Days spent: 3 (the first was spent in bed catching up for the lost sleep of the previous days of sailing)
Days recommended: 2
Where we slept: dorm at Magnolia Inn, right in the middle of Casco Viejo (Panama City’s old town). It greeted us with the first shower in 5 days. Such a lovely feeling…
What we ate: Japanese delicacies at Aki, sandwiches and salads at the cozy, favourite amongst locals Super Gourmet, expensive tapas at the quite pretentious Tantalos, awesome and affordable fish dishes (ceviche and fried sea food) at the very informal fish market.
What we drank: cheap drinks and beers at Relic.
How we travelled: we reached the mainland on a small boat and then went for a 2 hours long jeep ride through the jungle and the countryside to the capital. In Panama City we walked, used Uber and hitchhiked (once ended up with a slightly creepy dude that, “in our honour”, put on some weird Christian rap… ).
Km walked: 20
How Panama City affected our wallets: definitely more expensive than most of the South American countries we previously visited. Not a big surprise with the US dollar as currency… The hostel and average prices in restaurants were really close to the American standards. Still, you can find some inexpensive places around.
Issues we encountered: again, none. Panama City is said to be one of the most dangerous places in Central America. There were definitely some dodgy neighbourhoods and faces around Casco Viejo, but really nothing that you wouldn’t expect to find in a big city.
The biggest issue we encountered was actually having to deal with a late afternoon/early evening blackout affecting the whole city! Which meant: no air conditioning at the hostel, no chance to get fresh food since the restaurants’ fridges were all off and walking around in the utter darkness. Apparently it happens quite often…
Would we recommend it? I personally didn’t fall for it but I guess yes. It’s still a needed stopover when you’re traveling around Central America. The 3 days we spent there helped us coming to terms with the fact that our 4 months experience was almost over and also brought back some good old habits (such as flushing the toilet paper down the toilet. Have to admit I was kind of lost when I couldn’t find the usual bin aside!)
What to do:
- Get lost in Casco Viejo. Panama City’s old town was definitely my highlight. Antique facades with crumbling layers of multicoloured plaster and old faded posters, rusty balustrades, vines trying their best to take over whichever free surface, dusty cafes exhibiting local photographers work and playing old tunes… The line between neglected and abandoned is incredibly thin but it is somehow responsible of its charm. At the same time, Casco Viejo, is also Panama City’s most touristic neighbourhood which translates in a wide range of modern restaurants, hotels, bars and designers shops. Last but not least: the graffiti scene.
- If your backpack is not about to explode (ours had already been too far gone for weeks…) you can give in to some tourist shopping and get yourself the Panama hat that looks so good on Johnny Depp (but, sadly, won’t have the same effect on you) or a few colourful molas (fabrics embroidered with colourful animal motives and/or geometrical patterns, normally part of the traditional clothes of Panama’s Kuna people).
- fill up your tummy with the best fresh fish dishes at the mercado de mariscos. You will have one of the most fulfilling fish feast of your life for less than 10 dollars!
- do what everybody expects you to do in Panama City: check the Panama Canal off the list. There’s a very detailed museum that explains everything and more about it. Interesting for sure, but, ultimately, not really my kind of thing.
- Bird watching in the so-called birds paradise: Soberania Park, less than 30 min drive away from Panama’s canal. Funny enough, in a whole afternoon of forest trekking, we couldn’t spot a single one. Up to you if you want to give it a go but we were left quite unimpressed.
- Wear your trainers and join the multitude of jogging fanatics or simply stroll along the Miami inspired promenade of Panama City right before sunset. The skyline view is actually one of a kind.
Who deserves a big thank you: the sailing gang. It was very hard to say goodbye to each member of this new, improvised, weird family.
Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Lomochrome Purple 100-400 (35)
Canon EOS 300, Kodak Pro Image 100 (35)
20-21-22/03/2018, Panama City (Panama)