In my last travel article (expose’) I discussed how we selected Panama and found our condo. We spent 30 days in Panama and so we explored a lot of things, mostly in or near Panama City. We did not do the ecology tourist “thing” and head for the jungle or the outlying islands. Maybe if we had a better experience with driving we would have gone further afield. In any case it was, as any new country experience can be, a wonderful discovery of a different life style and culture. You can get an in depth feel for our “discovery” by reading the travel blog which is cited at the end of this article. As a brief snapshot of what we enjoyed and discovered the following are our “top 10” Panama experiences:
(1) The Canal, the Canal, the Canal: Whenever you think about Panama, the first thing that clicks into your mind is the canal. The same happens in Panama. It is such an integral part of life here (and for tourists) that it is about the first thing you do when visiting. We visited the locks or the canal four times while here for our 30 days. And it is a great spectacle which kind of mesmerizes you as you view the activity. The tourist authorities here justifiably call it the 8th wonder of the world.
(2) Casco Viejo: I have not been to Havana, but I suspect that Casco Viejo might be similar. Old Spanish buildings, narrow streets, classic old homes and a lot of ambience make visiting a must. Because of the native craft shopping opportunities for the “world’s greatest shopper” we visited the old town four times, the last time just to get those once in a life time family gifts.
(3) Panama Viejo: Although the first Panama is in a state of ruins, the clean up and restoration of several of the buildings has been a first class archeological effort. The site and the museum give you a good perspective on the founding of modern Panama (1519) and the life of the conquistadors. Visiting Panama Viejo sets you up very well for enjoying the second city of Casco Viejo.
(4) Zoom, zoom criss-crossing Panama City by taxi: After we aborted the idea of a rental car, due to the chaos of driving with out stop lights, stop signs, and street signs, we became daily users of the thousands of taxies here in Panama City. Depending on the time of day, the zoom-zoom can become crawl-crawl which just makes it a challenge for the taxi drivers to find a quicker back street. Rarely did a cab fare exceed $5, unless you were headed to the airport or to the Miraflores locks on the canal.
(5) Restaurants: In the downtown areas where most of the gringos are staying, including us you can hardly walk a hundred feet without another restaurant or café. We probably ate at 30 or more different places and had a lot of fun doing it. Native Panamanian dishes are a bit suspect, but like all over the world Italian food is a hit, and we ate in at least four or five different pasta or pizza places. Do you want Mexican, no problem? Steaks or international cuisine, there are many options. If you see photos of us on the blog or web album, you can be assured we have not lost any weight!
(6) Relaxing at the condo: So what is a vacation for? If you are staying in a comfortable new condo on the 16th floor of a new building with fantastic views, you should spend time there. Besides I need a lot of time for writing or surfing the net, and Mary Ann has books to read!
(7) Walking our neighborhood: I don’t think you could stay in a better neighborhood than El Cangrejo. Via Argentina is as good as it gets with a tree lined median, a lot of restaurants and businesses, a public park, and beautiful Panamanians around all the time. Just a short walk to the west is the hotel district and one block to the south is Via Espana, one of the major cross town thoroughfares. We walk somewhere in the area every day and there is always something new and fun to see.
(8) Enjoying the culture: As you can tell, if you read my travel blog, I try to view how different people live. I thoroughly love trying to figure out their politics, read their news, watch and enjoy the children and the handsome men and beautiful women. For someone who likes to cultivate his skills of observation, maybe it will even improve my skills of description.
(9) Isla Taboga: It was fun and a change of pace to take the daytrip to the island south of the city in the Pacific Ocean. We had a kick laughing about our problems of finding a Panama beach. This venture also was neat as we met and talked with a lot of other travelers and learned their perspective on the “Panama Experience”. Taboga is a beautiful pristine island and lives up to their slogan of Island of Flowers.
(10) A beautiful modern city: This city is just exploding with new buildings and they all seem to be going straight up. The city itself is not really very large, but it sure is increasing their density. When you view the skyline, from any direction, it is hard to believe that it isn’t just a mirage. I suspect that the same feeling comes from viewing Dubai. Hmmm, maybe we should check that out next.
For a more in-depth look at our vacation and adventure in Panama check out my travel blog at http://tomoffthebench.blogspot.com/, If you just like to look at the pictures, Mary Ann, with her love of children and flowers, has put together an excellent web album on the internet that can be found at:
You can view it as a “slide show” by clicking “slide show” just below the bold Panama Web Album 2009.