Author Topic: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]  (Read 1396 times)

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« on: March 03, 2019, 12:11:17 PM »
Part 1: Introduction
HaShem has blessed us to be able to travel to so many beautiful places. We spent the last week in Panama City, and I want to summarize here our activities and culinary adventures.  I will try not to repeat all that others have written, but it is difficult, as @denverite, @saw50st8, and others have done such a great job with their TRs.  Special thanks to @denverite, who provided specific information and has paved the way for all of us to enjoy some of the best that Panama City has to offer.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2019, 12:18:31 PM »

Part 2: Flight, Hotel, and Ground Travel Details

Copa Airlines, BOS-PTY and PTY-BOS.

I think it was 17,500 UA in Y (our two girls flew Y BOS-PTY) and 30,000 UA in J (DW and I few J both ways, and the girls joined us in J on the return leg).

We had two rooms at the Sortis. Booked each with Marriott Cat 1-5 (now Cat 1-4) certificates.

Requested upgrade at check in and was told that I’m only Gold Elite, so no free upgrade to suite.

We did get one room complimentary upgraded to a 1BR suite for Shabbat and MS, which made for nice seudah shlishit together.

As far as getting around, we did Uber exclusively (except for the non-licensed “taxi” we took at Amador Causeway to get back from the ferry, as no Ubers were locking on.).

We had difficulty hailing an Uber from Casco Viejo.  Granted we were trying to depart at busy times (Wednesday 5:30pm and motsei Shabbat 10:30pm), but had trouble getting cars to confirm, and a few times had them cancel without explanation.  Probably next time we would walk out of the congested area and see if that improves things.



Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2019, 12:26:17 PM »
Part 3: Day 1, Sunday

Lounge at BOS was The Club in Terminal E.  They had some kosher cereal (little Kellogg boxes) ad fruit.

Flight to PTY was uneventful. I didn’t even think to look for the video monitor in the arm rest.  I spent a few hours reviewing Neuroanatomy, because I have forgotten so much of what I learned 30 years ago! KSMLs were Borenstein, ‘nuff said.



Arrival in PTY was smooth. Took almost no time to get through Immigration and Customs. Uber picked us up -- no designated meeting spot, but most seem to meet in the parking lot.
We had probably our most interesting Uber ride ever on the way from PTY to Sortis.
First, we all squeezed into Abdul John’s Hyundai Accent.  It was a tight squeeze with four of us and our five bags, plus backpacks, but that was okay.  It was only the driver’s third day of driving Uber, and he only had a few dozen rides before us...I’m not sure he’ll make it to 100.

First, as we were approching the PanaPass (EZPass) toll gate, he sped up and tried to tailgate behind the car in front of us so he wouldn’t need to pay the toll.  As we were going through the gate, the cross bar came down and hit the roof/windshield.  I don’t think it cracked or dented, but it was loud! We were all kind of shocked by this behavior.  But at this point, what do we do -- tell him to stop and let us out in the middle of the freeway?  So we continued toward the downtown area, and as we are approaching our hotel, I noticed the landmark F&F Tower Building (looks like a giant blue glass Jenga tower), and I take a picture of it.  The driver slows down and almost stops -- on the freeway! -- so I can take a picture (see attached!), and cars are coming up behind us, screeching their brakes and honking at us.  Thanks but no thanks.  He also offered to provide us with an additional tour of the region.  I seriously considered it, because I knew we would have so many more stories to tell, but DW would not allow.



After we got to the Sortis, DW and I went to the gym to work out, and the girls went to the pool There was a loud and very non-tznius pool party, but I just told the girls to avert their eyes. :) After workout and pool, we went to dinner at Aria.  It was excellent, but hard to know how excellent, as we were very hungry!


Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2019, 12:35:39 PM »
A few more Aria photos.

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2019, 10:04:37 PM »
Part 4: Day 2, Monday

We had booked a Las Perlas tour with Ilene (thanks, @Denverite, for the shidduch). It was a very fun day, but tiring.  We had to be up and out of the hotel by 6:15 to make it to the Amador Causeway Ferry location by 6:40, as we were instructed.  We got there a few minutes late, but didn’t matter, as we actually could have gotten there around 7:15 and still made the ferry. In the process of getting our bags out of the trunk of our tiny Uber (Suzuki Celerio), the deck lid came down and conked me in the noggin.  Turns out, the deck lid didn’t have any springs or struts … oops.  Made for some nice drama and a good picture.

The ferry ride to and from Contadora Island takes almost two hours each way.  It’s a lot of shlepping for a day trip. We did see dolphins on our trip to the Island.  We did much of the same things that @Denverite reported, so I won’t repeat.  You can see the fish I caught in a separate post (Destination Guide Panama). We enjoyed the snorkeling, cruising around the island with thousands of frigate birds (and other birds), and eating our self-packed lunch on a deserted beach (where they apparently had filmed some of the earlier Survivor shows).  Best part of the trip was sitting at the bar/cafe of Mar y Oro, the only operating hotel on the Island, and having a drink, looking out over the water.  Peaceful and beautiful.  Reminded me a little of similar locales on Isla Mujeres.  I chatted up the manager of the hotel about possibly coming back to stay in the future and asked if they would heat up DW meals. He knew immediately about kashrut, said that much the Hebreo community comes to stay there, sounds like even for chagim, and I got the sense that they bring a sefer and have davening and bring catering.   Looking forward to coming back and spending a few nights here some time in the future!

After returning from our trip, we showered and went out to La Spezia, which was very good.  Everything is very cheesy there.

« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 10:35:22 PM by zow »

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2019, 10:16:14 PM »
Part 5, Day 3, Tuesday

Up early again. 8:00 departure with Sorhay to Anton Valley.  As @Denverite and others have reported, Sorhay is terrific. She loves to talk and ask questions. We stopped on the way out at Quesos Chela, which is a cheese and empanada store along the highway at which many people seem to stop.  They have a collection of kosher certified cheeses and yogurts/smoothies. Pretty incredible to find this stuff at a place like this.


We stopped at the National Park, took some pictures, and then went on to ziplining.  This was my DW’s and my first time ziplining. It was a lot of fun. To me it’s kind a lot of money to drop ($65) for what amount to maybe 5 minutes of thrill ride. But I’m glad we did it, and would do it again in a different location...Maui, I’m looking at you!

After ziplining, we went horseback riding.  This was probably my least favorite thing of the day.  I suppose if you love animals and/or love horseback riding, this would be great. For me, it was boring, and frustrating not being able to get the horse to go where I wanted and do what I wanted.

Following horseback riding, we headed to a local restaurant for kosher lunch. I realize this arrangement may not satisfy everyone, but it worked for us.  Sorhay has worked with Fernando, the proprietor of a local restaurant (and by local restaurant, I really mean an authentic, Panamanian hole in the wall. The restaurant is not kosher. However, Sorhay brings a brand new frying pan and a brand new knife, along with kosher cooking oil. The chef and his assistant make sure they are not cooking for others while they are preparing food for their kosher diners.  They carefully clean and then line with foil all the working surfaces. They had me light the gas flame. They showed me the fresh fish (sea bass, definitely with fins and scales), and then they make a beautiful meal of fried sea bass and fried plantains. They also serve some super fresh cut vegetables (crudites) that the girls picked up down the street at the vegetable/fruit market.  Everything served on and with disposable serving ware.  Seasoned with salt and pepper, and fresh-cut garlic.  Was among the most delicious meals we had, and such a treat to be able to experience authentic local cuisine. 

We were stuffed, but we still went to a waterfall via a hayride type truck along a bumpy rouad to the foot of a hiking trail to a waterfall., We then had fun frolicking in the water in front of the falls, and jumping off some of the surrounding rocks.

We concluded our day with a short hike up to a lookout point at sunset, before which I was able to daven mincha at a picturesque spot overlooking the caldera that is the Anton Valley. 

Sorhay returned us to our hotel around 9:30pm. We were too tired to go out to dinner, but most of us lapped up leftovers from La Spezia.

« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 10:30:37 PM by zow »

Offline myi

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2019, 10:19:01 PM »
Beautiful, except for that pic of your head. Not needed. But feel your pain.
Don't try to be someone else , be who you are because everyone else is taken.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2019, 10:37:05 PM »
Beautiful, except for that pic of your head. Not needed. But feel your pain.

Thanks for the feedback.
My wife and daughter both told me not to include the pic. I have removed it.  :)

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2019, 10:44:35 PM »
Part 6, Day 4, Wednesday

Another 8:00 start time.  Today and Thursday, our guide was Sorhay’s colleague Susy.  Sorhay herself was booked up with other private tours, but we were just as happy with Susy. Today’s itinerary was a stop at Jeffrey’s to pick up some empanadas, followed by a visit to Miraflores Locks to see ships moving through the canal. We also walked through the museum and watched a short film they have.  I loved seeing the locks and learning more about the canal. We spent maybe 90 minutes there -- probably plenty long for most people, but I could have spent another hour in the museum and watching ships move through.

We then drove to Gamboa, where we would take a boat to Monkey Island.  I should point out that there is no single Monkey Island, but a bunch of Islands that were not actually “islands” in the typical sense of volcanic islands forming. Rather, these islands were the high points of mountaintops that remained above water level when the water filled the Canal.  We saw some monkeys. Some of them came onto our boat to eat pieces of banana and popcorn that our boat driver threw them.  We also saw an iguana that had climbed to the tippy top of a tall tree. I had only seen iguanas crawling on land before -- never knew they were such climbers. And, as we would find out on the next day’s tour, they are also pretty good swimmers.

We were happy to get back to Panama City by mid afternoon. Susy dropped me and DW off at Casco Viejo, where we walked around a bit, spent over two hours at the Panama Canal Museum (pretty well done, a little chronologically confused, and a bit pricey at $17 pp, though that included audio, which was valuable), and then enjoyed yogurt from Forever Yogurt while overlooking the panoramic skyline.  Meanwhile, Susy dropped our girls at the MultiPlaza, where they found a kosher KKD and then went back to enjoy the pool at the hotel for a bit.  After 6pm, we all regrouped and headed to Kava for what was probably our best meal. The sushi there is really top notch (though I haven’t yet had Shallots to compare).

« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 10:49:47 PM by zow »

Offline saw50st8

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2019, 07:31:19 AM »
Looks like you had a great time!

Offline Denverite

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2019, 01:25:37 PM »
Looks like you had a great time!

+1! So many cool adventures...I really need to get back to Panama and explore Anton Valley soon.  Your description of the horseback riding cracked me up!  I have also forced myself to do it because it made my kids so happy.   :)

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2019, 01:43:43 PM »
Looks like you had a great time!
+1! So many cool adventures...I really need to get back to Panama and explore Anton Valley soon.  Your description of the horseback riding cracked me up!  I have also forced myself to do it because it made my kids so happy.   :)
Thanks for the TR and pictures.
Thank you all for the feedback, inspiration, and specific information in advance of this trip. I'll try to finish up the TR in the next few days.


Offline Denverite

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2019, 03:12:39 PM »
Thank you all for the feedback, inspiration, and specific information in advance of this trip. I'll try to finish up the TR in the next few days.

Looking forward!  I also loved that Sorhay has really upped her game and added that dairy place to the Anton Valley trip and had such a cool lunch planned for you.  How did you daughters rate the trip in comparison to others you've done (and I know you've taken them cool places)?

Part of Panama's appeal to me is that is something for everyone in my family to love.  Thanks again for writing and posting all this!

Offline bostonguy

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2019, 06:56:23 PM »
Hello ZOW from another Bostonian,

Sounds exactly like our family trip...taken in December.  Sorhay is the best....we recommended her to other friends (also Boston based) who booked her for three days last week....and they also stayed at the Sortis - could that have been the private tours on the days when she wasn't available for you?

Great TR.  Fun revisiting "our" trip.


Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2019, 10:10:00 PM »
Hello ZOW from another Bostonian,

Sounds exactly like our family trip...taken in December.  Sorhay is the best....we recommended her to other friends (also Boston based) who booked her for three days last week....and they also stayed at the Sortis - could that have been the private tours on the days when she wasn't available for you?

Great TR.  Fun revisiting "our" trip.
Thanks, @bostonguy .  That's very funny,  "Last week" was actually week before last, so maybe yes, maybe no. Either way, such a great trip. Easy flying BOS-PTY.  I'll add some more report segments and photos soon.