Tricks and Tips For Enjoying Carnival 2012 in Panama
Wednesday, February 15 2012 @ 03:56 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
Insider Tricks From The Pros: You can have a great time during Carnival and really enjoy the party. There will also be lots of opportunities presenting themselves in the coming days, chances for you to get in trouble, get hurt, get robbed, or generally have something else bad happen to you. It's not all that hard to avoid the pain if you just plan a little, think ahead, and play it smart... (more)
- Street Water Party: The cornerstone of the Carnival celebrations are the "culecos". During the day everyone gathers in the street around a big water tanker truck. There are people on the top of the truck and they spray the crowd down with water. If you get hot in the sun you can get hosed down to cool you off. It's like a massive wet t-shirt contest. As such you will need to take precautions against water. Like - don't carry your cell phone. Leave it at home. You can wrap it in all of the plastic you want, put if you try to use it then some kid with a water blaster will hose you down just at the "wrong" moment, and your brand new iPhone is now iToast and worthless.
- Wet T-Shirt Contest: If you're an exhibitionist then the "culecos" in Panama are your opportunity to shine. All of the hot young chicks wear very tight shorts of cutoff jeans. Most of the "decent" girls will wear bikini tops covered by t-shirts, although there are always those who push the boundaries of good taste, right to the edge of total exposure. You get wet, it's a street party, everyone is drunk and dancing, and it's a great time for hot young people to say "look at me." Just dress accordingly - like you're going to get dunked in a pool.
- Footware: Wear sensible shoes. The best would be some kind of a water shoe for the beach that's supposed to get wet, but will still provide protection for your feet. If you don't have something like that, then go with an old (broken in and comfortable) paid of sneakers. Try to avoid sandals or shoes with open toes - because there's a 100% chance that some drunken kid will be walking on the tops of your feet. Avoid anything with a heel - because you will twist an ankle on the wet, uneven pavement.
- Out In The Sun All Day: Wear lots of sunblock. This time of year the sun can take the hide right off of you in no time flat. Slather it on heavily before you go out. Make sure to reapply later, after a few hours of "culecos" and dancing and partying and drinking. The sun is at its hottest and most dangerous between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, and these are exactly the times when the "culecos" are going on. Wear a broad brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your head, and to provide a little shade for your face and shoulders. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun, and any other flying projectiles.
- Booze and Drinking: Everyone gets drunk as skunks during Carnival. Many people start drinking on day one and never really get completely sober until a day or two after Carnival is over. You will see drunks passed out in the street, in parks, wherever. The effect is multiplied because people tend to drink a lot more than they normally do, so their resistance is low, and they tend to get drunker, quicker. Also people tend to not eat so much during Carnival so they are drinking on an empty stomach. And then there are all of the normal affects of massive mob alcohol consumption. The human gestation period is 38 weeks, so starting about 266 days after Carnival - on about 13 November 2012 or so, the "Carnival babies" will be born. Lots of women get pregnant during Carnival. There are a lot of drunk drivers out there, so the police make lots of arrests, hand out tickets, and clean up accidents.
- Crime, Theft, and Valuables:Leave your valuables at home. Strip off all of your jewelry, rings, or other adornments, and leave them locked up in a safe place. Only carry a small amount of cash with you. Get a plastic watertight sealed container you can wear around your neck, and use that to carry your personal identification documents. Bring just the bear minimum with regards to forms of identification - such as your driver's license and your cedula or immigration card. If you're a tourist then make a photo copy of your passport, but leave the actual passport locked up somewhere safe where it won't be stolen or damaged by water. If you don't have any money or valuables on you, then you won't be targeted for theft.
- Play "Spot The Cops" - Normally the government of Panama has security forces deployed en masse to protect the partying people from themselves and others. When you're in the middle of the street party, take the time to scan around to find the closest dude in a uniform. You will see regular National Police officers, as well as people from the National Civil Defense System (SINAPROC). There will also be Red Cross tents set up to deal with illness and injury. The police even drain the Police Academy and put the cadets out there on the streets, assigned to a "regular" police officer, in order to get as much manpower as possible out there. Anyway, the point is to have a plan if something happens, like a confrontation with a belligerent drunk or what have you. Just move quickly towards the closest law enforcement guy (whoever that might be) and let them deal with the drunk or drugged up idiot.
- Food and Eating: Many people return from Carnival with some sort of stomach ailment, vomiting, diarrhea, and even parasites. Most of these things come from eating street food, or food that has been improperly cooked, stored, heated, or handled. One way to avoid this is to make sure that whatever you're eating is very, very hot. If you order a bowl of soup at a restaurant or whatever, ask them to heat it up to the point of boiling. If you must eat the "monkey meat" on a stick, ask the guy to cook it until it's practically charred. Heat kills bugs, more heat kills more bugs. The best thing you can do is cook your own food, and only eat what you know is safe. Any time you're eating on the street or in a restaurant you're taking a chance with someone else preparing your food. During Carnival the places selling food closest to the crowds are usually overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and traffic. They might be a relatively "safe" restaurant most of the time, but during the Carnival rush they might cut corners or make mistakes. Try to find restaurants that are not swamped or over tasked by large numbers and crowds, for that very reason. If you do get sick, visit a doctor. You might need antibiotics or other medicines to get back to normal.
Tell Us Your War Stories: Have you already been through a Carnival or two here in Panama? I'm sure you've got some wisdom to impart on the rest of the crowd, so please tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.
- Received Via Email: "hi, in terms of offering someone advice on their 1st time to Carnavale, it's all about WHERE you go & who you go with to me. Carnavale for me, who is currently still active duty, was totally different than the one where I tagged along with someone to Las Tablas vs. the one where I drove the ship (car) to Chitre & the one fenced in on Transismica. I never feared safety, theft, etc. while attending either. Always exercise good situational awareness. I am always concerned with comfort, eating good food, then seeing the carnival next. Meet your basic needs, then you can enjoy more. I hate tagging along with others, who drive the ship - where I need to pee, eat...So the people that tagged along with me, truly enjoyed it as I asked them often did they need anything. Also what is big is where you sleep. I see people sleeing all on one another drunk, etc. so limit the alcohol use. Hotel beds are very limited obviously during carnavale. Bring sunscreen, water, comfortable walking shoes, light money & a good camera. Also, if you have a little one, with some events in the way night, then bring extra food, baby stroller, diapers, blanket, etc. Public restrooms are limited but lots of fast food treats for sale on the streets. Remind newcomers that Carnavale is not a continuous parade of floats like Mardi Gras but may be only two queens who are competing for show...but the one in the city had multiple floats. Funny to see one of the drivers of the float buy more beer to drink & drive as a vendor on the street followed along to sell him the substance....
- Other top carnival tips:
- 1. Try not to swallow or drink any of the water coming out of the Culecos, god knows what was in that tanker before Carnival!
- 2. If you get a waterproof pouch to put your money/cell phone/id whatever in and its around your neck, wear it inside your T-shirt. Last year people were going around cutting the string and taking them, makes it a lot harder if its underneath your t-shirt. If you have to take a cellphone, get a cheap $10 phone, dont take your Blackberry!
- 3. Its really not a race, its an all day and all night thing. Take breaks, eat something have some gatorade in the middle or you will spend all day in bed drunk or hungover and miss the fun.
- 4. There normally are not any problems but if you see a fight or something getting nuts, just walk away or prepared to get thrown into the middle of drunk mob mentality.
- 5. If you are staying sober and intend to drive around, be careful, although getting better, there will still be a lot of drunks driving.
- 6. If you are outside of the city and plan to head back on Wednesday, do it early and you will fly home. If you leave about 6:30AM from las tablas, you will be back before 11AM. If you leave at 11AM you wont be back till 7 or 8 at night!
- 7. Beaches. Although the carnival controlled areas don´t allow any glass bottles, this is often not the case or not respected at beaches, be aware of any broken glass!
- 8. Have fun!!
Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.