After an awesome time in South America we found ourselves in Panama City – our first stop on our Central American whirlwind tour… is three months really a whirlwind tour I hear you ask? Well, for most people I would say not… but, for us – having become accustomed to a snail like pace of travel in South America, where we stopped for a few weeks at a time whenever we felt like it – on touching down in Panama City it really did feel like time was running out!!!
Panama City was very unlike South America, and to be honest, in the first instance it was pretty confusing!
- Most people chose not to speak Spanish to us, choosing to converse with us in English instead – the assumption seemed to be that white = gringo – usually of the American non-Spanish speaking variety….
- The city looked shiny and new and had a VERY different feel to the South American towns and cities we’d visited.
- The cost of everything… gone were the days of cheap eats and budget underspends… Buying groceries in Panama City reminded me of my first trip to Woolworths in Sydney when all I had was GBP… and I left the shop empty handed and pretty upset that everything had more or less doubled in price since my last visit to a supermarket!
Seven nights in Panama City however turned out to be awesome. We loved the shiny buildings near where we were staying, but soon discovered that the whole of Panama City wasn’t like that (it might be soon… but it isn’t yet!!!)…
On our first day in Panama City we ventured to the old town – it was hot… but we decided to walk anyway – making sure we remained on the main drag, as we’d heard it could be a little dodgy on the back streets… It was a nice stroll, and we enjoyed taking time out near the metro station to look at the anti U.S.of A. graffiti… Then as we got closer to the heart of the old town, the main avenue turned pedestrianised and there were heaps of women going about their everyday lives but in beautiful traditional dress – this was my first realisation that I knew nothing about Panama and the rest of Central America…. Panama is apparently home to six indigenous groups – and there is a Kuna community living in Panama City itself.
The old town in Panama City turned out to be a tourist hub… the place was filled with tour groups and fancy hotels and streets lined with renovated old buildings… however, it was obviously still a work in progress – many buildings were still propped up with scaffolding as renovation work continued… and others remained derelict and in need of some love and attention… whilst still retaining a whole heap of delapidated charm (well in my opinion anyway!)
As the old town is also on the water, we enjoyed our stroll along the Paseo de Las Bóvedas. This stretch along the water was great – from parts you could get high enough to have an awesome view looking back inland at Ancon Hill. From other stretches you could look out to the famous Panama City skyline… And if your timing was right you could also see HUGE ships slowly moving past as they travelled along the famous Panama Canal…
During our time in Panama City we also went to visit the Amador Causeway – we’d read that it was a great area for eating and drinking and hanging out… but to be honest no one warned us about how long it would take to get there! We naively hopped on a bus thinking we could have a relaxing evening – gazing at the very beautiful skyline, and watching the boats float by, before watching the sunset, and setting upon a tasty dinner 🙂 As it turned out, the traffic to get there was horrendous – as it is throughout the city, only we were still fresh off the plane and clueless!?! – and we arrived after the sun had set… We did however manage to take one picture before we ate – and then started the long trek home across the not so big, but very busy, city…
We might have entered a whole new continent, BUT Panama City did not disappoint as the BIG plastic letters were back in town 🙂
Our second visit to the Amador Causeway was – in my opinion – a little more successful! We took the bus to the final stop, and when we arrived night hadn’t already fallen… on the contrary it was a lovely sunny day!!! The final point of the causeway was cool – not just because there was another PANAMA sign for us to take a picture of… BUT because there was a cool little spot by some rocks to hang out and watch the boats going by on their way up and down the Panama canal… For me, this pretty cool spot became even cooler after a raccoon appeared on the rocks! After spending quite sometime with the raccoon – he was very cute and it was hard to stop taking pictures – we finally left and started our relaxing stroll along the causeway… It was a pretty nice stroll along the water, with views of Panama City on one side, and views of boats heading towards the Panama Canal on the other…
In spite of our love of Panama City’s skyline in general – we have to confess that we had a ‘favourite’ building… the F and F Tower, otherwise known as the Screw… This building intrigued us – we might have already taken heaps of pictures from different angles – BUT on our last day in the city we decided to take a stroll to the skyscraper area of town just to get a better look (and obviously take some more pictures!?!). After this stroll our favourite Screw building retained its title… BUT I have to say that I had romantically imagined the screw-like feature to start from the ground… sadly it did not – the base was very square… okay so I realise that from a safety perspective this probably makes sense… but it still felt a little like cheating!?!
Panama City was for us a hot (temperature wise), concrete metropolis that was great for exploring – BUT our accommodation balcony provided us with an equal amount of relaxation time as it was the perfect spot for bird watching with a nice cold beer 🙂