“Taxi, Taxi! You need Taxi!?” They all shout. “Where are the free shuttles?” I ask. “Taxi??” he says. “Habla Ingles?” “No.” “Donde Esta para gratis shuttle?” I ask. He points his finger to the young lady behind me. I ask her about the free shuttle service and she points her fingers towards the green benches telling us to sit and wait.
In the first hour of waiting, we meet a sister from Brooklyn, a native of Panama and her friend traveling with her. We all get acquainted and hear of some great places to visit in Panama. We tell her about California. She looks me up and down and notices my distressed Diesel boots, black leggings, red Nike jacket and a thick grey beanie on. “You’re gonna come out of your clothes gurl when you walk outta here.” In her thick accent. Her friend laughs and agrees. “Awww we’ve been in hot weather before.” I say. We continue chatting, they leave us as their ride greets them.
The next hour hits no shuttle. In the meantime, we search for a Hotel/Hostal to stay for the night. Boom! We found one! It’s very reasonable and located close to Casco Viejo (also known as Caso Antigua) recommended by a handsome flight attendant. After waiting for 2hrs we give up and call Uber–within 5min it arrives. We walk outside (I’m feeling the levels of heat right now) –my clothes are wet, and I’m sweating profusely. We both get in and start to peel out of our clothes delighted to feel the ice cold air in her car. Our driver introduces herself and feels her English is not the best. I love how she calls Uber “Y00uber.”
As we ride along for about 20 minutes crossing over bridges to get to Panama we see beautiful skyscrapers, the oceans of love surrounding us, lots of greenery as our driver tells us the history of her city. I hear and see a plethora of taxi cabs blowing, at least, every 5 sec. The roads and sidewalks are getting crowded. Cars are bumper to bumper. Traffic swaying in and out. We’re almost close to our destination (taking the back alleys) but before we approach she looks back at us in the back seat while driving at the same time and says “This area not safe. Don’t go back here at night time.” We continue to look at the beautiful slums as we ride along. She repeats adamantly to us “Please—do not go back here -not safe. Stay straight. You will see lots of policia walking in Casco Antigua. Because it’s lots of tourist.”
She pulls up to our destination looks back at us before we get out begging us “Make sure you say Santa Anta. This is the street. See.. someone will know. Stay straight. Go to the yellow building and turn right. Lots of policia.”
We get out. Grab our bags and she takes off. The area looks sketchy. The images are nothing like what we saw. Deception.
We walk into this abandon spacious building that’s quite deserted– cemented floors, dingy white walls, and a worn out black leather couch in the center. We approach the receptionist desk but she doesn’t speak ANY English At all. (I’m telling her about our reservations in Spanish while using the translator app to help too.) We hear children running out to see who’s inside a man comes out holding a little girl in diapers by the hand in front of him.
We get the keys to room 17, our luggage is taken up there before us. We walk into this small dark space that’s about 400sqft with dark gray walls, a full-size bed (no frame), mini black dorm fridge, AC unit and two overly used torn burgundy towels with a soap bar welcoming us. The walls are hollow with a cracked open door that doesn’t completely close. The bathroom has brown, peach dirty walls and a pipeline used as a shower curtain holder that doesn’t hold up too well. The toilet– umm I’d rather not describe it, let’s just say wasn’t the best.
We sit on the edge of the bed in disappointment figuring out why in the hell did we book this? (Oh yeah–because the fake images sold us on it.) We get up to lock the door. Walk outside. Turn right and walk straight ahead towards the yellow building and make a right to Casco Antigua. Many tourists and policias in sight.
We sit at this little cafe and start to look for another spot to lay our heads. We arrive back at the sketchy Hostal located in the beautiful slums unlock the door get our luggage, haul downstairs, open the gate waving down the first taxi. “Continental Casino Hotel” please.
*I’m not a professional writer. I just write what I feel:)