The Caribbean to Panama

My return to the real world took place in Panama City.  Coming from the simple, import-deprived Caribbean Panama City, the banking capital and cosmopolitan center of Central America, was quite a shock.  In fact many people equate Panama City to Miami, except that there is a lot more English Spoken in Panama City.  Billboards, fast food joints, street violence (I saw a full on fight my first day), casinos, and swanky discos, all made me a bit queezy, and two days there was more than enough.
Fortunately, I stayed in the most interesting part of the city, Casco Viejo.  As a UN heritage site, it is the old city center.  Once dilapidated and poor, it is now gentrified and quite up-scale.  It is a barrio of striking contrasts.  In just a few city blocks, you can walk your way from a 250 dollar hotel room to a dilapidated 400-year-old church, and then encounter the poorest, most makeshift house in Panama.  With so many crumbling ruins, a friend and I joked that it was a good thing that Panama didn’t have many earthquakes.  However ignorance served to punish us and that night we awoke in our dorm room to a magnitude 6.0!  My first ever tremor and quite the experience!
After a visit to the impressive Gatun Locks, the biggest locks of the Panama Canal, it was time to travel to Bocas and learn how to Scuba Dive.
The Panama City Skyline From Casco Viejo

The Panama City Skyline From Casco Viejo

My return to the real world took place in Panama City.  Coming from the simple, import-deprived Caribbean Panama City, the banking capital and cosmopolitan center of Central America, was quite a shock.  In fact many people equate Panama City to Miami, except that there is a lot more English Spoken in Panama City.  Billboards, fast food joints, street violence (I saw a full on fight my first day), casinos, and swanky discos, all made me a bit queezy, and two days there was more than enough.

The ruins of Casco Viejo

The ruins of Casco Viejo

Fortunately, I stayed in the most interesting part of the city, Casco Viejo.  As a UN heritage site, it is the old city center.  Once dilapidated and poor, it is now gentrified and quite up-scale.  It is a barrio of striking contrasts.  In just a few city blocks, you can walk your way from a 250 dollar hotel room to a dilapidated 400-year-old church, and then encounter the poorest, most makeshift house in Panama.  With so many crumbling ruins, a friend and I joked that it was a good thing that Panama didn’t have many earthquakes.  However ignorance served to punish us and that night we awoke in our dorm room to a magnitude 6.0!  My first ever tremor and quite the experience!

After a visit to the impressive Gatun Locks, the biggest locks of the Panama Canal, it was time to travel to Bocas and learn how to Scuba Dive.

Two vessels going through the Gatun Locks.  The one on the left paid $260,000 for its one day passage through the Panama Canal.  The channel in the distance opens up to the Caribbean Sea.

Two vessels going through the Gatun Locks. The one on the left paid $260,000 for its one day passage through the Panama Canal. The channel in the distance opens up to the Caribbean Sea.

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