, 2016 6:24 pm

I was in Panama in 2003 for two weeks, so my info is dated. Bocas was on the verge of being developed, I got horrendously sunburnt there which left me with a bad memory of the place. But the drive there from David was fantastic: from Pacific side rain shadow over mountains to verdant Caribbean coast in a rickety colourful minibus. Boquete and the Sendero de los Quetzales are well worth the trip, plus Panama City and the Miraflores locks are worth visiting too - we were in PC for carnival.
If I went back (and I would love to) I'd also go to the San Blas Islands; for you maybe you could consider sneaking over the border to the Oso Peninsula in Costa Rica for a few days. Alternatively, Isla Coiba does look nice - I think it may still have been a prison back in 2003?
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Homerj » Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:01 pm

I found CR more expensive than Panama.
But Panama has no where near the tourist infrastructure.
Panama didn't impress me enuf to warrant a return visit.
My 2 cents.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:23 pm

Has anyone been to El Valle de Anton? Worth a visit?
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:05 am

I spent a day there. Very scenic and pleasant. I did not get out into the mountains but wish I had. I recall it being more popular with Panamanians than foreign tourists.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Total Reject » Thu Feb 11, 2016 2:22 am

I have only been to PC, birding at Pipeline Road.

2 years ago I had a 12 day trip planned centered around 7-8 days on Coiba. It looks great but we made other plans. Darien National Park was a close second choice.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Tue Feb 23, 2016 12:40 am

Bumping because we still don't have a plan and it's only four and a half weeks away.
Recommendations (places or accommodation) , ideas for itineraries that would make it work, all welcome.
As I mentioned,for the most part we'll be on a tightish budget, but we're prepared to splash out on a 'big experience' (wildlife, cultural, whatever - as long as it would be memorable) or a couple of days' tour like the ones Bill linked. So again, suggestions prior to our planning session in a week or two, would be great.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by polardude1 » Tue Feb 23, 2016 2:35 am

There are some great guide books out there.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Bill Barilko » Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:15 am

Might be something here-just don't ask someone to design you a custom itinerary (hint, hint)

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g2 ... anama.html
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Andrea1 » Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:54 pm

Was in Panama for a week, a week ago - did the Bocas-Boquete-David-Panama City route. Would have preferred to have gone other places - San Blas, the Pacific coast, but ran out of time. People were raving about San Blas. The surfers were raving about Santa Catalina.

Bocas Town, photogenic in that rundown, Caribbean way, is very close to being a dump, an overpriced one. Doesn't look like much of the tourist $ is being invested locally. Have a wander, take the photos, have a drink on the water (happy hour prices), go and visit/stay/do activities at the beaches. Water taxis to the closest island, Isla Caranero cost $1 to the direct landing, $3 if you go to others. Lovely beaches. Fun to watch the surfing. Attractive, laid-back hostel - El Gran Kahuna, Bibi's, on the beach/over the water, is a decent restaurant, scenic views. Well, I only ate there once - delicious seafood soup $8, full of octopus, squid, shrimp and fish. You'll probably have to wait for your food but just enjoy the views, Has a happy hour.

Shuttles from Bocas to Boquete cost $30. $25+ going the other way. Supposed to take 3 half to 4 hours but find that hard to believe. I took 4 half, no delays, pretty smooth straight through. You can do it yourself $6 boat to Almirante, bus to David, bus to Boquete but will take at least a couple of hours longer, probably more as you'll have to go via David (the shuttle doesn't).

Boquete is pleasant. cheaper than Bocas. If you're travelling backpacker+ then you could consider staying at Hostal Refugio del Rio, has an excellent location on a small stream/river. I didn't stay there but it looked lovely.
Enjoyed the coffee tour I did - $25. Would do a little research beforehand, I didn't, check which place you're visiting. Cafe Ruiz, serves, according to locals, the best coffee,never went.

Night bus from David-Panama City $18, easy, comfortable but very cold. Wear layers. The soup, $1.50, in the David bus station canteen was tasty. There's also a left luggage if you want to have a wander around David.

Panama City is an easy city to hang out in, has an excellent (air-con) metro system - get a $2 rapid card, like an oyster card (I have one you can have if you want, forgot to give it away) that you need for the metro underground $0.35, metro buses $0.25. To go to the Panama Canal (Miraflores locks) by yourself, just get the metro or a bus to Albrook, ask for Miraflores stop (next to Niko's restaurant). Entry to the visitors centre is $15. Time it with when the boats go through and get a good viewing spot (it does get a bit crowded). I took the 1pm bus out there, it was perfect, went around the musuem, saw a video, found a perfect place overlooking the lock. Check the times for buses coming back, they're not that frequent. Or take a taxi. Look out for crocodiles, while crossing the bridge, I saw a huge one.

I considered taking the train out to Colon, but it leaves early 7am ish, if you take it both ways you're stuck out in Colon for the whole day. You'd need to sign up for a tour in the area I would think. Not an area you'd want to go out exploring independently. Yes, the locals do tell you it's not safe outside of the areas specifically catering to the cruise people/tourists.

It rains a fair bit in Bocas, I had gorgeous weather the two days I was there but it was raining/cloudy when I left. Boquete is pleasant, cooler, Panama city hot and humid. You can't drink the water in Bocas, can in Boquete and Panama City. Many visitors don't seem to though. I was fine. Batidos/licuados are the best.

Eco hostels seem to be increasing/the thing to do. Lots of people were volunteering in them. Lost and Found Hostel, near David, was recommended a few times, a good place to go exploring the jungle/rainforest. Again, another thing I didn't do. No time.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Mon Feb 29, 2016 6:06 pm

Thanks, Andrea. That's really helpful stuff.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Total Reject » Tue Mar 01, 2016 4:05 pm

Not much I can contribute but I stumbled onto this website and thought it might spark some ideas.
http://amble.com/ambler/category/panamaguide/

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Tue Mar 01, 2016 5:52 pm

Great write-up Andrea. It jibes with what I remember, but is current.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:11 pm

section8 wrote:Great write-up Andrea. It jibes with what I remember, but is current.


Yep, jibes with my experiences too.

I've talked it up to Leela via PM, but will do it again here. Kuna Yala (aka San Blas) is stunning. I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in the pretty parts of this autonomous region (got stuck in nasty Puerto Obaldía for days, coming up on pangas from Colombia).
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:50 pm

Ignominy wrote:
section8 wrote:
I've talked it up to Leela via PM,

I didn't get that PM,ignominy. Only the brief one about possibly getting to Costa Rica, Something must have gone awry. Could you send it again, please?
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:58 pm

leela wrote:
Ignominy wrote:
section8 wrote:
I've talked it up to Leela via PM,

I didn't get that PM,ignominy. Only the brief one about possibly getting to Costa Rica, Something must have gone awry. Could you send it again, please?


It was the first one I sent. Kuna Yala = San Blas.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:04 pm

That's weird. I never got that one. I've just checked my inbox again, but nope.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:04 pm

I loved San Blas.
This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:12 pm

How long would you spend there? I don't think sailing around them would be an option. It'd be choosing an island and staying there.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Bill Barilko » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:14 pm

leela wrote:How long would you spend there? I don't think sailing around them would be an option. It'd be choosing an island and staying there.

Guna Yala's too expensive for you.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:22 pm

section8 wrote:I loved San Blas.


I'd love to see it again, but with more comfort. I'd walked across the border from Capurganá, Colombia, to Puerto Obaldía, where I had to figure out onward transport. The landing strip had just closed indefinitely, and I missed the last flight to Panama City by less than an hour. I was stuck in that festering dump for three days while arranging transport, which turned out to be an open speedboat. We stopped at Panamanian military checkpoints at Mulatupo, Playón Chico, and El Porvenir. The Panamanians hassled me at every stop, because the boat's manifest (zarpe) had me listed as a Colombian national, although I carried a US passport. The islands looked gorgeous, although the only one I got to see beyond the military checkpoint was the one with El Porvenir. After the military cleared us, I begged off for a half hour to get a bottle of rum and start anesthetizing myself for the rest of the trip.

After El Porvenir, we hit a squall, and hilarity ensued.

Leela, it's expensive, and I think you need special permission to stay on most islands other than El Porvenir. The Kuna have a reputation for nickle-and-diming tourists - this is the biggest complaint I've heard about visiting Kuna Yala. That, and the toilets on many of the overcrowded islands that open directly to the sea.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:48 pm

I flew out to one of the main islands and then got picked up by the "resort's" boat. The flight was like $75 and the resort (very simple and rustic) was something like $40-50/day and that included basic but edible food. They ran day trips to a barrier island that had amazing beaches and good snorkeling. I can't remember the name of the resort, though. :(

Also, this was in 2008 and prices have gone up, or so I have heard. When I get to my home computer I'll post some pics.
This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:52 pm

This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:55 pm

section8 wrote:I flew out to one of the main islands and then got picked up by the "resort's" boat. The flight was like $75 and the resort (very simple and rustic) was something like $40-50/day and that included basic but edible food. They ran day trips to a barrier island that had amazing beaches and good snorkeling. I can't remember the name of the resort, though. :(

Also, this was in 2008 and prices have gone up, or so I have heard. When I get to my home computer I'll post some pics.


Probably El Porvenir. Mulatupo has an airstrip too, but most flights from Panama City land at El Porvenir, which was easily the most developed place I saw in the archipelago.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by section8 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:00 pm

Yep, that's the place.

Image
This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Andrea1 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:24 pm

Anyone fancy a 14 day, all inclusive cruise Lisbon to Colon for 225 Euros? It's leaving in September.
https://www.pullmantur.es/en/cruceros/- ... posicional

With regard San Blas, I think there are easier, more and cheaper trip options than there have been in the past. Various hostels in Panama city have folders with information about getting there/staying there. One woman I met was initially going to do a boat option which was going to cost $600, opted instead for a cheaper $250 flight option. I don't know the details. She did it through a contact at El Machico Hostel, Panama City. They use the Sanblastours company, I think. Here you can see a breakdown of some of their trips.
http://www.sanblastoursislands.com/san- ... lands.html

Mamallena hostel in Panama City seem to have good contacts, was doing a lot of arrangements for travellers, this is their website page on San Blas.
http://www.mamallena.com/sanblasisland.html

I am not recommending either of them but what they have on their website might give you some ideas and I think you could email them with questions.

Wikitravel on San Blas has a lot of information but I don't know how up to date it is.

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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:33 pm

Andrea1 wrote:Anyone fancy a 14 day, all inclusive cruise Lisbon to Colon for 225 Euros? It's leaving in September.
https://www.pullmantur.es/en/cruceros/- ... posicional


I wish I could take off two weeks in September - would've already bought a pair of these if I could.

Mamallena hostel in Panama City seem to have good contacts, was doing a lot of arrangements for travellers, this is their website page on San Blas.
http://www.mamallena.com/sanblasisland.html


Mamallena and Luna's Castle are two spots in Panama City to arrange trips to Kuna Yala. I've stayed at Luna's Castle. Great location in Casco Viejo, very much a party hostel.

Wikitravel on San Blas has a lot of information but I don't know how up to date it is.


I wrote a lot of that page early in 2010, and it's still up.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:02 pm

Thanks - that's all helpful stuff. I've just been reading up,and there are loads of different places to stay. On a variety of budgets and from extra basic to basic. I think we'd probably do the 4x4 plus boat option rather than fly.

A real life person also recommended Mamallena's for organising trips, a few days ago, so that seems a sound plan.
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Andrea1 » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:10 pm

Felix, Yeh, today I committed to going back to my old job, start April 11th. It means that I can't take that cruise. It was a hard decision.

The bar next door to Luna Castle has had a revamp/name change, now called Pips, $9 cocktails! Apparently it used to be party central, can't imagine it still is. It worries me what is happening in Casco Viejo. It looks gorgeous but it's not bustling and there don't appear to be many/any local places. Hopefully that will change because well, the architecture and area is wonderful, should be lived in/enjoyed by all.

Leela, Mamallena Hostel staff were really helpful, in both Panama City and Boquete. They also run an eco lodge/hostel somewhere.

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leela
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:57 pm

Thanks all. Your help was invaluable. We got back today after a really good trip.

We did the partial canal transit on the first day, and Casco Viejo on the second morning. Flew to Bocas that afternoon, and stayed on Bastimentos for three days, which was cool and very Caribbean in vibe. I'd stay at Bubba's House if I went again. A hostel built over the water where you can sit in the deck and dip your toes in the sea.It had a great atmosphere, and we ended up breakfasting there and going back to drink in the evening (and use their hammocks)Then we splurged for an extra day on Isla Caranero because we wanted to stay in a cabin built over the sea there.
Then to Boquete where we stayed at Refugio's sister hostel La Polilla. Much more basic and quirky, but with a garden with wonderful views, and hammocks slung under the lemon tree. We did the three waterfalls hike and Ben also did the Quetzal trail (and saw some). Then we did the cloudforest canopy zip lines, which I found pretty cool.

We took the night bus from David to Panama City, and got to Mamallena's at 3am, where we got picked up at 5:30 to go to San Blas. Wow.Thanks for the advice to go. We stayed on the quietest and most beautiful beach on Chichime island for three nights. We camped in the sort of tents you'd take to a festival and then dump, spent a fair bit of time in hammocks between the palm trees, had trips to a couple of other islands, snorkelled, and SWAM WITH A RANDOM DOLPHIN.

Then briefly back to Panama city. We got up early on our last morning and went to the Parco Metropolitano to find more sloths, and generally up the wildlife sightings before our flight home.

It was turned out to be more of a holiday/vacation than our usual trips (which tend to be a bit more hardcore) and was certainly more costly, but the former wasn't a bad thing at all. We had a lot of fun, and Panama certainly offered a lot of variety. Thanks again.
Pass the wine...

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GLimpet
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by GLimpet » Sat Apr 09, 2016 11:02 am

Good to hear.

Did you sort out my secret bank account as requested?

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cuchulainn
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by cuchulainn » Sat Apr 09, 2016 1:28 pm

http://youtu.be/w-NshzYK9y0


迷失的灵魂是愚蠢的。

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leela
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by leela » Sat Apr 09, 2016 4:46 pm

GLimpet wrote:Good to hear.

Did you sort out my secret bank account as requested?

Yep. In the Zzzzz of time, as it turned out.

Now...about my expenses...
Pass the wine...

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Bill Barilko
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Bill Barilko » Sat Apr 09, 2016 5:33 pm

Pics or it never happened.
Nexus the criminally insane whore/backstabber wrote:You missed the porn site I set up in your name....Shall I send the link to everyone?

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Lincoln
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Lincoln » Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:05 pm

Good to hear you had a good trip and that you stayed at Bastimentos...i went there just so i could say the word"Bastard" freely and frequently....highlight of the trip if i'm honest.

People often ask how does central America compare with SE asia ? i'm pleased i went to CA but i'd choose asia over that region anytime.

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Ignominy
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Re: Panama in 12 days

Post by Ignominy » Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:08 pm

Lincoln wrote:Good to hear you had a good trip and that you stayed at Bastimentos...i went there just so i could say the word"Bastard" freely and frequently....highlight of the trip if i'm honest.

People often ask how does central America compare with SE asia ? i'm pleased i went to CA but i'd choose asia over that region anytime.


Yes, but you're a subliterate chav.
Je suis le champignon vénéneux qui fait vomir l'intrépide.

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