Published: January 19th 2011January 19th 2011
Puerto Amador and Panama City
We left the ship this time by tender (lifeboats that were lowered from the top of the ship).It was a twenty minute boat ride to the terminal,but enjoyable when it is 83F outside.It was an interesting ride over on the boat Rick came over and took our picture and then Wayne came over to take our picture on the boat. The two guys that were sitting beside us said “Are you famous”! Of course, Ron said “Yes, in Canada we are” The guys actually sympathized with us and cursed the paparazzi. We spent sometime trying to get a tour to Embero Indian Village. Leisa had found a beat up taxi around the side of the building for only $25 a piece. When we went over to talk to him, he could barely speak English and his car was a rust bucket, so we declined. It also helped that a security guard standing there looked at us and shook his head no.
We eventually arranged a ride to the village with someone that was government regulated for $45 a person for 6 hours. Our drivers name was Oscar he was a university
student studying law so his English was very good. It did not take long to realize he was not a good guide. He spoke to his girlfriend on his cell most of the time and we had to prompt him for any information.
We drove through Panama City into the rainforest and through Chagres National Park, on the drive we only saw one animal cross the road Ron thinks it is a sloth; personally I am not sure and our guide really did not give us an answer (probably too busy thinking about his girlfriend).
Finally we arrived at a lake where our driver negotiated a boat ride to the village which we had to pay another $10. We got into this beat-up old motor boat and proceeded up this river. The water was very dirty from all the mud slides and heavy rains our guide said it is usually clear and the people fish here all the time. (Now here, I need to explain when we heard about this Embera village we were told we were to get into dugout canoes and be taken to the village where we would be greeted by the chief and the
Us on the tender
Unfortunately the fellow beside me is not init.
villagers who would be singing and playing music. We expected to spend a couple hours there enjoying their native dances and crafts)
When we got to the village it looked like a couple Thai huts and a few families lived there. The people only had loin cloths on and spoke no English (which could be expected) and they had a few meager crafts setup to try and sell us. It was a real disappointment our guide did and said nothing just told us to walk around. Apparently there was more to see if we wanted to venture into the mucky jungle on our own and find other families, but nobody was able to give us directions on how to go there. We all called the guide over and told him about how disappointed we were and wanted to just get out of there. We gave the chief $10 and left. At this point I was real happy that we did not go with the 1st taxi driver we could have been stuck in that jungle forever.
Our driver then took us back into Panama City the air was pretty tense in the car, I guess he was annoyed
with us. When we arrived in the city he drove us too Old Town. He never spoke the whole time, until we reached one area where he locked all the doors and said this area is very dangerous. I felt like this was a very unfriendly place and cannot imagine that so many people actually buy houses and it is one of the 5th best places to retire in the world! The buildings were in horrible condition, there was filth and garbage everywhere, people just threw it out their apartment windows and you could see it laying on ledges and roofs. Clothes lines were strung everywhere so at least they tried to keep themselves clean.
This area of Panama is known as Casco Viejo de Panama. Built and settled in 1671 after the destruction of Panama Viejo (the original location of the City of Panama) by the pirate Henry Morgan, it was constructed as a walled city on a peninsula 8 kilometers away from Panama Viejo to protect its settlers against future pirate attacks. Casco Antiguo was designated a World Heritage Site in 2003.
Currently under a revitalization process, it has mix of architectural styles, Caribbean, Republican, Art Deco, French
and Colonial. Most of Panama City’s main monuments are located in Casco Antiguo: The Salón Bolivar, The Metropolitan Cathedral, The National Theater (founded in 1908), Las Bovedas Monument, La Iglesia de La Merced, La Iglesia San Felipe Neri, etc. The distinctive Golden Altar at Iglesia San José (Saint Joseph's Church) was one of the few items saved from Panama Viejo during the 1671 pirate siege. It was buried in mud during the siege and then secretly transported to its present location.
As an example of true urban redevelopment, Casco has become one of the main tourist attractions of Panama City, second only to the Panama Canal. Both government and private sectors are working on its restoration.
The above info was taken from the internet I certainly did not get it from the worst tour guide ever.
Finally he stopped and said it was safe to get out in this area. We could walk around this block and he would wait in the cab. He called this area French Square There were a few people out with blankets on the ground trying to sell their crafts. Even the vendors were unfriendly they just sat and starred at you, I felt
I guess when you see these I should be glad they did not pick us up in them!!!
like an unwanted intruder in this world.
We got back into the van and our driver took us into the new part of the city. The view of this city from the ship was beautiful, but as we got closer it was mostly buildings that have been under construction for 3 years and crowded apartments buildings. Our guide pointed out a mall, and some unusual construction projects, building under construction that Donald Trump was building.
Panama has a form of public transportation consisting of colorful painted buses known as diablo rojo. A diablo rojo is usually "customized" or painted with bright colors, usually depicting famous actors, politicians or singers. It is popular for bus drivers to customize the interior and exterior of their diablo rojo. I wish I was able to catch one with my camera
they were very interesting.
He then took us to the ruins of Old Panama (Panama Viejo) the first Spanish city founded on the Pacific coast of the Americas by Pedro Arias de Avila on 15 August 1519. This city was the starting point of the expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru (1532). It was a stopover point of
I wish I knew what it was called but again our driver just told us to get out of the car and look at it.
one of the most important trade routes in the history of the American continent leading to the famous fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo where most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas passed through.
Again, the above info has been supplied to you from the internet, there was no one to explain this to you when we were there.
The original city was destroyed by Captain Morgan. Again he parked his vehicle and told us to go look around and just sat there. Ron and I walked around and took some pictures unfortunately we had no guide and all the signage was in Spanish so we had no idea what anything was. There was a rundown building there with a bunch of vendors in it we walked through and again ran into the unfriendly behavior. One woman who is an artist and actually had some nice stuff was the friendliest and we spent some time looking at her work. I went into the washroom here and it was filthy, there was no toilet seat and when I went to wash my hands there was no water in the filthy sinks. I have been
in some crazy places and have ranked this about the worst on my list. This place is supposed to be a main tourist attraction; the lack of care is so obvious it is hard to appreciate the county itself.
This is the end of our tour, so we asked if our driver could stop at a grocery store so we could pick up some drinks and snacks. He took us to one in his neighborhood that he shops at .He actually came in with us because nobody speaks English here and was very attentive getting us a cart etc. It was amazingly clean and very well stocked; exactly like going into a store here.
When we got back, I got in the front seat and started asking questions. This was probably the best conversation we had with this young man. He told us that the crime rate here was very high, evidenced by all the bars and high gates around properties. We saw a billboard with Polar Bears on it and told him they lived in our home province of Manitoba. He was very interested in this and asked all kinds of questions about them. Unfortunately our first
impression of Panama City was negative. I will never return. I have done some reading on it since then and I think that our time there was very short and our guide was the worst. Maybe if we had arranged something different our impression would have been better.
We had enough for one day and spent an hour drinking wine on our deck after we got back to the ship. We cleaned up and had another great dinner. Later we went on the top deck and watched the movie Inception on the big screen under a beautiful starry sky.
There are more photos below