A Travellerspoint blog

Panama – Not Just a Tax Haven

sunny 30 °C

When British privateer Captain Henry Morgan destroyed the original Spanish city of Panama in 1671, the survivors abandoned the ruins and built a new city in a more defensible place at the estuary of the Chagres River. This is now the place where the Panama Canal meets the Pacific Ocean and from our hotel on its bank we watch the ships entering and leaving the canal...
We are visiting Panama for one reason – to travel on the Panama Canal. However, some of our fellow travellers may have other, more sinister, motives for coming here. We were surprised leaving Cancun airport when our bags were searched for foreign currency. Then, on arrival, the singular preoccupation of the Panamanian customs seemed to be how much cash we had.

Then we remembered that Panama got a bad rap in 2015 when it was revealed that it held 214,488 shell companies for some fairly dodgy foreigners who, presumably, turned up with suitcases of loot. Ah. If only we had that kind of money! The other reason that the city of Panama, and our hotel, is packed with visitors at present is that the Pope is coming on January 26th and there are thousands of his acolytes already laying the groundwork. We wondered if the upcoming visit was the reason that teams of young people were clearing garbage off the beach...
Panama's old city has a lot of garbage in certain areas and great strides are being made to tidy the place up. However, the new city, financed largely by foreign investors, is a skyline of gleaming spires and adventurous architecture rivalling Vancouver...
....Down at street level it is not such a pretty picture. There are squalid tenements and shanties redolent of many third world countries and there are whole areas where we would not venture. But the buildings in the centre of the old city, Casco Viejo, are undergoing a major facelift. This is the Catedral Metropolitana on the central plaza...
While this is one of the many partly restored surrounding streets that are reminiscent of Old Havana...
There are also a number of preserved historic sites like the ruins of the 1678 Convent of Santo Domingo...
The market in the central Plaza Catedral is the place that all tourists are expected to buy a Panama hat...
But we know from our travels that all true Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador.
One handmade product that is a speciality in Panama is an intricate form of quilting called mola. Many indigenous women from the San Blas Islands off the east coast sell this unique form of reverse applique in the market and wear beautiful clothes made from the same colourful cloths.
While this artist was painstakingly painting beautiful headgear. We wonder who will be lucky enough to get this one!
We've booked our passage through the Panama Canal and will be back in a couple of days with tales of this manmade wonder of the world. Hasta luego.

Posted by Hawkson 17:16 Archived in Panama

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Beautiful looking women and gorgeous clothing. Fascinating architecture. Nothing like a visit from the Pope to clean things up. Too bad it is not done for the people who live there.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Finally able to follow your blog again after eye surgery in Victoria. Curious to know what those white bowling ball-like things are on that restored street.
Answer - very effective anti-parking signs that cannot be ignored. Quite common in many cities around the world where drivers tend to flout the traffic laws.

by R and B

Can’t wait for your blog on the Panama Canal.

by Christine Lloyd

Surprising modern skyline. What an interesting mix of architectural styles. Makes me wonder about the economics of how cities develop in historic periods.

by Tom Whalley

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