Old Panama City – This is the first of three places we stayed. In Casco Antiguo we stayed in a beautiful hotel that rates as one of the top places we’ve logged. The interior, restaurant, and service were terrific. It’s in a historic building which takes most of the block. The first image in the gallery below is just the fasade left from an 17th century building. Many of the buildings in Casco Antiguo date from the late 1600s. The restaurant and other areas of the building in the hotel where we stayed is in is restored from one of the grandest buildings erected there. Many buildings are broken down and many are gutted. They’re rebuilding the old part of the city Casco Antiguo. There are a few grand hotels and venues.
When I was there briefly in 1979 we stayed in Casco Antiguo because there wasn’t a modern city. The modern city started only 25 years ago. In 1979 we stayed in a cheap, run down place near one of the Antiguo gardens. We had a rental car and Kurt scared me driving as I recall. Dad took over and things seemed to settle.
We read in Lonely Planet about one of the oldest venues for Coca Cola and walked there in an area that was pretty sketch but interesting. Around our hotel it was mostly renovated for a few blocks up to the waterfront. We toured some old churches and the waterfront area. The night life is a happening thing there in the expanding renovation of Casco Antiguo. Many restaurants and hotels have rooftop bars (and food) including our hotel.
While staying in Casco Antiquo we went on a day tour with a guide to a trail near the canal where we saw old growth trees with monkeys and other tropical wildlife. We were picked up early in the morning for the hike and then we were driven to a dock where we took a boat around the open water of the canal zone. We saw several shipping vessels, and luxury curise ships. Mostly the boat went along the shore where there were tinly islands with monkeys and tropical birds. We watched a big iguana swimming between outcroppings on the water’s edge. It seemed slow swimming. But, it would dive and swim fast underwater and show up a half meter further in seconds. We watched a bird eat a big snail with his raptor around the shell crushing it on a limb.
Driving around near the tourist area you see the poverty that is present throughout all but first world contries. Actually, you see poverty in American (first world) urban and rural aras I suppose too. It’s just not as concentrated as it is there I suppose. There are gritty people working their asses off to survive in this world.
Thirty eight to fourty ships pass through the canal in a day. It can cost $450,000 for the largest of shipping vessils to pass through. Canal revenue accounts for 2 billion annually which makes up 1/10 of the GDP. Much of the money in Panama is from banking. Lots of banks work out of Panama. They are first world in their economy but other things in Panama are more second world. Costa Rica is just north of where we were in Boquete. Between Costa Rica and Panama there are great differences between the countries I felt from our visits. It was two years ago right before covid Kristi and I went to Costa Rica. Much of the difference I felt was probably attributed to the canal more than anything. And a modern city which Costa Rica doesn’t have. The canal really shaped this isthmus. It has a deeper recorded history than other parts of the isthmus. I really know little about Costa Rica’s history. Kristi and I liked learning about it’s Costa Rica’s progressive world view. They have no military, and a misson of presrvation of their part of the isthmus. Panama has a history from conquestidors, monks and bishops, and privateers like Captain Morgan. Then there’s the canal being constructed from 1904 to 1914. Maybe that’s the biggest contrast. More to learn about in Panama. I purposfully added isthmus as many times as I could since I read it so many times in the museums and info-signs along hiking paths.
I will remember that trip fondly. It was fun to for the four of us to share the adventure. I’d be staying in dumps like we did in 1979 if I could even afford it on my own. I do appreciate everyone’s generosity. That was deluxe.
Panama Canal - Wiki Excerpt
Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519 and it lasted one hundred and fifty-two years. In January 1671, the Governor Juan Perez de Guzman had it set on fire, before the attack and looting by the pirate Henry Morgan. In 1672, Antonio Fernández de Córdoba initiated the construction of a new city, which was then founded on January 21, 1673. This city was built on a peninsula completely isolated by the sea and a defensive system of walls. Today this place preserves the first institutions and buildings of the modern city of Panama. It is known as Casco Viejo (Spanish for Old Town).
In recent years, Casco Viejo— through gentrification— has become a tourist hotspot filled with restaurants, boutique hotels, and nightclubs; while also maintaining the multiple historical sites it has to offer.
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We flew to David and drove north to Boquete in the western part of Panama. The town was interesting and the hiking was amazing. There was a strange place called El Exploridor just a short walk from our hotel on the mountainside. It is a private property owned by a woman who charges you a small fee to walk around her trails on the property and check out her signs, sculptures, and other creations she has. That’s what a couple of the pictures are from. We hiked for several hours one day and saw beautiful plants and animals in the cloud forrest. The tree Cenizo is over 1000 years old. We saw four types of monkeys in Panama including here and on our tour of the canal zone area and near the canal zone.
It’s remarkable how the skyline is really just over 20 years old. It was fun to stay in a nice highrise hotel in Panama City. We took a long walk along the waterfront and also toured the Nature center which is a large preserve bordering the city. Lots of wildlife just a cab ride from the urban center. Carmen and Perry left in the morning and Kristi and I left in the evening so Kristi and I had more timeto be tourists. So, we went to the Spanish ruins of Panama the day we flew home. The ruins and the museum were well worth it. The first few are of two terrific restaurants.