Thursday, February 17, 2011

Esplendor Panama hotel and home

A little about the Esplendor Panama hotel we ended up stayed for 5-nights. It was an apartment/condominium that was converted into boutique hotel.

We paid $175 (included taxes and everything) per night. The building seems to be poorly constructed and designed (like rest of Panama). The kitchen electric stoves does not get hot, the kitchen water faucet splashed everywhere every time you turn it on. The storage room's light switch (used to be laundry room) is behind the door near the hinge! And if one stands outside of the front door you can see the small gap between the door frames and see the light inside. The bedroom's toilet seat is behind a clear glass swing door (not all the way to the ceiling) so if someone were to lie on the bed he/she can see the person using the toilet, not to mention the noise and smell! The main lobby was small but not too bad looking, the only problem is the floor is made of black marble tile, looked nice but with the dusty nature of the city, everyone comes and their footprints are clearly visible on the floor, so they have one person dedicated to mob behind guests that come in and all the way to the elevators!

The receptionists at lobby are all very friendly with exception of one young girl. She seems able to speak English ok, but can’t understand what we are asking since her answers didn’t make any sense to what we are asking of her. Her older assistant chimed in to help answer our question. May be she got her position because she is young and not bad looking. The older assistant seems to be more capable. One time we asked if she can call the taxi driver that supposed to pick us up from the hotel but was not here yet, first thing out her mouth is that we can call from our room and it will cost us if she is going call for us! Hello, if I can speak good Spanish, I would not need your help. So I just ask other more helpful person from the hotel where is the public paid phone and made the call myself for 25c.

The breakfast was included and was ok, but since we booked as two people, the third person is not allowed to have breakfast. They mark people off every morning as you entered the breakfast room. On weekends with fewer guests, the service people hover around your table to get you used plate, etc.: too attentive! The fitness room is a joke, no ac, and only half of the few pieces of equipment that there are functioning properly. I went for morning runs outside instead. During our stay, the in-hotel restaurant is not ready so is the business center, so no internet access unless you have your own laptop (Wi-Fi is available). The outdoor pool also seems to be out the commission the whole time. I think the fair price would be around $100-125.

On the plus, our room is spacious with big living room and sofa where I sleep – almost too much space. Bed is comfortable. The hotel is centrally located in the safe area of the city (not much help with terrible city traffic). There is a Rey supermarket very close by as well as couple good and cheap place to eat. We especial liked Jimmy’s Restaurant, we went there 3 times! It served yummy local food.

On the morning of our last day in Panama, after a quick breakfast, I went to wait in line at the nearby bank to get a chance of exchange some $1 Panamanian coin. I was told the National Bank might have it. I have tried goto the same bank couple times before, but both time I turned back because the huge long line inside and outside the door! I got there around 7:30AM, half an hour before it is to open, so I am only 4th person in line! I guess the 3rd time was the charm and I was able to exchanged $5 worth of the shiny big coins and some half balboa coins as well. I left the bank all happy and went next door to the internet café last email check.

The checkout time is 11AM, so we stayed in our room as long as we can, then we had the hotel store our luggage with the hotel, we took a taxi went to checkout a nearby indoor mall. It was not bad looking mall, not many people were there, I guess middle of working day keep the crowd away. I got myself a nice looking jean, ok price on it. One thing interesting about the mall is that the mall doesn’t seem to have AC, but the individual store has. With our quick shopping done, we got back to the hotel and walk over to Jimmy’s for our last lunch. Afterward we just wait in the hotel for our taxi to pick us up at three. I had negotiated another taxi driver the previous day, and he is older guy, and offered us even cheaper deal than others and his taxi looks new and with strong ac.

The taxi arrived about 15 minutes early and we are on our way to the airport. No traffic this time as we took the toll road, which we paid on top of the negotiated fare. We passed some nice developments and the taxi driver told us they belong to rich “refugees” Venezuelans. They are escaped the crazy and narcissistic Hugo Chavez.

We arrived at airport with plenty of time for our 7PM flight. So we walked around the huge duty free area and purchased some more rum. Even after that we still have time to kill, so I used my new Continental Presidential Plus card to get into one those airport lounges, which was nice with snacks, drinks, internet, and nice chairs.

Our flight home was delayed by an hour because they kept the door open for passengers on a late flight, but in the end those people never made it as our flight took off without them. I think it might because Dulles airport might have a curfew on last flight coming in. We arrived at Dulles well past midnight and didn’t get to my house until 1:30AM. We were lucky as when I got out, there were only 3 taxi waiting. We were the first people to get out from the flight.

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