Graffiti, canals and ruins

Trip Start Oct 16, 2013
Trip End Mar 09, 2013

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Where I stayed
Panamericana Hostel

Flag of Panama  ,
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 20: 5 November 2013

We slept late today... 8.30! I am surprised at how quickly I have been able to adjust to the early mornings as usually I am a night person. We grabbed some toast then headed out to explore the Casco Viejo. We saw the cathedral, the square where the independence treaty was signed, lots of churches, the palace, theatre and Plaza Francia where there was a street market. As it was still a holiday we couldn't enter a lot of the buildings but we did see some cool graffiti though.

We wanted to see Bella Vista the neighbourhood with the skyscrapers so set off down Avenida Central to the bus station. Pretty soon we were the only tourists going about and there were lots of locals selling stuff on the streets including a stall with some weird and colourful bottles of homemade medicinal cures. It took us a bit to find the right stop and buy bus passes but finally we were on the way. When we arrived it didn't take us long to realise apart from skyscrapers, banks and malls there wasn't much there. We headed to one of the malls to grab some lunch and wander around the shops. It was like being back in Spain at one point as Desigual, Stradivarius, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Zara and Mango were all in the same section! As there was a cinema decided we would watch a movie while we were there and continue sightseeing tomorrow when things were open again.

Day 21: 6 November 2013

After breakfast we headed to see if the cathedral was open today but it was still closed so we decided to go to the Panama Canal. On the way to the bus station we saw a building where the balcony had fallen down overnight onto 2 cars parked outside. This is the sad part about the old town here you have so many run down abandoned buildings as no one can afford to do them up.

As there were no direct buses we had to go via another one to get to the Miraflores locks. At the canal we visited the museum, watched a movie with some background on the canal and got to see a boat pass through the locks that used to belong to Al Capone! It was really interesting to find out more about the canal and see it in action. It was originally started by the French and took years to complete. Controlled by the US for years it was finally given back to panama in 1999. Each of the gates of the canal weighs the same as 300 elephants!

Afterwards we got a bus back into town to head to Panama Viejo. Mainly ruins now this used to be the old city centre before it was damaged by fires and earthquakes and the centre was moved to the Casco Viejo. At the end we were stopped by the Tourist Police to ask where we were going next. We told them they we were going to get the bus back into town and they said ok hop in we will take you to the next stop. Not really sure what was going on or how to say no we jumped in. They dropped us off and we waited for the bus. 2 minutes later one of them came back to say that he had been sent to take us to the next stop as apparently they had dropped off at the wrong one. We headed off again and were soon at the next stop feeling pretty bemused at this point about it all. Finally on the bus we realised we had no credit left on our passes! Someone took pity on us though and let us by some of their credit so it was all good.

We grabbed some food from the supermarket on the way back and chilled in the hostel listening to the fireworks, bands and independence rallies from our balcony. I am really happy to be heading to Ecuador tomorrow as I have had enough of this fiesta and neither of us have really warmed to Panama much.
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