Featured photo for Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama

To regular readers of this site, it should be no secret that in general, I’m not a fan of big cities (with the possible exception of Paris). Hence, in planning my Panama trip I limited my stay in la capital to three days. If I were to do it again I probably would have stayed there even less!

The weather in Panama City is very much like that of Saigon, being hot (usually over 33 C or 90 F) and humid—and that is during dry season. I can only imagine what the humidity would be in wet season. The city hosts a lot of skyscrapers—some of which have commanding views of the ocean or canal, so the skyline is quite nice especially when viewed from the harbor of the Casco Viejo (San Felipe) area or the Flamenco Marina.

The roads have an interesting mix of vehicles. Artsy-but-antiquated buses belch out black clouds of foul-smelling smoke, but most of the other vehicles are compact Japanese or European imports. (Heh, imports… what am I saying; there are no “domestic” vehicles in Panama because as far as I know, Panama doesn’t produce any vehicles.)

Panama City is a center of wealth in the country, so spotting a BMW or Mercedes here and there is not too unusual.

Casco Viejo—one of the trendiest and historic neighborhoods in la ciudad—is pretty nice, reminding me of San Francisco’s (California) Marina district. Currently, there is renovation of many of the buildings is underway, so there’s an interesting juxtaposition of just-painted buildings by a few run-down derelicts.

Of course, when you are in Panama City you should visit the canal, which was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th and 20th centuries. I did a yacht tour on the canal, but in retrospect would have been perfectly content just taking a taxi or shuttle to the Miraflores Locks to watch the ships enter the locks, and also visit the museum there. Would have saved some $ over the yacht tour.

Regarding city life, there are lots of dining and shopping opportunities around as I guess there are in most big cities. I avoid shopping like the plague, however, so I have really nothing to comment on that.

One thing I dislike about many large cities is that there is trash everywhere. This is actually true in many small towns in Panama, too, but especially so in Panama City.

During my last couple of days in la ciudad, part of my nose was running, perhaps due to the air pollution there. It cleared up when I returned home to the clean mountain air of Fort Collins, Colorado.

If I were to do it again I would have stayed in Boquete longer.

The bus ride, sans air conditioning and filled to capacity, would not be considered luxurious by any means, but cost only 25 cents vs. $25-30 for a taxi.
Alley in San Felipe.
Courtyard in San Felipe.
Ocean by San Felipe.
Pier in San Felipe.
Instituto Nacional de Cultural in San Felipe.
French Embassy in San Felipe.
Lots of home in San Felipe had plants in plant holders on balconies.
The Albrook bus terminal was huge and modern and had its own mall.
With displays like these all over the city and cheap clothing prices, Panama City is a good place for window shopping.
Buildings in the Bella Vista area of Panama City.
City buses (probably from the 1970s) at first look pretty ghetto, but I'm sure the city prefers to call them "rolling art pieces."
The road to the Marino de Flamenco.
The area of San Felipe (a.k.a. Casco Viejo) has many restored historic buildings such as these.
Restored building next to an unrestored one in San Felipe.
Church in San Felipe.
First item on the agenda was finding a bus to Panama City from Tocumen.  Turns out the bus stops were just off of the airport premises by this Samsung sign.