About 32°C and a bright sun, walking the streets of Panama City. I would kill for an ice-cream! But I must admit that the traditional Central American ice-creams sold in the streets, consisting of grated ice in a plastic cup topped off with a chemical colorant, or the industrial ones packed with sugar are really not tempting to me. That is precisely when I remember my discussion with Maria from Café Ruiz in Boquete and the fact that she supplies a high-end ice-cream store in Casco Viejo, the charming neighbourhood of the capital… Keep traveling!
After three months on the road through Central America, crossing the bridge of the Americas, we arrive in Panama City, our last stop before flying back home. It is by far the most modern and vibrant capital of the eight countries we have visited during this trip: its modern skyscrapers, architectural landmarks, and well maintained parks show its prosperity, mainly due to the business revolving around the canal. When the sun sets on the Pacific ocean, lights colour the skyline, fancy cars take the streets, and dressed-up locals make their way to Casco Viejo, the old quarter of Panama City where its booming nightlife is about to start.
A street cat tries to climb into a bin. On one of the many doorsteps a dog is sound asleep. Kids run around, playing tag while a few teenagers are listening to some music blasting through their phones. Laundry is drying above the sidewalk and a woman has a loud conversation with her opposite neighbour from her colourful wooden balcony. We are walking the streets of Casco Viejo, Spanish for old quarter, in the historical centre of Panama City.
Visiting Panama City, eating a ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime) is a must for every food-lover. The freshest seafood in town can be found at the Mercado del Marisco, a huge fish market where all sorts of fish can be bought. Compared to the many markets we visited in Central America, this indoor market place is surprisingly hygienic. Mystery solved when we see the plate explaining it is funded by Japan! Sweet memories of the fantastic Tsukiji fish market…
Walking the charming streets of Casco Viejo in Panama City and passing by numerous Panama hat stores, I get tempted to try some. I head into a traditional store and start chatting with the charismatic owner, curious to know where in Panama these hats are made. “In Ecuador!”, he laughs.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute displays the impressive biodiversity of Panama’s coastal ecosystems at Punta Culebra in Panama City. Knowledgable and multilingual guides led us through bunkers built during the First World War, now hosting exhibitions about Panama’s nature. Keep traveling!
The Panama Canal took global trade to the next level, putting San Francisco only 9 000 kilometres from New York City instead of 22 000 via the dangerous Cape Horn. In a global economy, the canal is also used to link Asia to Europe: if you are sitting in Europe or the east coast of the USA eating a banana from Peru reading this article, or using a cell phone or laptop made in Asia, chances are they went through the Panama Canal. However, the construction of this engineering masterpiece came at a high price. Keep traveling
Since Panama gained control over the Panama Canal in 1999, its economy got a massive boost. Over the past 10 years skyscrapers have changed its skyline with many high-rise buildings still under construction. Keep traveling!
Walking the city centre of Panama’s cosmopolitan capital, we encountered this woodpecker with its very neat and bright red puff. Keep traveling!