16.05.2012 30 °C
Our three day trip to Panama City come about due to the fact that neither Charlie or I were particularly happy about paying $600 plus to fly from San Salvador to Bogota. Instead, we have opted to cross the Darien gap via ferry. The new ferry (which is Greek owned and opens on May 31st) travels from Colon to Cartegena and is the safest and cheapest option available to us. So, whilst we had to spend the best part of a day trawling through shopping malls in Panama City to find a tour operator who would sell us tickets for the ferry, we also managed to squeeze in a little time to explore the old part of town - Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo is currently being restored to its former Cuban/colonial glory; quiet, full of charm, minimal tourism, the most amazing ice cream parlor we have visited yet (Basil, vanilla pod and chocolate flavours) - this place really was the real deal. Managing to somehow keep the OTT touristic element away, keeping the local residents housed within the city walls, and restoring the existing architecture - the city council have done a temendous job at retaining the historic values.
The new part of Panama City is a very different affair altogether, flanked by huge shopping malls, hi-rise flats and office blocks it was neither particularly easy to navigate through nor that charming. We did visit a few Panama hat stores and although some of them were of excellent quality, they are actually made in Honduras. Not very Panamanian afterall!
Hopefully we will get an opportunity to see the canal on our way back through the city. The drive to David took us alongside a small part of the canal and the sight of these huge container ships slowly working their way along a rather small stretch of jungle-lined water was impressive if not a little surreal!
Ross and Charlie