Nobody: So how was Panama?
Me: Pah-nah-MÁH was glorious!
Panamá was an absolutely fun time — even with all the humidity and rain. But, hey, that’s what happens when you travel so dangerously close to the rainy season in the tropics.
I always enjoy listening to what led someone into picking their travel destination of choice. While I picked Panamá because I used Google Flights to see cheap flights during the month of May, Panamá popped up, and I thought “Hmm! Why not? Let’s see the canal,” I’m hoping that you will be choosing Panamá based off of the amazing time I had there — even during the rainy season.
The first thing that struck me about Panamá was how tall it was. Juxtaposing the tallness of the white buildings with the lush green rainforest… I do wish I was able to capture the contrast from my grainy little window seat, but these airlines do not want me to be great!
And speaking of airlines… y’all Delta almost PLAYED MY LIFE. Our (as in, my and my sister’s) flight journey started at 3:45A. To set the scene for y’all, neither of us has had any sleep. Our flight was on a Friday, the last time I slept was Wednesday night. So from Thursday at 6A (when I woke up) to Saturday at 2A, I probably slept a total of 2 broken hours. So needless to say, I was mildly irate. Anywho, our Lyft driver came early (we tried scheduling a ride), and my sister and I were RUSHING to finish packing and head on over to the Lyft before miss ma’am cancelled our trip! And to think Coralie (my sister) almost forgot her passport… hah… ha… ah……….. Imagine. Literally, just imagine showing up at the airport without your passport for an international flight. I’d be ready to cancel and just stay my ass home.
We make it to the Lyft and it’s raining! Happy Friday the 13th!! RAIN to forebode our impending rainy trip. But let me reiterate that it was raining, because miss ma’am was ZIPPING through the empty, dark roads like Dominic Toretto was tryna catch her ass! At one point, so was horizontal in a 3 lane highway because she had to make the exit with a truck coming. Ma’am, all roads lead to Rome. Miss the first exit and the exit 4 miles down will loop you back around to the airport. It’s okkaaayyyyy. Said my prayers and closed my eyes, I did not want to see my death. We did, eventually, make it to the airport, in one piece. We make our way through check-in, show our Panamá pre-customs validation QR code, check our luggage, and make our way to our gate for the first leg of our flight. I even started my nails (while eating a Quiznos sandwich, which I later ended up regretting hardcore), while waiting for boarding.
We board and I promptly take a little 10 min nap, hoping that when I wake up we are in the sky on the way to our next step. Apparently, Delta did not have any direct flights into Panamá that week from the DC area. Our layover was 50 minutes in ATL… So we’re already racing against the clock. So tell me why I wake up, look at my watch, it says 7:30A (our flight was at 7A), and we are still on the tarmac finally lifting off! If your brain is mathing and seeing how we already lost 30 minutes… and our layover in ATL is 50 minutes… I open my Delta app and it tells me that our flight is delayed and that they’ve moved us to a different flight. IT WAS THE WAY I WAS INTERNALLY SCREAMING AND CRYING ON THE PLANE I WANTED TO PUKE!!! That Quiznos really was not sitting well. My sister was knocked out, so I had nobody to real-time cry to. So here I am texting my friends and family, asking them to contact Delta and to check flight itineraries for me. After some kerfuffle, the Delta app finally fixed itself and it showed our original itinerary. We gained some time in the air, but we still only had 30 minutes to run through the ATL airport to get to our new gate. And guess what? We got flagged when boarding, so we had to wait to get our facial recognition, error code, passport issue fixed? No, we don’t know what happened. Yes, it did get sorted.
A small sidebar about airplane windows turned into a whole rant about my adventure. Love to see it! But yeah, Panamá is very tall! We finally land and get off the plane, and I almost suffocated in the humidity. I am not even kidding. Hustled through their immigration and customs so that I can grab my suitcase and change from socks, slides, and a hoodie, to just slides and a sports bra. Was still sweating and breathing hard! But part of that was just from all the moving around. Once I finally sat still, I started feeling better. Our other two friends joined us from NY as we made our way on over to our AirBnB.
I wish I took pictures, it was such a pretty place, but the AirBnb link will have to suffice. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, can accommodate 4 people if everybody wants their own bed, or 6 people, if there was some bed sharing involved. The newly renovated condo has a little pool (that we never got to use!) that is shared with the other condo residents and some of the architecture is outdoors, such as the stairs and the pool, so definitely keep that umbrella handy from the minute you walk out the door.
We had plans to go to dinner and then salsa dancing. We only made it to salsa dancing. We had a small meal when we got to the AirBnb.
We stayed in Casco Viejo, Panamá’s old town, filled with glorious rooftops, cobblestones, historic walls, and a whole lot of restaurants. We got ready and headed out to find our instructor for salsa dancing. We booked through AirBnB experiences to go salsa dancing with Marta and her salsa safari crew. We met Martha and two of her dancers, Nelson and Miguel, who taught us the basics of salsa and took us to different bars with live music where we literally danced the night away. Ya girls were sweating. And guess what? My convertible heels BROKE!!! Imagine me trying to do a cute little salsa turns and I feel my heel twist out from under me. Which reminds me… I need to buy heel replacements for my shoes. At least just the heels broke and not my heels.
Hannah and I dropped Coralie and Karla off at the AirBnb before we went back out to another live music place, where we just got some Panamanian beer, before we decided to go back and walk around to find some food. Word of advice: do not walk around in Casco Viejo (or any city) at like 2 in the morning. A quiet city, stray animals walking around, groups of men lurking in a corner, and taxis following you around to see if you need a ride. Historic buildings being renovated look gorgeous in the daytime… not as glistening in the night when you can see the dilapidated areas.
We finally got back to the AirBnB. I hit a j, washed my face, and took a quick shower. The minute my head hit the pillow, it was lights out…
… until like 6A when my body decided to auto-wake itself up. Panamá is in the central timezone, so it was 7A back home. I tried so hard, I even begged myself, to go back to sleep to even get an extra hour of sleep. No, nay, never. I got up, and just watched some Netflix. When my friend Karla was up and at it, we walked around Casco Viejo to find a small little shop that sold fresh fruit, empanadas, and some carrot-beet juice. My body was REJOICING after I drank that juice. I normally like to pack my Kencko juices with me to ensure I get some fruits and veggies in the start of my mornings, but for some reason, I was utterly “unprepared” for Panamá, even though I had a whole lot of time to pack and prepare! But I was determined to make the most of my own predicament (which in hindsight, was more prepared than I believed, but still fell short of my own self-imposed standards).
When we got back from the shop, we all just laid in bed, watched horror movies, and I did Karla’s nails before we started getting ready for our Day 2 adventure: a food and drink tour hosted by a local Panamanian.
Another thing that struck me about Panamá was the amount of white ex-pats living there, and the amount of white ex-pat business owners who are then hiring Panamanians as employees. So it was nice to see that this tour was hosted by a local native.
Panamá City is a place of fusion. The true Panamanian food resides in the rural area while the city will have more diverse food. Given the location, and importance, of Panamá, it makes sense. Ana, our food tour guide, took us to several of her favorite fixtures, including Fonda Que lo Hay, which does serve as close to traditional Panamanian food as you’ll find in Panamá City. The tour highlighted local restaurants, food, and drinks that make Panama, Panamá.
It was a walking tour — so please wear some comfortable shoes. Ana taught us about the history of the food scene Panamá, which is mainly due to the canal’s presence (which I will talk a bit more about in pt 2 of my Panamá adventures).
Unfortunately, didn’t get the name of the rooftop bar we went to. But the calamari (which they name “spider legs”) were crispy perfection. And they served THEE BEST gin and tonic I’ve ever had, and I’m not a gin girlie! The overcast and sporadic rain damped (pun intended) the atmosphere, but I LOVED how the skies and the buildings looked in contrast.
We went to Mandinga, an amazing rum bar. Panamá, just like my country of Haiti, uses raw sugar canes to make their rum, compared to other countries using molasses. But what I really enjoyed was the Geisha coffee liquor. Smooth and perfectly balanced. I immediately envisioned myself pouring a shot into my daily cup of coffee. I don’t even drink coffee — that’s how amazing it was. Geisha coffee is so expensive due to the unique conditions needed to grow it, and because of that, only a certain amount can be grown yearly. Coralie picked up a bottle of the coffee liquor, but no coffee beans. Neither of us drink coffee enough to splurge on the Geisha coffee, but also, neither of us would recreate the coffee in a way that brings out the natural flavors. In essence, it would be wasted.
We ended our evening with Ana at Casa Catedral, a historic (if you couldn’t tell, everything in Casco Viejo is historic) restaurant where you can dine next to old cars. I’m not a car person, but it was still amazing seeing everybody else ooh and aah over these old cars. Apparently, a very old family collects these vintage cars and displays a handful of them at Casa Catedral. It absolutely contributes to the atmosphere. I felt as what I think I would feel like if I was in Havana — a place I haven’t been yet.
Even though our culinary adventures ended with Ana, the night was just getting started for us. We went back to our AirBnB to freshen up and change before grabbing late night dinner at Casa Blanca. I think most of the food we had in Panamá has been wonderful, but not necessarily stand-out, if that makes sense. Since most of what we had was Panamanian fusion, everything was delicious. My tastebuds were dancing with every bite, but as I look back at the fusion food, nothing popped out as my favorite. Take note I mention fusion food. We did try authentic Panamanian food later on during our time, and those were notable, but that’s a part 2 post *wink.* Yes, that does mean you need to come back and continue reading!
Quick side note… the cocktails were SUPERB. Two drinks stuck out to me: the mojito and a gin and tonic (had at the rum bar, and the rooftop bar). You might be reading it like, “girl… I can make that in my bathroom.” And you’re right, but it would suck. I have never had two super strong, yet alcohol-tasteless, yet bubbly and refreshing drinks in my life. I have been going crazy trying to ask bartenders here to remake them, “No can this have more club soda? Ok but not that club soda. Y’all have sugar cane syrup? No? Just simple syrup? Ok but what types of gins do you ha–just Hendricks? Ok. *scratches head.*” I think they spat in my drink. I gotta head on over to my fav cocktail bar to see if they can scratch the itch.
Ok. Back to our adventure! After dinner, we headed out to experience the nightlife. The night before, we had asked where the pretty black girls like to hang out to an Afro-Latina bartender. She gave us a list of recommendation. We first hit Selina, a cute, overpriced and highly overrated rooftop that charges a cover. Y’all know the vibes! Gorgeous views though (not pictured, sorry). Some random guy bought us all a shot, yum (jk). But there wasn’t any dancing. We could have gone to the main level to dance, but we were ready to try somewhere else. I’m not sure why, but I was tired, irate, sleepy–oh wait, must be because I slept a total of 5 hours over 72 hours? Nah, that’s not it. We walked around Casco Antigua, a place a couple blocks away from the center of Casco Viejo that has club next to club next to club next to rooftop next to club next to rooftop-on-top-of-a-club… The world was our oyster. We walked past each venue, listening to their music to see if we’d vibe. We finally just asked someone where we can go to get some lit black music. We were directed to Rush.
Chile… I was not ready. If I had some club days (and no, Shooters II does NOT count), I just know my club days would be OVER. Miss security guard patted me down and checked my purse. And the music was THUMPING. We tried to get closer to the center, but somebody threw (accidentally, drunkingly) drinks on us as we were walking around. I was done. I stomped, mad as hell, back to the bar. I was ready to leave on my own if everybody else was feeling the moment, but I did not want to leave a girl behind if two of the other girls also wanted to come back. Like, I’d brace it for the enjoyment of my friend, but if somebody else wanted to stay, too, I’d dip. Luckily, Coralie wanted to stay with Hannah, while Karla and I went back to the AirBnB. Part of me wished I did stay, given how Hannah and Coralie were talking about chaotic the DJ was, but I think it was for the best that I went back to bed.
Again, once my head hit the pillow… Lights out! The lack of sleep I got on that trip… whew!
THUNDERSTORMS! We chose a great day to–oh wait. I’m saving this for the next entry! So stay tuned.