Shopping in Panama City

Sunday 10 to Tuesday 12 December

We left Jamaica in the rain. Evan & Steph were taking their sunburnt bodies back to New York and we were flying south to begin our South American adventure. I will miss them all terribly.

Copa Airways had rescued us from Cuba in 2015 and we were impressed by their level of service. It is nice to see they are planning to fly direct to Melbourne late in 2018.

We don’t book too far in advance. It might be a more costly way to travel, but it gives us the flexibility to plan-on-the-way. So it was that one of the better options out of Jamaica was via Panama City to Bogotá in Colombia, an unplanned destination!

I set up my ASUS laptop en route to Panama City, and it seemed to run very slowly. Perhaps I was running short of space, or I hadn’t cleaned up and trashed old files, or I had too many apps open? But I had done a massive backup and cleanup just the day before.

We booked a taxi at the airport to Panama City. A squirty little fellow was the next driver in queue. He started the journey by complaining how he hadn’t had one ride today and a large family to feed. We lost sympathy when he tailgated another driver through the toll – we were actually paying for the toll as part of our fare.

It was nearly Christmas and a Sunday, so there was a big parade in Panama City. Our squirty, little fellow insisted that he couldn’t get us into Casco Viejo (Panama Old Town) because of the parade, and left us with more than a kilometre to drag our bags, without knowing which roads were open to pedestrians or cars. We were unimpressed.

Last time we visited Panama City we were warned not to go to the old town – it was too dangerous. This proved to be out of date and wrong information. It was a long walk from the hotel we had booked into, but we loved the ambience of the old town and it was clear that a massive renovation and gentrification was underway. So this time we planned to stay in the old town.

The hotel was very pleasant and we found ourselves in a two story apartment, in the centre of the building, with a window looking into the light well. At least it was quiet.

After checking into the hotel we wandered around town and found ourselves some dinner. We enjoyed sitting out in the balmy evening air, with a cold beer/wine. We were feeling cheated of summer after the very cool weather we had struck in the Baltic states.

Back to our hotel, and I turned on my computer to update some pics and…. it turned itself off again. My second attempt was the same. My six year old ASUS that I had dragged through 53 countries over 6 continents, that had endured bumpy roads and extremes in temperature, was cracking up at the idea of two more continents and half a dozen more countries.

Fortunately we were in Panama, one of the duty free countries in the world, so next morning we set off to sort out my computer problem. We hadn’t planned to get out and see a lot, just spend more time in the old city, where we were staying.

We had also decided to treat ourselves to a combined Christmas/Birthday treat of a GoPro, so we went shopping.

We found the Albrook Mall – an enormous place with a huge variety of shops. The first electronics store had very little to offer and language was difficult. We wandered from store to store, not finding a large enough range, until we found a Multimax store, and a salesman who spoke English.

My debate was whether to get a small computer or tablet to get me through the next three months, or my next generation computer to travel further with me. I settled on the HP Spectre 13″ X-360, a very decent laptop with a convertible, touch screen.

We chose the GoPro 5 Black, which is waterproof. It would have been perfect for our water fall climbing adventure in Ochos Rios, Jamaica.

So back to the hotel and start building the computer. I had lost little on the ASUS, just a few tweeks to photos during the flight to Panama. In planning this trip we had purchased two 2TB portable drives and we both backed up to both of them periodically. Excellent planning!

But Bruce was having less success with GoPro – he couldn’t charge the battery. So we returned to the mall, where our English speaking salesman kindly assisted in exchanging the GoPro and then checking that it charged before we left the store.

Traffic in Panama City was awful – the 6.5km journey took more than half an hour each way – four times. But we won on the cost, a mere $4 to $5 each Uber journey.

It was another balmy evening and we enjoyed a wonderful tapas dinner at Santa Rita, just around the corner from our hotel.

The night finished on a bright note, with fireworks exploding over the city.

Well that was Panama!