A Concrete Jungle
Panama City was our final destination in Central America. Although it wasn’t somewhere that particularly appealed, it was the departure point for our flight back to the UK. As a matter of fact, we had originally intended to travel by bus through Panama, but had run out of time after lingering too long in Mexico and Guatemala.
Indeed, our suspicions were confirmed. Much of the city is a concrete jungle, challenging and unpleasant to walk around. Having said that, we did enjoy our few days there and Casco Viejo, the oldest part of the city, was an interesting area to explore.
The Panama Canal – An Incredible Feat of Engineering
We were, however, most impressed by the Panama Canal. In fact, watching the massive ships pass through such a narrow space was awe-inspiring. Additionally, the contemporary visitors centre was excellent, albeit extremely crowded. A short film was shown about the construction of the canal and the museum was well-presented. You can just wander out onto the terraces and watch the ships passing through the canal whenever you want to. Complete with a restaurant, snack bars, not to mention a souvenir shop, it would be quite easy to spend a whole day there. In fact, we suspected that many people do.
The Charms of Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo, a slightly edgy, but fascinating area to explore is situated on a peninsula adjacent to the infamous slums of Panama. There are colourful, crumbling old colonial buildings around every corner and an abundance of street art. At that stage, we had not yet been to Cuba, but imagined that the vibe would be similar in Havana. Tourist cafes, restaurants, shops, and large leafy plazas are situated a stone’s throw from the seedy backstreets.
From there, we were able to walk along the promenade to our hotel. It was the weekend and vendors were out in force selling Panama hats and Panama’s version of shave ice. It was quite lively, with families strolling along eating ice cream, and many people enjoying fresh fish lunches at the many seafood restaurants. Across the bay, there were spectacular views of the city’s skyline.
Hiking in Metropolitan National Park
We took a hike in the Metropolitan National Park which made for a nice escape from the big city. It is only located a few kilometres from the downtown area and had some great trails. Panoramic views of the city could be seen from the highest point. As we checked out the views, a group of locals were practicing Tai-Chi behind us.. With the exception of one or two interesting birds, some turtles, and a few coatis, we didn’t spot any other wildlife, although rumour has it that sloths are present in the park.
Journey’s End in a Casino!
Our final day in Panama City (and indeed, Central America) was spent in a casino! Completely, at odds with the previous four months of our travels, we spent the last day gambling and drinking cocktails at the Hilton! A strange, but admittedly rather fun way to end our epic four-month adventure.