This is just one of the amazing modern office towers you will see downtown Panama City
My friend Nathan from Panama has corrected me, I was in Pedasi for Carnaval not Pocri. I drove through Pocri on the way to Pedasi. Thanks buddy.
Panama was great and I had no idea that Carnival was going on the week I was there. Talk about perfect timing: the first two nights I ended up staying in Panama City at Hostel Villa Surf. Great hostel. Dan the owner and Carlos from the rent-a-car company had both recommended for me to go to the northwest of the country to experience the real Carnival, so I did, and all the people I talked to said I’d never find accommodations where I was headed, so that made it the kind of challenge I love to take on. Well guys, no problem. The first night I stopped in a town called Las Tablas and saw a small hotel just outside of town and dropped in. Of course they had no rooms but the girl said that I should try this nice bed and breakfast for $40.00 a night, on the beach. Panama Casa Del Puerto. When I got there Bonnie the owner said they were also filled to capacity but she also said that she could talk with the people who were renting the guest house and see if they were willing to share with a stranger. The couple, Peter and Laurna, agreed and said no problem as they had a three bedroom house. Nice place and all, but they had it booked for Carnival the next day so it was time to move on the following morning. Another tip I will give to travellers is that when you’re looking for a place to stay during their busy season, the best time to look is first thing in the morning between 9:00 am to noon. Reason being is people change their minds if it’s not a place for them. Now on my way to the next town, not thinking about what all those people were telling me—that I’ll never find a place to stay, I traveled northwest to the next town, Pedasi. I went to a brand new Hostel that had just opened up and the guy at the front desk told me that they were full but the hotel on the corner called Residencial Moscoso may have a room for me, so I walked over and saw this nice old lady and asked if she had a room. It was so funny because she could not understand English and my Spanish is not the best, but the sense that I got from her was that there was a room in her hotel so I stuck around for a while. Then someone who spoke a bit of English to me came around to show me a room for $40.00 a night. After a couple of nights there, I had no idea where I wanted to go so I ended up heading towards Panama City. On the way I stopped in a few places like Playa Juan Hombron (big resort area), Playa Santa Clara and San Carlos. It was still early and I wanted to see more places so the funny thing is that they have real bad signage in that country, if they have any signs at all. Anyways while driving back I noticed that Panama City was on my right and as I was passing it I laughed to myself, saying in my mind I guess it was not meant to be. I always wanted to go to the Caribbean side of the country so I ended up going to a city called Colon. It looked a bit sketchy (port town) and it was getting (dark) so I was thinking to myself, wow, they have this nice hotel in the middle of this sketchy town. I went in to see what a room would cost, not thinking that I may stay there but checked it out anyways it was a Four Points by Sheraton.
Walking in with confidence and not looking like a backpacker, I went up the the counter and asked the guy the price for a night and handed him my card and looking like I am a travel agent so he went to the back maybe to see his manager or to look at my site and came back to me a few minutes later and said yes Mr. Montgomery, we have a deal for you, how does $50.00 a night plus 10% sound to you, I was floored. Okay, that adds up to $55.00 and does that include breakfast? I know it does because I do stay at Sheratons on business as well. This is why I don't make plans during my trips because sometimes things work out better in the long run.
Now I’d like to chat about the country, the people and the Carnival of Panama. I found it very friendly, helpful and loads of people speak English. I found it to be very safe in most of the country. For that week they had extra security from the army because of Carnival, so I never felt threatened at all.
Wow! Do they ever put on a great Carnival! I have been to Rio, Brazil for their Carnival where I witnessed three robberies in six days. Yes I was a victim in one of the three. Anyways, that is a story for another time. In the smaller towns there were mostly locals and they knew how to celebrate! The entire country shuts down for four days. Everyone is having fun, even the children. They walk around with their big water soaker guns and yes they even have a big water truck come in and soak you to help you cool down because it is so hot there. They start in the afternoon and take over the streets and shut them down whenever they want to in good fun. Sometimes a street band will just show up and start playing for the people and then everyone just joins in and starts dancing and singing even in front of peoples homes and they say come on in. The floats come down the street, fireworks and crackers go off all day and night. They seem to go for a siesta (nap) between 6 pm and 9 pm which allows the party to start up big time around 10 or 11 at night. Thank God the soakers are not out at night, the floats are all amazing. They are all lit up and very colorfull and people dance behind them and in between. The amount of fireworks and cases of fire crackers is amazing, I have never seen anything like it. Thank God the houses are fireproof. I saw lots things that would have caused a fire at home. Just when you think it’s over for the night, I’d go back to my room at 2:00 am and the fireworks would start up again. They put on an excellent show and it is so much fun to watch. I could not believe how close I was to the fire show. They would not allow that here in Canada. I caught the last day in Panama City and it was not at all the same. During the day was the only time I could get into the place. They have a great live band onstage and instead of the children having water guns they had spray strings to shoot at people. When I came back after a few hours I could not get back into see the celebration because the line looked about three hours long to get in, so I went back to the hostel to watch it on tv.
Thank you Panama you made my trip worth while and I will pass it on to other travelers.