Back when I found the $100 flight to Lima, I thought it would be a good idea to buy another $100 ticket from San José to Panama City and keep it as a surprise for Mauricio’s birthday. This time around, $100 got us a series of long layovers and the chance to visit three countries in three days. Although it was hard to keep a secret, I think I did a pretty good job with Mau’s birthday gift this year.
On our way to Panama City, we had a 10 hour layover in Bogotá which was enough time for us to get out in the city, see some sights and meet up with a friend of ours. We spent just over 24 hours in Panama City, then on our way back to San José, we had a 22 hour layover in Guatemala City and were able to spend the day in Antigua and stay with another friend of ours.
The 10 hours we spent in Bogotá gave us a glimpse into what an awesome city Bogotá is. We started our journey by meeting our friend Margarita, who recently moved back to Bogotá and luckily was able to grab lunch with so we could catch up. We had our first bandeja paisa – which is basically a huge platter of typical food from the northwest of Colombia. Beans, rice, eggs, avocado, blood sausage, pork belly, plantains, ground beef and chorizo accompanied by a coconut milk lemonade was enough to hold us over for the rest of the day. After lunch, we took a cable car up to the famous Monserrate. Located at 10,341 feet above sea level, we were treated to the most extensive view of Bogotá (and a small headache from the altitude). Next we explored the Candelaria neighborhood, which is a historic and colorful part of the city located close to a major university. Towards the end of the day, we spent some time with Margarita, went to her high rise apartment with an awesome view of the city at sunset and got some polls (beers) before headed back to the airport.
Just a few hours later, we landed in Panama City and checked into our grimy hotel for the night to recharge our batteries for day 2 in Panama. We stayed in the Casco Antiguo, which is the historic district of town, and spent most of the morning exploring on foot. The contract of old dilapidated housing next to new buildings made for some great photo ops. The newly opened Biomuseo was by far the highlight of our trip. The Biomuseo is a brand new museum dedicated to the importance of preserving biodiversity in Panama – it was interactive, informative and just awesome. The building was designed by the famous Frank Ghery and was an architectural marvel. We spent the rest of our time in Panama sweating (it was so hot), taking pictures, did some shopping in the most gigantic mall ever, and enjoyed the downtown sunset view from the malecón.
Just as soon as we arrived to Panama, we were off to Guatemala City. Our good friend and co-worker Guillermo graciously picked us up from the airport and let us stay with him in Antigua. I had always wanted to show Mauricio Antigua, as it was the first place I traveled to on my own and is just an awesome place. Guillermo, Mauricio and I spent the day wondering the colonial streets of Antigua, eating pepián, perusing the many souvenir markets and enjoying some good company. Guillermo was able to show us his favorite spots around town and I was able to share memories of the summer I spent learning Spanish in Antigua. We ended the day by winning trivia (and some extra cash!) at one of Guillermo’s favorite bars in town.
Before we knew it, we were off to the airport to make our journey back to San José. Unluckily for us, we experienced the worst three-hour traffic jam of our life and missed our flight back home. We ended up paying more than our flight cost in the penalty change fee, but it was worth it. Six flights, three countries, three days and two friends later we were back to reality. When we landed in San José, we both headed straight to work and our routine. I’ve said it before and i’ll continue to say it – long layovers are the best!