Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Travels - Panama Intenational Airport

I have arrived in Tocumen International Airport in Panama.  Notes on the trip so far (edited to add photos and comments):

LAX is horrible.  The outside renovations have left the terminal not only hard to navigate by car because the signage is unclear, but also the lanes are crisscrossing from the left, creating a traffic snarl that took us over 25 minutes to get around the loop to Terminal 6 - and that was at 11:00pm on a weeknight!  The inside renovations are still underway and it's hard to find the gate areas as it's like a small maze of some sort of supports wrapped in paper with clouds (and ads).  The occasional loud crashes from the workers dropping things overhead were unnerving.

Apparently there is a new federal airline regulation that the seats in the rows in front of the exit rows in aircraft do not recline.  As soon as I landed in Panama I changed my seat for the next flight!  Nevertheless, it was quiet and calm and I was able to sleep for 3.5 hours before they woke us up for breakfast.   I had fruit, yogurt, French toast, and juice - quite nice.

The approach to Panama was lovely.  About an hour before landing I could start to see lush forests, mountains and rivers with the occasional human habitation, beneath a partial cover of soft clouds.  Then we swung out over the ocean (or the Gulf?), where I got a view of a lovely rugged natural coastline.  Farther out over the water we passed over a few verdant islands, in the lee of which were anchored about 50 empty cargo freighters.  I'm guessing that it must be fairly near the entrance to the Panama Canal and they are waiting for the signal to collect their next loads.

Then a slight left turn and we came in to the airport, which is surrounded by lush forest.  You will see it in the photos, too.

It is hot and humid here and the air conditioning is working well on the lower level but in the upper level food court area it was quite warm.  Not unbearable, but definitely a hint of what I'll be needing to adjust to in the coming months.

This airport is still small enough that I didn't have to go through a huge security checkpoint between my flights, nor did I have to walk very far.  This is apparently the biggest airport in central and south America for international transfers.  Spanish is spoken here, but the restaurants are KFC, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Natural Express, Teriyaki, Chester's... there is nothing remotely resembling local food.

In any case, I'm thanking my stars for those long-ago Spanish classes!  Spanish and Portuguese share enough words that studying Portuguese seems to be allowing my brain to access Spanish that it hasn't used in years.  Nice side effect!

I liked these hanging lamps in the upstairs area.

If you are female and passing through this airport, it's worth it to go to the upstairs food court to use the restroom, because all of the downstairs women's restooms had long lines going right out the door as shown below, during the whole five hours I was there.

It seems the wifi in Tocument International Airport (Panama) is not free.  The page to sign up to purchase air time (the only page I can access free)  is all in Spanish, and although I can understand about half of it, it's not quite enough to figure out how to sign up.  So, I'm writing this entry offline and will post it later.

There is a really cute baby crawling around (the floor is carpeted here).

My muscles are starting to stiffen up so I had better take a little airport walk; it would be much nicer if I didn't have to haul my carry-on bag around.  Earlier I stopped to take a photo out of the window and left my backpack in the chair.  A few hundred meters dowm the hallway when I reached my gate area, I wondered why I felt so light... ACK!  Ran back and thankfully it was still sitting there with the same people next to it.  It had only been about three minutes, but I don't usually let my bags out of my sight, so I was really grateful to be reunited with it!

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