Site icon Emma & Nathan's Travels

“Panama City…skyscrapers, shipwrecks, honking horns and Hooters…”


After a very cold nights sleep, eventually I woke Friday morning. I say eventually it was 6am, due to the old codgers in the room going about their business so damn early. I was not impressed. Breakfast is included in the hostel but you have to make it yourself and the kitchen was full by 8am. It seemed that’s where everyone congregated until breakfast finished at 10. By then, we had already left the hostel, after finally handing our laundry in to get cleaned. With most of my clothes in the laundry, I was left with green Hurley shorts and my red adidas gym top. I looked like a Christmas tree.

We were going to take a casual stroll along the seafront before heading in to find Hooters for lunch. We passed through what appeared to be the upper class part of the city, passing The Mirage Hotel, The Intercontinental as well as The Hilton. The buildings were so tall, scraping the sky, a complete array of different structures. Our necks were craning upwards for most of the start of the walk. We even passed a fitness park for dogs! And numerous ones for people lining the seafront. I did attempt a few pull ups…I also failed…The skyline was awesome. The buildings were quirky and different heights. They had bridges crossing the motorway all along. We crossed one to enter the towering city.As standard, on any day we want to explore, the weather wasn’t the greatest. It was humid and overcast and not long after we went to the ATM, it began to drizzle. We walked towards Hooters and stopped in a gas station to have a drink and get some water. At that point, the rain absolutely poured down. In a matter of seconds, huge puddles formed on the ground and everything became soaking wet. People were taking cover under every jutting building they could find, donning coats and putting up umbrellas. Us? We decided to leg it across the road to Hooters, trying to dodge the puddles as we already had one pair of soaking wet shoes. Successful? Nathan yes, me not so much. Two puddles stepped in and my feet were swimming img in water. Perhaps I should have practised the long jump at school more? Or even just once? I may have been able to jump over the puddles their rather than land in them.We ate at about midday, mozzarella sticks and wings. It was yummy, just what we needed to fuel us for the trek ahead. The rain had subsided after we had eaten so we decided to walk down to Casco Viejo, the old town of the city. We could walk all along the seafront too to reach it. The walk was beautiful. Settlers settled in Casco Viejo in 1673, it was completed near the time of the destruction of the old Panama City, which was destroyed in 1671 when Henry Morgan set fire to it. Casco Viejo was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997.There were some quirky buildings along the route. Some you didn’t know where they started and ended. Some were fully mirrored. Some looked old, some looked new. Some had structures on top, some had structures on the side. Honestly, my neck actually ached from looking up. It was mesmerising. As was the view the further away we got.They even had awesome statues along the way. In the middle of the road, or on the path we were walking. There were designated bus lanes, designated cycle lanes, dozens of gardeners carefully tending to the grass and trees all along the seafront. This is clearly a city that takes pride in its appearance. Litter was scarce and there was more construction occurring. Vendors were told to move on by armed police on motorbikes and golf buggies. It’s the sort of city you walk round pointing out everything, jaw agape, snapping away on your camera. I loved it. We located a colourful Panama sign along with a giant phallus shaped fountain. Why on earth there was a penis shaped fountain along the seafront is beyond me. I mean, the people on the top floors of the hotels across the road would have had a fantastic view. The hardest part? Trying to get the whole thing into a photo!! It was highly amusing. Looking back along the seafront, the view of the skyline got better and better the further away we were.As you can tell, I made good use of Nathan’s phone during this exploration so I have many photos to upload. I can’t tell you how much I loved walking around this city. It wasn’t long before we reached a park, which had a UV ray indicator sign outside it. According to today, the UV rays were moderate so we should be wearing long sleeved clothes, a hat, sunglasses and factor 50 sun cream. We had none of the above. The park was home to cute little vendors selling artisan crafts and water, which we needed. The park had a kids play park, of which there had been many all along the seafront for children of various ages. You could make a full day out along the seafront with children. The park also had a fully working grass clock.Everything was so unique. And the weirdest part was that the city didn’t gradually transform from new to old, it literally changed from towering skyscrapers, to the old gothic, neoclassical style buildings in a second.This boatyard contained so many old, brown boats. Some had even sunk and remained encased in the mud. There were men restoring some of the boats too, actually fixing one and painting another. It was bizarre how all of a sudden it changed. The path had sort of wiggled all the way from the towering skyscrapers to the sunken boatyard and continued to as we rounded a corner to the Panama flag and a fountain.There was a random guy sitting on the side who clearly knew I was taking a photo so he decided to pose instead of getting out the way. He was also singing horribly that it sounded like a hundred cats getting slaughtered. I absolutely love this city. We continued walking, under a bridge which had swings hanging from it. Actual swings you could swing from too. The path rounded and went up a slight hill before we came to some colourful, gothic style buildings.We had no agenda, we were just going to walk round and see what beauties we could find. It seemed like they were still trying to restore parts of the town. There was the national theatre and a church covered in scaffolding being restored. You had modern, new looking buildings such as those above, and then you had crumbling brick ruins right next to them. It was beautiful. There were little bistros, numerous restaurants, posh hotels, sculptures and an amazing ice cream shop where we indulged in a KitKat ice lolly.There were so many to choose from but we wanted something chocolatey. It was delicious. We wandered in and out of souvenir shops as we wandered carefree through the streets of this magical place. We came to several plazas all of which were different.My favourite plaza was Plaza Bolivar. It had a beautiful church, a huge structure in the centre and cute little bistros round the side with outdoor seating and cheap beer.Plaza Bolivar goes back to afire in 1756 which destroyed all of the original houses here. It was named Bolivar Plaza in 1883 and a commemorative monument of of the 100th anniversary of Bolivar’s Amphictyonic Congress was made the centrepiece of the plaza in 1926. All the architecture of this remodelled plaza was stunning. The national theatre is also part of this plaza but was covered in scaffolding.The buildings were vibrant and ornate. I don’t know if they were planning to restore the whole town, but there was a lot of construction happening throughout it. I liked the difference between the old and new. Not only did you have the old and new, there was also the upper class section of the nice hotels and posh eats etc, and then you had the almost non-touristy part which housed locals in small, sort of tin houses, where kids hung out on the pavements. There was a very stark contrast between these two areas. It was humbling. We exited the town and began our walk back to the hostel. We had already walked seven miles, so what was another three. The clouds were rolling in but we insisted on walking. If we hadn’t walked, we wouldn’t have seen this cute little guy. I’ve never seen a raccoon before but I’ve heard they’re meant to be quite vicious. He was just chilling as we walked on by. Another example of these random structures, random to us, but they obviously mean something to someone.The walk back took a while as even though we had already seen the city, we still found ourselves in awe of these spectacular buildings. It wasn’t long before it started to rain too. It wasn’t hammering as such, but still enough to get us wet. The bad news was that my Skechers had zero grip on them so several times I almost fell flat on my arse. Thankfully, learnt my core strength stopped me falling completely. Or it may have been the walls I grabbed on to? Either way, I remained upright. It was a good job we chose to walk, despite the rain, because the traffic was insane, I swear everyone of the inhabitants of Panama City owns a car. It was gridlocked at every junction we walked past. Traffic lights only let one car through at a time, sometimes none. It would have taken a lot longer to get a taxi back that’s for sure. And why oh why do the cars, busses, taxis etc insist on honking their horns? Nobody can move anywhere at all. It was defeating. It continued right outside our hostel for the next few hours too. Horns honking outside our window. I think every hour is rush hour in Panama City. We got back to the hostel, Casa Areka, just before five. Showered and chilled out with a couple of beers whilst waiting for our laundry to be returned to us. The old couple from our dorm changed room for whatever reason, so we jumped at the chance of securing a bottom bunk. Ten miles we had walked through this fantastic city. I can’t wait to explore more of it.

Until next time…

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