Monday, November 21, 2005

A time to vent... and the best place to stay in Boquete

Sunday Evening, November 20, 2005

I am polite to a fault. One thing I simply cannot abide is rude behaviour. That includes condescension, sanctimony, superciliousness and any number of other really irritating examples of inconsiderate and just plain stupid human behaviour. Because this form of idiocy is so widespread, when I encounter it I usually try to shrug it off, seethe quietly for a bit, then finally cool off and forget it.

Today is not one of those days. After so much pleasantness, helpfulness and kindness from native Panamanians, I experienced just the sort of behaviour that I abhor from an North American woman.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like variety. I like change for no other reason than that it is possible. I don’t like to eat in the same restaurant all the time. I don’t like to drive the same way to my office every day. I don’t like to always eat the same food. I don’t like to travel to the same places. It should come as no surprise, that after one night in my original hotel in Boquete I should seek another hotel for the second night, even though the first hotel was perfectly acceptable.

The couple from Florida that I mentioned in an earlier post recommended to me the place where they were staying. It was beautiful, they said, run by a North American couple who had moved to Boquete. There were individual cabins, they said, the service was above par and the owners were accommodating and interesting. It sounded like Paradise, so after getting the location from the couple, I went to get my car and then drove off to find the place. As I drove, I noticed that the couple were in the car just ahead of me and since they were heading in the general direction of their accommodations, I followed them. Sure enough, after a short drive, we arrived at the Coffee Estate Inn.

The couple had mentioned to me that there was a gate leading into the property and that a button had to be pressed for access. As their car approached the gate, it opened and they drove through. I thought that the owners might have seen them approach and had buzzed them in, so I followed. The couple stopped their car at the office, to indicate to me where to enquire about a room. They then drove off to their own cabin. I parked my car beside the office and got out. Before I even reached the office, a woman came out and instead of a friendly “Good afternoon, may I help you,” she just looked at me. Although she had a smile on her face, her expression clearly said: “What are you doing here,“ or more likely “What the hell are you doing here?”

This was totally unexpected for me, so I spread my hands in the universal gesture of “OK, what is it that I just did to upset you?“ If you have ever been in a long-term relationship or marriage, you will know the gesture I’m talking about.

She spoke. She said something like: “Did you just drive through the gate?” or perhaps “Was the gate open?” Then: “Guests are not allowed to park here.”

I explained that I had followed her guests into the compound and had come on their recommendation to enquire about a room.

“We only accept people with reservations.” the woman told me. She then, without further ado explained exactly how I should leave her property. Back up to here, turn around there, drive out frontward. And don’t let the gate slap your car in the bumper as you drive out. Actually, I added that last part, but I’m sure that she was thinking something along those lines.

Aside from the fact that everyone should always treat everyone else with consideration, what would possess someone to treat a potential customer like that? I might be back in Boquete again, looking for accommodations. I might make recommendations to others who will be travelling to Boquete. I might write a blog post about how wonderful the management of the inn treated me, even though they didn’t have a room available for me the first time. I can’t do that now, can I? I have to tell the truth.

Why didn’t her part of the conversation go something like this: “Good afternoon. May I help you? No, I’m sorry, we are fully booked with reservations tonight. May I offer you a brochure so you might consider us for your next trip to Boquete? For tonight, perhaps you could try Cabanas La Via Lactea just around the corner.”

But that is not how it went. I left feeling like I needed a shower. Dealing with contemptible people does that to me.

I drove a bit down the road and saw a sign for the Cabanas La Via Lactea. I couldn't see much of the place, so I pulled to the side of the road to get a better look. There was a gate, which I opened and then walked towards the office. Inside, a pretty young woman asked, in Spanish, if she could be of help. When I replied in English, she switched to English herself, apologizing whenever she stumbled over words and phrases of which she was uncertain. She insisted on showing me a room before I signed the register, although after the earlier experience I would have been perfectly happy just to sign and go to my room to cool down.

Cabanas La Via Lactea is a lovely place. There are beautifully manicured lawns, expertly landscaped gardens, everything is clean, fresh, new, all anyone could ask for. There are half a dozen or so individual buildings, each hexagonal in shape and with two rooms, one stacked on the other. I chose a top room, for the view. The rooms are perfect and have a little kitchenette with a refrigerator, hotplate, sink, dishes and cutlery, even dishcloths and hand towels. A completely unexpected bonus was that wireless internet was available in the lobby or on the porch of the office building.

Friendly service and beautiful accommodations, at a very reasonable price of $55.00 per night.

Coming to Boquete? Now you now know where to stay.


  1. My wife and I have been discussing Panama and would like to visit. I found your well written blog after googling Cabanas La Via Lactea. Based on what you said, that's the place for us. Besides, they are half the price of the other place, which I thought was greatly overpriced based on the cost of living there.

    Hate to ask, but my wife hates insects. Any advice based on what you experienced? I've got this notion of setting up a homestead there...


  2. Thanks for the kind words...

    I don't recall seeing a single insect when I was in Panama. Either I was so preoccupied with what was going on around me that I didn't notice, or they were all otherwise occupied while I was there. I hate mosquitos but didn't notice any. I wonder why that is? I had insect repellant with me but didn't use it even once.

    There are several paragraphs that may be of interest to you under the heading Health on this web page:

    Yes, the Cabanas La Via Lactea are lovely, clean, and only moments from the centre of Boquete. Enjoy your visit there!

  3. Hi!

    Just read the very nice article you wrote on Cabanas La Via Lactea.I thought that I would let you know that we are proud to announce that we recently purchased the Inn from Pilar & Flavio. It is truly a beautiful spot and we are very happy to be here in Boquete. We hope that you may one day visit again and that we will have the opportunity to welcome you as kindly as Pilar did! P.S. We have just changed the name of the hotel to Boquete Garden Inn...a B&B on the River - we wanted to take full advantage of the beautiful gardens and river setting....and added breakfast each morning!...perhaps we will meet one day soon...Janie & Dennis

  4. Hello, Janie & Dennis. I will indeed be back someday and will make it a point to stay at your lovely inn. I checked out your new website and it looks great. Good luck on your new venture!

  5. I'll be googling google Boquete Garden Inn soon. Looks like you two have dcided to make Panama your home? I am well aware of the benefits. While I am retired, my wife and I operate our own web hosting business and do everything commute and pefect for Boquete. No?

    (I'm sorry for having to post anonymously, but this blog software won't let me access my username and I've tried several times...argh!)

  6. That is the type of business that can be run from anywhere, indeed. Boquete might be the perfect place. Good climate, affordable living and much more.