Saturday, May 04, 2013

Strolling through two old Panama Cities

After my trek to the edge of the Darien, I returned to Panama City to relax. This is what I saw.

First up, Panama Viejo (Old Panama). This is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific. It was founded in 1519. For us West Coasters, where any structure from the 19th century is ancient, Panama Viejo is downright Methuselan (Is that a word?).

The museum was closed due to remodeling, so I just walked around the "town". Everything is well-marked, but annoyingly, a busy roadway cuts right through it.

The centerpiece of Panama Viejo is this tower, which I climbed.

In 1671, Captain Morgan raided and razed the settlement.

View from inside the tower. Modern Panama City is nicknamed the Dubai of Latin America. It has a lot of skyscrapers.

After my short walk, I came across this archaeological dig. I stood faraway, with a look that said: "Invite me over, explain what you are doing, and hand me a brush!" It didn't work.

I took a taxi across town to Casco Viejo. This is the second version of Panama City, which was built in 1673, after the sacking of Panama Viejo. The cab driver used to be a farmer from western Panama. He still dressed like one. We talked about Noriega and the economy. His daughter (or girlfriend) sat quietly in the front passenger seat, eating ice cream.

Even though it was only 10:30, it was already in the 90s. My camera phone had been in my pants and the lens was fogged up due to the humidity. I had to wipe it before I took this picture of the fishing dock. Behind me were the fish market, a bunch of outdoor eateries, and an indoor restaurant.

I walked around the narrow streets of Casco Viejo. I've never been to Havana, but I imagine it's very much like Casco. Everything is old and soaked in centuries of humidity.

The national theater was hosting an international film festival. This Mini Paceman, which I had never even heard of before, was featured out front.

The presidential palace was nearby and cordoned off by alert and conscientious guards. I tried to walk through the grounds, pretending like I was a tourist who didn't realize I was in a prohibited area. It didn't work. I saw this cool Peugeot a few blocks away. I think "CD" stands for diplomatic car. Is that right, Viva Chile?

It's noon, and I walked back to the fish market. This is the view of the Panama City III skyline from Casco Viejo (Panama City II).

The indoor restaurant next to the fish market was lauded by everyone, so I had to check it out. I'm not a big fan of ceviche, but this mixed ceviche was tasty, especially when it's washed down with a bottle or two of ice cold but weak local beer.

Everyone also told me that if I'm ever in Panama City, I should try the corvina, a type of trout. I followed my ceviche appetizer with this deep fried fish, cooked whole. It had an overwhelming smell initially, but was otherwise great. It didn't have a lot of meat.

What I should have gotten was the seafood stew. All the locals were coming in during their lunch break and consuming large bowls of the stuff.

After my big meal, I headed to the Miraflores Locks. The Panama Canal is next.


Ripituc said...

Almost. CD is "Cuerpo Diplomático", or in the old language of diplomacy, "corps diplomatique". So yes, this has to be a diplomat's car.

What did the farmer-turned-taxi driver say about Noriega?

Maxichamp said...

@Ripituc: He said there are more opportunities to make money now, but it takes a lot of hard work. He did not like Noriega.