The next morning, we woke up late, and after breakfast, we pretty much headed straight to lunch, because that’s what we do. We were actually going to pick up lunch and take it on a hike with us to eat later. By the time we found a place that was open on New Year’s Day (Boquete Sandwich Shop), picked out the menu and ordered, we decided to just eat in. All was going great until an hour has gone by, we debated the pros and cons of getting a dog, and our sandwiches and ceviches still did not show up. At this point, we were hungry and that’s when things turn bad! The food showed up in a typical Panamanian way – kids got their sandwiches first and were completely done by the time our food came (after we almost cancelled the entire order). We inhaled our pretty decent tasting ceviches and were on our way to hike a Pipeline Trail.
It’s a really easy, beautiful hike, with 1,000 year old trees and you get rewarded by a waterfall at the end. The entire hike takes about 2-2.5 hours.
We celebrated our last night in Boquete with a dinner at a Peruvian restaurant, Casona del Cuzco, where once again, the food came in time increments. The girls were happy with their plain butter pastas, Zach really liked the beef stew, I was satisfied with Spanish style grouper, Ho were Chris’ sea bass was a disappointment. However, we both agreed that they made good Pisco Sours!
The cottage was insect free when we got home except for a little roach that crept up Zach’s pajamas, and to my great surprise, my son was upset when he couldn’t set him free and had to flush the little guy down the toilet. I didn’t feel the same way when I saw one under my bed and gladly used the fly swapper.
That night, we were remotely entertained by a local neighbor, who had live music that went on until 2 am. My new BEATS came in handy.
We had a lot of fun in this place, at least a lot of action! We came home after a late dinner the first night, to find three giant black spiders sitting on the ceiling. After some initial screams, we went into a battle mindset: called the owner who came immediately equipped with raid. Raid became our best friend that night, who knew? The next morning, upon the new spider encounter, I devised a new strategy, and decided to name the spider Blackie and tell the kids we have a new pet. It seemed to work as we were trying to guess if Blackie was coming back with his friends. Luckily for Blackie and us, we had no more encounters for the rest of our three night stay.
The accommodations ended up working great for our family with two rooms, a small kitchenette, and a nice porch to have a morning cup of coffee and watch the humming birds. The owners, Hans and Terry are very helpful and have two friendly and playful dogs, Max and Spot.
The first morning, after breakfast of fruit salad and pastries that Terry left by the door of the cottage each morning, we took short walk around the property.
We then headed out to lunch at Sugar and Spice, and to meet our guide for hose back riding. What a great experience! The horses were all very well taken care of, and matched well to the level of riders in our family. Those who wanted to go faster were able to actually have some fun, and the less confident riders could comfortably walk their horses.
After horse riding, we headed to Caldera Hot Springs. For $2 entry fee and another 15 min. walk, we ended up with a dip in a nice warm pool. Did someone say Hot Tub?
And that was a wrap for 2018! Tired, but satisfied after a full day, we had a lovely dinner of wood grilled chicken and steak, followed by a few clanks of Cava filled glasses to welcome 2019 while watching the handmade firecrackers explode into the fireworks over the tree clearing in the jungle.
Boquete is a small town, about 45 min. drive from David. It is surrounded by mountains, jungle and forrest which makes this a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers. There is no shortage of hiking trails from easy and kid friendly to a lot more challenging. Our impression of spending just a few days here is that it’s safe and authentic, without five-star resorts and fancy restaurants (though there are a few upscale options). The food is good, but nothing to really rave about. We didn’t get a chance to try Panamanian food in Boquete, unfortunately. From what we’ve been told, Panamanians mostly eat lunch out, and dinner at home. There are only a handful of authentic places, and most are cafeteria style eateries. Among the restaurants that we tried, I can definitely recommend Sugar and Spice for breakfast and lunch, Kotowa cafe for coffee and dessert, and we had a good experience at an Argentian restaurant, La Posada. However, there are enough of American, Italian and other places to try. One advise on eating out – if your Spanish is limited, stick to the menu and don’t try to alter the order. It confuses the heck out of waiters. Another small detail that we noticed is that it takes forever for the order to come out, and most of the time, it doesn’t come out at once, as in part of our group would finish their meal by the time the others would be just served. Annoying, to say the least.
Overall, we enjoyed the vibe and unpretentious feel of the town.
The flight from Chicago to Panama City is under 5 hours, on a direct flight on Copas Airlines. The food is your typical “airplane fare”, eatable if needed, but I always prefer to bring my own food bag on the plane. Luckily, this is still allowed by the TSA. The service is nothing to rave or rage about. The toilet was dirty after the first hour, and went downhill from that point on, particularly since the soap pump was missing an actual tube for the soap to get to the pump. Not sure what happened there, and in this case, I was glad I threw a pack of wet wipes in my bag before leaving the house.
The customs in Panama City were a breeze, the luggage was there waiting for us by the time we got to the baggage claim and so we were, in a semi legal cab on our way to a sleepover at Hyatt Palace Downtown.
Hyatt Palace – served its purpose for one night layover so we could get to Albrook Airport the next morning for 9:30 flight to David. For $80 a night with breakfast included, 24 hrs. Restaurant with very decent food, and a good size room to accommodate the 5 of us, I was willing to overlook the complete lack of ambiance or any sign of luxury.
On Sunday morning, it only took 35 min. for the taxi ride from the hotel to the airport, to get checked in, go through security and to comfortably settle in the departure area to wait for our flight. It’s a small interior airport with not much to do except to patiently wait for your flight.
An hour later we landed in David, got our rental car from Enterprise, and were on our way to Boquete.
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14 hours on Korean Air to Seoul and another 5 hrs to Hanoi, and we were finally in our hotel around 10 pm. Kids did great, though 2 days later and they are still pretty jet lagged. That 12 hrs. time difference is letting itself to be known.
Hanoi is our first introduction to Vietnam. It’s an interesting mix of traditional, Communist, developing country and modernization and Westernization. It’s crowded, loud, lively, but with a reminiscent feel of old time.
In 2 days, we’ve walked all over the Old Quarters, took two tours – one, city tour with Hanoi Kids, which despite getting amazing reviews on TA, did not live up to its expectations, and a Hanoi Food Tour, which I would definitely recommend.
We went to Bat Trang Ceramic Village, where kids got to make their own pottery for a whooping $2/piece (add another $2 for clay burning and delivery to the hotel)
The girls loved the Water Puppet Show (do get tickets in advance, it almost sold out).
I enjoyed visiting the Temple of Literature, an ancient site of first university dedicated to Confucius.