Panama/Colombia Trip Recap

Usually, within a week of coming back from a vacation I would have the full recap up and finished. USUALLY I don’t get horribly sick after vacationing though.

The past two weeks have been absolute hell on my body (and my travel partner, Lorren). I’m one of those people who eats everything and anything in sight when I travel without any issues EVER with my tummy. I’d like to think of myself as someone with a rock hard stomach, on the inside, because mans are fluffy outside. When I went to do my Asia trip in 2016 I drank Dukoral weeks ahead to prepare and I even got my shot for cholera, which you can read all about here. Nothing gets to my stomach. Until something fucking got to my stomach.

I am literally 8lbs lighter now than I was when I left for my trip on October 5th. That was two weeks ago and I have been thin for no reason since last week. I will spare all of you the details but let me tell you, I’m not sure WHERE or WHY we picked up whatever stomach problem this was but I legitimately do not wish it on anyone. Three days laid up in bed not being able to eat is not exactly my idea of happiness after a vacation. Like you’re already sad you’re back to cold and work but your body completely malfunctioning as well? SUCKS.

But, let me move on to the awesomeness that was this trip. To look at the positive side of things, neither of us felt sick until the day we had to fly home. The vacation itself was super fun and exciting and I’m happy to share the goods with you lovely people.



FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5TH - FLYING/PANAMA

This seemed like such a late time to fly. 9:30am. I had to take the subway and UP Express with the regular working hours people. Who flies this late? I’m more accustomed to being at the airport from 5-6am and ready to be up in the air to somewhere by 7am. Lorren and I met up at the check-in for Copa Airlines to begin our journey to Cartagena, Colombia via Panama City, Panama. The great thing was we had checked in online already and only had our carry-ons to travel with so we avoided a super long line with everyone else. Score!

I’m not 100% sure on why we decided to go to Cartagena but I do recall being in the middle of a fete at Jamaica Carnival and looking at my Google Flights notification telling me that a flight to Cartagena from Oct 5 - Oct 8 had dropped 50% in price.

You read that right …. FIFTY PERCENT DROP. I messaged Lorren and asked if she’s good with that price, she said yes and boom we had roundtrip flight tickets to Colombia for $320.00 per person. That’s a damn good price.

Pearson airport was the same thing as always, boring. We both got some version of breakfast and then we were on our way to our layover in Panama City, Panama. The total layover time was seven hours, but with having to be at the airport two hours before a flight that total dropped to five hours of exploring Panama City. We had intended on seeing the Panama Canal, going to this Chorillo area where there was some delicious seafood and then just walking along the water and taking pictures at sunset. HA. We thought.

We checked our carryons at this luggage storage place in the arrivals area of the airport. (Cost $5.00 USD per bag) and then we found ourselves a taxi driver. His name was Ariel and I think he offered us ‘the weeds’ about six times during the drive. He was definitely our type of driver because he knew how to maneuver around all the traffic, which sometimes included driving on the shoulder and even through a park to get to the other side of a road. Sadly, even with his driving skills we were in for a big let down.

The traffic in Panama City is HELLA disrespectful. We did enjoy seeing how beautiful the city was and how far superior their condos looked to Toronto, but, ommmggg it was so slow getting through the city. We made it to the Panama Canal and paid the stupid $20.00 USD to enter.

So you enter, you go upstairs, there’s hoards of people looking at a canal, a big ship gets announced as incoming, people get amped and take selfies, the ship passes, it’s done. The end.

I do not care for the Panama Canal at all but it was kind of one of those ‘must see’ things if you’re going to go to Panama so we did it. It’s done. Check it off the list.

We wanted to go to the aforementioned Chorillo area after the canal but as we got deeper and deeper into traffic our Google Maps was giving us an unfavorable breakdown in time to the airport. This is where the day began to get a little weird.

There was definitely a language barrier between us and Ariel but we were able to tell him where we wanted to go for the day and how much we’d pay etc. It really wasn’t an issue - until it actually became an issue. As we were driving towards Chorillo myself and Lorren decided that it was best we just head directly back to the airport because we didn’t want to risk being late for our flight to Cartagena. Missing seafood was fine with us, missing a flight was definitely not.

This driver got SUPER weird at this point. We explained to him that we wanted to head for the airport because of the time restraints and dude wouldn’t take NO as an answer. He repeated and repeated and repeated ‘no no you must go to Chorillo’. Listen bro, we must not do SHIT. If we paying for the car for the day and we don’t want any extra detours and want to go back to the airport, that’s where the hell you’re going to take us.

Oh man, for the entirety of the drive back to the airport he literally repeated and bitched about us not going to Chorillo every 20 seconds. At one point he PULLED OVER to the side of some parking lot and said, ‘go take pictures!’ even though we explicitly told him 50 times to head directly back to the airport so we wouldn’t be late. Don’t get me wrong, taking pictures of Panama City during sunset was really beautiful. The city itself is gorgeous and I hope I come back another time to take it in some more. However, we had no idea what the hell dudes problem was. We were still on a time constraint. As we finally got into the airport area he was STILL repeating about the goddamn Chorillo place and I finally had enough and you could hear me saying over, ‘no we said airport. no we said airport. no we said airport.

We did finally make it to the airport and with plenty of time before our flight. Got some food and boarded the next Copa flight to Cartagena.

Upon arriving in Cartagena we got to deal with the pleasantries of the reciprocity fee only Canadians have to pay to enter Colombia which I wrote a blog post about here. Fortunately, a very nice man drove us from the airport to our hotel in the Bocagrande area of Cartagena.

At about 11:30pm - we finally got to bed. This weird day was done.


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6TH - LUXURY IN CARTAGENA


Listen, after the day/night we had in Panama? Waking up in a five star hotel with the most incredible view was refreshing. Oh, it felt so good. I would go more into detail about the Hyatt Regency Cartagena, but you can click here and go peruse the blog post I made specifically about staying there.

For the Saturday we didn’t make many concrete plans. Lorren had booked herself in for some surfing at 10am and I had booked myself in for a spa session at 2pm. Because for some weird reason I can’t stay sleeping particularly late while on vacation, I was up early and both Lorren and I decided to go for breakfast.

We had searched Google for what was good around us and came across this breakfast spot named La Brioche. If you ever go to Cartagena, definitely make sure to eat here. The pancakes were so fluffy and the pineapple juice was delicious. Also, I appreciate any restaurant where the manager/owner comes by and talks to see if you’re bless.

After breakfast Lorren went onto her surfing shenanigans and I went right back to the hotel. You know what I did? I took a nap. Then I went to the spa to try and get Lorren a booking at the same time as mine, they weren’t open for another 30 minutes. OK. Took another nap. Went back down to the spa and was able to get Lorren a spa session appointment. Great success.

It was probably about noon and I had a tough decision to make - do I want to nap some more or will I go actually do stuff since I am on vacation? Disregarding my good judgement, I decided to go gallivant into Cartagena’s historical center …. in 34 degree heat. I walked so damn much, from Bocagrande and then to the historical center and then I drank some rum and then I walked all the way back to the hotel. The heat was INSANE. I will say the walk was well worth it. The center of Cartagena is incredible and very picturesque, and I sure do love taking a lot of pictures!

Once I returned to the hotel I had to take a shower because absolutely no one should have to rub down a profusely sweaty Eastern European woman during a spa session.

If you would like to know how the spa time went you can read about it here, I made a separate blog post for all you spa enthusiasts.

After Lorren and I both had our awesome spa dates completed, we hit the infinity pool at the hotel. Incredible view over Bocagrande, took some pictures and ordered some food. Nice and relaxing evening. That is the great thing about traveling with the women I choose to travel with, there’s an amazing bonding in quiet sometimes. You don’t even have to speak non-stop, you’re just happy to be somewhere together and taking it all in together. I love every minute of it.

Alright so it is a Saturday night, we are young, we are good looking and we are on vacation. Obviously, it is time to party!

Ha.

We got back to our room at 8pm, said we’d take a nap and woke up at 4am. That was the end of our Saturday. FAIL.


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7TH - BEACH LIFE

One of the things that makes me happiest in this world is being on a beach. I love swimming, I love the sand, I love being in the water and I just love the way it makes me (and my skin) feel. Today was our beach day and we were going on an adventure to Playa Blanca.

We were picked up around 9am and drove for approximately one hour to get to the destination. I’m not a fan of long car rides but this beach was worth the time in a pinch up van.

When we arrived we were taken (with our group) to a quieter area of Playa Blanca. Apparently Sunday is the day most locals went to the beach as well so it was crammed everywhere. The beach was super busy. I was happy the guide took us to a quiet area where we have a little piece of heaven, and shade, to ourselves. It is unfortunate that all the things you read about Playa Blanca are true though, every 10-15 seconds someone will be asking you to buy a service from them or food or liquor. As someone who prefers my beaches completely silent, it made the beach experience a little less pleasant.

The beach itself was clean, the water was clear and the temperature of the water was perfect as well. If you do have time, I would definitely encourage everyone to take a day trip to Playa Blanca. Another great part of our trip for the day was getting a delicious fish lunch, which we both enjoyed while overlooking the clear waters.

Sigh, mans really tried to scam us though.

Listen, I have no issue with people hustling because sometimes you don’t really have any other option. Although I may be annoyed that someone talks to me every 10-15 seconds trying to sell me things, I get that they need to make money. That’s fine. However, I don’t like people trying to take me for an idiot.

There was a group of women by us offering massages. I asked the woman how much it would cost and she said it would be $20 for 30 minutes. Awesome, that, I can definitely get down with. Lorren had requested a 15-minute foot massage from another lady after discussing her rate as well. Perfect! Massages on a beach were feeling sooooo good. Suddenly, I hear the woman who had given Lorren her foot massage say something along the lines of, ‘that was one hour’. THE FUCK? How is it that Lorren asked for 15 minutes and I asked for 30 minutes, but hers was supposedly one hour? NAH NAH NAH.

Then the lady who was doing my back I asked her if my 30 minutes was up and suddenly she couldn’t speak English very well. We were lucky that there was a couple with us on the same tour that spoke Spanish fluently. The lady told them she had been working on me for 40 minutes at that point, so I asked her like why you going past 30 minutes when we had agreed on THIRTY MINUTES? To hell with that. I paid her for the 30 minutes we had agreed to and told her to go on her way. I don’t like that shit. Make your money, but tricking or trying to scam people isn’t the wave. That just pissed me off.

So note to any of you that plan on getting massages at Playa Blanca, set a damn timer or just don’t do it. If I had the option to go through this again, I would have just not gotten the damn massage. SMH.

I’m not sure how the day at the beach finished so quickly. I easily could have spent another 2-3 hours there just relaxing but the tour guide said it was time to head back to Cartagena. Imagine? The driver tried to fit FOURTEEN of us in that pinch up van and Lorren literally couldn’t sit down. So we complained and had two small children move to the front so the adults could sit down properly for the one hour ride. Last thing we needed after the scamming attempt was an uncomfortable ride back to town. Hell no.

So we got back to our hotel and got to shower and relax a little bit. We were NOT taking a nap tonight, we had to go out on our final night in Colombia. We got dressed up cute and caught a taxi into the historical center. We asked the taxi driver his favourite restaurant and he said it was ‘Alma’ - okay, so take us to Alma.

I’d like to say at this point, dear Mr. taxi man, if I ever see you again I’m gonna give you a massive tip for suggesting this place. YOU DESERVE THE WORLD SIR.

This dude has taste. This restaurant was beautiful, some real high end shit. The ambiance was lovely, the staff was attentive and there was even this beautiful pool in the middle of the establishment. The food too? OMG. To die for. From the lobster empanadas to the insane seafood chowder that Lorren ordered. Everything was delicious. Yes, this place was a little pricier than most of the food spots in Cartagena but, why not splurge a little? Was super worth it.

Then we just walked around the center and stopped at various bars to have a drink and people watch. By the time we got to the fourth bar it was some place called Tu Candela which we had read was a pretty decent nightclub. The spot wasn’t particularly big, but the vibes were GREAT. The DJ took requests and played some Vybz Kartel for me. We made friends with some guys from Florida that were there for a bachelor party too. Overall, a fun spot to party.

Naturally, I drank too damn much. Let me tell you something about Colombian pesos, that currency is confusing as shit. Now mix that with it being like 1am, you’re a bunch of rum and cokes in and you can’t count. Oh man. I’d never been so embarrassed in my life trying to count out 148,000 pesos to pay for our bar tab because they didn’t take cards. The bartender had to walk with me to the closest ATM so I could take more cash out. Horrible. Don’t drink and count foreign currency guys.

Lorren and I walked home to our hotel after the club. For as much as people worry about traveling to Colombia, neither of us felt unsafe at any time there. Super late at night, walking back to Bocagrande in our cute outfits and singing random soca songs - people just said good evening and kept it moving. No one harassed us and we just staggered our way on home. Fun night. Happy early birthday Lorren.


MONDAY, OCTOBER 8TH - HOME TIME

Waking up on Monday hungover wasn’t awesome. We went back to La Brioche to eat that amazing breakfast one more time and then we packed to head back home. The stay in Cartagena was over and we were leaving back to cold-ass-Toronto.

This was the moment where we suddenly didn’t feel well but we though it was because we drank so much the night before. Obviously, we were wrong about that.

Going through customs at Cartagena’s airport was super fast. I had read someone else’s blog post alluding to it taking forever to get through because you had to speak to a ‘minimum’ of twelve people by the time you got to your gate. False. Super false. I’m not sure if we were super lucky or what but it literally took all together MAYBE 10 minutes from entering the airport to getting through border security and to our gate. It really wasn’t nearly as bad as others had described it.

We flew back to Panama City with Copa and had some time to kill at their airport before our flight to Toronto. We ate Cinnabon and our stomachs just began feeling worse and worse.

Finally we got on the flight back to Toronto and by the time we landed we both realized our bodies hated us and we fucked up. Just how I wanted to end a vacation. Not.

Overall I would still say this was an awesome trip. I would like to go back to Panama City and enjoy it a bit more since the traffic and our strange taxi driver kind of ruined it for us. If I go back to Cartagena I’d really like to stay at the Hyatt again as well and would return to the EXACT same places to eat breakfast and dinner.

My apologies for this post being so lengthy, who knew so much could happen over one long weekend?

Thankful to have made it to country #31 and country #32 finally.

  • Mirna