Panama City to LAX

Trip Start Mar 14, 2008
Trip End Mar 24, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We are now on board our return flight from Panama City to LAX, it's about 10p Panama time, 8p LA time, which means we have 4 more hours in the air!  (Flight is 7 hours overallˇ)
We did make it to Panama Viejo today!  It was interesting, though we can't say it really blew us away or anything.  The best part was meeting a young employee of Panama Viejo named Ronaldo.  You see, the main part of the ruins, the old city hall and royal residence, are officially closed on Mondays.  Ronaldo saw we really wanted to see them and he opened the gate and gave us our own private guided tour!  He told us about the pirate Henry Morgan sacking the town and burning it to the ground and told us how the ruins of the city hall building are still used today occasionally for concerts, parties, and weddings.  What a great place to have a wedding!  At least we think that's what he said, it was all in Spanish!  He also had to talk kind of quickly because he was afraid his boss would come back from break and catch him giving a private tour on a closed day!  The boss stayed away and Ronaldo got to keep his job.
So what can we say to sum up our 10-night, 11-day trip to Panama?  It was very interesting and educational for us both.  It really helped us to understand what we like and do not like when we travel.  We now know much better what plans to make for our Asia trip this summer to maximize all the good things we enjoy!
Here are our favorite moments from the trip:
-         Panama Canal tour - it was fascinating and very worth it
-         Salsa dance lesson and talk with wonderfully open Panama City resident Gloria
-         Meeting fellow travelers at Casa de Carmen hostel
-         Hiking to top of Cerro Ancon hill in Panama City
-         Meeting Javier at The Shop farm on Bastimentos Island
-         Meeting Cory and Nui at Island Time Thai restaurant on Bastimentos
-         Meeting Mango from Germany on Bastimentos
-         Meeting Joseph from the Bastimentos Beach Boys and hearing about the old life
-         Cave tour on Bastimentos
-         Natural beauty of ocean, jungle, and beach on Bastimentos
Here are our less than favorite moments:
-         Hotel Acapulco and the neighborhood around it
-         Incredible traffic, smog and unpleasantness of walking around Panama City
-         Late flights that made us so exhausted it was hard to enjoy parts of the trip
-         Struggling to find things to do in Panama City that made it seem worth the bad parts
To sum up the Panama trip, we could say there were many very beautiful sparkly little gems, especially the people we met and interacted with.  There were not as many big experiences in Panama as we had in Costa Rica, where the Waterfall Rappelling and some other things we did were just amazingly fun.
The last things to add about our Panama trip are some nuts-and-bolts type things:
-         Neither one of us got sick from bad food or water!
-         The Asus eee laptop worked great for the whole trip!  It always recognized the camera card reader, the USB thumb drive, and connected to wireless access points with no problems!
-         The Olympus 790SW camera worked great also!  It survived being dropped hard once, and worked fine after being submerged repeatedly in the cave tour.  Good photos, great battery life.
-         Dave loved the Osprey Waypoint 80 backpack!  Very comfortable, roomy, convenient.  Keli found her backpack to be an annoyance may use a normal rolling suitcase for Asia, she's not sure yet.
So, what do we love in traveling? 
-         Very fun, unique, memorable experiences ("Peak Experiences").  These are usually active, outdoors, thrilling type things
-         Unique and different - for example seeing the Eiffel Tower, sitting in a Paris café, seeing Kabuki theater, taking a calligraphy lesson
-         Cultural richness of dance lessons, art lessons, music concerts, plays, dance performances, and other activities that give us a personal feeling for the most uplifting and inspiring parts of the culture
-         Personal contact with local people to understand them and their culture
-         Some tropical beach time
-         Some natural beauty time in addition to tropical beaches
-         Liberating break from our normal routines back home
What do we want to avoid in traveling?
-         Unpleasant destinations with not enough fun stuff to do and staying in them too long
-         Red-eye flights
-         Other flights that are too early or too late and make things difficult or make us too exhausted to enjoy ourselves
-         Crappy hotels in bad areas that don't really save us that much money anyway and make it hard to enjoy the trip we're spending so much money on
-         Cold-water showers and non-AC rooms in very hot areas
What do we keep in mind as we plan our Asia trip this summer?
-         Pre-planning of fun activities.  Find out about them ahead of time, research to find our which ones will be right for us, make reservations if necessary.  Find the cool awesome stuff that we love, including as much as possible the stuff not found in guidebooks
-         Pre-planning of cultural activities, with all the same ideas as above.  The cultural activities are harder to find in guidebooks than the activities in the last point
-         Pre-planning of accommodations - nice enough to be comfortable and safe home base, either private kitchen or hostel with kitchen, maybe apartments, good location near grocery, healthy restaurants, and fun activities, away from busy streets
-         Check into package tours for certain activities or parts of trip, pre-planning to get an excellent tour company
-         Talk with tourist bureaus to find fun / cultural experiences
-         Get lots of fun activities planned for the whole trip!  Don't rely on finding things once we've arrived in each location
-         Balance between the things Dave loves and Keli loves
-         Plan rest days during long trips
Also we should re-iterate the topic of repeating experiences.  Some things we could repeat in many locations, such as surfing.  Other things we might not want to do again for awhile, such as ziplines.
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