Panama

A canal, banks and a few scandals. Panama is not known as a travel destination, yet there is a little more to see there than you might think

 

Between Atlantic and Pacific, Panama stands like a border. This natural barrier is known for its canal, which has made the country’s fortunes. Panama is known for its banks, which are reputed to be the washing machines for dubious money from all over the world. Since the Panama-papers affair, the country’s reputation has suffered seriously. It is therefore necessary to explore Panama by looking at what it has of more beautiful: craftsmen, indigenous peoples, a turquoise sea strewn with confetti islands with white sand and a wild nature.

Hola, mi nombre es Christine, soy francesa, ¡feliz de conocerte! Hi Panama!

 

Panama City is seldom a travel destination, but rather a stopover in the city

 
It only takes a few hours to understand Panama City. The city seems to be cut in two parts: on one side are the buildings, standing on the sea, on the other are the so-called historic dwellings. The colonial buildings have a crazy charm, but many of them have only the facade as a solid part. Behind, everything is collapsed, invaded by vegetation. For new buildings, they are also sometimes completely empty also. The city has made a big effort to make its capital more pleasant and the results are encouraging. However, the city remains expensive for a nomadic trip, the adventurers will not linger there for long.
 
Walking in Panama City is good, as long as you don’t cross the security perimeter.
The cultural mix of the country is interesting but not very easy to explore. In the lower town, I was stopped (in a very charming way) by policemen on their bikes who asked me not to stay in these “too dangerous” areas. They kindly but firmly escorted me back to the tourist center. Twice (I am stubborn). Same for going on the promenade in the evening. This innocent outing was strongly discouraged by scabrous stories that happened to unwary tourists.
But Panama City can also be visited during the day. The fish market opens its doors to gourmets to test the ceviche and the handicraft market overflows with magnificent crafts.
 

Kuné women’s molas: a rare beauty of Panama’s handicrafts

 
It is rare to see such precision, such harmony. The molas are typical handcrafted works of Panama. In other countries, they would be called patchworks. Here they have a special meaning because they adorn the dresses of Kuné women. This ethnic group is particular to Guya Lana. Until these creations became a tourist product, they were reserved for private use. Each family had its own style, a bit like Scottish tartans. If there’s one thing to bring back from Panama, it’s a mola. 
We can recall in passing that the famous panama, the hat, comes from Ecuador. That’s where it’s made. This elegant headgear is Panamanian in name only. It was so named during the construction of the canal, it was the hat of the workers.
 

Panamanian craftsmen are experts in making everyday objects of great strength and beauty
 

Basketry is a must in Panama, even if you don’t want to buy it, you have to admire the finesse, the aesthetic and the technicality of the weave. The natives create objects and various containers from plant fibers (chunga and nahuala) of palm tree. These creations are of great beauty. A lot of know-how and time are required for Embera-Wounaan basketry. It is sometimes heartbreaking to see tourists negotiating prices.
The jewellery and pearl ornaments are just as magnificent, the traveller will surely find a small place in his bag to take some back home.
 

Panama is much more nature than buildings, the trip to Panama does not stop at Panama City and its canal, the country also has a beautiful nature

 
The trip to Panama does not stop at Panama City and its canal.
It’s also a superb volcano (guaranteed aches and pains), wild forests and a coastline renowned for parties and cocktails. Tourists rub shoulders with adventurers who rest respectively in palm tree huts or in luxury hotels.
 
Panama has not one pearl but a whole necklace: the Caribbean islands of the San Blas.
It doesn’t take long to find all the beauty in the world. The San Blas are an archipelago of islands, sometimes tiny, that dot the Caribbean Sea. They are the most perfect representation of paradise as imagined by tourists: immaculate white sand, turquoise waters, palm trees and the sky all around.
Excursions to the islands are very popular, and the best way to do so is to meet the Kunas, the indigenous people who fight with unequal weapons to keep their identity.
 

Panama has not one pearl but a whole necklace: the Caribbean islands of the San Blas will be the gems of this travel

 
It doesn’t take long to find all the beauty in the world. The San Blas are an archipelago of islands, sometimes tiny, that dot the Caribbean Sea. They are the most perfect representation of paradise as imagined by tourists: immaculate white sand, turquoise waters, palm trees and the sky all around.
Excursions to the islands are very popular, and the best way to do so is to meet the Kunas, the indigenous people who fight with unequal weapons to keep their identity.
 

The isthmus of Panama is also popular for its jungle and tropical forest

 
Mosquito-friendly adventurer, welcome to the jungle, the terrrrrrible jungle, of Panama. No really dangerous bugs with teeth and claws, no worry. Apart from the small but annoying bloodsuckers, we will see above all beautiful waterfalls of pure water where you can refresh yourself from the tropical humidity. The paths are carved by Tarzan and Indiana Jones so the adventurer will certainly be delighted. Beware of diseases anyway: insect repellent, sleeves and long pants are required.
 

Panama has many facets, it would take a long time to discover all of them

 
In Panama, the number of banks is as high as the San Blas Islands. The urban jungle is as dense as the rainforest, the inhabitants are different: from finance sharks in costume to the Kunas natives, guardians of their fabulous culture. Fishermen’s boats cross the road of the super tankers, the American Cordillera forms two distinct regions, almost cut with a knife. In Panama, fortune and misery, deep culture and hamburgers, wilderness and galloping urbanization mix up in a hectic travel. A country of contrasts therefore, which makes its exploration exciting despite its superficiality. 
 

Gracias, adiós, hasta pronto!

Panama

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Next travel: let's discover Nicaragua!

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