Flip flops, bathing suits, souvenirs, watches — all for a buck or less. We descended on the shops like aged Canadians at a Florida all-you-can-eat buffet. We relaxed a bit on our budget and had supper at an excellent Chinese restaurant so we could idle in the air-conditioning after a day traipsing up and down the frying pan that doubled as a sidewalk. Afterwards, we strolled into the immense Supermercado Rey and bought huge jars of peanut butter and paid less than 40 cents for cans of Balboa beer (an indicator of the true cost of living, verdad?).
One of the joys of traveling is finding a place so untouched, so empty of human presence that it seems as if you are the first person to have ever witnessed it. Such places can be hard to come by, yet just six hours away by boat from the southeast coast of Panama lie more tropical islands than days in a year. Over 300 of these islands are uninhabited, allowing travelers to experience true tranquility.
Shops and restaurants are everywhere, but if all you want is something light and refreshing, there’s nothing better than shaved ice. Select a fruit-flavored syrup. Watch the street vendor fill a large cup past the rim with ice shaved from a giant block, and drizzle it with your flavor of choice and a thin stream of coconut milk. Grab a straw, a long plastic spoon, and some napkins, and find a shady spot to sit. For $2 you have a treat you can spoon, slurp, and once you get a little farther down, stir.