Panama – Day 1

12 Sep

Sept. 8th, 2011

Got to our hotel last nite….LaEstancia B&B ( )…  Actually an old military barracks, located on Ancon Hill. That is the highest point visible within the Panama City area, and was the headquarters for US Military during the building and operation of the Panama Canal.
For nearly 100 years a huge American flag flew there, lighted at night. Panama rejoiced when the canal was turned over in 2000 when the flag was replaced with the Panamanian flag. The ‘hill’ is covered with radio/cell towers, but the flag is visible from most of the city 24/7.
The hotel is very basic Panama style, but comfortable and the staff extremely friendly and helpful. Today we spent about 6 hours ‘shopping’ for a local cell phone and a SIM card for the iPad2. We found what we wanted but had to go cross town to another huge mall (MultiPlaza) to get one in stock.
If the pictures aren’t too large to go thru the system, there are several of the large central food court in the Albrook Mall, which is a block wide and several blocks long and 2 & 3 stories , perhaps double the size of Washington Square. The second was downtown and similar to Wash. Sq. and very upscale with Cartier, and many other ‘Designer’ stores.
They said ‘patience is a virtue’ and truly is necessary here. The customer is NOT ‘King’.  At the Claro phone/cell service office in the first mall they check you in at a desk where you get a number which displays on a screen high on the wall. when an agent is finished with a customer a buzzer sounds and your number is displayed with the desk # you are to go to. They had 13 spots for agents in a row, 3 were occupied with agents, but it was lunch time so that was expected. They eventually had 7 or 8 but was hard to tell because they talked in groups of 2 or 3 playing little attention to those waiting. I was #32 and #22 was displayed when we figured out what was going on. Eventually got help but had to go to another mall to get the SIM.
Had breakfast here @ the hotel. It has a steep cliff behind, and out our front is a steep drop, 3 to 4 stories, all covered with trees and vegetation. They have bird feeders and stalks of bananas hanging in the tree and you can watch off the balconies. For those we haven’t told, Panama is the size of South Carolina, and has twice as many birds as the US and Canada combined.
Today was overcast, warm but not hot and not too humid, however nothing like home. There was a thunderstorm this afternoon while at the 2nd mall. Could see some lightning a couple times but you don’t see much outdoors from inside a mall.  Tonight we had a nice dinner across the road from the bay front. Langostino (jumbo shrimp), a different version fro each of us.
Tomorrow we catch the bus for a long 6 hours cross country trip to David. Busses are air conditioned, refrigerated sounds more like it as several had said to be sure and take sweaters or jackets. Anyway want to see the countryside and not hassle driving that distance.
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