No sooner had we stepped ashore on the Caribbean then we realized just how much money was in the country. There, waiting to take travelers to Panama City, were 4 Toyota SUV/ pickups that could not have been more than two years old. One had a snorkel on it. This helped explain why it cost $25 pp. Well, almost. It turned out that they were a place short, so Jorin was stuck riding in the back of a pickup (it did have a canopy). However, with the humidity and heat, Justin ended up switching with him half way through. We had great A/C in the cab. As we neared Panama City, it was very impressive. The skyline honestly looks like it belongs to Miami. Very similar feel. Especially when the weather report has a 'feels like' 103 next to it. We arrived at our lodging, and were very impressed by Luna's Castle
. It was one of the best hostels of the trip. The neighborhood was very interesting. The castle is located 3 blocks from the Presidential Palace, and is two blocks away from a slum. I believe Casco Viejo was described as "a neighborhood in transition." Which is a very poetic way
Toyota 4wd with snorkel
For our drive from the coast to Panama City, we had to cross a river. During the rainy season, the snorkel can come in handy
of saying that it has not morphed into a safe or attractive place yet. Not that we really felt unsafe, the soldiers standing on street corners with assault rifles would turn tourists around if they started to walk down a street that wasn't safe. Not a bad service actually. Even though it was odd having the Presidential Palace located so close to a very bad neighborhood, since Washington D.C. is just like that, I can't say it is too strange. The government makes up for it by having lots of soldiers out, steering people in the right direction. Justin described the area as resembling Havana, Cuba.
The oddest aspect is that they have some really great restaurants here. Which, often enough, were right across the street from low income housing. One street had about 5 nice places on one side ($25 entrees) and then laundry hanging and run down residences on the other. I had Civeche
in a great place off of Plaze de la Independecia. Right next to the well established Casa Blanca, the place I went to had only been open a week, but had 7 different varieties of Ceveche. I went with the Italian, which was made
Oil Tanker entering the locks
Ship was empty, heading to Aruba to fill up and then back through the canal to California
from citrus fruits and white fish with a tiger sauce. We also ate at Casa Blanca. Their BBQ burger was the best of the trip. Panama City was not cheap, both dinners cost $8-$10. However, since the castle is only $12 a night incl. breakfast, our overall budget was on track. Most of the worthwhile sightseeing with the city is within Casco Viejo. Justin and I went to the new town, but realized that it was not that accessible by foot. For our two nights, we decided to spend most of our time in the area around the castle. One unique abandoned building is prime real estate, great view of the skyline, and across the street from the national theatre. It even has a tree growing out of the corner of the house.
We did head out of town to visit the Canal Locks and museum. Same old story, 'foreigner pricing' and local pricing. We ended up paying $8 for both when locals paid $3. This was not Colombia. However, the Museum was very well laid out, signed in both English and Spanish, and when a fuel tanker was passing through the locks, the narration was also bi-lingual. Seeing
the locks in action was not shocking interesting, but the trip did contribute to our understanding of Panama.
Not that we really did that much in the City. We spent a fair bit of time enjoying the Castle, and I found a great little mostly unnoticed nook above the living room that sign stated was "Fort Krishna." Up a little ladder, this nook had a mattress, outlet and fan. It was nice and quiet, and I actually ended up sleeping there the 2nd night, because it was more private than the dorm room. After we had rested up from our sailing trip, we headed over to David to explore the coffee region and the pacific side of the country.
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