Travel Diaries: Panama

Hola, everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet these past months- comes with being a busy working women/adult. However, I’m back with some travel stories from one of my most recent trips to Panama!

My boyfriend and I arrived on a very hot Wednesday. After getting ready, we headed to El mercado del marsico (seafood market) for some fresh Ceviche. I was not a huge fan of Ceviche, but there was a clear before and after in Panama. In this seafood market located nearby the Casco Viejo, one can find the most recently-caught fish and have it for a meal at a really good price.

After stuffing our bellies with ceviche, patacones, and fish, we headed to Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City. The city conserves its Spanish colonial architecture, making our stroll a visual pleasure. We were lucky to have friends as our tour guides to walk us through some of the country’s history and culture.

I had a similar experience in the Casco Viejo as I did in Cartagena, Colombia where I was caught-back on how much it reminded me of Old San Juan. And that’s the beauty of being from Latin America; we all have our distinct cultures but we’re joined through the links in our history. Being able to have witnessed this is Panama was fulfilling, so much that I coined the phrase América Latina es una. 

We were back to Casco Viejo during the night for some rooftop fun with friends.

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On our second day, we visited one of the main locks of Panama’s canal system. The canal itself underwent an expansion that concluded in 2016. Although we couldn’t see a ship go through, we did learn a lot on the making and expansion of the canal as well as the impact it’s had on the Panamanian economy and society.

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After heading back to the city and replenishing ourselves with some fresh fish and coconut-flavored rice, we toured the Biodiversity Museum where we learned about Panama’s ecosystems and the organisms that live in them. We also gained a lot of knowledge on Panama’s history, dating back to the first inhabitants to the current mix in population.

Fun Fact: This museum was designed by the well-known architect, Frank Gehry. After marrying a Panamanian women, he decided to donate his talents for the creation of the museum, which is the first of Gehry’s designs in Latin America.

The third day was filled with a road trip to Portobelo, a port city established during the Spanish colonial days. If you want to get a real feel of the sub-cultures in Panama, definitely go to Portobelo. It still conserves much of the African traditions and influences that were introduced in Panama and Latin America by those people brought in from Africa during the Spanish rule.

There, we visited the Church of San Felipe, which holds El Cristo Negro or The Black Christ. The statue is made heavy wood of dark brown color. Legend has it the statue was carved in Spain and was brought on a ship that made a pit stop in Portobelo. They say that when those on the expedition tried mounting the statue back on the ship, it weighed too much more than it did before. The statue found its way of staying in Portobelo somehow. 

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Of course, we didn’t leave Portobelo without grabbing some raspados for the road.

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On the following day, we left at the crack of dawn to visit the islands of San Blas. The road to the way there can be a bit rough- I was very car sick during the last half. Nevertheless, the serene beach and marine life is well worth it. We even saw some dolphins!

The San Blas islands are protected and inhabited by the Kuna Indians, which is one of the tribes present in Panama. We had one of the Kuna Indians as our tour guide for the day, taking us along the various islands within San Blas. Moreover, we had a relaxing lunch by the beach where we ate some tasty fish with coconut rice. (Coconut-flavored rice is a thing in Panama and before you say anything, it’s delicious and should be a thing everywhere!)

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For our final day, we toured the beautiful Casco Viejo one more time before heading back into the real world.

Panama is intrinsically a special place given mostly all of my great friends from college were, in fact, from Panama. I was actually supposed to make this trip last year in 2016 some time after graduation, but I ended up postponing it to this year, which made it all the more special. Being able to see friends I hadn’t seen in a year and seeing their country from their lenses was an amazing experience.

All in all, Panama is a country with so much to explore; from its beaches to its biodiversity, there’s a little bit of everything to suit anyone’s travels. I’ll definitely be coming back to go to Bocas del Toro and Gamboa for sure. Not to mention, the food is amazing and good for your pocket; the fish is fresh, the flavored rice is amazing, and the arepas are to die for!!! I can’t wait to be back ❤

I can’t end this post without giving a HUGE thank you to the Girlando family for hosting us and making us feel at home!!! Ale, gracias por ser tremendo guia. Te quiero! We also greatly appreciate all of my friends who took the time to meet us and/or tour us around- Ruth, Dorianne, David, Gabriela, Minty, Marifer, and Daniela. Un abrazote a todos!!!

Well, that’s a wrap for now! More Travel Diaries will sure to come in 2018. In the meantime, I’m hoping to publish some other stuff soon. As always, stay tuned.

 

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