Monday, September 20, 2010
Nursery on a Panamanian coffee farm. More photos below!
On our honeymoon now - soon I´ll put up more photos from the wedding (I still have a few friends´photos to add and the pro ones will be here soonish) but for now...woo honeymoon. ¡Viva America Central!
We started out in Panama and spent two lovely days in Panama City and another two in Boquete. In Panama City we wandered the colonial area (Casco Viejo), recently gentrified and prettied up, not to mention made safe, after years of being a slum with especially pretty buildings and old churches. We took a day trip to the Canal and bought delightfully cheesy souvenirs. In Boquete we did a coffee tasting and coffee farm tour, did a very long, super-fun zipline tour and took a crash course in traveler´s Spanish.
I was surprised and touched by the friendliness of the Panamanians. Far from Latin America´s reputation for roughness and lack of safety, at no point did we ever feel unsafe in Panama City, on the bus or in Boquete. It´s a country that´s coming along well and offers a lot of amenities found in a developed nation. I only wish we´d spent more time there!
Learning about coffee was fascinating; I knew about the fruit cartel in Central America but had no idea that most countries had actual laws prohibiting the domestic sale of high-grade coffee...all the good stuff is exported. Panama is the one country without such a law, and yes, it is possible to get good coffee in the other countries; just more expensive and requiring more effort. Boquete grows a lot of boutique and specialized coffees, of which we tried and enjoyed many.
And zip lining? I am happy we did it in less touristy Panama, and as Panama gets fewer visitors and we´re here in the low season, only two others came with us to finish out the tour; two lovely Englishwomen. HOW FUN. I have something of a fear of heights (not too serious, but a tad) and I´m not the most physically fit person, but I had a blast. It was like fear-of-heights therapy. You don´t see much in terms of ecology or even view (you´re too busy looking, panicked, at the fast approaching platform and deciding when or even if to brake as you zip along) but it´s quite the ride.
Everyone says that Central American food is bad: I disagree. At least so far I do - in Panama we enjoyed tons of delicious food. Carne asada, pollo asado, bistek picado, bistek y tortilla, platanos fritos, a delicious beet salad that I can´t name, fresh fruits, cucumber tomato salad...it was all really quite good, actually.
We then crossed the border to Costa Rica - more on that in my next post!
For now, enjoy some photos:
Learning about hand drying coffee beans. In busier seasons they use machines to do it.
Brendan coming in on a zip line.
Bad picture of a Chinese ship going through the Panama Canal´s Miraflores Locks
Panama - Japan cultural exchange! Just wait ´till I post my photo of "China Sauce"!
Panama Cathedral at dusk.
Refurbishing Casco Viejo
Residents of Casco Viejo