Panama City – Day 1 : skyscrapers and ceiling fans

After getting up at dawn to admire the Guna village as sun rose, we headed further to Carti in our great boat. How happy we were to be sitting in it again! So were our backs ! And our buttocks !

At least, what was left of the crossing was short and we were less shaken than the day before. Evidently, we couldn’t be dropped-off directly on a more touristic island, so we arrived at the impressing harbor of Carti : a wharf, a café, an institutional building, a car-port and a few jeeps.

Since it was still very early, we decided to have breakfast there and were asking ourselves about wether persevering to San Blas despite our disastrous first impression or going to Panama City, and too bad for the islands (we plan on going to beautiful beaches in Bocas del Toro soon in any case). At breakfast time, we didn’t have much energy and weren’t helped at all by the locals, pretending to not notice that we wanted to eat, not explaining to us what was available to eat, and altogether not caring what happened to us. So, we washed down our corn cakes (named tortilla for whatever bad reason) and hard-boiled eggs with orange soda, and we left.

Of course, we paid a harbor-tax again. It was funny this time, because it was to get in a car, but we couldn’t avoid the guy charging it and didn’t have the energy to resist him. We got in a jeep without being able to get the price down (25$ for us, 15$ for the locals, white privileges around here…) and were on the road again. Luckily, Colombia taught us a lot about mountain roads, or we would probably have been sick there. Everywhere you read Darien is a wild region, they’re right ! The land is very rugged, the forest wild, the landscapes beautiful and a bit scary, too. We weren’t very relaxed in the 20% downhill slopes, where we were sped up for momentum to go up… the 20% uphill slopes…

Once we got back on the pan-american highway, things got back to normal and we arrived in the suburb of Panama Ciudad. It is crazy how diverse things are there : slums, colorful and well-tended to residential areas, regular dirty suburbs… Then we started to see taller buildings, mostly uninteresting housing, and finally the city center, with very diverse skyscrapers. There is one for every taste : glass-paneled banks dressed in complex geometry next to cheap and tall dwelling covered in AC-machines, and everything in-between.

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We don’t really like to travel in cars (for ecological reasons, of course, but also because it gives us a rich-tourist-image and doesn’t allow to chat with the local people next seat) but it really did the trick for entering Panama City. The towers are better seen from the many highways, elevated and sometimes above the Pacific Ocean, and besides, pedestrian transport is dangerous when even possible.

We arrived at the hostel we had spotted in a travel guide, and since we were so tired, we accepted 2 dorm beds, they were all that was left. Turns out it’s the best dorm we’ve seen so far, with the high beds very high, so you can comfortably sit in the low beds, curtains and power outlets for everyone, and a very efficient (a bit too efficient at night) AC.

Once well installed, we napped for a bit and prepared the blog, before going… to the movies ! Well yes, we miss it, so when we are in a big city we seize the chance (and it’s half price on Wednesdays here!). Thus we saw Bladerunner, but this blog is absolutely not a movie-critic. After that, we returned in our neighborhood to eat.

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We are in Casco Viejo, which is the old spanish town, and it is pretty. For the cultural moment of the day, the old town of Panama was burned to the ground by welsh pirate Henry Morgan a long time ago, and the city was re-founded later here. This means we aren’t in old-old Panama, but in old Panama nevertheless, which is today the trendy area, where the buildings are being renovated to open hipsters restaurants and cafés. As a consequence, when dining on a nice square at night, we got very nice music.

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For now, Panama City seems pretty cool, Casco Viejo reminds us a lot of Palermo, with renovated buildings and constructions sites everywhere, and we eat fish here too ! However, it is hot as hell, as well as wet, Colombia seems like light and refreshing in contrast. We’ll get over it. See you soon ! X

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