Yesterday evening there was a free salsa class at the hostel (just for people staying here or taking Spanish classes here) run by a Cuban woman so I went to that which was fun. At the end I overheard a girl I hadn’t seen before asking the teacher if she also did dancehall classes. As soon as I heard the word “dancehall” I was like “you like dancehall?!” and we bonded within like 10 seconds.
Her name’s Reema and she’s from Switzerland so it was useful that we could speak in French as well as Spanish (or English but we decided that was a waste of time). We chatted for about 2 hours and we both agreed that each other were the first person we’d found here who wasn’t a kind of typical backpacker. Most of the travellers here are just here to drink or take drugs and party in places where there aren’t actually many Panamanians or any Panamanian culture. Me and Reema didn’t really see the point of that kind of travelling, and we decided we were going to go on a hunt for a proper Panamanian place to go out that night (hopefully one that plays some dancehall).
We were talking to some people outside the hostel and overheard some dancehall from the balcony of the next-door building so we went over and danced on the road next to it (you can always walk or do whatever on the road cos there aren’t many cars). The woman whose house it was shouted down to us that we can come up and she’s selling food, so we went up and she explained that it’s her house but on the balcony she sells bbq chicken and beer and plays music so people can come and chill there and she can make a bit of money. Reema got 1/4 chicken which came with loads of plantain for $3.
I asked the woman there if she knew any place we could go that wouldn’t be full of tourists and American music, and she told us about one place. Four other people from the hostel came out with us (even though we knew they’d probably want to go to a tourist place) and we took them to where the woman had recommended.
It was way less fancy than Iguana – kind of like a barn thing, it reminded me of Jamaica a bit, but it still had an outdoor part where you can sit by the water, like Iguana. It was a big building but unfortunately there were only about 10 people there (all middle aged local men). The dj was playing dancehall so me and Reema went to the middle and danced, much to the surprise/delight of the men. The others did the same and enjoyed it for about 5 minutes but then wanted to go somewhere else so we agreed to look for somewhere busier. This is me and Reema in the outdoor part of this bar/club (it had no name as far as I could see):
As soon as we left the club, which was 2 doors down from Iguana, unsurprisingly the others said “let’s just go to Iguana”. Me and Reema refused, so said we’d go somewhere else and come back in 1 or 2 hours to meet them to walk home.
We went to El Barco Hundido (a bar and restaurant in the daytime). The translation is “The Sunken Boat” because it’s built over / next to the remains of a sunken boat from 100s of years ago. You can see some of the remains if you look into the water.
The atmosphere was amazing and the music was reggaeton (so from Latin America / Panama) and the main dancing area was full of panamanians dancing and having a good time. There was an MC who was saying things in Spanish that I couldn’t understand (I guess he was using slang, and the microphone was bad), but the way he was talking with so much energy reminded me of the Jamaican party I used to go to every week in London.
It has a water part similar to Iguana and the anonymous bar, and we named this the Tourist Corner because the tourists were all concentrated there, many of them stripping to their underwear and jumping in the water, chucking each other in etc. I’m pretty sure someone will go to hospital soon if this happens every weekend. This is the Tourist Corner:
It was really funny watching them dance in their underwear and fly into the water. Maybe if I’m feeling crazy I’ll do it one night before I go back to England. They definitely looked like they were having more fun than people in Iguana. (As you can tell I’m just taking any opportunity to hate on Iguana cos I disapprove of it. If you don’t know what Iguana is, read my post on my first night out in Bocas).
I don’t know if you guys know what the Electric Slide is, but it’s a dance that everyone (well everyone “urban” anyway) in London knows and when Candy by Cameo is played, everyone does the dance in synchronization, but normally people get confused eventually and by the end of the song there are only about 10 people left doing it.
At Barco Hundido, the panamanians started doing it to a song I didn’t know (reggaeton I think), and it continued for 4 songs with 90% of the dance floor taking part. It was so cool!
Me and Reema danced to reggaeton, dancehall and soca there. I was SHOCKED (in a good way) when soca came on (only for about 3 songs but still) because I was never expecting to hear it in Panama. Dancehall is from Jamaica and there are a lot of Jamaicans in Panama so that makes sense, but soca is from the other islands (Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados etc) so I didn’t think people would know it here.
This is us at Barco Hundido:
After we’d been dancing for about 45 minutes (and produced about 5 litres of sweat each), the dj switched it up to Rihanna etc (not what we came there for) so we chilled watching the tourists jump in the water.
Oh and another thing, in Iguana I paid $8 for a double rum (what was I thinking?!?!) but they obviously just have high prices cos it’s for tourists, because in Barco Hundido I just asked for rum with ice (I didn’t even say double), and the bartender poured loads in (at least a double) and it was only $3.
Anyway after chilling for a bit we went to meet the others and walk home. I’m really sad that Reema’s only here for a few more days because we got on really well and it’s not that often that I find someone who I can sit and have an interesting conversation with for 2 hours straight (and who likes the same music as me), but hopefully we can hang out some more before she goes and then maybe I’ll see her somewhere else in the world one day.
This is Reema (yawning) and Aude (also from Switzerland) in the hostel when we got back: