Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Panama and Pinapple Face

I have vivid memories of when the US invaded Panama and removed their puppet gone astray, Noriega aka Pineapple Face. Arriving in Panama is slightly bizzare as its third world meets first world. Its very Americanized which probably explains why there are so many yanks down here. Its also very cheap for budget accomo ($24 for a double room with cable TV and A.C.) and taxis ($2 for a 10 minutes ride).

It reminds me a little of L.A. where the 'haves' flaunt their fancy cars on Rodeo Drive, meanwhile 2 blocks away the 'have nots' (Mexicans are packed onto buses like sardines on overcrowded buses. It's the same here except it's the Panamanians on the bus, staring at the crazy Irish guy and his wife who obviously don't belong on the bus with no A.C. in 40 Celius heat and thay obviously must be lost or crazy or both!

There's a touristy, pricey bar/restaurant strip on Calle Uruguaywhich is compared to Miami Beach (not sure why as it's nowhere near a beach!) This is where the local expats and tourist wine and dine the night away.

The biggest local attraction is obviously the Panama canal which is 18 kms outside the centre. Its just like a regular canal lock but on a huge scale and instead of a barge passing thru it has huge tankers and freighters.

The other thing Panama is famous for is shopping with a huge duty free area called Port Libre and a massive mall called Albrook which is worth a visit. I hate shopping as much as I hate root canals so if I'm recommending it, its got to be good.

Bocas del Torro is a series of islands in the north east is an absolute gem. You can zip around the islands on water taxis and many of the towns are built on stilts on the water. We took a boat from Isla Colon to Isla Bastimentos and then hiked to a beautiful palm tree lined remote beach (Wizrd Beach) with golden sand and transparent water where were only 6 other people.

Development in the area is happening really fast and it won't be long before its an overcrowded americanized resort so see it while you can !


Nick May 14, 2008 3:07 pm  

Interesting how many countries have stilt houses to allow for tides/flooding etc, but they're still considered weird in the UK despite the constant flood risk. When are people going to wise up and build safer houses?

Baino May 14, 2008 5:08 pm  

Aww I'm so jealous! I'd love to stand on the canal and watch one of those behemoth ships glide by. Here's some trivia for you . . .apparently Panama hats are made in Bolivia! Enjoy your trip, I'm travelling vicariously these days!

Old Knudsen May 15, 2008 5:17 am  

Isla Colon? what a bummer of a name.

The Yanks and their puppet dictators, at least the ones the brits set up doesn't lead back to them as much.

Nomadic Matt May 15, 2008 4:07 pm  

Development in central america is going at lightning speed, but that is true for most of the "third world". that's why i always go there first. europe wont change in 10 years but these jungles will!

Quickroute May 18, 2008 7:15 pm  

Nick: It's interesting how people just live with the risk of having there house in a potential disaster zone. New Orleans, Florida, Cuba come to mind!

Baino: I had no idea they are made in Bolivia but did see a lot of folks wearingthem when I was there!

Old Knudsen: True - the brits were always better at taking over countries!

Nomadic Matt: I think you're on to something - see the third world before it becomes volatile or moves up a notch and out of your pocket range!

ward,  June 09, 2008 7:38 am  

i was wondering how you made the crossing of th darien gap?
did you go by plane to columbia or did you take a boat or something? and how much did you pay and did you make a reservation?
thx in advance

Quickroute June 09, 2008 10:51 am  

Ward: Welcome and thanks for stopping by, I originally planned to go by sail boat (3-5 days US$280) from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama City but was stuck for time so ended up flying from Cartagena to Panama City US$320.

You can also go overland but it's a bit dangerous as there is a lot guerilla activity in the north of Colombia.

Another option is overland and boat

You can find more info on it here and here

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