November 09, 2003

Panama City, Panama

I've been surprised and impressed by Panama City. I expected to find a typical Central American capital stripped of identity by the canal and the US occupation here. What I've found is one of my favorite cities so far. Panama city is cosmopolitan, but still very Latin American. Modern skyscrapers share the city with colonial buildings. This, I think, is what Miami looked like forty years ago. The city is particularly fun to be in right now because the this week marks the 100th anniversary of Panama's independence from Colombia - a touchy issue between the two countries to this day. Flags and patriotic parties are everywhere.

My biggest reason for coming here was the Panama Canal. They dug through a continent! I just had to see it. I loved it!

Unfortunately, Panama City has earned itself a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the Americas. In other cities labeled "dangerous", I've taken the warnings with a big grain of salt and changed nothing in my plans. The tourists who are victimized in these reports are usually doing something dumb to invite trouble. I see them all the time; the older couple walking around with expensive cameras, or the young travelers flipping through wads of cash to find that 100 peso coin in order to pay the street vendor. It's not terribly difficult to see why they become statistics.

It's different here. You don't need to go looking for trouble, it seems quite capable of happining on its own - especially traveling alone. I haven't changed my plans at all, but I've taken precautions here I haven't elsewhere. I usually go out with only a photocopy of my passport, $20 in an inside pocket (US currency is the official currency here, and $20 goes a long way), and a few singles sundries, or if necessary, to give to muggers. Apparently they get quite cranky if you have nothing to be robbed of.

I have not been carrying a camera in the city. All pics I'll post are of areas outside of the core.

Still, these are just precautions. I like the city very much.

Posted by dhuska at November 9, 2003 06:21 PM