Arriving in Panama, I easily went through customs and found Evan waiting for me. Our Panama adventure was about to begin.
We spent the first night in Casco Viejo and after nice relaxing dinner, pack our bag so we could leave easily in the morning. Up early, we took a cab to the bus terminal only to find a second trip would be needed to find a forgotten passport. We arrived at the bus terminal the second time at a little after 8 AM. The bus to Las Tablas, the nearest city to Pedasi with bus service would leave at 9 AM. The bus terminal in Panama City is modern and clean. Located across from a shopping mall it is convenient destination and is able to offer travelers shops and eating choices while they wait for their bus. The restrooms are well maintained and will cost a quarter to use. The waiting area offers seating and air conditioning, so a 45 minute wait is more than bearable.
The bus to Las Tablas on this trip was a small bus with approximately seats for 20 passengers. It is air conditioned and well maintained with upholstered seating. This is not the “bus to Cartagena” of Romancing the Stone fame. The road is a modern highway and our bus driver an efficient experienced professional in crisply iron uniform shirt who in another uniform would easily pass for an airline pilot. We take our seats in the mid section of the bus and buy ice cold water from a man selling water and sodas before the bus leaves the station. It is common practice in Panama for street vendors to peddle their wares to departing bus passengers. At a $1 for either a cold soda or water, it is a reasonable cost for the passengers with little profit margin for the vendor, and a whole lot more reasonable than the $3 water at many US airports.
It is a six hour trip to Las Tablas from Panama City with a rest stop mid way. We stop at a “Chino” (popular reference to local corners stores owned by Chinese Panamanians) that serves a selection of dishes, none look wonderful but all are edible. There are also variety’s of juices, yogurts, sodas, snacks, and candy to choose from. While we are going through the line, I am bump a bit and when looking around see a pair of huge black eyes looking up at me from about knee height. This set belongs to toddler who is tightly holding his mother hand. I smile back and tell his mother that he is very cute in Spanish. She beams and thanks me. I am again impressed with how well behaved the children in Panama are even when inching forward in a crowded line of adults.
Just outside the Chino there are vendors with trinkets and hats for sell. As a fair skinned red head, a straw hat is almost a necessity when in Panama and I did not pack one this trip. I head over to the hats and its charming vendor who does not speak English. Although my Spanish is “un pocito” – it takes only a few minutes for her to find me the perfect hat. She explained that it should be a little tight at first and it will stretch to fit my head. She is right, in less than a day’s wearing the hat is perfect fit. My cost for this perfect hat is $8. My confidence in exchanges with local vendors begins to increase with each interaction. I do admit that I am not a negotiator when making these purchases. When the cost is so reasonable, I simply pay the price asked –often to the disdain of my bartering son.
Back on the bus and headed for Las Tablas, I alternate between falling to sleep and enjoying the scenery. We can see the foothills of Panama’s mountains in the distance. Corn fields dot the route. There are also houses of all sorts from shacks to haciendas. All along the way they are billboards, advertising new housing developments, celebrations, and cell phones. Once in Las Tablas, we collect our bag and find a cab willing to take us to Pedasi which is 30 minutes from Las Tablas. This is easily done, there are several cabs available at the bus station. The two lane highway to Pedasi is a scenic trip with long stretches of corn fields and pastures. Evan who is always keeping our transportation costs to a minimum, has selected the cabbie with the cheapest price, which means we are in a cab without air conditioning or working windows in the back seat. Indeed, it is my observation that if the cabbie is in clean and pressed shirt the cab will be clean and well maintained, and if not, the cab will be in need of cleaning and repair. Ah well, we do get there just the same.
There takes our breath away. Passing through the town of Pedasi to the Pacific Coast, our villa awaits. Villa Lillianna is a tropical oasis, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It truly belongs in Architectural Digest with its high vaulted ceiling of teak and bamboo, custom design teak paned windows, and swimming pool that almost looks like a modern sculpture. The long bus ride and bumpy ride in the dumpy cab are more than worthwhile. Gosh, I love Pedasi
Travel Blog Day 2: El Valle
Travel Blog Day 4: Buenaventura
Travel Blog Day 5: Casco Viejo