Posted by: vivalatinamerica | June 6, 2012

The Manrey Hotel, Panama City, Panama

Looking out across the breathtaking Panama City skyline with a cocktail in hand is the perfect way to end my trip. The city has been a bit of a culture shock after months on the road, but it’s a welcome one.

A tale of two cities, the quaint and cobbled Old Town (El Casco Viejo) is just a taxi ride away from the glittering malls and skyscrapers that modern Panamanians pride themselves on today. This country is out to prove to the world that ‘it’s not just a canal’, and the ambitious building and extensive polishing have made some big changes over the past few years.

Huge cars transport business people to meetings while shoppers carry tiny dogs in special carry cases. Albrook Mall houses every retailer you can imagine, and with so much fast food temptation around you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the States. But the vibe of the city is distinctly Latin, and as I pass beach parties on the outskirts of picturesque Old Town I’m greeted with huge smiles and waves. Out here, it’s always happy hour.

All the big players in the hotel world are keen to make their mark on this forward-looking city, so there’s plenty of choice for visitors. The first Hard Rock Hotel in Latin America opened here six months ago and Trump has a Tower here.

I’m a sucker for a glitzy rooftop pool, so I get in touch with The Manrey Hotel. This hotel is as cosmopolitan as they come. Slick designs, shiny surfaces, squishy bathrobes and immaculate rooms. High-speed wifi, iPod docks and enormous widescreen TVs are all big pluses, too.

The service is fantastic from the start, and as the smiling receptionists arrange an early check-in for me, I’m invited to have a little breakfast. An indulgent buffet of fresh juices, cured meat, cheeses, bread, fruit and pastries is a sight for sore eyes after an overnight bus journey. Once I finish my frothy cappuccino I head up to my room. Silent, sleek and spacious, it’s the perfect oasis in this buzzing capital.  Rooms here start at the oddly specific price of $246.40, which is not bad at all for a hotel this high spec.

Fast forward to evening time and I’m absorbing the atmosphere on the roof. Mother Nature is putting on an impressive light show, and while lightening skips about overhead the city below is alive with music and colour. Here at the rooftop bar, the pool is glowing and the luxurious cocktails are going down a treat. This would be a fantastic place for a party.

Cath Millman

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