A modern metropolitan city and home to the Panama Canal, our first impression of Panama City was something along the lines of – are we in the United States? When the US took over construction of the Canal their influence spread throughout the country, mainly in Panama City. They financed and built schools, shopping malls, entertainment centres, baseball diamonds, and a water treatment centre – everything that all of the American workers shipped to Panama would need to feel closer to home. In many senses, Panama City was made in America, or at least by America.
You can’t walk one block without seeing a new high rise being constructed and the methods used are some of the most Westernized we have seen yet on our travels. The grocery store shelves made our mouths drop – everything was imported brands and looked incredibly familiar, they even sold Clamato juice. Across the street from where we were staying there was a massive wine store – something we didn’t see once in South America. To some extend, we should have expected the huge increase in imported products given our proximity to the Panama Canal and it’s huge roll in international trade, we had just been travelling South America for so long.
Our first night in the city we went out as the sun was setting to walk along the boardwalk at night and try and get one of the classic Panama City night shots. Walking along the boardwalk towards the old city, everything felt very modern and un-Latin American. We heard almost as much English as Spanish, likely due to the high number of both expats and tourists.
Our first activity in Panama was to visit the famous Panama Canal (separate blog post). Next on our list was to stroll through the streets of Casco Viejo (Spanish for Old Quarter). The entire area is undergoing massive renovations with huge restoration efforts (enforced by the government) in place to keep the historic feeling in the area. The area is, of course, quite touristy, but nothing like Cusco or other South American towns where locals are yelling and grabbing at you to come into their shop and buy something. The newly restored buildings were beautiful and a stark contrast to the old and falling apart buildings next to them. In five to ten years the area will likely be completely restored and stunning to walk through.
For more photos of Panama City check out our Flickr album here.