When in Panama…

At the locks just after a ship went through

At the locks just after a ship went through

After our relaxing time in Bocas del Toros, we made our way to Boquete.  In all honesty, Boquete was a bit of a bust.  It rained nearly the entire time we were there.  So, even though we had a long list of things we wanted to do and see, we really didn’t get to do much of anything.  That said, we still really liked it.  It looked like a cute town, there was a nice sports bar with good food run by a guy from Chicago, and we found a nice hotel.  So, if we ever make our way back to Panama, I’m sure we will make our way back to Boquete.  (Interestingly, we were told by a Canadian that Boquete is a terrible place.  Apparently, the large concentration of ex-pats has driven up all of the prices and the locals hate the ex-pats.  Thankfully, everyone was perfectly pleasant to us.).

The morning we left Boquete dawned bright and sunny (figures, doesn’t it).  We made our way to Panama City on public buses.  First we took an old school bus to a town called David about one hour away.  Nothing special, but nothing awful either.  We got a seat and there was a storage area for our bags, so all was good.  Then, it was on to the cross-country bus for a eight hour trip to Panama City.  We were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the bus was — it sure isn’t like the buses in Sri Lanka!  Assigned seating, AC, only one stop for lunch, and movies.  We even got to watch the latest Fast & Furious film in English.

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A “small” ship going through the outer canal

So far, we have done the one thing in Panama City that nearly every visitor does.  We visited the Panama Canal.  The plan had been to cab there.  We had read that cabs would cost $6-10 each way.  Oh no….the cabs in front of our hotel wanted $20 each way plus the driver wanted to “guide” us around and then get the return fare on his schedule.  We weren’t having any of that.  So…it turns out you can take public transportation to the visitor center (although it didn’t look like very many of the tourists were doing so).  A quick metro ride to the bus terminal followed by a quick bus ride that dropped us off right at the visitor center entrance.  All that for a mere $1.20 each way for the two of us.  A far better way to go than by cab, at least in our opinion.

A bigger ship going through the inner canal

A bigger ship going through the inner canal

Personally, I thought the trip to the visitor center was largely a waste of time.  Robert seemed to like it more than me.  We did get to see a few ships go through the locks and it is kind of neat to watch the water flow out of one lock and into another, raising or lowering the ship.  (We only saw the ships being raised — traffic goes in one direction in the morning and the other direction in the afternoon).  It was also kind of neat to see the tugs pulling the ships along.  But the museum was far too crowded and not very informative.  We did learn that the big ships get charged $300,000-400,000 for the eight hour trip through the canal.  Crazy to think it is worth that!

See the tugs pulling the ship through?

See the tugs pulling the ship through?

On a completely different note, the downtime in Boquete gave us plenty of time to book our return ticket back to Chicago.  I’ve been quite grumpy since we booked the ticket.  It is so sad to think that this amazing year is almost over… On the upside, we are going back to Asia for the final month of PigFish.  We are very much looking forward to that.  I’m already starting a list of foods I have to try or eat one more time…

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