Panama City Panama

Panama was always a country I wanted to visit.  Internet articles claimed that a retiree could live like a king with their Social Security check of about $1,000 per month.  With the lure of modern amenities, inexpensive prices and great surfing year-round too; I had to see for myself.  In November of 2012, my girlfriend and I made the trip.  We flew from Orlando International (MCO) to Panama City Panama (PTY) on Copa Airlines.  The flight was non-stop and took less than 4 hours.  We decided to take our surfboards on this trip and Copa only charged $100 for both since they were in one board bag.  Once there, we rented a car and asked the rental agent for hotel advice.  After a couple of calls we had reservations and a destination for the GPS.  Getting to Panama City from the airport was pretty easy but the GPS got us lost several times once in town.  It just couldn’t keep up with the streets and kept sending us around in circles.  We finally gave up and just started asking hotel rates and availability in the area.  I’m not sure what part of town the rental agent sent us to but it wasn’t exactly the high-rent district.  We were pretty specific about wanting value accommodations but we ended up in the pay by the hour prostitute section of town.  One hotel where we checked the rates actually had light switches in the manager’s office with room numbers and keys on hooks underneath.  I suppose this was a true by-the-hour hotel.  We ended up finding a place that seemed pretty clean.  I don’t remember the name or exact price but they had secure parking, a hooker posted on the corner in front of the place and free porn on the TV.

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Dinner was a bit expensive too.  I had an $8 burger at a diner near our hotel.  The prices on the menu were very similar to restaurants in Florida.  Maybe I missed something but this was not turning out to be the budget friendly trip I had hoped for.

Dreamland Beach Bali

Dreamland beach is a very nice beach between Kuta and Uluwatu.  Dreamland beach has the bad reputation of kicking out locals  in order to make a luxury community.  We found it to be a nice beach that was easy to get to and had all amenities a guest could need.  They had shopping, restaurants, hotels and even surfboard rentals.  The food and shopping was reasonably priced but I wouldn’t want to know how much the resorts charge for a room.  Dreamland also claims to have an easy surf break but there was a large swell during our visit.  The shore-pound was overhead 🙁

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Bingin Beach Bali

Bingin is located between Padang Padang and Dreamland on the ring road to Uluwatu.  It is a beautiful beach with a popular surf break and a quaint cliffside town.  To be honest, I didn’t give it much of a chance because I was put off by all of the steps.  It felt like there were a million…must have been hundreds though.  All of this after a day at Padang Padang and the many steps to the top there.  We walked forever from the parking area.  I almost turned around twice before arriving at the beach and we got lost in the dark on the way home.  This is definitely not the place to stay if you have luggage to drag to your hotel…unless they have a donkey to pick you up.

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Padang Padang Beach Bali

 

Padang Padang Beach was my favorite location in Bali.  It offered a little bit of everything that could be found on the island and then some.  It is located between Bingim and Uluwatu on the ring road of the Buki Peninsula.  You will know you are there when you see TONS of scooters parked on the bridge just after a few hotel signs.

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Pictured above: fueling the scooter for the day.

Pictured below:  The view from the scooter parking area on top of the bridge.

 

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There are calm water pools inside the reef breaks great for snorkeling and just cooling off.

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At low tide, the cliffs provide access to secret cove beaches in the eroded rocks.

 

There are also monkeys that frequent the beach.  Like Uluwatu, be careful, they like to steal stuff.

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Pictured below is are the steps carved into the cliff that leads up to the parking area.  There are probably 500 steps so you don’t want to forget anything at the top 🙂

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The roads in the area are not in the best of shape.  There was quite a bit of construction during our visit and we ended up with a nail in the tire.  I thought we were going to be out a lot of money but the tire repair man only charged us $.50 (Fifty Cents!) for the repair.  I gave him nearly everything in my wallet out of appreciation for helping us in our time of need though.

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Just behind me was the lady who cooks, in my opinion, the best chicken fried rice in all of Bali.  It was a bit sweet and spicy and had great flavor.  Apparently, according to another visitor, you don’t want to watch them cook it though.  There are a LOT of flies and sanitation isn’t their thing.  Either way…I’m still here, never got sick and it tasted great.

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On my last day at Padang Padang a wave swept my flip-flop right off my foot.  I saw it wash away and followed it briefly but it was soon gone to wherever Wilson the volley ball from Castaway went.

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Bye Flip-flop…I miss you already 🙁

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Surfing Padang Padang wasn’t as bad as Uluwatu.  On a six-foot day I rented a board and had some fun.  Be careful of the reef though.  I was lured out behind the main left hand break.  I caught a wave before a big set came in.  Trying to duck the first wave I let the board go behind me and ducked under.  When doing this, I realized the water was only waist deep over a very sharp coral reef.  This was mid tide too.  I could only imagine how shallow it was during low tide.  After that, I chose to ride the shoulder with the newbies.

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Great beach and great memories here.  I highly recommend this beach to anyone who visits the area.  There are vendors selling inexpensive stuff, lifeguards, surfboard rentals, food vendors, monkeys, calm water, great surf…and just about anything else you could want!

Uluwatu Bali Indonesia

Uluwatu is a town on the South-West part of the Bukit Peninsula about 40km from Kuta.  This area consists of limestone cliffs and coral reef beaches.  These beaches are also known for the best surf breaks in Bali…many of which are expert level due to the shallow reefs and large hollow waves.

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There are many protected coves where the water is calm clean and clear.

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Above the Uluwatu surf break is a village built into the Cliffside with bars and restaurants.  We had a great view of the many surfers out during a swell with double-overhead waves.

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It’s hard to get a proper perspective of the wave from my camera but this section jacks up and many surfers were getting deep into the barrel on this wave.

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Uluwatu Temple is also adjacent to the surf break.  There you will find a large temple built on top of the cliff inhabited by hundreds of monkeys.  Be careful though.  They are attracted to shiny objects and are known for stealing stuff from tourists.

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At the temple entrance, they sell bananas and peanuts and will also lend male visitors a sarong to meet temple dress code.  Skip the Sarong sales people in the parking lot and tip the temple staff.

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The temple provides very picturesque views from the cliff top.

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Uluwatu is a great place for pro-level surfers or people who do not mind spending lots of money.  It would be a gorgeous honeymoon location.  Since  I am budget conscious during my travels, it was better to visit than stay here.  The guests in this town are somewhat captive in that there are not a lot of choices for shopping, dining and entertainment.  Scooter rentals and lots of commuting to other locations is a must to find the best values.

Kuta Beach, Bali Indonesia

Bali is a beautiful island in Indonesia where tourists flock by the thousands.  Most tourists will arrive on the island through Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport (DPS).  Located in Southern Bali, it provides access to most of the islands surf breaks.   Bali: “surfer’s paradise” or at least it says so in the customs section on arrival at the airport.  At first, I did not see what the hype was about because Kuta beach was not much different than Florida sand breaks.  After taking the scooter to Uluwatu and surrounding areas during a swell, I can see how it gets the name.  Kuta is the ideal area for lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment though.  There are tons of hotels, restaurants and bars around the Legion Street area.  If you are comfortable enough to rent a scooter to explore other beaches during the day, Kuta is the perfect home base for the area.  Upon arrival, with no reservations and limited knowledge of the area, I took the taxi driver’s advice and stayed at an inexpensive hotel across the street from the Discovery Mall on JL Kartika Plaza Street.  The hotel was inexpensive enough, under $30 per night, but did not have beach access within walking distance.

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After renting a scooter and looking around the area, we found the Karma Lhinda II hotel for $24 per night.  I was unable to locate a link for this hotel but it shares a property with Easy Surf with access beside the Circle K just north of Beach Walk Mall on JL Pantai Kuta street.

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Just across the street from the hotel was a beech access and surfboard rentals.  The owners sold cold beer from their cooler and provided chairs to sit in and entertainment too.

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Surfing Kuta Beach was not much different than FL.  It was a sand break with mostly small waves.  When the surf got bigger, it was mostly close-outs.

 

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We did find a big tube near legion street 🙂

Kuta Beach has everything a tourist could want…except a great surf break.  It is ideal for beginners and there are many surf schools.  If you crave big hollow waves then you need to travel South to Dreamland, Bingim, Padang-Padang or Uluwatu.  Traffic is a bit crazy here so scooting to these areas is not for the faint of heart.

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

My Asia journey continued to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  I arrived at KUL and had plenty of time till the next flight so I decided to tour the city.  Getting around Kuala Lumpur is pretty easy with their transit system.  I caught the train from KUL to KLIA Central.  The tickets were not cheep though; about $11 per person.

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The train was very clean and very easy to navigate the city on.  The route was displayed on big screen TVs and announcements included English translation.

 

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The train stopped near Central market so we did some shopping along the way.

 

Everything was quite expensive in Kuala Lumpur.  This coffee was about $5 per cup.  Not a good deal but it was nice to get out of the rain for a bit.

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Our next form of transport was the city bus system.  After talking to the locals in the University area, we found that certain city bus lines are free.  This one took us pretty close to the Petronas Towers.

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Although too late for tickets to the observation area we still got some pretty good photos.

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Bathrooms at the Petronas Mall were quite clean but, like other places in Asia, they were “bomb-drop” toilets.  It takes a bit of getting used to

 

Pictured above is the fountain.

Kuala Lumpur is a very cool city. I guess it would be much better if you had a lot of money to spend. It is an international city with everything to offer.  Being on a budget, I would probably skip the city tour next time personally.  With the $100 spent that day, I could have spent a week in many other value destinations in the world.  I love to travel and value experience for the dollar.  I am not suggesting that Kuala Lumpur is not a great destination but it just doesn’t fit my thrifty travel lifestyle.