Eight Days in Panama
Installment Six

Going out around the town

Getting to the Multiplaza Mall from our hotel one must walk about 2 blocks. There you face the most frightening prospect of all Panama City if you are on foot. Crossing Balboa Ave! There is a cross walk that passes over 3 lanes on both sides of a center divider or safe zone. It maybe that pedestrian have some sort of right away, but you could not prove it to me. At peak stop and go traffic time getting across was easy. Cars were mostly stopped and you just moved in and around the cars. But look out when traffic is flowing! On occasions there was a police escort. He would stop the traffic dead and escort a group across. When there was no police escort and if we waited, locals would gather up to dash across. So we followed their lead. Stayed in the middle and never took our eyes off on coming traffic. We survived the cross walk across Balboa Ave to the Multiplex and back. Someone should have tee shirts printed up for surviving tourists?

I have gotten sick enough in foreign countries and back home to
be very careful with food and water when dinning out. We avoid the street vendors and dingy looking eateries. I am sure one can find $2.00 meals. We did not have the time or interest in finding them. Nor did we want to take a chance on shabby places to eat. They are there and easy to find for the adventurous. Before arriving in Panama, we reviewed postings for recommendations. We asked our guide Nora for her favorites. And we looked around for the better looking restaurants. It was not our need to eat in 5 star places. Only to
find nice comfortable restaurants with nice decor and good local foods.

We soon learned Panama City has many international restaurants.
South American, like Manchu Pichi, Purviuan, Gauchos, Argentine. Plus Asian, Mexican, French, Sushi, Swiss, American and more. There is no shortage of good restaurants to dine in. Our first meal was a $7.50 breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant. We had an appointment with Nora our tour guide at 9am. We did not know what was around the area. So we ate in. It was pricey, but gave us our first chance to try local foods. It always amazes me how Gringos can go to a foreign country and eat the same old same foods like back home. The restaurant had what appeared to be many Gringos. Live cooking station did up the typical eggs and omelets as you watched. In the 15 or so food warmers were some real local treats. Tamales wrapped in banana leafs, plantains and other great tasting foods. There was assorted local fresh fruits, juices and pastries. Coffee, a serious must for me in the mornings, was served hot fresh brewed and in a decanter. Clean, well staffed restaurant. It was our first meal and it was great. We ate often. We never ate at the same place twice. We wanted to taste Panama.

Now for you folks that might worry about missing the fast food
franchise like back home. There are McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, KFC, Popeyes Chicken, Subway. What was missing was Taco Bell? Even Dunkin Donuts. Not that I would miss a franchise fix but others might. So rest assured a little bit of America is alive and well in Panama City, fine dining at its very best.

As for dining. Menus were in Spanish and English. It was a
surprise that the menus had larger selections than back home.
Breakfast is not an important meal for us. We would have coffee, pastries and fresh fruit. But it appeared that you could get the eggs, potatoes, toast like back home or try a Panamanian breakfast of beef, tomatoes red and green bell peppers and onions sauteed. Lunch and dinner menus offered fish, shrimp, squid, octopus. A must is the whole deep fried fish with fried plantains and rice! There were assorted beef steaks. Chicken and pork. Salads, soups and some fantastic deserts. Everything was most delicious. It took longer to get our food served than back home. 2 reasons became apparent. Things happen on Panama time, a little slower. And they cook fresh and to order! Not the heat and serve slop we get back home!

Lunch ran around $20 dollars including drinks. Dinner ran
$20.00 to $30.00 and as high as $40.00 including dinner, drinks and show. Far less than back home and much better. Service. Restaurant help and staff were extremely polite and
courteous. Food was served with well thought out visual presentation . Not just slopped on the plate. Table plates were cleared as soon as we finished what was on the plate. Mostly table cloths.

Restrooms were always separate for men and women. Always very clean
with toilet paper, hand soap and paper towels. You would really appreciate how great the restrooms are in Panama if you ever travel to Russia, Mexico or Egypt. I would have to say they exceed most in USA.

When we could see into the kitchens they were clean modern and well
staffed. Floors were clean and not piled up with food.
All in all we never went to a restaurant that we felt uncomfortable. And I would say that they are cleaner than back home.
We ate at an open air larger restaurant out past Pencas on the Causeway. It was Saturday night and the place was filled with
families. As we entered the hostess started to take our name for a waiting list. She looked up and saw an open table and seated us with menus, just that fast. The place was packed. Lots of staff. In moments our waiter came to the table. First spoke in Spanish. When he learned we were Gringos, he had perfect English. He recommenced to my wife his favorite dinner. I ordered a steak. We had to select a side dish. He recommended the fried Yucca. He got our drinks. As the door to the kitchen opened up I could see inside. It was very busy with lot more staff than I would have seen back home. Very organized and busy. Our food came, well prepared and presented. Our waiter came back to check on us often. When we were finished we left some food on our plates. Our waiter came over and seemed upset that the food may have disappointed us? No such thing, we were just full from eating out that day. We watched how fast they empty tables were spotlessly cleaned them up and prepped for the next family. To our surprise this was not an usual event dinning out. More like the standard.

My wife and I met in Madrid, Spain. One night we went out to a
dinner and live Flamingo dance show. It was over $100. We went to Las Tinajas for dinner and a live folklore national dance show. We did not have reservations. Show was to start at 9pm, we arrived by taxi at 8:30. I would think that reservations would have been a good idea since there is limited seating. The hostess explained almost apologizing that we would have to pay $5.00 each to see the show. And we would have to spend a minimum $10.00 each for dinner. What a bargain! Great food, service and 10 performers playing local
instruments, beautiful costumes and dancing the traditional dances. Towards the end, dancers invited guest to come and dance on stage. At the end everyone was allowed to take pictures with the dancers. Dancers patiently waited until all the costumers were done before thanking us and heading off stage. We paid our bill with credit card and our taxi driver was waiting at the front door to take us back to the hotel, without ever asking him to pick us up. It was as good as it gets.

We kept our tips to 10%. I always felt we under tipped!
One night we came in late. We ordered room service. Same menu
as hotel restaurant. No extra service charge. A little higher than outside. Had the best fried chicken ever! Wife had Panamanian chicken soup and she loved it. Great quality and reasonable price, not at all like back home in our hotels where room service food prices are obscene.

We ate the food, drank the water enjoyed the beer and fruit
drinks. Because I was sweating so much, I drank lots of water both in the hotel and in all the restaurants. I carry Tums to settle my stomach. Antibiotics for bacterial stomach disorders. We did not have any problems with the restaurant foods and the Tums are still unopened.

Now the biggest single problem of the entire trip. I have to
have coffee in the mornings. The hotel did not supply rooms with a coffee maker. So off we would go to a different local bakery in the mornings. They would always have a sign Americano Caffee, express caffee and cappuccino. I do not care for espresso or cappuccino. So I would order Americano caffee. ½ the time I got espresso! The other times I got regular coffee? Finally I gave up and ordered room service Americano Caffee and got a small carafe each morning of regular great tasting coffee. One must have learn to adjust and
improvise. Around town, coffee was usually (one cup only) for $1.50 no matter what they served. The hotel was about 2 small cups in a carafe for $1.50. What hardships one must endure when traveling. Perhaps I should learn to drink local beer in the mornings, it too was $1.50 at the hotel and most restaurants.

My wife loves ice cream by the scoop. At the Multiplex food
court they have a ice cream shop. Had about 30 or so flavors. 2 scoops for $1.75, not bad. She was real happy. We had planned on going to a local movie theater. Did not have
the time or energy. Sorry we missed this.

We are not party animals, so bar hopping is not any interest to
us. Appears that there is night life for those with the need to
dance the night away.

I have golfed, but find little personal interest in the sport.
We did see several modern golf course's.

We passed by the horse race track and the professional soccer

I do like sports fishing. Both fresh water and deep sea. Looks
like this sport is not fully developed as in easy access to boats
and crews, yet.

We found that in the city there are many things to do besides
shopping and eating. Healthy things like walking along the causeway, parks, museums and National Theater. There is culture, a most amazing history past and present. Panama City has made it tourist friendly. I would guess due to the years the canal was occupied by USA. We never felt as if we were in some backwards, underdeveloped country. You might say that we felt at home, comfortable.

Part 7 Tabogo Island

Installment One Installment Two Installment Three Installment Four Installment Five
Installment Six Installment Seven Installment Eight Installment Nine

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