Woke up once to check the time but otherwise, a good sleep.
Marlon and Eduardo were our tour guides today as we booked with Traviator city tour to take us to the Panama Canal – Miraflores Centre, Panama Bay and around the old Quarters of Casco Viejo.
Here are some facts about Panama:
-4 million people
-10-13 years ago Balboa / financial district was a landfill
-The financial district has over 80 different banks
-They use the Panama Canal for tourism and transportation.
-USA paid 40 million dollars to build the canal because the mosquitoes eliminated the French with yellow fever and other illness. French wanted to build a flat channel but USA wanted to build using a system of logs
-USA made 3 artificial lakes to maintain the water during rainy season
1904 1914 the USA built the canal (French were the first to try) USA used it to transfer supplies from West coast to East Coast as there were too many difficulties with bandits and other circumstances.
-No army but now only national police. If they need military support, they call the USA.
-Panama Canal created is own energy
-Workers were from all over including Caribbean side, China, Greece, Italy, French etc. They wanted workers who were acclimatized to the weather.
-Legal tender was USD as the workers came from all over the world and it was easier to use USD rather than Balboa. Now only coins are Balboa and USD is 1 for 1.
-The Panama canal was completed in June 2016 and it took 10 years to build it to allow access for bigger ships.
-There are 3 canals from Gatun to Miraflores. The larger Panama canal takes about 10-20 ships a day only during the day. The smaller one does 80 a day and runs 24 hours.
-Clayton base was for the USA military but once they left and since Panama doesn’t have an army, they turned it into an area for education and renamed it the City of knowledge.
-Until 1999, any citizens born in the USA confinement base area, were USA citizens and not Panamanian citizens.
They drove us over to Panama Bay passing by buildings like the Biomuseo building built with Frank Gehry design as well as the giant Panama sign. This whole area was manmade include the island we took a break on but it did give us stunning views of the cityline. The weather turned from hot and sunny to a treacherous rain storm and the view of the city looked completely different.
We drove over to the old quarters of Casco Viejo. You can definitely see the French and Spanish style within these quarters. We drove through and then were driven to what Eduardo calls the best view of the cityline at Quinto Centenario – Cinta Costera. From there, we decided we wanted to venture the old quarters by foot so we hopped out of the van and walked around. Eduardo told us that when we grab a taxi that it should be about $5USD to get us back to our hotel. The rain had let up a little so walking the streets was nicer. After arriving back to our hotel via taxi, we ordered an Uber and headed to the airport ($26USD). Then off we flew back home to end out 10 day adventure.
We met with Kayo at 10AM at Kyobashi station for a day trip to Kyoto.
From Kyobashi station, we took the Keihan train line (about 30 minutes) to Inari station where our main destination started – Fushimi Inari shrine. This was also Kayo’s first time to Fushimi Inari too so we didn’t really know what to expect. Kayo was a trooper for walking in wedges. We didn’t know before coming that Fushimi Inari is actually a temple built on a mountain. This temple made a huge appearance in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha with the orange tori gates. The main tori gates that appear in the film aren’t too long and are actually 2 paths that end before opening up into another set of gates that take you up the mountain. I decided to wear pants that day and although it was hot, it was a good decision – my eyebrow, chest and feet got attacked by bugs. When you finally make it to the top of the mountain, the sight is gorgeous as you can see the skyline of Kyoto from above before heading back down. Kyoto is also known for it’s mochi unfortunately we didn’t buy any however we did sample the triangle mochi dessert. Kayo also treated us to taiyaki (waffles made in fish shapes filled with red bean or other fillings) as well as takoyaki (squid balls).
After that long journey through Fushimi Inari, we journeyed on by train to Gion-Shinjo station to venture Yasaka Jinja Shrine, another temple with multiple temples inside. But first, we had ramen for lunch at a small local ramen shop. We all order the standard and added gyoza dumplings. The broth was a little different from what I’ve had – more soy sauce-y/ salty but nonetheless it tasted really good. The noodles were perfect but I feel like the best I’ve ever had still is hands down Daikokuya in Little Tokyo in LA. Our walk to the ramen place was really nice because the area had old buildings mixed with new but still so quaint.
We walked over to Yasaka-Jinja Shrine towards Maruyama Park. It was a cute park with a large settlement of ravens. Made our way to Sorin-ji temple and wanted to go see the big head temple but it was closed. We walked over to Chion-In temple but by the time we reached it, the temple was closed. NOTE: temples close early in Kyoto (5PM or slightly earlier).
Since temples were closing, we walked back to the station walked through an old street with old houses which had been turned into restaurants. We took the train back to Kyobashi and decided to have dinner in the area. The restaurant we went to for dinner we ordered from a machine that was all in Japanese. This restaurant required us to goto the second floor and order through the machine with no pictures which would in return give you a ticket stub after you paid. Luckily we had Kayo with us to read and translate for us. We treated Kayo to pizza, Shela and Georgie opted for curry rice and I got the omurice (rice in an omelet) with ketchup.
We got back to the hostel and Kyohei handed each of us 1 free drink ticket – it was Friday already. It was international party drinking night. Georgie grabbed herself a Peachtree and orange, Shela grabbed the plum wine and I grabbed the cassis and orange. Sebastian who was making drinks for us, volunteers at the hostel lives about a 5 minute bike ride away. He is originally from Portland, OR but has since been living in Japan for 8 years – He even has a Japanese drivers license. He was telling us his apartment costs roughly $900CAD. As we introduced ourselves to Sebastian, we met another guy named Daniel who is from Alberta who is part aboriginal. He’s been in Japan for about a week and a half so far and leaves tomorrow for Tokyo. His birthday was at the end of September so he celebrated in Roppungi in Tokyo as he turned 28. We also met a few Germans, Brits and also a group of people from Thailand – 2 girls named Patch and Pam and a group of 6 guys who were all medical students who only get 10 days off from school.
Did you know that you are never suppose to pour your own drink in Japan. If someone sees that your cup is empty, you are to pour for them and vice versa. Also, if you give someone your business card, you are to put it into your dress shirt pocket and not into your wallet (which you sit on) because you are sitting on their business.