14.04.2011 - 28.05.2011 28 °C
Panama City is a strange mix of the very wealthy and the very poor. The city skyline is modern enough to rival New York or Tokyo, but just a stone’s throw away people are living in houses with only patched up corrugated iron between them and the rain.
Having met up with Rafael we had an amazing time together. We stayed in the old town which was the site of the Spanish colonial settlement, but was mostly rebuilt by the French when they obtained the contract to build the Panama Canal in the 19th Century. After the French failed in their attempt and sold the contract to the US the old town largely fell in to disrepair, but recently the potential has been spotted by foreign investors who have started buying up and renovating the property – fancy eateries and boutique hotels are quickly replacing the ruins of grand old French houses. The governmental palace and ministry of justice are also located here, and there is therefore an abundance of heavily armed security, making it very safe and perfect for a stroll at any time of the day or night.
Obviously Panama’s prime attraction is the canal itself. We took the train which runs alongside the canal and at the other end a tour to see one of the locks and some colonial ruins on the Atlantic side.
The locks are immense – catering for the largest canal transit vessels ‘Panamax’, although they are currently constructing another set of locks, larger, which will run alongside the existing ones when finished. We also met a Japanese MP who wanted to have his photo taken with us.. apparently the largest investor is the national bank of Japan.
Bella Vista - one of the first places in the Americas where Colombus landed
Sunset on the canal
Time for the beach! We literally did nothing for 2 whole days – a well needed break on a beautiful Pacific beach. A couple I met in Ecuador recommended the beach as it had been entirely empty when they visited - shame about the surfing competition...