MESSAGE Panama City *Video*

Panama City is the largest city in the country with a population of 880,000 (more than 1.2 million if surrounding areas are included) and its located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal.

I have to say, I genuinely like this town! (Me gusta!) As the locals say, it’s “just like Miami, but we speak more English.” Ha!

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Amador Causeway. The Causeway links three small islands: Islas Naos, Perico, and Flamenco. Panamanians and tourists alike flock to the causeway, walking and riding bikes, and generally enjoying the spectacular views of the Panama City metropolis. And who’s to stop us from having a limonada at the marina too?!

EAT (Tasty Eats) –Coypu. I call it a nutria, but here in Central America, this giant river rat is called a coypu. A cross between a beaver and a rat, the semi-aquatic coypu can weigh as much as 20 lbs. (9 kgs). It has dark brown fur and webbed hind feet. It looks kind of cute. And supposedly tastes even better! Because the animal hasn’t any “musk” glands, its meat doesn’t have the gamy taste of rabbits and squirrels. Bonus!

SEE (Must-see Sights) – Panama Canal! I was a little overwhelmed during my trip to the canal – I guess I never thought I’d see it in person and I was thrilled to be here. I went to the Miraflores Locks, which has viewing stands, a theater and museum exhibitions.

I thought it was well done and easily spent 2 hours learning about the history of the canal and watching ships enter the locks. (I saw two: a cruise ship and a container ship.) Want more Panama Canal info? Read the post: My Trans-Atlantic Crossing.

SHOP (Gotta Have) – Molas. Molas are brightly colored squares of cotton fabric sewn together. The textiles feature landscape scenes, birds, sea turtles or fish stitched in intricate abstract designs. The maze-like molas are Panama’s most famous traditional handicraft with prices varying from $10 to hundreds depending on quality. A fun (and easy to carry) home accessory to remind you of your trip!

ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Visit Panama Viejo. Founded in 1519, Panama Viejo is the oldest Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Weirdly, on the afternoon I visited, I was the only one at the site, wandering around in the sweltering heat. (I was there in the heat of the day…) A climb to the top of the one remaining tower offered an expansive view of the Panama City skyline.

Want to take a look? Here’s a bit more on the history of the site:

Can’t see the video? Clink on this link:

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Retirement Real Estate. I’m a fan of Panama City and one of the things I love is the juxtaposition of old and new that abounds here. For instance, while visiting the 16th century relics of Panama Viejo, skyscrapers can be clearly seen in the distance. And old fishing boats are bobbing in the waters fronting the very modern downtown.

And it appears I’m not the only one who likes Panama. With a GDP of $11,700 a year, Panama is among the top 5 places to retire in the world.

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Riding a Diablo Rosso. At just .25 cents a ride, riding a “Red Devil” is one of the cheapest forms of bone-chilling entertainment anywhere! Panama’s privately owned conveyances are converted school buses, painted with bright (often garish) colors and festooned with the names of the driver’s girlfriend / wife / daughters / mother.

It’s equally festive inside the bus with an explosion of mirrors and streamers, and metallic-flowered decals! It’s fun way to see the city. Just hold on tight!

Ever been to Panama City? What do you think?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 and is filed under Messages by Country, South America.

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