Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hostel Review: Mamallena

In our travels, we must all make choices.  Sometimes money is a factor while with other times, safety comes first....and let's not forget about comfort!! What about convenience? And while we're at it, let's look at ambience. Today's review is on Mamallena.  I am writing this post for the traveler's out there who are heading off to Panama City or Boquete.  Let me start off by saying that both places are unique and quite different from one another.  But before I look into these places, I need to explore the word "hostel" with newbies.  So let's get started...
My first artsy shot from Mamallena as I watched my camera lense fog over...steamy!
A hostel is a fun and exciting experience for many people who like being around other people.  However, let me restate what I just wrote.  It's mostly fun for younger people who are on a budget and need a place to stay.  You'll find a lot of backpackers crashing a night or two at most hostels talking about their days of adventures or misfortunes. Some even find love....although temporary.  It's interesting to note that at both Mamallena locations, I found several middle aged and retired travelers hanging out...and that was a first for me.  Hostels are not for everyone and I found several of the families and older people sometimes complaining about those "damn college kids".  It's true that I don't want to hear two(or 3) backpackers doing the mattress mambo the floor below me, but that's the hostel life at times. Some people should not stay at these places if they don't want to hear loud drunk backpackers getting excited over a near death experience. Hostels aren't for everyone and we planned accordingly giving ourselves a break here and there at B & B's around the country when there was one. 
Outside our window in Boquete overlooking the bar.  Bring an umbrella as it rains often there.
Hostels allow you to meet some fascinating people that you may not encounter in your own life circles at home.  On this trip, I met a confused lesbian, a cool blogger (who shared box wine with me), several funny Germans wearing man capris, an unfortunate Israeli girl who had her luggage peed on by a local kitty, a sex crazed Austrian who hit on every girl that entered the building, lots of students studying Spanish, 2 Koreans who were too serious for such a colorful country, a poor American girl and her mother who lost everything in an attack in Cuzco, Peru(that story still gets me angry), a Bay Area girl who found love with a "hella" hot rafting guide, a retired crazy lady with a hearing aide who ate too many onion rings.....and that's just the start.  If this doesn't sound fun to you, don't do it:) Time for the review of Mamallena in both Panama City and Boquete.  Two completely different places with a similiar approach.
Side yard area to relax at Mamallena in Panama City
Here's some general Mamallena info for both Panama City and Boquete.  The price per night within the city is your best bargain.  13 bucks for a super comfortable mattress is a great deal for the tired backpacker!  It's hot, humid and nasty in Panama City.  I was miserable for the first several weeks.  All rooms have A/C(in Panama City) that gets turned on after 9 PM and I was greatful for that service.  I had a wonderful nights sleep there.  If you want a little privacy and be away from the noise, you can reserve a private room, but make sure you do it a month in advance. The neighborhood is safer and has several small marts to buy basic food.  This is what I love about Mamallena.  Many times you are forced to eat out etc.  Not so with Mamallena.  You can buy your own food and prepare your own meals!!  I liked this a lot plus we saved a lot of money doing our own grocery shopping.  They have a free coffee and pancake breakfast available.  The only catch is that you have to make it yourself:)  Internet is free.  During the day, it's open most of the time as people are out on excursions.  The evening gets crazy as people get back from their trips and the computers are usually super busy.  Wait time is longer.  They also have a coin operated laundry service!!!!  For backpackers, this is super convenient.
Some Rohrerbot travel tips.  Always hang your wet towels or wet clothes to dry.  Never leave these things on the floor. Things take forever to dry in the humidity. And in some locations, spiders, cockroaches and other critters like to hide in your mountain of nastiness. In the middle of the rack is a garbage bag that I always bring on my trips.  It's for dirty laundry.  I also like to have several hangers to let some of my shirts unwrinkle from my backpack or suitcase.
Secured and safe courtyard area to relax in Panama City
Here are some of the differences between the Mamallena in Panama City and Boquete. 

In Panama City......

  • people usually stay a couple nights as it is a start or stopping point on their trip
  • a 25 dollar shuttle service is offered to and from the airport
  • they have a fridge next to the help desk full of drinks that range from beer to chocolate milk and of course water!
  • cold water showers only....but it's so hot and muggy there that the cold water feels good
  • staff are friendly and helpful
Recommendations.  If you want quiet, there is an escape to the lower levels. Reserve a month in advance.   However we did spend a night in the dorms and I actually had my deepest and best sleep there.  It can get loud sometimes as the younger college crowd drink their way into the early hours of the morning. It's not like that every night, but I didn't care. The conversations reminded me of my own adventures during my 20's, and in that regard, I felt a bit out of place at times when I was in a room full of the college backpackers. However a perk to being older is that you get a good nights sleep early while the college kids are still sleeping late into the morning. And therefore I can take my shower, check internet, have a cup of coffee, and not have to wait to use the bathroom facilities because everyone is still sleeping. Early bird gets the worm.  Also, this may sound weird to some people....but you can flush your toilet paper in the toilets!!!  Many times you have to throw it in the trash!  Nasty for most people. In Boquete you have to throw your TP in the basket.
The amazing Romero Supermarket.  Just two minutes away....
In Boquete.....
  • cute hostel
  • super close to an amazing super market(Romero)
  • hot water!
  • no a/c but you won't need it.....
  • travelers tend to stay longer in Boquete because the climate is much nicer
  • families, the middle aged and RETIRED!!  people were seen here.....I was floored!
  • extrememly easy to get to once off the bus...walking distance
  • fantastic restaurants, banks, and day trips....all within walking distance
Recommendations.  There is a bar next door to the place.  If you like quiet, try to reserve on the other side of the building which is much more peaceful. Patio areas can be active at night with fire dancers and smokers abound clapping and screaming. I could've sworn there was a Cirque de Soleil performance going on. A guy by the name of Martin was swinging balls of fire. That's what's cool about hostels, but again for the best quiet evening....stay on the opposite side of the bar and on the second floor towards the front of the building.  It's really a nice looking building with a lot of personality.  There are a lot of people studying Spanish in Boquete because there is a school several blocks away.  It's one of the ONLY places I actually didn't sweat.  It was so relaxing that we found ourselves spending a WHOLE week there.  If you have intense trips to the national parks like we did, it's a great way to end your journey and relax.  Both of the owners are great and very helpful.  When it gets busy, they obviously have a lot to do so that can be frustrating for some people.  They have a lot of people checking into the hostels around the evening when last minute people are trying to find a place to sleep.  It can be kind of hectic so best do your business in the morning, early afternoon or over email when things are slower.
Everything is within walking distance in Boquete...including Mamallena!
Well there you have it.  Mamallena has a lot of personality and if you are interested in more than watching birds, this is definitely the place to stay and visit with fellow travelers. It's also a great place to socialize and get ideas on places to visit in Panama, Central or South America.  Panama is the central hub to all places and you'll meet a lot of people coming from all over the place.  It's unusual in that you will encounter a variety of people on different style trips.  Normally if you travel to Guatemala, you'll find people doing the Mayan route through Belize into Southern Mexico.  But in Panama, it was a bit of everyone which was fun.  Most people, in general, stop in Panama for awhile, but quickly leave because the country can be hard on their wallets.  If you plan well, you'll be able to see and do a lot within this fantastic country.  It's all about the research and planning.  But I'll do a quick comparison for a backpacker.....we spent around 2500 dollars(includes plane ticket cost) for about a month in Panama.  I spent 800 dollars for the same amount of time in Guatemala.  Costa Rica and Panama have become "expensive" places for the backpacker.  I put that word in quotes because nothing compares to the cost of travel in France or Spain!!!  Europe is a total cash hog for the American tourist.  For my fellow bloggers, nature and history are on the menu for the next several weeks.  I apologize for this write, but I have a responsibility to help fellow travelers out who are planning their trips now. I rely on their writes when planning for my own trips.  Europe will soon be on holiday. Until tomorrow... 
Here is the link to Mamallena.....

2 comments:

  1. Nice blog! I love this hostel very much. I will definitely visit and stay to that place.

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  2. It's really great to spend holiday vacation with this such kind of accommodation.

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