A Travellerspoint blog

July 2012

Food and Fireworks

...with a stop at the beach

sunny 83 °F

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We had an opportunity to visit Coronado Beach and stay at the Coronado Bay Condos on Wednesday night. It was an offer we couldn't refuse.
Coronado Beach is the first "planned" resort community in Panama. Established as a place Panamanians could come to that was close to Panama City (about 1 hour and 20 minute drive) and ex-pats could build winter homes or permanent residences. Just a couple of miles off the Panamerican Highway the town is easy to get to and offers lots of services, businesses and even a McDonald's and KFC. We only stayed one night, but intend to revisit in the near future. There seems be some interesting oppurtunities in Coronado.

One of our Colorado connection friends invited us to dinner on Friday night. The restaurant at the Crown Plaza Hotel has a new Indian Buffett on Friday nights, serving food with lots of curry, spices, rice and very sweet Indian deserts. The food was great. However, I found the appetizers the most interesting. The chef had made some creative art pieces with some of the fruits. They included a Pineapple Panda, a Watermelon Parrot, and a Watermelon shark eating a pineapple fish, all in the name of foodie art.
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Our condo is on Panama Bay in an area called Punta Patilla. About four blocks across the bay, as a pelican would fly, is the Trump Tower and other buildings of the Punta Pacifica area. In between us, on the bay is the Panamanian Union Club. This is a private club for wealthy Panamanians. Usually every weekend there is some kind of event on their patio, which we can watch from our solarium. Last night the show started at about 9pm and ended at 1:30am. There were fireworks, dancers, singing, showtunes, etc. We guessed it must have been an over the top wedding.
The fireworks usually exploded below us, which was an interesting way to watch since we normally are looking up at them. Additionally, as they exploded they reflected on to the glass windows of the buildings of Punta Pacifica. All-in-all, an enjoyable night.
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As we start a new day we wonder what is next during this Panamanian experience....

Posted by rhislop 07:06 Archived in Panama Tagged beach towers panama bay fireworks food_art coronado_beach Comments (0)

Whale Watching Panama

ask for Anne

sunny 85 °F

This was an incredible trip. Kryss and I have been whale watching in Newfoundland, Alaska, Hawaii, and in Costa Rica. Nothing in the way of quantity and activity has been like this experience. We saw more whales yesterday than we'd seen on all our previous trips combined. After the first ten, before 10:30 in the morning, we stopped counting.
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We left Panama City with three other whale watchers, a naturalist/guide (Anne), her husband/assistant (Otniel), and the boat captain (William). The forecast promised rain and there were a few clouds in the sky. The water was a little choppy but our able captain guided us on a relatively smooth course toward the Pearl Islands. The Pearl Islands are about 1.5 hours via boat, 40 miles, from Panama City. As we left Panama City on the horizon the skies became blue. Our guide spotted the first whale before we had reached the Pearl Islands. The excitement really started at that point. Everyone scanning the waters with camera in hand for a blow spout, a tail, or the gentle roll of the surfacing Southern Hemisphere Humpback whale.
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We learned from our guide that the whales in these waters come for two reasons; raising their new borns and reproduction. They don't eat while they are in this raising and breeding stage, losing almost a third of their body weight. The warm waters are very conducive for birthing and teaching the new borns. Over and over we saw mothers with their new born coming in and out of the water. The blow spouts were the tell tail warning that a whale was going to surface, but for how long and to what extent was always the question. Many times they would dip back into the water without making a display of their fluke (tail). One very unusual event happened early on, a whale laid his/her tail flat on the surface of the water and then hung down into the depths. For at least 15 minutes we observed this behavior. The professional crew kept the boat a safe distance way as we watched this cool event. Below is a picture of the "hanging fluke" and a type fluke shot.
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We cruised the Pearl Islands for about three hours capturing hundreds of various whale images. In the distant we saw four separate whales breach, coming staight out of the water and crashing down with a huge splash. Unfortunately, they were too far away for a photograph. The whales must have known it was lunch time since we didn't see any around the noon hour, so we headed into Isle Contadora for lunch. Transfering from our boat to the island water taxi I slipped and almost hit the water. Kryss grabbed me and I held onto the cameras. No problems. A refreshing lunch, with two bottles of water and a beer...ready to go again. On the island I spotted these flowers, don't know what they're called but I like the color. We also had time for a family shot!
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Reboarding our boat was uneventful and we headed back to the ocean for a quick snorkle/swim. Then back to the business of whale watching in Panama. As we were searching the horizon for whales, one came right under our boat and rolled onto his/her side to give us a look. The white underbelly and blue rippled waters gave a very surreal look to the photograph. Can you spot the eye? As we were leaving the Pearl's and heading back to Panama City another whale came right along side our boat and as if waving good bye stuck out his/her dorsal fin. Again, another beautiful turquoise color in the water.
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The ride back to Panama City looked like it might be a wet one. The skies started turning gray, fog and mist could be seen in the distance and the captain suggested that I might want to cover up my cameras. I heeded his advise and as soon as I did another whale popped up. I decided to risk a little rain; put on my rain shell to cover my camera if the rain started, and got out one camera. I'm glad I did, one last mammal to send us home. A small group of dolphins started playing in our wake, entertaining everyone with their jumps and fast moves.
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This was one fantastic trip. If you come to Panama and want to go whale watching, just remember whale watching panama and ask for Anne. I know we will.

PS. It never rained...yeah!

Posted by rhislop 13:08 Archived in Panama Tagged islands panama dolphins dolphin whale watching anne pearl whale_watching_panama isla_contadora Comments (0)

Fire and Lightning

Popa Island Resort

semi-overcast 82 °F

Our last full day at the Popa Island resort started on the dreary side. It was raining and we were rather gloomy since we'd be leaving the next day. We had enjoyed our time at Popa Paradise Resort and weren't quite ready for it to end. The resort staff was really taking great care of us, we were only two of five guests. They can accommodate about sixty to seventy guests at one time, but this time of year is their slow season. We spent most of the day working on Kryss's website, taking care of email business, and generally taking it easy. The chef told us to save our energy because the evening was going to be exciting. Little did we know...

When dinner time arrived, the five guests of the resort were seated at one table and the fun began. Orders were taken adult beverages were served and we were told that "showtime" was almost ready to start. Shortly, our dinner arrived seven fresh lobsters, with all the "fixin's". The chef Darien presented his artwork and said, "enjoy"! They were fantastic!
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After dinner was completed the staff brought out four drums for all the guests but me, I was busy taking pictures. Background music was turned on and everyone started drumming. Off to the left of the dining area you could hear the performers getting ready, smell the kerosene, and see glimpes of fire. Then the music was turned up, the guest drummers start playing to the beat and the first of the dancers hit the stage. What a show, lots of photos and super entertainment.
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The show lasted about twenty minutes. An absolutely professional performance by the four fire dancers. Toward the end of the show lightning appeared in the distance and added a bit of color to the show. In the next photo you can see the dancer doing the splits with the lightning in the background, along with the lights of the pool and the fire stick. Lots of action!
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We stayed up way too late. The rain started and that was the indicator that it was time to call it a night. During the night the lightning really put on another show and the next photo capped off "showtime".
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The Popa Island Paradise Resort is a very difficult place to leave. The staff is great, the food fantastic, and the "showtime" presentation was outstanding. We'll return to this place!

Posted by rhislop 07:17 Archived in Panama Tagged panama bocas_del_toros popa_island popa_paradise_resort Comments (0)

Bocas del Toros

Popa Paradise Resort and Island

semi-overcast 80 °F

Last winter when we were in Costa Rica we were told that the place to go in Panama was Bocas Del Toro. An island chain in the north east corner of Panama, bordering Costa Rica. We heard a variety of comments about the place, they included; "a beautiful spot", "nothing but burned out hippies and potheads", "the most relaxing place in Panama", "party central", and "Jimmy Buffet docks his yacht there."

To find out for ourselves we headed up to Bocas on Sunday morning. We decided to stay at the Popa Island Paradise Resort. After reading a number of reviews and talking with the GM it was an easy choice. Landing in Bocas was a little different, the landing strip is right in the middle of the town. The plane came in right over the roofs of the central area of the town. Representatives from the Popa resort met the flight and we took a one minute taxi ride to the boat docks. When we got to the docks, the fire department had the gate locked because the Panamanian President was coming to Bocas the next day and everyone was getting checkout, whether you were arriving or leaving the island.

We boarded the flatbottomed boat, put on our wind/rain jackets and headed out across the bay. The rain started. Just a light drizzle, but enough to remind us that it is rainy season. Skimming along we passed a number of little uninhabited islands and after a twenty five minute ride arrived at the resort. It was worth the wet ride. What a peaceful, tranquil and beautiful place.
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We were taken to our casita, near the main building, overlooking the bay, with jungle on all four sides. On the balcony we can hear and sometimes see parrots, macaws and hummingbirds. The parrots fly over every morning, chattering along as the fly in a pack of at least twenty. Late in the afternoon they return the from opposite direction.

The food has been excellent. Darian, the Chef, takes great pride in his work and style. The presentations at dinner are outstanding and the tastes are magnificent. Fresh seafood is available every night along with a selection of beef, chicken and pork. If we were here for more than four days, I hate to think of the added weight going back to Panama City.
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Yesterday we went sailing on the catamaran, "Ingwe Spirit" which means leopard spirit in Zulu. Our captain and mate are from South Africa and radiate the spirit of their homeland. After we had been out for about an hour the skies opened up and we were dumped on. The rain pounded the boat, visibility dropped and the bay became a little rougher. So, we pulled into a sheltered cove, had lunch, the skies cleared and we all went snorkeling. The nearby reef was covered with beautiful coral, so many starfish I quit counting, and lots of fish. We saw both queen and french angel fish. The return trip was very mellow, especially when the mate broke out the adult beverages.

Since it is rainy season, it is expected to rain now and again. Today, it started at 9am and stopped at noon. Now it is cool, slightly overcast, and it looks like a peaceful evening. The below picture is the Ingwe Spirit in the early morning dawn.
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Tomorrow back to Panama City. Oh yeah, Bocas is a cool place.

Posted by rhislop 12:38 Archived in Panama Tagged rain water sailing panama catamaran bocas_del_toros popa_island_resort ingwe_spirit Comments (0)

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Our Anniversary:)

semi-overcast

The walk about continues. We walked from our residence to Casco Viejo on Thursday. We wanted to have lunch at the Cafe Per Due, so we put on our walking shoes and headed out. The day was slightly overcast, but no rain. It took us about 1.5 hours to arrive at the restaurant. Lots of stopping for photography, window shopping, and people watching. It should have taken about 45 minutes. The Cafe Per Due has a very unusual sign above their door. A very clever wind chime and business advertisement, water, coke and beer.
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Currently, the Casco Viejo area of Panama City is a mess. Many of the streets are torn up as new utility services are installed and the old bricks are getting replaced. New streets are laid by hand to keep the tradition of the neighborhood. Back breaking work. Car traffic in the area is almost impossible. Walking around the narrow crowded streets is the best way to travel.
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The security/law enforcement personnel are everywhere. There are the tourist police (to help tourists), traffic police, quick response cops(two on small motorcycles carrying machine guns), traditional blue suited police, highway police, and then lots of private security guards at buildings, malls, etc. The quick response guys in the picture were talking to a undercover cop when I started to take the picture, he jumped out of the shot and stood away until we left. You can see in the picture these guys carry a bunch of gear.
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Another motorcycle we saw in Casca Viejo belonged to a Colorado person, or at least had CO license plates. They were expired, but then who's checking?
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Yesterday was our anniversary, yeah! We celebrated the day with a fine dinner, good scotch and vodka, each others company and working on Kryss's website. Still needs a little tweaking but getting lots of hits and wonderful comments. Today we are going with friends to an ex-pat July 4th celebration, bbq, fireworks, beer, etc. Should be fun and we don't have to walk to get there. Today's sunrise brought this view...it will be a beautiful day!
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Posted by rhislop 05:40 Archived in Panama Tagged restaurant towers panama cafe per trump due policemen Comments (0)

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