Martyr's Day is Dry

Keith's Panamanian Travel Ramble:

Martyr's Day is Dry

Hi Travel Fans,

Today is a special day here in Panama.

Flags throughout the country fly at half mast to commemorate those killed in the Flag Riots of 1964.

This was a tumultuous time in Panamanian history and riots broke out over the flying of a flag. At that time, the US controlled the canal and had agreed to fly both the US and the Panamanian flags in various places throughout the Canal Zone. As this turned out to be quite controversial, the governor of the Canal Zone decided to remove some flagpoles altogether.

Balboa High School was one place where the flag poles were to be removed but the students took things into their own hands and raised the US flag before the pole could be removed. Keep in mind that this was a place within the Canal Zone that contained mostly US families.

A group of Panamanian university students decided that there should be a Panamanian flag flying from that pole, not a US flag so they organized a march to the high school and attempted to change the flags. What ensued was rioting, looting, destruction, and mayhem with two dozen people loosing their lives.


The 9th of January, is officially known as Martyrs’ Day here in Panama. It is a public holiday. Interestingly enough is the fact that no liquor can be sold during this day. If you go into a grocery store, you will find the liquor aisles taped off and if you are in a restaurant or bar, you wont be able to order anything alcoholic.

Many stores and restaurants close for the day as well. I like the serious and respectful approach that this country takes to remembering this important event in their history.

Well, enough history!


I promised you some information about our real estate meeting. We learned about this opportunity through International Living Magazine some time ago. It is a new 96 suite exclusive boutique hotel that is to be built in downtown Panama City that will be called the Park Inn.

The neighborhood is good and it is within walking distance of the business area, restaurants, and the waterfront. The concept is that the rooms are being sold as condominiums, to each owner. It is an exclusive property as all rooms are one bedroom units.

There is a 20 year contract in place for the Radisson to manage and run the property and the Carlson Hotel group will be handling the reservations and marketing. It is expected to take up to 20 months to complete the building and have the hotel working. Revenues will be pooled for all units and the owners distribution will be based on the unit size (there are 3).

Current pricing is pre construction and coming to an end shortly. There will be two more jumps in the pricing of about 10% each as the construction begins and then as the construction completes. It is an interesting concept and the developer seems to have put all the pieces together. The first deposit is 10% and there will be two more 10% payments required as the building progresses.

Seventy percent mortgages are available here in Panama from HSBC at around 6% that only amortize for 10 years, which we are told is common here for investments. Current pricing varies from around US$240K through US$318K, accomodating the different floor and unit sizes.

We will give this a little more serious consideration and crunch some numbers to see if the revenue will support the expenses but on the surface, this makes sense to us.


We came back to the hotel to pick up the car and head out to the end of the causeway for some lunch. It was extremely busy there as the Coral Princess was in port and passengers were beginning to arrive back from their various tours. The Coral Princess stood off shore and passengers were being tendered back to the ship.

After an unremarkable lunch, and a few pictures, we decided to head over the Bridge of the Americas to find the new Westin hotel in Playa Bonita that just opened in December.

We have friends who are coming to Panama during Carnival and they will be staying here. Nice property, right on the Pacific but it is quite remote. We talked to a couple of guests who said it was a $25 cab ride per couple if you wanted to go into the city.

It is a good place to sell all-inclusive packages because there are no close local options. We checked out a room and it is definitely up to the Westin standards. Understandably, they are going through some growing pains as they get staff trained up to the Westin level and there are still small things left to do on the building. There is also construction of another tower on the same property that is far from complete. The guest we talked with said that some people were unhappy with the food and service levels as the Westin continues to work out the kinks of a new operation.


We decided that pasta might be in order for dinner tonight. Well, not really! It was more like the pasta joint was one of the few restaurants open. Remember, this is Martyrs’ Day. We found el Dente Restaurant not far from our hotel, at the start of the causeway. We ordered an appetizer which was a bacon and cheese brochette. Remember bacon is one of he major food groups to me so anything containing it goes straight to the top of the list. It was good!

Next came a couple of pastas that we don’t see at home much. I had chicken lasagna and Andrea ordered chicken cannelloni. Again, no English menus and no pictures this time. Tonight was a real surprise when we got what we thought we ordered. Dinner was great but much toooooo large! Total bill was $37.

Well, enough for today. Tomorrow we leave this hotel and make our way up the mountain to Cerro Azul.

I wonder if I should have tire chains, just in case?


Travel diary shared by JKHowie