Thursday, 10 April 2008

Metropolis, Canal and attempted robbery

My first day in Panama city had it all, a skyline to match many great cities, a canal which is one of the worlds recent architectural marvels and an encounter with a local who fancied a new camera for himself.
The city itself is unlike any other Central American capital, with high rises towering over the beaches making it reminiscent of Miami, but with more English spoken (according to the book) . It's also got some really brightly painted public buses (mostly old US school buses) that whiz around at pretty breakneck speed.

Apart from the growing number of glitzy modern buildings (there are more cranes around than anywhere else I've been) there is also Casco Viejo, the older part of the city, left in a state of disrepair, but now the focus of a big urban renewal program. It's a nice place to wander around, with pretty colonial buildings and some good restaurants and bars. But not too far away the city deteriorates, as we found out while trying to shoot some of the more colourful buses in a less salubrious spot. A local kid tried to help himself to one of the guys cameras, but couldn't quite manage to get it out of his pocket.
Maybe best stick to the tourist spots.

The canal itself was actually pretty interesting. We timed it so as to see a couple of fairly big ships pass through (otherwise I guess it would have been a little dull). There was a lot of info and displays on the canal, both historical and on the current expansion plans, and you even got to pretend to navigate a ship through. I hadn't realised that 20000 French had died in an earlier attempt to build the canal, before the US showed them how. The ship shown paid $120,000 to go through, so it just shows the effect the canal has on the economy, and how big a deal the handover back from the US at the end of 1999 was.

But all this western culture was taking its toll, so I headed via an extremely bumpy and fun 4WD track and a short boat trip to the islands of San Blas. These are administered autonomously by the Kuna, and they certainly have got some beautiful islands to call home. The first couple of nights I spent with the locals, which was a real highlight, playing football and learning Spanish with the kids. Although they live in pretty confined areas, the camaraderie between the families is evident and everyone seems really happy.

And it's a lot less touristy than one might imagine. Most of the 400 plus islands are uninhabited, and it's on these we spent most of our days, swimming snorkelling and eating on paradise beaches. I think if this were any other country, San Blas would be famous the world over, but Panama doesn't really do tourism. Which is all the better, IMHO.


seanmullins said...

Not a single coment again :(
I dont know why I bother!

Anonymous said...

Hi Seany, I may not send you a comment but it doesn't mean I don't read your blog so please don't give up because the updates are fab..

Take care

Min xx

michael said...

Hi seanie
mary said she is racked with guilt that she hasnt responded before thi. we still love u and so does joey!!!!!
weather ok here just a bit windy. all ok in bp. by the way you got ur pictures published in the sylvinian mag. Eabha is thrilled!
take care
m&m and Joey (who is sitting at my feet)

Triple D said...

I could post my usual abuse but I know that you're getting tired of that routine!

Anonymous said...

Saw your hissy fit. Sorry we are not commenting. Hr is asking how is Dora. The bed in the big purple bedroom is still called Sean's bed since Christmas. AHHHHHHHH
P & H & H

seanmullins said...

sorry was in a bit of a mood that day! Dora is fine. Which pic from Eabha?

Anonymous said...

Hey Sean,

We read every word you write, but as you know we are complete simpletons and took me an hour to figure out how to post a comment!!

Mandy, Eddie & Ally

Anonymous said...

update your blog!!!

Min x