"Panama" Panama by Conimbriga
Panama Travel Guide: 1,764 reviews and 4,478 photos
I stopped in Panama for a few days on my way to Cuba. Panama is an interesting modern city full of restaurants, hotels and...banks! Banking is the country´s main economical activity, even more important than the famous canal itself. I stayed in a comfortable hotel packed with young american men eager for partying and drinking. Not the best impression at all. Very annoying indeed!
There are three reasons to visit Panama: First, the canal, obviously. Second, Cascuo Antiguo and third Panama Viejo. Forests and Beaches are beautiful as well, but they tend to be similar to the ones we have in Brazil, so there was no point in visiting them. When it comes to forests, one common misconception I noticed among tourists is that a lot of visitors think that Panama´s opulent forests are part of the Amazon. Well, they are not. Anyway, if you want to take a real tour to the canal, you have to spend a little more money than you were planning too. What´s the reason in visiting the canal if you see it from a huge distance? It´s much more recommended to go onboard and sail along. Like I said, it´s going to cost you more, but the canal is a masterpiece of modern american engineering and you can only fully understand it if you look it from inside. I arranged the tour at my hotel. It costed me USD 125,00 with all included. I had the pleasant companhy of lots of friendly old americans (not annoying as the young drunk ones), a reserved dutch couple, an aristocratic aussie couple that complained a lot to me about their recent trip to Nicaragua, a cuban family that didn´t understand why I was heading to Cuba and a nice family from northern Brazil, with whom I had the pleasure to have lunch on board.
Casco Antiguo is a historical neighborhood in Panama City. It´s beautiful. If you travel to Panama City and you don´t visit Casco Antiguo, your experience is incomplete. I decided to walk from my hotel to Cascuo, a distance of about 4 kilometers. To reach it you have to walk a few minutes throuth a slum. I guess that´s why tourists are advised taking a cab. For many years I worked in Brazil visiting sick patients in our Favelas. I felt pretty natural crossing the panamanian slum, although maybe I shouldn´t. Once you step into Casco Antiguo, you forget the distance, modern Panama City and even the excrucianting heat. It´s lovely!
There´s a nice brazilian restaurant in Cascuo Antiguo called Búzios. The owner lived in Brazil for a few years and the restaurant serves pretty decent food. When I entered the restaurant, I met the american TV star Dominic Purcell, who was the central character in Fox´s Prison Break series. He agreed in taking a picture with me and showed me courtesy, although a dutch friend of mine described him as a professional ***. To come back from Casco Antiguo to my hotel was easy – I decided to play the tourist and took a cab. Taxis in Panama have no taximeter and can take as many passangers as they want, so you have to negociate. The taxi driver asked me how much I think it would be fair. I answered USD 10,00, a price that would certainly be low in São Paulo to cover the same distance. When we arrived at the hotel, he asked me if I was American. I answered in my poor Spanish that I was Brazilian. He then said that USD 10,00 was too much, USD 4,00 would be more appropriated. I was very surprise with his honesty. I wondered if he would have taken the 10 bucks if I were American. Taxi drivers in many parts of the world rip tourists off. One taxi driver in Panama deliberly gave me the wrong change, but this one I met in Casco Antiguo was pretty cool.
While tourists enjoy Panama's hot weather, some travellers like myself prefer to experience some culture. So it was no surprise that I found myself almost alone in Panama Viejo, the ruins in the outskirts of the capital, where Panama City once was. Some angry English pirates decided to make land in the east coast of Panama, march across the istmo and plunder Panama City. Since the English pirates weren't very peaceful people, they completely devastated the city. Spanish settlers then moved the city's location to where it stands today, but the ruins are still there and they are awesome!
Panama is hot! Hotter than where I live in Brazil. Damn, I hate the heat! But I like Panama.
There´s still one place you can visit if you have time. Skip the tourists in Panama City and take the only daily ferry that goes to Taboga Island. It´s a quiet place, pleasant and it´s home of the second oldest church in the Americas. Once you reach Taboga you have to wait at least 8 hours for the returning ferry, until then you are stuck on the island. I was fortunate to meet a really nice Dutch couple who joined me to explore the island. Months later I met the same couple in Amsterdam.
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