Author Topic: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]  (Read 863 times)

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #15 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.

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2019, 10:13:43 PM »
Part 7: Day 5, Thursday

We again had an 8:00 am pick up with Susy. Our itinerary today was to visit the Embera village, where Sorhay would be meeting us, as she was driving out with another family. It was another pretty long day.  Susy drove us to a boat launch on the Chagras River in the National Forest, from whence we canoed to the Village. We all enjoyed learning how this indigenous culture lives their daily lives, how they interact with the government of Panama and with tourists, how they educate their children, how they pair up but don’t actually get married, and lots more. One fun moment: after the men and women of the tribe put on a song and dance performance, they wanted all of us to dance with them. Several of the women asked me to dance with them, and I politely declined.  I reminded Sorhay that I couldn’t dance with the women, but I could dance with the men. Ironically, she told me in no uncertain terms that same-sex dancing was strictly prohibited. :o

We bought a few hand-sewn baskets that should make nice baskets for serving cut challah on our Shabbos table.  Non-kosher guests were treated to a meal of fried Tilapia and plantains in a big leaf.  For the kosher folks, we had cut fruit and vegetables. The cut fruit is so fresh and delicious, from pineapple and watermelon, to guava, passion fruit, and papaya.

We then took the canoe further down the Chagras, to a point from which we would hike to another waterfall.  It was a pretty tough hike over rocks and through the streams, and once we got to the falls, we found several dozen other tourists who had come to relax and cool off.   Susy told us that the previous day they had discovered that they could climb up some rocks to a point higher on the falls, and we would likely have a private swimming spot to ourselves. The climbing was pretty tough for us, but we made it, with the help of Susy and two of the Embera Village teens who had come along to help us.  It was really fun being at the top of the falls, so much so that we could look down at everyone else enjoying the lower pool. Every time someone took a picture of the falls, they inevitably got us in their photo!

We headed back up the river in the canoe. Before we got back to the dock where we had begun our day’s journey, the two Embera teens who were our boat captain and first mate, hollered something to each other about seeing an iguana.   Within seconds, one of them jumps off the canoe and into the Chagras (which is known to have crocodiles…) and within a few seconds, he is back on the boat holding a live and kicking iguana.  As mentioned above, I’m not a huge animal fan, and it was my good fortune to be sitting closest to the guy who brought the animal onto the boat.  He asked me if I wanted to  and after the 90-minute drive, got back to our hotel around 6pm and made haste for Lulu by Darna, which was also excellent.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 10:30:10 PM by zow »

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2019, 10:33:39 PM »
Part 8: Day 6, Friday

Today was our only unprogrammed non-Shabbos day. I got up and walked to shul, so we would know how to get there and back without a map or directions on Shabbat. It took About 25 minutes brisk walk, probably 30-35 strolling.
Came upon a fellow Yid walking the opposite direction, a few blocks from the shul — he was carrying Tallis and clearly heading to daven. He saw me looking for the shul, came across the street to greet me, offer direction to Beth El (he was going to Shevet Achim, the Sephardic shul). He pointed me in the right direction. I said Shabbat Shalom. He said Good Shabbos and asked if I had a place to eat (for Shabbat meals). Wow.

I then walked another five minutes, found the shul, endured the security inquiry — was useful I had my passport. 
Entered the shul, found the beautiful beit Knesset, and 7:10 davening began about 7:15. They begin with mizmor shir.
Davening was sweet.  They incorporate a little bit of singing in both psukei and Ahava Raba. They say ashamnu before tachanun. They sing Al Tira after alenu.

After davening , they have breakfast every morning — eggs , empanadas, juice, coffee.  Today was a special enhanced breakfast because it was sponsored by a family in honor of the first yahrtzeit of a man who had been president of the shul.  They had lox, shakshuka, more varieties of pastry.  I spoke with the avel, Adam, guy in early 30s who had studied at MIT and did research at MGH. 


After davening and breakfast, I went to get a bottle of wine from Deli K market, which is a little difficult to find, at least as a pedestrian.  It’s located underground, below the MultiPlex (not to be confused with the Multi-Plaza, where the girls found KKD and which is a high-end mall with Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.).  The MultiPlex seems to be below the Hard Rock Hotel/Casino. In any case, I went to get wine so that I could bring it back to the shul and give to Rabino Laine, who was hosting us for dinner that night.  I had suspected that he might not use an eruv so wanted to get him the wine before Shabbat, rather than bring it to shul.  The Deli K is a great market.  Not as well stocked and not nearly as much prepared food as a place like Pomegranate in Brooklyn, but same idea.  Their wine selection was very extensive.

After dropping off the wine to Beth El, I stopped by Shevet Achim to take some pictures of their shul. It was beautiful -- my pictures don’t do it justice.  I then walked to Darna Bakery, where I met my family for breakfast (well, my second breakfast). This is a really lovely setting for dining. After breakfast, our girls took an Uber back to the hotel, where they spent the rest of the day until Shabbos by the pool.  DW and I walked back, stopping again at Deli K to pick up a few more provisions, and making sure we could retrace our steps so as not to get lost on Shabbat.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 10:51:32 PM by zow »

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2019, 12:35:36 PM »
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)?

Sorhay is fun and very savvy.   

This was our youngest and her BFF. First time we have ever done that — it generally worked well.   BFF’s mother told us that her daughter continues to rave about the amazing trip. DD said that CUN has been her favorite place but this trip — with all the activities and kosher dining — was best ever.

Offline zow

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zow’s Panama TR 2019 🇵🇦
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2019, 10:24:34 PM »
Part 9: Day 7, Shabbat

We initially had two rooms at the Sortis -- one on 5 and one on 18. The higher floors are so-called “Elite,” I guess because they provide better views.  We had wanted to be on the same floor as our girls to facilitate Shabbat logistics, but we were told at check -n that nothing would be available until Friday. (Some big convention all week at the hotel.) When Friday afternoon came around, we actually leveraged a complaint from two days prior (our girls had been told they couldn’t use the pool late one afternoon due to a private function...there had been no such posting or notice about it) to get ourselves moved to a suite.  Unfortunately the suite wasn’t available on same floor, but we decided it would be fine being separated. 

The stairways have motion-sensitive lights and an alarmed door on the lobby level. The staff said they could turn the alarm off for a period of time if they knew when I was going to be coming down on Saturday morning, but they couldn’t put lights on all the time -- had to remain motion-sensitive, so we didn’t use.  I told front desk staff that we would not be able to carry key or ID on Shabbat and would need someone to accompany us in elevator to return to our room on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  That worked out fine.  On Saturday morning, we just waited by the elevator for other guests to come and use it to go down to the lobby and tagged along with them.   The entrance to the hotel has electric doors but also has adjacent manual doors that worked fine.

We davened at Beth El (Ashkenazi) both Friday night and Saturday morning. Friday night was nice, had a little dancing after Lecha Dodi, brief dvar Torah from Rabino Laine (in Spanish, of course… I didn’t follow most of it), and then a beautiful dinner at the home of Rabino and  Rebbetzin Laine, along with two other (local) families.

Saturday morning, the davening was a little slow and long for my taste. Most of the sluggishness was during the Torah service, lots of hugging and downtime between aliyot, and Rabino (or, once, one of the other rabbis in the community) spoke for 5-8 minutes between each aliyah, rather than having a full-length dvar torah.   Seemed to me to drag a bit.  I also found that there was quite a bit of talking among the kahal during much of the service, especially after Aleinu.

We had lunch at the shul. Apparently they have lunch there every Shabbat, and our experience was typical. They ask for a donation (in advance, obviously) of $20-25 pp. The meal was excellent. Salads, chicken, brisket, cholent, dessert.  There wasn’t much alcohol -- pretty limited to the Rabino’s table -- but that was fine.

We walked back to the Sortis, and after getting out of our sweaty Shabbos clothes, we hung out by the pool for about three hours. We then returned to the room, had a little Seudah Shlishit, davened maariv, made havdalah, and then went to Kava.  After dinner, we Ubered to Casco Viejo, had yogurt again at Forever (because the more proximally located yogurt places were already closed for the evening), and walked around for a bit.  Took a while to get an Uber back to the hotel from there -- kind of congested with traffic, which must be an Uber disincentive -- but eventually got back fine.  Three of the four of us seem to have gotten some minor food poisoning from Kava, possibly from a side of spicy mayo, though not certain -- thankfully nothing serious.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2019, 10:28:16 PM »
Part 10: Day 8, Sunday

Sunday morning, we worked out and headed to PTY around 9am for our 12:30 flight. We breezed through immigration and security, found the relatively new Lounge, and hung out there until our flight.  See my separate posting about it in the Destinations thread.

The flight was smooth and short. I posted separately the KSML, which was Paelle de Carne y Pollo. The main was pretty tasty, as long as you like olives, which I do (DW does not).  The roll was pretty dry. There was a kind of sad looking brownie that I didn’t eat.  As others have said, flying Copa in J is like flying domestic first -- nice leg room, small cabin (4 rows of 2x2). But there were no individual IFE on the 737-800s we had for both legs of our trip. And no power outlets.  It seems that most of the 737-800 do have those amenities.  Even better will be the 737-Max (aka 900), of which Copa has taken delivery of one plane so far. I understand that eventually all their routes will be served by the max, which will be great, because the J seats are lie-flat (which is of course not essential for a 5-6-hour daytime flight, but would have been nice).

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2019, 10:29:22 PM »
Part 11: Conclusion

We had an amazing time in Panama City and would love to return. The trip was a little heavy on the “doing” and a little light on the “relaxing,” so next time I think we would spend more downtime, maybe spend a few nights on Contadora Island, or even a few nights in the Westin Playa Bonita. A week was a good length for us.

Thanks again to everyone who helped me to plan this trip.  Happy to answer any questions.

Offline Dan

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2019, 10:32:45 PM »
Nice TR, thanks for sharing.

What's with Zika these days?
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #23 on: March 09, 2019, 10:42:54 PM »
Nice TR, thanks for sharing.

What's with Zika these days?
Thanks.
Zika has certainly become less of a hot topic.
We thought it was very low risk for us in Panama this trip, given these factors:
1. None of us is in a pregnancy or pre-pregnancy situation.
2. No known outbreak at present.
3. Dry season, so mosquito risk low (we didn't see any).
4. We were compulsive with using Off! when we went to the rain forest.

Incidentally, our tour guide (Sorhay) thought we were a little crazy with the protective sprays, from Off! for mosquitoes, to sunblock to prevent sunburn, and even Rid (or whatever brand we had) sprayed into the helmets we used for ZipLining (to prevent lice).
We also got some weird looks from the staff there when we sprayed their helmets!

Offline saw50st8

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2019, 07:17:42 AM »
Part 11: Conclusion

We had an amazing time in Panama City and would love to return. The trip was a little heavy on the “doing” and a little light on the “relaxing,” so next time I think we would spend more downtime, maybe spend a few nights on Contadora Island, or even a few nights in the Westin Playa Bonita. A week was a good length for us.

Thanks again to everyone who helped me to plan this trip.  Happy to answer any questions.


We met some people who stayed at the Westin. They said the beach was really not great and wouldn't recommend staying there if you want to hang out at the beach.

Offline hvaces42

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #25 on: March 11, 2019, 01:11:41 PM »
Nice TR. I think I'm just gonna follow you around. London tips were great when we did that. Panama has been on my list for a while. Hope to get there sooner rather than later.
Fair warning - Any PMs sent in response to forum posts are fair game for ridicule in public.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2019, 10:40:25 PM »
We met some people who stayed at the Westin. They said the beach was really not great and wouldn't recommend staying there if you want to hang out at the beach.
Good to know. I think someone on the Panama thread has good things to say about it, so it may be YMMV.
 

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s Panama TR 2019 [emoji1194]
« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2019, 10:41:56 PM »
Nice TR. I think I'm just gonna follow you around. London tips were great when we did that. Panama has been on my list for a while. Hope to get there sooner rather than later.
Enjoy. Now if I could only learn from you how to maximize my AA for premium cabin, we could be in business.