I arrive back into the city and leave the ferry. As I walk to the road, I stop to ask a couple of guys where the bus stop is. I know that a bus comes down this way. They tell me either direction on the causeway. I start to walk to the road when I hear an Asian man asking for information on the buses. They do not understand him. I call out to him "I am taking the bus, you can come with me."
I know the bus comes down the causeway, and I also know the stop that is back towards the causeway and not towards the city. My new friend Michael thinks we should go forward. "We need to go in that direction, so we should just walk forward." That would make sense if you were in a first world country. As we walk towards the city, I ask several different men where the bus stop is. No one seems to know. However Michael, like myself is a gregarious single traveler. We continue to walk forward. When the sidewalk stops and we end up on the strip alongside the freeway, he still thinks we should continue on our path. I have no idea why I am agreeing to this. Sometimes I am stupid or just let myself be led.
As we walk, I notice out of my peripheral vision, 5 guys start to come out from the trees behind us. This, is not a good sign. A super white woman and a short Asian man walking on the side of the freeway. The odd couple at best. I mention this to my new friend. He does not seem to think it is a problem. I live in Latin America. I know it is a problem. We come to a fork. I think we should go left, but to the right are more people, and the 5 guys are right behind us. I tell Michael we should cross to where there are more people. We run to the other side of the road across the highway. The 5 guys stop, look, and turn back.
I tell Michael I am sure we are going the wrong way. His phone has Internet, so he checks Google Maps. He is sure we should keep going right. Why do I always listen against my better judgement? We walk along a park side. My friend is very interesting. He is Malaysian and lives in Australia. He is married with 2 grown sons. His family prefers 5 star vacations. Once a year he takes the kind of vacation he likes. A more casual one. We talk about Airbnb and hostels. He doesn't like Airbnb. He likes hostels so he can cook.
The road ends and now we are in front of one of the worst areas in Panama City. I tell my friend I do not think that this is a good idea. He points to a building that says "hostel". "It can't be all that bad," he says, "look there is a hostel." This hostel is a love hotel. I read the Spanish. They charge by the hour. In Buenos Aires they are called "Telos" in Panama it looks like in shady areas they are called "hostels." I am sure this place is not in Hostelworld or Hostelbookers.
We walk into the villa. (Villa is a slum in Latin America) What the hell am I doing? I see a policeman on the corner. Michael wants to take the metro. I go up to the policeman and ask him how we get to the Metro Cinco de Mayo. He gives me directions. I ask him if we are OK in this neighborhood. He tells me yes, but not at night. Obvio. I can tell that he thinks we are crazy.
I prefer to walk in the street rather than next to doorways. This is worse than Detroit where I grew up. It is a glimpse of human misery and poverty. We do not belong here. Michael insists we stay this course until the road 5 blocks away. "We'll take a taxi when we get to the end of the road." he says. The blocks are long and intense. He tells me about karma. That we should just accept we are here for a reason. Ahh, yeah. I am here because sometimes I am stupid.
When we get to the end of a block, my friend finally realizes we are not in a good place. I try to hail two taxis to get to the metro station. They do not want to take us. (Muchas vueltas) They tell us they have to go in too many circles and they do not want to. I see another policeman and ask the way to the metro. He points the direction. He also says once we get to the "Centro Commercial" we will be OK.
We round the park and get to the "Centro Commercial." Actually now I am starting to enjoy this. I remember my early days in Mexico. I would go through areas where no tourist ever went. Maybe I was naive, maybe stupid, maybe not. I start to enjoy the local color. We stop and buy some grapes. I have never seen grapes so large. They are look purple ping pong balls. Salsa music is blaring out of speakers into the street. We buy a drink that is delicious..maybe it is lime and tamarind.
I see a group of 4 or 5 policeman. I go to ask them if we are going the right way. The policewoman says "Do you know the story of the Wizard of Oz?" She points to the ground which is a dirty brick road. "These bricks are not yellow." She says, "Follow them until the end, and then you will find the metro station." I relay the information to Michael.
We walk through this part of the city. I wish I could take out my camera and take pictures. I don't think that this is a good idea. I am not sure what would happen. I would not want to lose my camera over being stupid. Michael and I agree that this is interesting. I tell him "This is why I like to travel alone. I think my friends would freak out if this happened to them. I love this kind of stuff." He agrees. He says "I had no plans for today. I just like to let things happen. This is great."
Soon we come to the end of the bricks. I look over to the right. I see the metro station. "Look, over there!" I point to Michael. We run to the station and catch the metro. I am going to get off in 3 stops. Michael wants to ride to the end. When we reach Iglesia de Carmen, I get off. I give Michael a hug. "Thanks for the grapes and a great day." I jump off the metro. The end of a perfect day.