Panama day 1

I am starting my trip this year in panama city. The plan is to try to meet up with my brother who is staying at a beach about an hour west of the city, Playa Corona.

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I have 32 days this year. After spending a week, or two, or 3 in Panama, my plan is to bus it ten hours north to Costa Rica where I have plans to meet with a couple I traveled with last year, another friend, and my girlfriend.

Outside of this, all options are open.

Taking off just before a blizzard and freezing temperatures, I am looking forward to the 80 degree weather forecasted
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Of course i have the seat in the back left corner of the plane that doesn’t recline for the 6 hour flight.

Reading through the guide book on the plane, some places have caught my eye.
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In particular, Santa Catalina (surf destination/beaches) and nearby Island de Coiba (great dive and watersports destination) have caught my eye. I would love to take some more kite surfing lessons if possible and love diving.

Also the Darien Gap sounds intriguing. Sounds dangerous (scorpions, snakes, drug traffickers) and remote, rarely visited by tourists but with deep jungle and animals. I will have to run this by my brother as its also in the opposite direction that we are heading.
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I am staying at a hostel in Casco Viejo which is 40 mins from the airport. I read taxis are $27 but if I go upstairs at the airport they are cheaper so I thought I would either give that a shot or look into a bus.

I went upstairs looking for a cab. I was told $30 and didn’t see any other cabs so I thought I would check downstairs. Downstairs was too busy again so I went back upstairs. Just as soon as I was thinking I probably was starting to look vulnerable like I didn’t know what was doing I found a cab that told me $20 so I took it.

I started realizing at this point that my spanish was very rusty, and felt frustrated about it so didn’t make much conversation with the driver.

My first impression with Panama was that it seemed much safer than some South American countries. No cabs were trying to “hustle” me into their cabs like a lot of other countries.

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The hostel I was staying at was called Luna’s Castle.
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It is a very big hostel- probably 1-200 people here I would guess. I was given a room in a 10 bedroom dorm for $13/night.
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There is a main lounge area with a balcony with a nice view of the city.
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Panama city has a ton of high rise buildings. It was extremely hot and humid. There was no AC and the air was heavy and stagnant. I was exausted, and starving.

Before bothering to meet anyone, I headed out to try to find some food which was harder than I thought, and I took some pictures on the way.

There were some shitty areas, where I was offered drugs
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mixed in with nicer areas
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I noticed right away that there seemed to be a high cop presence, guarding blockaded roads
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Later I found out that the president lives in Casco Viejo and thats why such a high police presence. Also, the area we are in was a typical “gringo square” in that it is an artificial safe haven, stocked with police, and a safe zone for tourists. Another words, when you wander outside of this small quadrant, it can be dangerous. One girl I met told me that the cops turned her around when she walked too far and another told her to put her money away.
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After walking around for about 45 mins all I was finding was high end sit-down restaurants when all I wanted was some quick food. I ended up settling for a street vendor (only one I saw) with some half-cooked burgers with mustard and relish for $3.50. I wolfed it down. I hate mustard and relish.
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Once returning, I put in some effort and made friends with a guy named Jonathan from Sydney. I went out to the bar at the hostel a little later and met a couple other people. I was so jetlagged after a couple beers I passed out.

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