So my year abroad has started (read my previous posts if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
I landed in Panama City at about 4pm yesterday and once I got to the airport I was bombarded with people asking me if I needed a taxi so I decided the answer was yes because my suitcase is so heavy there’s no way I could even lift it onto a bus. (Yep I fitted enough stuff for 8 months into one suitcase!) The driver was really friendly and forced me to speak in Spanish for the whole 30 minute journey (there was lots of traffic) to the hostel I’d booked for last night before my domestic flight today.
I hadn’t really researched Panama City before coming here because obviously I’m only here for one night before heading to an island where I’ll be living so there wasn’t much point. In my head it was similar to Jamaica, not really developed, but I was surprised to see this from the taxi (as you can see it was raining):
The roads were fine and people didn’t really drive crazily (again I wasn’t expecting that) but they beep their horns quite a lot and literally hold their hand on the horn for like 15 seconds at one time.
Anyway we found the hostel – Los Faroles Hostel and Guesthouse (only because I’d printed its location from Google Maps – the driver had no idea where it was even when I told him the address). It was the first floor of a tall building and you could see the terrace/balcony where people socialise from the street, but no signs of how to get in or anything. We shouted to the people on the terrace and they said the owner wasn’t there at the moment so they’d let us in (they were just guests of the hostel). I thought that was a bit crazy cos if they hadn’t been there I would have been stranded on the street til the owner came back from wherever he was.
By the way the taxi journey cost $28 and I have no idea if they were hustling me or not but it was less than I’d have paid in London so I figured it was ok (plus I didn’t really have a choice).
Anyway the people on the balcony started chatting to me and it turned out they’re from Jamaica (obviously when I found this out I was like OMG and told them about when I was there in July and that I’m going back in December/January). The woman told me she’s a teacher at a teacher training college in Kingston (Jamaica) and she’s here with another teacher and 5 students on a new exchange programme run by the university down the road from his hostel. They’re here for 6 weeks with students from all over the world who do Spanish taking classes at the uni. She said I should meet the students who are around my age, so she took me to the girls’ room and forced us to speak in Spanish, but as soon as she left obviously we reverted back to English.
I showed the girls my pictures from Jamaica and told them the stories about when I won a karaoke competition there by singing a Jamaican song without looking at the lyrics etc and they found it hilarious and said we should meet up and they’ll show me their school and we can party or whatever when I go there in January, so we’ve swapped numbers and Facebooks.
We went to get some dinner and I was surprised at the amount of fast food there was. MacDonalds here does deliveries!! I was expecting more little traditional takeaways etc, but I ended up getting a pizza. The part the hostel is in is called El Cangrejo district and you can find basically anything here and most things were still open when we were walking around (about 8pm) – pharmacy, phone shop, food shop, cafe, “erotic massage” place etc, and it seemed safe to walk around.
I spent the rest of the evening with the Jamaican girls and they told me they’d come and find me this morning before they leave to go to the canal because I’ll be on my way to the domestic airport when they get back. It’s 7.20am now and I’m on the balcony so hopefully they’ll find me.
Anyway (just in case any of you were planning on staying in Los Faroles and wanted a review) this is my room which I paid $30 for (they use US dollars here):
The air conditioning is so good that I was actually too cold in the night and there doesn’t seem to be any way of turning it off. Well I’m not sure if it’s just a vent or air conditioning but whatever, the room was cold. The only light is the one you can see in the first picture so if you’re planning on putting makeup on or anything you wouldn’t attempt to do it in the room. Everything else is fine/good though, and the staff are helpful and friendly and it’s in walking distance of everything you need.
This is the view from the balcony:
I’m pretty sure I can hear a parrot but I can’t see it and I’m not an animal expert so it might just be a normal bird. Anyway my plan for today is to go by myself to the shops and get some breakfast/lunch and a sim card then I have to check out at midday, get a taxi to the domestic airport and then the flight to the island (Isla Colon) is only 45 minutes.