The big smoke!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Pension Corona

Flag of Panama  ,
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We have been in Panama City for nearly a week, and although we have enjoyed our time here, we are more than ready to leave. We are not really city people and after all the quiet, out-of-the-way places we have been over the last couple of months, it is a hectic, noisy, sensory overload. There is a big disparity between rich and poor with glitzy skyscrapers and malls full of the latest Gucci whatevers sitting next to grubby barrios. (tenement buildings)

The taxi drivers here are complete nutters.They weave in and out of the traffic at high speed, constantly beeping their horns. In our time here we have had nearly two collisions and every time we get out of a cab we breathe a sigh of relief. The cabs are usually really beaten up with torn upholstery and one even had a shattered windscreen! In the last couple of days we have decided not to risk our lives anymore so have been getting around on foot. This is fine except it means walking along busy roads and getting blasted by traffic fumes. The buses in the city are called Diablos Rojos (Red Devils). They are old US school buses, imported here after the US deemed them unroadworthy! They are painted in bright colours, are really noisy and belch out clouds of black smoke as they race along.

It's not all noise and pollution though and we have been to some nice places:

Miraflores Lock on the Panama Canal: here we spent my birthday in the restaurant overlooking the lock watching the huge ships pass just a few metres away.
Parque Natural Metropolitan: a large park bordering the north of the city, a green refuge from the smog!
Casco Viejo: the old town with beautiful colonial buildings that are in the process of being restored to their former glory.
Isla Taboga: a pretty island 17kms offshore which is an important refuge for birds.
Amador Causeway: a nice place for a stroll, the causeway stretches out a few kilometres into the Pacific.

Another highlight of our time here was my birthday meal (in addition to the meal at the lock!) at Fusion, a swish restaurant in the Radisson Decapolis hotel. The food was absolutely amazing! The rest of the time we have been saving the pennies by staying in the el cheapo Pension Corona and by eating at a veggie Chinese restaurant which does delicious food for a few dollars per person.

We leave very early tomorrow morning for our flight to Quito, unfortunately going via Miami! We have pre-arranged a taxi to the airport with the one decent taxi driver we have found here, a nice young Christian chap who drives sensibly!

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