In the morning I visited Los Pozos Termales AKA the hot springs. I read varying opinions online about the sanitariness of the thermal waters, but I figured for only $2.25 admission, I would leave if it was bad.
I was the only visitor when I first arrived, although a French family came later. The pools looked a little sketchy, so I decided to just do a mud mask. An attendant helped me select the proper mud for my skin type from two different options.
While waiting for the mud to dry, I walked around the grounds, which featured a playground and two mysterious half-egg sculptures. The attendant showed me that the eggs sculptures can carry whispers if people sit facing the wall and talk into painted dots (similar to a whisper gallery). I am not sure what this has to do with spa relaxation, but my guess is that it provides entertainment for children while their parents soak in the pools.
After the mud dried the attendant gave me two buckets of fresh water for washing my face and I attempted to clean up. When I looked presentable enough, I took a taxi across town to the APROVACA Orchid Nursery and Conservation Center. APROVACA is the acronym for Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas de El Valle y Cabuyais and is a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of native Panamanian orchid species in danger of extinction. I was lead on a very informative tour by a retired English police officer/orchid enthusiast who was volunteering at APROVACA for several months in exchange for room and board and orchid care training.
After the 30-45 minute tour, I walked back to the center of town to visit the fruit and craft market. The market had a wide selection of mola (embroidered) artwork at less expensive prices than in Panama City. I bought several items from a Kuna Indian woman to give as souvenirs to my family.
The most famous activity in El Valle is hiking, but I decided to forgo it since I was traveling alone (note – if I had really wanted to, I would have hung out in my hotel lobby and made friends, but I’m not a huge hiking fan). Instead I enjoyed walking around the town, which was very quiet and pretty. Other than school children and gardeners working on the large homes, I didn’t see many people around (most likely because it’s a weekend destination and I was there during the week).
After my walk I was planning on taking the bus back towards Panama City and stopping half way to visit the beach town Coronado. However, it was pouring rain, so instead I decided to stay in El Valle for lunch and then take the bus back to the Albrook mega-mall, on the outskirts of Panama City. I showered, checked out of my room, and ate in the hotel’s restaurant, called Bruschetta’s. I ordered the classic namesake dish and a house salad (both were larger than I was expecting, which seemed to be a general theme for the food in Panama). When it continued to downpour, I ordered a hot chocolate and checked my email (the Anton Valley Hotel was my only hotel that didn’t have internet in the rooms, but the lobby access was enough). Eventually it stopped raining and I boarded the bus in route to Albrook…