The next morning we drove to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort for the tour of Monkey Island. I was looking forward to seeing the monkeys, but thought we’d be far away and they would look like black specks to the naked eye. I was surprised to find out that we could park our boat under certain trees on various islands and the monkeys were right above us. In fact, we got so close to one group of Capuchin monkeys that one jumped onto our boat and stole someone’s bread. Upon hearing the “thud” and realizing the monkey was on the boat, I had flashbacks of the women whose face was mutilated by a monkey and I moved to the back of the boat. But everyone was pleased to find out that the monkey only wanted the bread and then quickly darted off the boat.
We enjoyed lunch on the Causeway Amador, which are three man-made islands that were created from fill dredged from the Panama Canal. The islands are each quite different in what they have to offer visitors: Flamenco has marina with restaurant and discotec; Perico has stores, cafes, boutiques, bars; Naos home of Mi Ranchito Restaurant that also features a bar and hotel. In addition to the current activities offered on the Causeway, building is underway for a Frank Gehry-designed museum on some land before you arrive on the islands.
After lunch we went to the Handicraft Center, which is located behind the YMCA, that sells all kinds of souvenirs, hand crafts, and clothing made by Panamanians. I was looking for a genuine Panama Hat, but was surprised to find out they are actually made in Ecuador and ranged in price from $25-$120 depending on quality...who knew? But I got a lesson on how to spot a genuine Panama Hat and was thrilled with my new purchase.
With my “Purchase Genuine Panama Hat” checked off my To Do List, we headed to Casco Antiguo, or Old Quarter, which is a part of town where the city was relocated to in 1671 after an attack by English pirate Henry Morgan. The move of the city to a more appropriate place in terms of defense was carried out and the Old City was left behind. The look and feel of this area is reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans with beautiful architecture and various town squares with statues in the middle. This is also where the President of Panama lives with three white herons that also reside in his “White House.” You can find merchants selling art and crafts in many areas in this part of town, which added some shopping time to my cultural exploration.