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Bocas del Toro aka Paradise

by Helen

Water Taxi from Isla Carenera

Water Taxi from Isla Carenera

Well here we are in Bocas Town

We arrived in the early hours of Friday morning and as we walked down the middle of main street dragging our pink suitcase our energy went up and we knew this was Home!

It was our original plan to come straight to Bocas del Toro (and it was the reason the whole Panama project started) but then when Joel got offered a job we decided to give the city a try (following our heads and not our hearts Ė always a mistake!). As the job didn't work out and we reconfirmed that we are not city people, this is definitely the place to be. We much prefer the sound of the waves and the odd burst of reggae through someoneís open window to the sound of construction, buses grinding their gears and car drivers honking in sheer frustration at being stuck in a traffic jam.

Itís not too hot here with a breeze off the ocean, itís jaw droppingly beautiful, itís unspoiled, there are some wonderful people living here, it has an airport on the doorstep and everything is so alive and green. It rains a fair bit but who cares when it is so warm! The beaches have white sand and palm trees and the backdrop is lush jungle, with layers of grey-blue mountains in the distance on the mainland.

Even though the rest of the world is suffering, real estate here is booming, which bodes well for business too. Joel says it looks like Key West about 40 years ago, complete with roosters wandering around the streets along with some black vultures we noticed too. My prediction is that prices will double here in three years even if the rest of the world goes Ďphutí.

We are staying in a small hotel on the water and last night we stayed here and ate sweet Thai chicken made from real chicken from the wonderful owner, Claudio's little farm on the mainland and drank too much Panamanian rum (called seco) with lime and brown sugar with some good fun guests also staying here.

Apparently we lap packers. A word I just learned from a lovely Norwegan couple on their lap packer honeymoon here. It means we are one up the ladder from back packers and we stay in small hotels (rather then hostels) and have a laptop over our shoulders and a wheely suitcase rather than a rucksack.

Yesterday morning, after cheese and vegetable omelet with fried plantains (patacones) and pineapple, we were given a tour of the town by the real estate agent whose properties I advertise on the new website. Most interesting to see tiny lots on the waterfront right in town already going for $350,000 and upwards.

Further along the coast there are small new apartments on the beach for $150,000 as well as large homes for $1,500,000. Tomorrow he is taking us to some of the other islands to see land on the water. If we can find a good deal somewhere I would love to do a project for say 10-12 wooden homes with huge covered verandas sharing a beach and a dock and self sufficient in water and power. We already have a couple of friends who are interested.

Later in the day we went to visit an American lady called Robyn and her super bright and totally adorable twin girls who are staying on Carenera Island just across the water from this island. She introduced us to the lady who rented them their adorable little cabin and dock who has another house, also right on the water, that may be coming up for rent in about a monthís time. We have fallen in love with it and canít wait to have her confirm when the present occupant will go.

Yesterday finished delightfully with a great dinner and bottle of wine on the deck of a wonderful little retaurant called L'Ultimo Refugio, run by a very pretty American lady called Catherine. It was by far the best food we have had so far in Panama and sort of reminded me of a little retaurant I used to know in Bodrum called Secret Garden!

To get to Bocas, we decided to take the overnight bus from Panama City (research for the website is what we mad fools called it). It was hell. I had a premonition something was up when everyone got on with duvets, wooly hats, fleeces and so on whilst were dressed in our normal summer clothes. The driver insisted on keeping the temperature at 19C despite my begging and pleading to turn it up. At the first stop we bought a newspaper and covered ourselves in it for the rest of the journey, feeling like homeless people and very sorry for ourselves. The bus dumped us off at 5am in the rain and from there we had to take a 5 minute taxi to the water taxi stop in Almirante. The first boat left the shabby taxi office at 6am and we arrived in Isla Colon 30 minutes later as the sun was coming up.

When we saw that the airport was one street up from our little hotel (the Hotel Angela) we kicked ourselves for not paying the $75 for a 50 minute flight rather than the $27.35 it cost us each for the bus and water taxi plus La Prensa newspaper and hours of misery. We may take the bus back during day if we decide to break it up with a stay in David (as the scenery must be fantastic) but only if I can find a blanket for the trip!

Go to go now. Joel has just got back from a bar called Bohmfalk's (he says itís a sports bar but I think it would be better as a gay bar personally!!)Ö. Say it out loud if you donít get it.

December 21, 2008

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