Author Topic: Jungle Fever - A Real Panamanian Adventure, by PBaruch (January - February 2020)  (Read 3696 times)

Offline PBaruch

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Panama never really registered on our list of places to visit until @Denverite put it on the map.  A relatively short and direct flight from NYC coupled with tons of kosher food options led us to plan our 2020 winter trip.  It certainly did not disappoint.  Thanks to @Denverite and @Zow for patiently responding to my PM's.

Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

For our annual winter trip, time is of the essence as we can only take off a week due to the kids mid-winter vacation schedules.  Therefore, we strongly prefer a direct flight.  We chose Copa Y, from JFK to PTY, booked through UA at 35k per person round trip plus $384 for taxes and fees.  A friend recently traveled to Panama on Copa J and said it was pretty lousy (and not lie flat).  Given that the flight is only around 5 hours, I figured we could tolerate it in Y.

Regarding hotels, this is where if became really complicated.  We wanted a nice points hotel within a few minute walk to a shul.  Although some folks don't mind, we did not want a long walk on Shabbos in the heat - and it was HOT in Panama (January is during their summer dry season although I was told it is even hotter in the wet season).  Having read multiple trip reports and researched the many comments on DDF, I initially booked the Sortis.  However, the Sortis would have been a 10-15 minute walk to a shul so I cancelled and rebooked the Le Meridian, which appeared to be a bit closer.  However, when a newly built Marriott Residence Inn popped up, I promptly cancelled the Le Meridian.  The Marriott Residence Inn is a 3 minute walk to Chabad.  Although the JW Marriott is also very convenient for Shabbos, it was double the points.  The Marriott Residence Inn was 117k MT points per week per room (at the time of booking) while the JW Marriott would have been in excess of 200k MT per week per room.  In the end, we did very well with the Marriott Residence Inn and I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to others.  At check in, we were told that the hotel had just opened and there was some initial confusion as to what rooms were ready.  The manager had to inspect our rooms to make sure they were ready.  We were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite with two queen beds connecting to a studio king room.  In total, we had three rooms, two kitchens, and two bathrooms.  Each room had a sofa bed and the mattresses still had plastic on them.  We were the first guests to use these two rooms.

The suite with two beds:

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Living room/dining room in the suite:

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

One of the two bathrooms (handicapped-accessible):

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

The connecting king size bed room:

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

One of the two kitchens:

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

The rooftop pool:

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

View of the city from the rooftop pool taken using Night Sight mode on my Pixel 4:

View from rooftop pool of Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

The laundry room which was totally free to use (not sure but you may even be able to get free detergent):

Marriott Residence Inn, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

We opted not to rent a car, but for those considering doing so, bear in mind some unusual "rules":

(i) When the person in front of you is going too slow for your liking, tailgate at 80 KPH.  Then, when you see that you'll be able to pass, PICK UP SPEED in anticipation.  If you're more than 6 feet behind the car in front of you, you're probably a foreigner.

(ii) If you have to turn left, and there's oncoming traffic, don't signal, just GO.  They'll hopefully be able to stop on time.  If you signal, they'll pick up speed.

(iii) If you need to shop at a roadside stand, just stop in traffic.  People will honk for 30 seconds, then figure out you're shopping, and go around you.

For activities, we booked three tours with Sorhay - San Blas and Embera Village/Monkey Island.  Information about Sorhay can be found here:   

https://www.therealpanamatours.com/

Although Sorhay is more expensive than others, I can definitely say she was well worth the added cost, more about which will be explained below.  Since Sorhay was not available for the remainder of our trip, we booked additional tours through Alon Levi.  Alon did not accompany us on tours but hired naturalists/guides and drivers.

Alon Levi can be reached on Whatsapp at: +50766831663 and by Email at: oakfrst@gmail.com

Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 (Wednesday) - San Blas - We chose San Blas over the Pearl Islands.  I did some research and watched videos on YouTube and was largely unimpressed with what I saw about Contadora and the Pearl Islands.  I know some will disagree.

Day 2 (Thursday) - Embera Village and Monkey Island

Day 3 (Friday) - Rainforest Discovery Center and Sloth Sanctuary

Day 4 (Shabbos) - Daven and eat with Chabad on Friday night and Shabbos day

Day 5 (Sunday) - Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal and the museum and Imax movie

Day 6 (Monday) - Anton Valley

Day 7 (Tuesday) - Ancon Hill, Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, and Panama Viejo, followed by our flight home.

Part 2 - San Blas

As mentioned above, we booked a private kosher San Blas tour with Sorhay, for which she provided a new frying pan and utensils.  The local Guna caught and cooked fresh fish for our lunch using the new frying pan and utensils.  We were also provided with fried plantains and fresh fruit.  While there are cheaper options and Sorhay did not accompany us on the tour, it was definitely nice to have a fresh hot lunch on this all day tour.  Also, since it was a private tour, we were picked up from our hotel at 7:00 a.m. rather than the usual 5:30 a.m., when non-private tours pick you up from the hotel.  We were then driven in a Toyota 4x4 to the Caribbean coast to meet our Guna guide, boat driver, and the helper.  The overland portion of the trip took several hours and we had to pass through an armed Guna checkpoint before finally reaching the coast.  Although the ride was bumpy at times, the scenery was beautiful and we enjoyed seeing the Panamanian countryside. 

Residence Inn by Marriott Panama City to Gardi Sugdub  Panama - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Drivers all over the road to avoid the numerous potholes:

Road back to Panama City from San Blas by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our first stop was  Pelican Island, where I saw Pelicans diving into the ocean for fish.  We had fun in the sand and sea:

Pelican Island, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7310) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Pelican Island, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7322) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Pelican Island, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7317) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Pelican Island, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7321) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After playing in the sand and surf on Pelican Island, a large group of tourists showed up and the island instantly seemed very crowded.  Our Guna guide offered to take us to another island, and we quickly departed Pelican Island.

At the next island - Isla Eloguadup - other than a couple from Argentina and Spain along with a few Guna people (and our boat crew), we had the entire island to ourselves.

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7326) by P Bryan, on Flickr

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7335) by P Bryan, on Flickr

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7344) by P Bryan, on Flickr

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7337) by P Bryan, on Flickr

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7378) by P Bryan, on Flickr

San Blas, Panama (DSC_7375) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our fried mackerel lunch tasted way better than it looked:

Fried Mackeral, San Blas, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

And Plantains:

Fried Plantains, San Blas, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

After lunch, our next stop was Starfish Pool, an area where you can walk on the ocean floor and see many starfish:

Starfish Pool, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7382) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Starfish Pool, San Blas, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Starfish Pool, San Blas, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Starfish Pool, San Blas, Panama (DSC_7400) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And finally we visited Perro Island, where we snorkeled by a shipwreck.  According to information found online, in 1958 a Colombian Ship called Buenaventura passed through the waters of San Blas.  Due to a navigational error, it struck some reefs close to Perro Island, and damaged its engine.  A ship from Honduras came to the rescue to tow the Buenaventura but it caught fire and sank.  (From here: https://www.joebrownadventures.com/en/dog-island-panama/).  We saw many tropical fish swimming around the shipwreck.

Shipwreck at Perro Island, San Blas, Panama (GX010614-14) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Shipwreck at Perro Island, San Blas, Panama (GX010614-2) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Shipwreck at Perro Island, San Blas, Panama (GX010614-5) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Shipwreck at Perro Island, San Blas, Panama (GX010614-7) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Flag of San Blas - in use since 1925.  I received a few messages after posting this picture on my Whatsapp status:

The Flag of San Blas, Perro Island, San Blas, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Many people have to make the decision between visiting either San Blas Islands or the Pearl Islands, and I have seen some respond that its best to go to San Blas on a multi day tour and to the Pearl Islands on a day trip.  Although we can't speak about a visit to the Pearl Islands, my response to these questions would be that it depends on what you would like to accomplish.  We enjoyed our one day trip to San Blas and didn't have to leave our hotel at 5:30 a.m.  I felt that we experienced plenty in our one day trip to San Blas.  However, I would have also enjoyed an overnight trip to do some night photography and relax.  That being said, I would definitely recommend a one day trip to San Blas. 

Part 3 - Embera Village - Jungle Fever and the case of the Switched Spoon

Once again, we booked a kosher tour to the Embera Village with Sorhay.  Sorhay provided brand new cooking utensils and the Embera would catch and cook fresh fish for our lunch.  We were picked up by Sorhay at Jeffry's Bakery and Restaurant, located about a block away from the Marriott Residence Inn.  Sorhay personally accompanied us throughout the entire day for this tour. 

In the middle of the previous night, little one woke up with a fever.  We aren't sure exactly when he got sick or where he picked up whatever he had, but this was the start of three days of throwing up and general malaise.  While we were eating our breakfast at Jeffrey's that morning, little one barfed all over himself.  Luckily we brought a change of clothes for him.  DW changed little one's clothes while I washed off the barf in the bathroom sink.  Although it wasn't the most pleasant experience with little one being sick, we went off on our trip and tried to make the best of it.  Hence the name of this trip report - Jungle Fever.

Residence Inn by Marriott Panama City to Parará Purú  Panamá  Panama - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Satellite Picture from Google Maps showing the village in the jungle:

Parará Purú - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Entering Chagres National Park, Panama (DSC_7432) by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way to Embera Village, Panama (DSC_7437) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Map of the village:

Embera Village, Panama (DSC_7478) by P Bryan, on Flickr

When we arrived at the village, the Embera kids swarmed Sorhay, who brought them treats.  We heard the kids asking Sorhay for "those kosher chocolate treats [from Jeffrey's]."

Once again, Sorhay provided new utensils for our lunch and the Embera prepared fried fish for us:

Lunch at Embera Village, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

I was busy taking pictures of the Embera women cooking our fish that I hadn't even noticed that the woman on the left of this picture was topless (photo cropped to remove topless portion):

Embera Village, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

I posted this picture on my Whatsapp status still not realizing the Embera woman was topless.  DW then noticed my Whatsapp status and the topless picture and told me to take it down.  I figured to have some fun and let it be.  Suffice it to say, Jews care way less about topless women than about perceived Nazi symbols.  I received fewer comments on the topless Embera picture than about the San Blas flag.  Go figure. 

While I was wandering about the village, DW was supervising the cooking of our food (fish and chips).  When DW turned away for a moment, the Embera woman cooking our fish and potatoes grabbed a spoon from her own hot pot (instead of the new spoon Sorhay had brought), scooped up some cut up potatoes, and stuck it into the hot oil in the kosher pot before DW was able to react.  The Embera woman was distressed by the mistake but the pot was rendered treif.  Sorhay later told us that the case of the switched spoon would be the talk of the village the following day.  When I finally got around to messaging Sorhay to ask about it after we returned home, she had completely forgotten.  I supposed that the case of the switched spoon will remain a mystery.

We were, however, able to eat fruits provided by the Embera:

Embera Village, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Even the Embera keep pets:

Pet cat of Embera, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

While the Guna use a (reverse) swastika symbol on their San Blas flag, the Embera use this on their jewelry:

Embera Jewelry, Panama (DSC_7526) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Tiny hands holding a tiny frog:

Tiny hands holding a tiny frog, Panama (DSC_7508) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Leaving the village:

Embera Village, Panama (DSC_7545) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 4 - Monkey Island

After our visit to the Embera, we went to Gatun Lake for the Monkey Island tour. 

Muelle Público Gamboa - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Having Sorhay on our tour made all the difference.  We saw three types of monkeys, an igauna, and many birds.  DW was initially afraid of having monkeys come onto the boat for fear of them having diseases such as rabies, to which Sorhay replied "Honey, the monkeys are healthier than you.  They eat fruits all day (fed by tourists)."  However, Sorhay was mindful of DW's preference, and when we approached an island with an orphaned juvenile capuchin, she cautioned the boat operator not to get too close, as she said that monkey would know who the mother is, and head straight toward her.

A friend went to Panama the week before us, and took a cheapo Monkey Island tour.  He expressed disappointment saying how he hardly saw any monkeys and that he shouldn't have gone in the afternoon as the animals are only active in the morning.  I can definitively say that these statements are incorrect.  The reason for my friend's mediocre experience is that going the cheapo route means that the boat operator simply wants to get you there and back as quickly as possible, without regard to your experience.  If you see a monkey - you got what you paid for.  With Sorhay, however, she directed the boat operator to different areas to ensure that we had the best possible experience.  She even let everyone take turns at driving the boat, including little one, who was surprisingly able to navigate really well.

We saw huge ships on Lake Gatun which were en route to the canal locks:

Vessels on the way to the Panama Canal (DSC_7593) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw a Howler Monkey:

Howler Monkey, Panama (DSC_7601) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And an iguana, which Sorhay said our boat driver would love to catch and eat:

Iguana, Panama (DSC_7620) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw Geoffroy's tamarins, a small monkey found only in Panama and Colombia:

Tamarin Monkey, Panama (DSC_7636) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Tamarin Monkeys are tiny and very cute:

Tamarin Monkey, Lake Gatun, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Tamarin Monkeys, Lake Gatun, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

And Capuchin Monkeys:

Capuchin Monkey, Panama (DSC_7696) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capuchin Monkey, Panama (DSC_7705) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Capuchin Monkey, Lake Gatun, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

We also saw many birds, including this Blue Heron:

Blue Heron, Panama (DSC_7656) by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way back, everyone (except me as I didn't care) had a turn driving the boat, including little one:

Lake Gatun, Panama (DSC_7659) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 5 - Rainforest Discovery Center and Sloth Rescue Center (DW's portion of the trip report)

Little one was still sick and I wasn't feeling that great myself so we both decided to hang back at the hotel while DW and our older kids went to the Rainforest Discovery Center (RFDC) and the Sloth Rescue Center.  The guide and driver were arranged by Alon.  Alon arranges some truly knowledgeable guides, and for this day, we had Nicholas, who had a Master's degree in biology.  DW, also with an advanced degree, loves to pick the brains of guides, so this was perfect.

Residence Inn by Marriott Panama City to Panama Rainforest Discovery Center  Panama - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Upon arriving at the RFDC, DW realized she had left her wallet behind (she had to pay separately for tickets for the aerial tram and sloth sanctuary).  I had been paying for everything, plus she was distracted by kiddo not feeling well.  Nicholas was happy to lay out the money.  Alon believed that a guide received free entry. However, since they began offering free audio guides, they no longer allowed free entry to a guide.  DW was already kicking herself for having to dip into our limited cash reserves to reimburse Nicholas, so she declined to pay the additional fee for him.

She thought the aerial tram was nice, but overpriced.  At the top of the observation tower, you can see the Chagres River on one side and the Panama Canal on another.

View of Chagres River, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

View of Panama Canal, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

The next stop was the Sloth Rescue Center, with rescued sloths that could not be returned to the wild.  While DW was looking at the (two-toed) sloth in one enclosure, it came down from its branch, crawled slowly toward her, and started climbing the wall to her.  Perhaps it was a juvenile, like the capuchin monkey on Gatun Lake, and sought out the mother.  Unfortunately, before it could get too close, a worker came into the enclosure, and scooped up the sloth.  This sloth had eyes only for DW:

Sloth Rescue Center, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sloth Rescue Center, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sloth Rescue Center, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sloth Rescue Center, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

DW says it was so stinkin' cute.

At the RFDC, they also had a butterfly garden, as well as poisonous frogs and orchids.  These exhibits were included in the cost for the sloth sanctuary and while the butterfly garden was OK, the others were lame.  How do you have an orchid garden with no flowers?

After the RFDC, they headed to Soberania National Park for a walk in the jungle, where they saw lots of *tiny* wildlife, swung on a vine, and rock-hopped.

Sobernia National Park, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sobernia National Park, Panama - holding tiny frog by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sobernia National Park, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sobernia National Park, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Even Nicholas found something he thought was photo-worthy:

Daddy long legs on arm, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Daddy long legs, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 6 - Shabbos with Chabad

After DW returned with our older kids from the RFDC and the Sloth Rescue Center, we prepared for Shabbos and went to daven and eat with Chabad.  I met up with a fellow DDFer, Brooklyn CPA, in shul and we sat together during davening.  The Friday evening meal was crowded and hectic.  There were multiple long tables set up in the downstairs area and they were all full.  We returned again on Shabbos day but it was less crowded than during the evening meal.  I suppose the reason for this is only Chabad offers a Friday evening meal while you can purchase meals from Bet El on Shabbos day.  (You may also be able to arrange Friday evening meals through Bet El or get invited by a member of the community).  Little one tried to eat a bit at the meal but still wasn't feeling well and he again barfed all over himself.  We tried to clean him up as best as we could and quickly carried him back to the hotel.  It was very fortunate that we were within the eruv and very close to our hotel.

We found the hotel to be quite Shabbos-friendly.  Although there are electronic doors to the hotel, there is one entrance to the building (called the Pacific Center; the hotel starts on the fifth floor) that has non-electronic doors.  Inside the building, the door to the stairs is just before the hotel's electronic doors.  If you want, you can walk all the way up to your taped-door room, or you can have an employee escort you up in the elevator and open the door for you (with your key or theirs).  We chose not to carry a sick 5-year old up to the 11th floor.

Being concerning that little one was still sick after several days and continuing to throw up, once Shabbos was over we decided to take him to the ER.  Big one got a bad sunburn and had some concerns as well, so she also went to the ER.  B"H it didn't appear that it was serious for either kid, and little one actually said he was hungry after the ER.  This was the second time that little one ended up in the ER on a trip.  (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=64756.0)

After the ER, I took little one by Uber to La Spezia and he ate and kept it down.  The following day he continued to eat and it appeared that the worst was over. 

Part 7 - Miraflores Locks, the Museum and Imax Movie

Although DW really wanted to do at least a partial transit of the canal, she ultimately changed her mind, as sitting on a boat for 6 hours mostly doing nothing didn't seem like a great way to spend family vacation time.  Luckily we hadn't booked, or we would've been out the cost, since after the ER visit the night before, we were all exhausted and slept late.  In the early afternoon, we took an Uber XL over to the Miraflores Locks and watched an Imax Movie before visiting the museum and locks. 

Miraflores Visitor Center, Panama (DSC_7727) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Miraflores Visitor Center, Panama Canal by P Bryan, on Flickr

Miraflores Visitor Center, Panama Canal by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw several ships passing through the locks:

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal (DSC_7740) by P Bryan, on Flickr

These boats were riding high in the water:

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal (DSC_7731) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And after a short time:

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal (DSC_7733) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We also saw a large ship going through the locks:

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal (DSC_7741) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 8 - Anton Valley

We booked a day trip to Anton Valley through Alon Levi but weren't sure if we would be able to do it until the last minute.  Seeing little one getting better, we decided to go for it.  However, the original tour guide that Alon had reserved for us had already taken another job and it wasn't until late Sunday evening that Alon had found us another guide, which he deemed to be "practically a miracle."  We were picked up at our hotel at 7:45 a.m. and made our way to our first stop, Chorro Macho.  Our guide, Joe, was picked up along the way to Anton Valley in San Carlos.  Joe (who has a degree in eco-tourism) regaled us with tales of crazy tourists, including one fellow who flew on a private jet from the United States, round trip in one day, just to see some bird, which he told Joe to keep in his sight until he arrived.  Once he saw the bird, and was able to cross it off his list, he immediately turned around to fly back to the United States.  The guy didn't even bother taking a picture.  Immediately prior to guiding us, Joe had guided a group of tourists on a 21 day birding tour throughout Panama.

Residence Inn by Marriott Panama City to Chorro Macho - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

While en route to Chorro Macho, Joe spotted a three-toed sloth in a tree along the road.  As the driver pulled over on the grassy median, he ran over the remnant of a metal sign post sticking out of the ground, which punctured the tire.  As they changed the tire, we took pictures of the sloth, which was moving from tree to tree while eating leaves:

Sloth, Panama (DSC_7756) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sloth, Panama (DSC_7769) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sloth, Panama (DSC_7786) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then arrived at our first stop in Anton Valley, Chorro Macho, where we hiked through a lush rain forest:

Chorro Macho, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7804) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Hummingbird at Chorro Macho, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7811) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Chorro Macho, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7814) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The art of camouflage:

Chorro Macho, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7833) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Chorro Macho, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7821) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our next stop in Anton Valley was Piedra Pintada, where we saw mysterious petroglyphs which are said to be thousands of years old. 

Chorro Macho to Piedra Pintada - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our guide explained that the petroglyphs were a map of the area:

Pintada Petroglyphs in Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Piedra Pintada Petroglyphs in Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7834) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Another beautiful bromeliad:

Piedra Pintada, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7837) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Looking for wildlife:

Piedra Pintada, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Tiny hands holding rubber from a rubber tree:

Piedra Pintada, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then visited a waterfall, where we saw some local kids jumping in and swimming:

Piedra Pintada, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

At this point, my stomach was doing somersaults as we believe that three of us got sick from eating at Jeffrey's.  This was the only toilet available in the area.  Luckily DW brought toilet paper (the TP by the sink is ours).  DW wasn't feeling well either and middle kid got sick shortly after.  Can you spot something that is clearly missing?

Public toilet at Piedra Pintada, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our next stop in Anton Valley was the Mariposario Butterfly Haven:

Piedra Pintada to Butterfly Haven - Google Maps by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mariposario Buttefly Haven, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7880) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mariposario Buttefly Haven, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7867) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mariposario Buttefly Haven, Anton Valley, Panama (DSC_7873) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mariposario Buttefly Haven, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mariposario Buttefly Haven, Anton Valley, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

After the Butterfly Haven, our final stop was the market in El Valle, where we purchased some souvenirs. 

Part 9 - Ancon Hill, Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo

Not wanting to waste our last day in Panama, we hired a driver through Alon Levi to take us to Ancon Hill, Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, Panama Viejo, and then finally to the airport.  While Uber would have certainly been cheaper, we would not have been able to see all of these city sights without a driver at our constant beck and call.

We started our day with a 6:30 a.m. pickup from the hotel to visit Ancon Hill, where I was told it was possible to see toucans.  Middle one and little one stayed home and slept, while DW and I along with our oldest went to Ancon Hill.  According to historical records, when the pirate Henry Morgan sacked Panama City in 1671 (Panama Viejo), his scouts first climbed Ancon Hill to gain knowledge of the local defenses.  Ancon Hill now overlooks the site of the new Panama City, constructed after Morgan's destruction of the old one.

Although I saw different kinds of birds, and a pair of toucans, the toucans were too fast for me to photograph.  While trying to line up the shot and focus, they were gone and I couldn't find them again.  I did capture this photograph of a beautiful Pale Billed Woodpecker:

Pale Billed Woodpecker, Ancon Hill, Panama (DSC_7883) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then returned to the hotel to collect middle one and little one before heading off for the remaining city sites.  Our first stop was the Amador Causeway:

Amador Causeway, Panama City, Panama (DSC_7900) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our next stop was a driving tour of Casco Viejo, the old city which was built after the complete destruction of the original Panama City in 1671:

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our final stop for the day before heading off to the airport was Panama Viejo, the original city destroyed in 1671:

Panama Viejo (DSC_7908) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Panama Viejo (DSC_7909) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Panama Viejo (DSC_7923) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Panama Viejo (DSC_7930) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After Panama Viejo, we returned to the hotel and packed out.  They were very gracious and said we could have a late check out until 4:00 p.m.  We then made our way to the airport, purchased some food and drinks from the kosher Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf store at the airport terminal and then made our way home. 

Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed this trip report.  (I will try to provide an update about our night out at Kava in the near future).

From DW:  this TR is in memory of my Zaidy, 18 Teves 5685 NYC - 19 Shevat 5780 Lakewood.  "Dad" to 4, "Zaidy" to hundreds.  The day before we left, I took the kids to see him and told him that we were going to Panama/to the Panama Canal.  His memory was failing, and he replied, "I never heard of it, but go and have a great time."  This is who Zaidy was: positive to the end.  He loved his family with all his heart, and each grandkid felt a special connection.  Once we returned home, various things came up (including a kid with the flu), which prevented me from going to Lakewood again.  I finally decided I couldn't wait anymore, and was zoche to spend a couple hours in the hospital with Zaidy on Thursday.  He was niftar early the next morning.  Zaidy, you are and always will be deeply missed.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2020, 12:37:12 AM by PBaruch »
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Offline YaDrebin95

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Excellent tr! Great shots and very thorough. Glad the Residence Inn worked out. It's in a great location and is decently priced. Will consider that for when I plan a trip there iy"H.

Offline gingyguy

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Wow!
May you slide down the banister of happiness & get many splinters of success up your career.

Offline sam28

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wow thanks for sharing amazing and allot of details and nice pictures .

Offline milesnewbie

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Thanks for this!!

Believe it or not, my wife and I are currently in Panama (spent the first two days in Westin Playa Bonita, and staying at the Sortis from today until Wednesday).

However my wife is seven months pregnant, and I was wondering if you think any of these trips (specifically the village and the Monkey Island) are safe for her to do (and if not if you can suggest any alternatives).

Would GREATLY appreciate any information you could provide as we’ve received many conflicting reports. Thanks!!

Offline PBaruch

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Thanks for this!!

Believe it or not, my wife and I are currently in Panama (spent the first two days in Westin Playa Bonita, and staying at the Sortis from today until Wednesday).

However my wife is seven months pregnant, and I was wondering if you think any of these trips (specifically the village and the Monkey Island) are safe for her to do (and if not if you can suggest any alternatives).

Would GREATLY appreciate any information you could provide as we’ve received many conflicting reports. Thanks!!

I can't speak about medical advice and that is something you should discuss with your wife's doctor.  Also, you should check with the tour guides to see if they would take your wife on the tours you are interested in.

That being said, Embera involves going in a large canoe over a short distance.  The ride is very smooth but your wife would have to get into the canoe, sit on a hard bench without a backing, and then get out again at the village to walk up a short flight of steps.  Depending on her mobility, she may be able to do it.

For monkey island, you go on a small boat.  There is no ramp to get from the dock to the boat so again, depending on your wife's mobility, not sure if she can maneuver herself into and out of the boat.  The boat ride to monkey island is relatively smooth but I would ask the driver to keep a slower speed so the ride doesn't become choppy.

I would not recommend San Blas.  The ride in the boat was very choppy and I felt as my tuchus was hitting cement as the boat bounced up and down.

Hope this helps.
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Offline mawmaw

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Amazing TR

Offline Dan

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Great TR!
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.

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I'm not who you think I am.

Offline PBaruch

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Since we were always on the move or sick, we didn't have much time to eat out.  When we arrived in Panama, we ordered burgers from Pita Plus and had our food delivered to the hotel.  On several other nights, since we were really tired and hungry, DW walked across the street from the hotel and picked up food from Dr. Sandwich.  I personally preferred Pita Plus to Dr. Sandwich.

We did want to try a nice restaurant in Panama at least once and after @BrooklynCPA kept raving about Kava, we decided to go there.  The place was completely empty when we got there, although several other small groups did show up later.

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

When going to use the restroom, I was looking for the door that said caballeros, but instead found these:

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Not too hard to figure out which one is which.   :)

We ordered sushi to start:

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

Little one got pizza and fries:

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

And we then ordered three different salmon dishes to share - here is one:

Kava Restaurant, Panama City, Panama by P Bryan, on Flickr

We all thought the food was pretty good and would definitely recommend it.

« Last Edit: February 23, 2020, 03:19:14 PM by PBaruch »
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Offline Denverite

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Great TR and pictures! So sorry your little one was sick but it sounds like you guys still had a great time. So cool about the new Marriott option. It looks gorgeous and the location sounds ideal for both Shabbat and restaurants!

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Your TR's are the very best on DDF. AMAZING as usual!

Sorry @Dan @Something Fishy

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Little one eats pizza with arugula?
Feelings don't care about your facts

Offline PBaruch

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Little one eats pizza with arugula?

LOL - we took that arugula off and he tasted but still wouldn't eat the pizza.  He ended up only eating the fries.   Looking back, we should have asked if they had a kids menu. 
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Online EliJelly

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Your TR's are the very best on DDF. AMAZING as usual!

Sorry @Dan @Something Fishy
Great TR indeed, among the best in my language. SF is unique in being so goodhearted to actually take along the reader on his journeys!