Sunday, May 17, 2015

Panamá City, what to make of you?

I warmed to Panamá City but I still didn't completely love it.

In addition to the beautiful landscapes, crazy partying and unfortunate bouts of food poisoning, one thing that I particularly remember about my gap year travelling in Central America is the fact that cities generally range from a rather mediocre meh to a full on fastest escape route needed.

The only exceptions to the rule were Leon and Granada in Nicaragua, which I absolutely loved, adored and cherished.

I had already been to Panamá City before, albeit for one disastrous day just before getting my flight back to Blighty when I was young(er) and (more) naive and stupid(er) and I had discovered I had no money in my bank.

I was very lucky to have a lovely, although very evangelical Christian lady called Damaris take pity on me and let me sleep on her floor.

It didn't leave the best first impression, although it just goes to show the good in people, especially when the idiot backpacker probably deserved sleep on the streets that night.

One of Panamá's main beers is Balboa

So when I finally touched ground in Panamá City this time round after an amazing, incredible and unforgettable 4 days in the so-gorgeous-you-forever-be-spoilt-afterwards San Blas Islands, other than getting back in touch with civilisation, having running water and showers and wi-fi (sad but true) along with other mod cons and meeting up with my Korean friend Lucas, I wasn't particularly bothered, nor had any intentions of properly exploring the city.

I was so unbothered, it was bordering on ignorant and as per, I had got myself a typical case of post-trip blues, which was thanks to me being knackered, stressed out due to the impending mountain of work and feeling very sorry for myself because I was hungover.

I was moping around, being a little pathetic and I just needed to pull myself together.

So after encountering some less than warm and welcoming Panamanian taxi drivers, who guilt-tripped me into paying more, despite friends and the lovely staff at Kame House Hostel telling me otherwise, I was 'done' with Panamá City.

I mean, if you don't gamble, aren't really bothered about the canal, what is there to do?

I'm glad after venturing off to Bocas del Toro, I gave it another chance, because I found myself warming to the city.

Clearly, all I needed was some beach relaxation (because that was clearly in short supply in the San Blas Islands) a bit of rest and a disastrous but fun surf lesson and I was ready to give Panamá City a second crack of the whip.

First off, there were of course, the people. Being able to crash at Lucas' house and meet all of his lovely and interesting friends made me pining for a friendship circle like that in Medellín. Don't get me wrong, I have friends here but they're scattered about, all belonging to different friendship groups so I've not managed to have my own, yet,

With my second Panamá City round kicking off with a night out in Casco Viejo, hanging outside called Mojitos sin Mojitos I started questioning my initial indifference to the city.

Casco Viejo has some gorgeous architecture in la ciudad de Panamá
The beauty was in the detail in Casco Viejo
Panama's flag flying proudly in Casco Viejo, Panamá City.
Just one example of the beautiful colonial architecture in Casco Viejo in Panamá

It still wasn't love, especially as I constantly compared it to Medellín, which we all know is a bad move as COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY PEOPLE, but I found myself being more than a little bit nostalgic when I had to leave and go back to Colombia.

Particularly as I rounded off the trip fully exploring Casco Viejo in the daytime, which is just gorgeous and rightly, the number one tourist destination in Panamá City.

I was also surprised to find a little bit of  street art going, which is always a sure-fire way to get my good books.

Panamá city street art
"I'm a panther not a princess." Gan on lass.

Panamá City street art
"What's sweeter than honey? Dreaming."

Panamá City Street Art
Panamá City street art

I simply got lost, had a little bit of a mish and stopped every now and then and looked up, because the beauty really is in the detail in Casco Viejo. 

My change in tune even had me considering if I could live in Panamá City. But I think it is a little bit too Americanised for me. If I'm in Latin America, I want to feel like I'm there and as stupid and no doubt pretentious as it sounds, there were too many gringo comforts there for my liking.

But, Panamá City, we've got unfinished business and I'm pretty sure I'll be making a return sometime soon.

Have you been to Panamá City? Where in the world have you had mixed feelings about?


  1. It looks really gorgeous actually (Street art is always a sure fire way to win my heart too). I've always wanted to visit Panama City. I don't blame you for going into it with less-than-stellar feelings at first though.

    I couldn't list all the places I've had mixed feelings for. I hated Mexico City when I first moved there but ended up absolutely loving it. I hated Korea when I first moved here but I'm actually really liking it now. When I first went to NYC I loved it and couldn't get enough of it. The second time I went, I found it a bit meh. :/

    I guess it all comes down to who you have around you at the time. :)

  2. It is very likely that you will observe many Americans elements, the areas visited. If you have another chance I would recomedarle some emerging areas of our culture.


    Josueth Emilio Acevedo

  3. Hi Josueth, Yes, I did mostly stick to the more touristy bits so American influences are going to be present. No doubt I'll be back sometime in the future, so I'll explore some more then!

  4. Yes, that's so true, it's all about who you're with and who you meet! Sometimes first impressions are misleading but they're often hard to shake off - I had a poor first impression of Paris but I'm slowly growing to love it more every time I go.