Panama City - Cosmopolitan Old Soul
Panama City Travel Blog› entry 3 of 23 › view all entries
We set our stuff down and take a self-guided walk around San Felipe aka Casco Viejo. It's the old part of town that used to be the center of everything in the 1700's, but is now considered a "bad" area. There are beautiful old buildings with lovely balconies, some in good condition, some in complete ruins, and most in a state of moderate decay.
Lonely Planet and Rough Guide both have a section that will give you a nice tour of this area of town. After visiting some ruins and a cathedral, we made our way past a guard station to the Presidential Mansion -- As run down as San Filepe is now, the presidential mansion is still there. The "palacio" is inhabited mostly by armed guards and these cute birds, which I now understand are herons, although when I asked what they were, the armed guard told me these garzas were the national birds of Panama.
Unfortunately, the guards tell us the President is not home that day, and he wouldn't invite us in anyways.
Next, we walk down to the waterfront where we can see the modern highrises of downtown Panama across the bay. A promenade leads past a former rec center for Noriega's national guard that was bombed out by the US in the 80's... it's now overrun by a gang of skateboarders. Down the promenade are several monuments to the failed French canal, including a giant pole with a cock on top of it (see pic below) and busts of some famous dead French people.
At night, we took a taxi to Caye Uruguay where my guidebook had martini symbols on it.
After a few drinks, we walked into downtown Panama and walked around a bit. There are a bunch of closed down karaoke places. It's like there must have been a breif karaoke fad that hit Central America recently and just didnt catch on or something.
Tip: We had kind of a hard time getting a cab back to Casco Viejo. Several cabbies told us it was too far. Or at least yelled it out the window as they were speeding away.
We get into Panama City in the early afternoon and decide to take the hour long bus ride into town. It's super crowded, of course, but no live chickens, to my dissapointment. The lady next to me is very nice as I try to ask her how much farther we have to go. Unfortunately, I speak no Spanish at this point (I'm quite proud of the ridiculous pigeon Spanish I picked up throughout this trip) and our conversation consists mostly of alternately jabbing at my lonely planet map.
Our bus weaves in and out of traffic and I'm totally wondering when we're going to hit something. About 45 minutes into our ride, I get my answer when I hear a loud thud to the left and realize we've sideswiped a car.
The driver kicks everyone off the bus and we get dropped off somewhere in Santa Ana. The book says the cheapest hotels are in San Filipe, so we head generally in that direction, getting a little disoriented on the way. This is the first time on the trip I utter "Donde es aqui?!!" to humoured locals.
Be warned, both Lonley Planet and Rough Guide are fabulously out of date with their Panama information. The hotel I've circled is no longer there, and some police man leads us to another one. We don't tip him despite his circling outside for 10 minutes. Our room is in the basement, with no ventillation and windows that I have to lock by tying my bikini top around the handles. We also end up with a gnarly mosquito as a roommate. It's $7 each for a double -- there's a standup fan and decent private bathroom. I can't remember the name, but it was on Caye 8 for anyone who's interested.