Author Topic: Panama Trip Report, August 2016  (Read 2192 times)

Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« on: January 15, 2018, 07:43:51 PM »
After coming across the Panama thread and trip reports here recently, I was reminded of what an awesome trip I had there in August 2016 and was inspired to write up a trip report (even if itís a little late.)


View of Panama City from Casco Viejo


We were in Panama for a week, Thursday-Thursday. We flew on Copa Airlines and they were great. The economy seats are spacious and comfortable and there was plenty of room in the overhead bins. They also allowed 2 free checked bags per person.

Hotel - We stayed in the Hyatt Place Panama Downtown. We paid cash and did not use points as the room rates were cheap. The hotel was brand new and really nice, extremely clean. They had breakfast included but we could not eat much except for coffee and fruit. The hotel is a far walk from the shul and kosher eateries though, about 30 minutes. This doesn't make much difference during the week as taxis are plentiful and cheap, but can be hard on Shabbos.


View from our hotel


Transportation - We took Uber everywhere within Panama City. They even have an option to choose an English speaking driver. Short trips in the city averaged about $2-3. We took day trips outside of Panama City and hired drivers. I wouldnít recommend driving within Panama City. The drivers are very reckless and traffic laws seem to be just suggestions.

Weather - We were in Panama during the rainy season. Thankfully, the rain did not interfere with our plans as it mostly rained in the late afternoons or evenings. However, the humidity was like nothing we had ever experienced, so be forewarned. Somehow, the Panamanians managed to keep their hair straight! As for the mosquitoes, we wore mosquito repellant bracelets and used a very strong repellant spray I bought on Amazon and barely got any bites. I get more bites in the Catskills!

As it has been a while since the trip, I donít remember many details about the food, except that it was all exceptional and very reasonably priced, compared to NYC prices. Most foods in the supermarkets, even those imported from the US, were cheaper than back in the States! And you can get steaks there for a lot less than in Manhattan. Our favorite places to eat were Lula by Darna (meat) as well as their dairy places (we tried both locations), and Kava. At Kava, the sushi pizza is a must. There was a kosher yogurt place in Casco Viejo called Forever Yogurt that was very good. The Coffee Beans are kosher there as well, even the one in the airport which came in handy while we were waiting for our return flight. Just a note, most of the dairy places are not Cholov Yisroel, although many of them have CY options, so keep that in mind.


Outside of Darna


Kosher supermarket


On our first morning in Panama, we ate at Pita Pan, a dairy/pizza place. The owner, Alberto Kadosh, a Colombian Jew, came over to talk to us and helped us arrange the rest of our trip! He was extremely helpful and kept in touch with us throughout the week. Many people came over to us throughout the day and at shul on Friday night to invite us for the Shabbos meals and just in general to make sure we were well taken care of.

Pita Pan


Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2018, 07:45:25 PM »
Friday - We ate breakfast in Pita Pan where the owner helped us arrange our day trips for the following week. He also arranged for a driver to take us around the city for a couple of hours just to give us a feel for the place. After that, we went back to our hotel to get ready for Shabbos.

Shabbos - Several weeks before our trip, I had been doing research on the shuls and kosher places in Panama City. I came across an email address for someone who can help arrange Shabbos meals/accommodation. It turns out that he is just a local businessman who likes to help out fellow Jews while they are traveling. He arranged for us to eat by his sister on Friday night and it was one of the highlights of our trip. We met our hostess at the Shevet Ahim shul, which is magnificent and a must see. The original shul was built in a neighborhood the Jews have since mostly moved out of, so they recently built a new shul. When the community outgrew the new shul, they built a second one adjacent to the first one, so itís kind of 2 shuls connected by a shared entrance way. We had to send in copies of our passports before Shabbos and were checked in by security before we could enter the building, so be aware. The Friday night meal was truly a great experience. The food was a combination of Syrian and Panamanian dishes, much of which we had never heard of, let alone tried before. It was very interesting to hear about the history and current way of life in Panama from local Jews.
On Shabbos day we ate at the Chabad house, which was a nice experience as well.

Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2018, 07:49:51 PM »
Sunday - We visited the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. Itís about a 25 minute drive from the city center. We opted to take Uber there and back and go around by ourselves instead of taking an organized tour. The exhibits explaining how the canal was constructed are very interesting and informative. Watching the ships pass the through the locks was fascinating. I would recommend having a rudimentary knowledge of how the canal works beforehand as it will make it easier to understand what you are witnessing. After watching several ships pass through the locks, we Ubered to Casco Viejo (Old Town) where we walked around for a couple of hours. They have many little shops and galleries. I found the juxtaposition of the newly renovated buildings/modern architecture and the old, crumbling facades to be fascinating. That is something we noticed all over the city - modern high-rises, billboards, and technology right next to areas that have seen better days, to put it mildly. Be alert as you are exploring the city, not to wander into any unsavory areas. Around sunset, we rented bikes and rode along the pathway of the Amador Causeway which was full of families out enjoying the weekend.


Miraflores Locks


Panama Canal


People waiting for ships to pass through the canal



A ship passing through the Canal



Casco Viejo



Casco Viejo


Casco Viejo


Casco Viejo


Monday - We took it easy and spent the day relaxing. We booked treatments at the spa at the Westin Playa Bonita and were able to use their pools and beach, so we spent a couple of hours there.

beach at Westin Panama








« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 07:55:28 PM by SLP »

Offline Yaalili

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jul 2009
  • Posts: 11088
  • Total likes: 159
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 130
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: USA
  • Programs: Club Carlson Gold, Jetblue Mosaic, Hilton Gold, Hyatt Platinum, IHG Platinum, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold, DansDeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite.
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2018, 08:02:17 PM »
Great pics and TR, thanks.

Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2018, 08:02:27 PM »
Tuesday - With the help of our friend Mr. Kadosh, we booked a trip with a private driver to the San Blas Islands. The San Blas Islands are a collection of over 300, mostly uninhabited islands that belong to the Kuna people. Yes, we left super early and yes, itís an extremely long and exhausting day, but it is worth every minute. The ride to the islands was windy and bumpy, so motion sickness pills are helpful. You need to show your passport and pay an entrance fee when entering the territory that belongs to the Kuna people. Once you get to the port area, you hire a boat to take you around to the islands. We had 2 local men drive us around by boat for the day. They took us to 2 or 3 different islands as well as to a shallow area in middle of the sea where you can pick up starfish. We were able to stay at each location as long as we wanted. The waves can be very choppy here, so once again, motion sickness pills came in handy. The beauty of the Islands cannot be described. On the way back, we convinced our boat captain to make a stop on one of the islands where the Kuna live to show us around. He took us to the biggest of the inhabited islands and walked around with us. We saw a school in session and spoke with the English teacher there. We walked by homes, the local gathering hall and the hospital. It was fascinating to see how this native tribe lives. Overall, visiting the San Blas Islands was one of my most memorable travel experiences ever and I cannot recommend it enough.


San Blas Islands


Kuna homes,
San Blas Islands


bathrooms on the island


San Blas Islands


our boat captians in San Blas Islands


San Blas Islands


Kuna homes


Kuna homes


Kuna children


Kuna school



[url=https://flic.kr/p/23tQJg6]

Kuna homes


Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2018, 08:05:21 PM »
Wednesday - We booked a tour to visit the Embera tribe who lives in the jungles of Panama, once again courtesy of our friend Mr. Kadosh. Our driver was Freddie. His English is impeccable, his SUV was new, clean and modern, and he was extremely knowledgable. He drove us to a point on the Chagras river where an Embera man picked us up in his boat. We first stopped to take a short hike to a waterfall where we were able to swim. Another group was there for a short time when we arrived, but we mostly had the place to ourselves. After that, we continued on the the river until we got to the Embera village. We were welcomed with songs and dances and they gave us flower wreaths for our hair. They usually prepare a meal for their guests, but our guide had informed them beforehand that we cannot eat anything, so they made the meal just for him. The Chief spoke to us about their heritage and culture, and some of the women showed us how they make their crafts. We were able to walk around the village and see their homes. They had set out many beautiful handmade crafts such as jewelry and pottery that was for sale, so we bought some things. Some of the younger members were very interested in our way of life and asked us questions about Judaism, with our guide acting as a translator. They put on a performance for us before we left and even insisted that we join in the dancing. Although they do live separate from mainstream society and mostly keep to their heritage, some modern ways have crept into their lives. The teenagers attend regular, Spanish speaking schools. The Chief even had a smartphone and communicated with our guide Freddie on WhatsApp! It was still very interesting to visit the tribe and see their way of life.


Waterfall in the jungle


Embera tribe


Embera tribe


Embera tribe members


Embera village



Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2018, 08:08:31 PM »
Thursday - On our last day in Panama, we just did some shopping and more eating. We went to one of the huge malls they have there looking for bargains, but were not greatly impressed. Iím sure if you spend more time there, you would find good deals but we weren't that interested. We returned to Casco Viejo and bought some souvenir type items at an outdoor market. While eating lunch at Aroma cafe, which was also excellent, we overheard some men speaking English at the table next to us. Being that I wanted to try to take some pictures of the inside of the shul before we left, I asked them directions on how to get there. One of them then offered to have his private chauffeur drive us there and make sure we got in as the security guard can be strict. I was able to go inside and snap a few quick pictures.

Overall, Panama is a fantastic vacation destination. It is not too far from the US, has tons of kosher food options, is easy to get around, is not overrun by tourists (yet), the local currency is USD so no money changing necessary and most things are pretty cheap. I hope to visit again someday.


Shevet Ahim


Shevet Ahim


Kuna women selling handmade crafts in Casco Viejo


Streets of Panama


Casco Viejo


Panama City views


Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2018, 08:10:17 PM »
Great pics and TR, thanks.
Thanks! How to I add this to the wiki?

Offline Yaalili

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jul 2009
  • Posts: 11088
  • Total likes: 159
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 130
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: USA
  • Programs: Club Carlson Gold, Jetblue Mosaic, Hilton Gold, Hyatt Platinum, IHG Platinum, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold, DansDeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite.
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2018, 08:16:51 PM »
Thanks! How to I add this to the wiki?

Added it.

Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2018, 08:18:26 PM »

Offline nobiggy

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2012
  • Posts: 2247
  • Total likes: 7
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
  • Location: forums
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2018, 08:36:21 PM »
Nice TR!

Brings back good memories when I was there. That place has amazing restaurants, hotels for cheap, and Uber rides for pennies!

Offline mmgfarb

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Dec 2015
  • Posts: 6357
  • Total likes: 304
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
    • View Profile
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2018, 10:07:19 PM »
Great report, thanks for sharing!
"JS [is] a fetid cesspool of unvarnished linguistic manure, with lots of useless drivel and post-padding." -Moishebatchy

Offline a good yeshiva bachur

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2015
  • Posts: 1570
  • Total likes: 59
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2018, 02:14:19 AM »
Great report, thanks for sharing!
+1

Very clear pictures, what camera did you use?

Offline SLP

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 122
  • Total likes: 1
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: Brooklyn
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2018, 07:33:42 AM »
+1

Very clear pictures, what camera did you use?

Some are phone pictures (iPhone and Galaxy S6) but most are from my Sony a6000. I use a Zeiss prime lens.

Offline mgoldhammer18

  • Dansdeals Platinum Elite + Lifetime Silver Elite
  • *****
  • Join Date: Jan 2016
  • Posts: 604
  • Total likes: 9
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
    • View Profile
  • Location: Queens, NY
  • Programs: American Airlines, Citi thank you, British Avios, Hilton, SPG, AMEX Platinum, Jetblue
Re: Panama Trip Report, August 2016
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2018, 11:17:32 AM »
Nice write up.  Good memory