Overnight Adventure To Panama City
To get to Panama City, I left Chichica at 3:30pm for Tole. In Tole, I took the last bus to Santiago. Then I hung out in Santiago from 7pm until 1am. I decided to travel overnight to save myself from having to find a place to stay.
The Santiago bus station was a little scary. There was a guy with mental problems who bothered some girls who were waiting in the same outdoor restaurant I spent most of my time in.
I stored my big backpack in the 24-hour storage room to reduce my exposure as an obvious backpacker/tourist. It’s funny how that worked though.
The guy asked me what the contents of my backpack were worth. I wasn’t expecting that question. I asked what the minimum was and he said protecting of value $10 cost $0.75. I then asked how much $500 in value cost and he said $7. So I took the only valuable thing in my big packpack, put it in my small one, and said I wanted to insure it for $10. I paid the $0.75 and gave him a $1 tip. Nothing was stolen.
The bus station in Panama City is gigantic. I don’t know if it’s the biggest in the world, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. It’s like a mall that doubles as a bus station.
I arrived at the Panama City bus station at 4:30am. I had some coffee, breakfast, and hung out until 7am. Then I took a taxi to drop off my bag at my couchsurfing host’s place before she headed to work.
I spent two days in Panama City. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was simultaneously more developed and more poor than I expected. This makes for a pretty interesting contrast, though sad at times as well.
I started off my first day by going to the Ministry of Health’s vaccination office. There, I got a yellow fever vaccine for free – though the international yellow card certificate cost $5. This was much, much cheaper than what it would have cost if I got it in the U.S. or Denmark.
So, although still not happy how the entry into Panama went, it evens out with the big savings from not having to pay for this shot. Parts of South America have yellow fever and some future countries may require proof I am vaccinated before admitting me.
How can you visit Panama City and not visit the canal? Exactly. So this was next on my to do list here. It’s a monstrous feat of ingenuity and engineering. I went to the Miraflores Locks near the city to see how ships move through the locks.
Passing through the canal costs between $500 and $400,000. Size matters here! Ships pass through relatively quickly, but they use a schedule to make sure things move along smoothly. Ships must pay two days in advance to pass through.
In the two pictures below, you can see how the locks work, with the addition of water to elevate or lower ships. The water used here, by the way, is all fresh water from a nearby river. Apparently, putting Pacific Ocean water into the Caribbean and vice versa is very bad for the ecosystem!
Below is a video showing a gigantic container ship passing through a lock in the canal.
Panama City has a lot more tall buildings than I expected. And many of them are under construction and being built right now. The old part of the city is quite nice and has a lot of partially demolished churches/buildings.
December 8th was Mother’s Day in Panama. It’s a national holiday and many things were closed. I used this as an opportunity to walk around as much of the city as I could.
One of the cool things I did was walk up Cerro Ancon. I made every wrong turn I could getting up and then getting down the mountain, but the views were worth it!
Also, a cool view of the Panama Canal from the mountain, and then the thousands of containers (and cars) that are on the docks waiting to be shipped.
I saw some great Indigenous street performers in the city. They were the only street performers I saw, actually. Below are two videos of them performing.
I couldn’t help it. The currency here used to be Panamanian Balboas. It still is, but they use U.S. Dollars and Balboas interchangeably ($1=1B), though Balboas are only used in coin form now. It’s also a brand of beer. It’s also the man who defeated Ivan Drago. Respect.
There are mini-pineapples here. They are about half the size of a normal one. I got this one for $0.50 on the street. I think they are sweeter than normal ones. Wonderful!
Similarly wonderful was this cocada. It’s coconut cut up into small pieces fused together with natural sugar cane and flavored accordingly. In my case, I had a normal one and a pineapple one. Other flavors included milk, ginger, and strawberry.
Guys with guns.
Lastly, the rainy season isn’t over yet. I can’t wait for it to end though. I’m more than fed up with the rain!
Well, I reached about as far as I can go by land/bus. In fact, there are no roads linking Panama with Colombia. You have to fly or sail to get from Central America to South America. I opted to sail for the experience of sailing in the Caribbean, meeting the Kuna indigenous people, snorkeling for the first time, and taking a 4-day break from this blog, the internet, and everything. As I’ve said before, it’s healthy to disconnect from everything sometimes!