A man, a plan, a canal - Panama

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November 11th 2014
Published: April 17th 2018
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For the first time ever, I have been able to incorporate a long palindrome into a blog entry title, in a way in which seems fitting and relevant. Panama City is quite probably the most dynamic and modern-looking city in Central America, and one reason why it has that edge over other capital cities in the region is the recent addition to its roster of a metro system, set to expand, and already an improvement on the sorry state of downtown traffic. For all its sleek modern-skyline allure, perhaps the biggest tourist magnet within the confines of the city proper is the well-preserved Old Town quarter known collectively as 'Casco Antiguo', and an absolute must on any tourist's itinerary, for all its colonial charm. In this very quarter, you'll find a museum dedicated to the Panama Canal, which adequately documents the progress of what is roundly assumed to be one of Panama's greatest moneyspinning achievements and feats of engineering. Given the fact that the Americans pioneered the project and enabled it to see the light of day, it may also come as no surprise that the American-style shopping mall culture dominates here too, typified in no small measure by the Albrook Mall, a giant of retail culture, and such a prominent commuter junction that a nearby metro stop just had to be worked into the mix. A narrow strip of land known as the Amador causeway is also another key reference point, and one which is tailor-made for cycling trips, as well as being the location of bars, shops and museums, in addition to its status as a prime location from which to view the Panama City skyline. If you're looking for a slice of evening entertainment in the form of a showcase of celebratory Panamanian cluture, then look no further than Las Tinajas, a restaurant-cum-show venue, where national costume-clad dancers move to the rhythm in well choreographed fashion. Moving north from the city, the first port of call you will reach is Miraflores locks, the prime destination for viewing the ships passing through the Panama Canal, as well as viewing the exhibits contained within yet another museum dedicated to the canal, this time done to an even greater overall effect than its' city centre counterpart. A similar distance further north still will bring the visitor to the town of Gamboa, famed for one or two reference points. One of them is a stretch of road known as Goethals Boulevard, which is a treat to pass through, as the arched nature of the trees flanking it form a canopy-like cover, which make the road seem like some kind of enclosed corridor. At the end of this road is Gamboa Rainforest Resort hotel, and a place which organizes a variety of excursions taking place on the Panama Canal. For my money, a recommended trip is a motorized boat ride along the canal in search of animals which reside on island enclaves along the canal. If you are lucky enough, you are bound to see Capuchin and Howler monkeys, as well as a handful of tree sloths, not to mention tugs, barges, cargo ships and even the occasional cruise liner. One last piece of curiosity in central Panama is El Valle De Anton, essentially, the world's only town to have been created within the confines of an extinct volcano. This status might not be apparent upon first glance, but be assured that the backdrop of the town are the crater's walls, where hiking trails can be made possible with the correct degree of orientation. As with almost everywhere else in Panama, stalls and stores selling Panamanian handicrafts abound, and let's face it, with a culture as colourful and vibrant as Panama's, who wouldn't want to retain a handy reminder of their time spent there?


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