Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Sights of Panama City

Panama City can be best described as ‘The Miami of the South’ with a vibrant nightlife scene. 

There is a tremendous financial & banking district (hide your moolah offshore here!) with the Panama Canal being the cities main source of income. They charge passing ships (those 800' jobbers) around half a million dollars for their canal passage. Wowza.

There aren't enough superlatives to describe just how awesome the sight of all these boats cueing up for their canal journey truly is. 

It's totally unbelievable just how much paperwork it takes to cruise the Panama Canal. You'd think you were giving someone your first born. Luckily, there are wonderful agents we hired to handle it for us. Otherwise..We'd go nuts!

Yet another "official" prepping some paperwork for our canal passage next weekend. 

This is Tina our super sassy official canal "agent" that we hired to handle all of our paperwork and necessary tasks needed to complete prior to cueing up at the base of the canal. 

She a total character and we enjoyed hearing a good 2 hours of her life story over lunch. This was a lunch where we were the only ones that ate and she sat down only to join us for a 5 minute chat...
or so we thought. 
She also mentioned that her ovaries were as big as any mans cajones. Ha-ha!
She's been super helpful organizing everything, especially our rental of old tires (needed for the sides of our boat as we go through the locks) as well as extra long lines. (that's "rope" for you non-boaters) We also have to hire a "pilot" who will assist Brad in navigating the locks, along with an extra deck hand. These guys will be on our boat for an entire day (hopefully not overnight, but we are prepared nonetheless). We had to sign a contract promising to feed them and give them access to the baños. 
No problemo.

Holiday nativity scenes were everywhere.
This is one part of town that we won't be cruising around...we were told to stay away as it's dangerous  with guns & drugs. No need to tell me twice!

Downtown Panama City.
Fantastic architecture around the city. This BBA bank building was our fave!

We spent a lot of time working on the boat this last trip...readying for our canal passage as well as lots of grocery shopping. This is our last city to stock up in until we arrive in Belize at the end of January or early February. A provisioning we must go!
Great produce to select from...thank goodness!
The grocery brigade! We pulled up to the shipyard in the marina so that the dock boys could put our groceries in their panga boat and deliver them to our vessel. These guys were Johnny on-the-spot!
Loading the groceries onto the boat...
Such service with a smile!

The Kuna Indians are infamous for their woven wares. These are handmade masks and basketry that they patiently weave. Just incredible works of art! 
You can see the raffia type yarn below that is used to weave the baskets & masks. 

Here's a view from the city at low tide looking out towards the canal. 16' tides create large tidal flats at low tide.
Hard to believe this is the same location as the photo above...Just 3 hours later. 

A happy guy taking a siesta...his snow cone stand wasn't getting action, so why not catch up on some needed Zzzzz?!
He had the snazziest cart around...I think it was actually spit polished. Love the pride!

We cruised into the National Institiute of Culture to check it was mostly offices and uneventful. 
It housed some fun local artwork though!
And a mighty cannon...those Spaniards really knew how to make some quality weapons.

Some beautiful ruins amongst the old colonial buildings in Old Town...

When I was in the Old Town section (Cascua Antigua) of Panama 15 years ago I was told NOT to get out of the taxi. (Of course I did though...I dashed out to snap a pic of a 24 karat gold alter inside of a local church)
It was such a shanty town and a shame that all of their colonial beauty was rotting away. 
Dangerous to non locals without a doubt.
Cue to present day...the entire area is under construction (and will be for the next 5 years or more) and they are renovating all of the beautiful colonial edifices. It's noisy as anything around town, but truly a gem! I love this area and in my opinion, it's the best part of Panama City. That's probably why the president resides here too.

This is a look at what I recall seeing... it' looks like a shantytown set of a movie! 

And now..restored city  streets and VAST improvements!
It's amazing what you can spot looking at this local apartment. 
Each vignette offers as a window into whom resides there...

Construction worker perhaps?

And a farmer possibly?

Some lucky woman is quite busy with lots of laundry! 
Do you think she uses Oxy Clean?

Love this little lady...she's a female construction worker & was as proud as could be.

This is a parade float that a local company was busy readying for a Christmas parade. 

And then I spotted her...a Kuna Indian on the streets of Panama!! 
I felt like I was right in the middle of a National Geographic moment. So fortuitous. The Kuna are the indigenous people of Panama and Columbia. Their form of currency are coconuts which are highly revered. Most of them live on small islands...namely the San Blas which we will be visiting over Christmas. Can't even stand the suspense... I love observing other cultures! 
Especially those with traditional attire that date back centuries. The Kuna are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form made with the techniques of appliqué and reverse appliqué. Mola panels are used to make the blouses of the Kuna women's national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. Mola means "clothing" in the Kuna language. I love the beading on her bracelets and anklets...just wondering if they shower & sleep with them on?

My day would not be complete unless I met her & had a Kodak Moment of course! I couldn't tell if she was 12 or 25 years old. ha-ha! She was short & tiny...I felt like an Amazon next to her. Then it cost me $5.00 as she asked for money in brisk Spanish & I was happy to oblige. I read online afterward that Kuna Indians are truly celebrated and no one is allowed to take their photo unless you pay them. Whoopsie! Panamanians really like to support them and feel its important to do so.

This is a charming square where we had a fantastic lunch...nice as could be!
However, this was the sign in the restaurants bathroom. It says something like..."Welcome to the hottest bathroom in Panama. It's a new brand of bathroom sauna!" I thought this was hilarious...

And then as I walked down the street I came upon an old cock-fighter...just sitting in the window watching the day unfold before him. He was tethered on a weighted rope. Someone's pet now...
I was told that you can tell they are a cock-fighter if their comb has been removed. Who knew?!
At least the cock fighter didn't do this..

A local guard at the Presidents residence...packing "heat" of course!

The interior of a beautiful old church...fantastic architecture. 
This altar was stunning, as were the stained glass windows everywhere.
I found many old buildings that hadn't yet been restored, however the city "jazzed" them up with original artwork. Genius! It lent a great vibe to the cityscape...
This was so funny...yet there was no WiFi to be found...Hence, this late blog post. 

This is just outside the local fruit shake store...We had the best fruit ice there and it was needed after all the walking we had been doing in the searing heat. 
Inside the fruit shake shop, they had a bunch of magazines you could peruse while you hung out. 
This Nat Geo nugget was from 1988! 

And this little cutie had his own homemade costume from a Nike shoebox and was running around the town saying "hola" to anyone that would pay attention. Such a creative parent he must have!

In the middle of traffic you will often see vendors peddling their wares. This woman was none too happy that I snapped her photo from the car. 

Baby carriages seem to be the preferred mode of transport for many a vendor. Interesting... Another little traffic tidbit is watching the Panamanians when they want to make a U-turn. They will drive their car right across the center median (bushes and all) and traverse to the opposite side of the road so that they can go in the opposite direction. We witnessed this multiple times...such entertainment!

As many of you may have read on my last post, we hit a log somewhere off the coast en route to Panama a few weeks ago. 
 This is no bueno, so the boat is currently pulled out of the water and has been undergoing repairs. We've since learned that not only did we have a dented prop, but a bent proper shaft and a cracked hydraulic pump. Crikey!
(Luckily, we have more than one pump.)
Tomorrow it will be sea-trialed, so fingers crossed we are back in business as our canal passage is set in stone for Monday, December 22nd. We will still have a laundry list of repairs once we hit Florida in March, but this will do for now and we should be ship shape!


And for the grand finale...the colorful buses that made Panama famous. How the driver can see past his "Corredor" sticker across the drivers windshield is beyond me. Aye Papí. 
Such charm nonetheless!

        And now we bid you adieu for a bit. ..Stay tuned for our Panama Canal passage next weekend! 


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