Having stepped off the boat from the San Blas islands and the indigenous Kuna people I was finally on mainland Central America with a heavy emphasis on America. With the Golden Arches and TGI Fridays on every corner arriving into Panama City felt like I was stepping into the USA. This was not helped by the Police, who's motto is "Proteger y Servir", motor vehicles being Ford and Camaro's. Given it used to be a sovereign state to the USA like Gibralter is to UK it is not surprising that people, language and lifestyle is heavily American influenced. Malls are 1km long. Even the beds had a "don't fall out" warning...never saw anything like that in South America!
Panama City also brings another guest on PalmerTours...a friend from my past life working at GE. Panama City is a nice city. Staying in the old town meant the buildings and plaza's had loads of character and a good night life scene. The nearby fish market offering great cerviche. The new town is mainly high rise buildings with little character so only viewed this part from afar.
Obviously the main pull for the city is the nearby canal which is celebrating its centenary this year...missed it by 2 weeks! Took the Panama Canal train up to Colon to look at the Gatun Locks. The train journey was neat with its observation carriage through the jungle and canal...only an hour so shows that Panama is not that tall! Being 3m away from these tankers as they pass through the locks was pretty cool. They are creating bigger locks to triple capacity...the gates were huge!! As a reference a large tanker went through and it cost c.$350k and they on average currently have 40 boats daily!
Final stop being Bocas Del Toro. Didn't know what to expect and although some lovely beaches and scenery it felt like the Costa Del Sol but for yanks...like a beach town where the likes of Barry and Liz serve English food with the big draw being they serve it with HP sauce!! The island has its own English paper and girls hand out "coupons" (yank accent for full effect) for cheap drinks! Something that I have not seen for ages on the trail...a place full of American tourists.
Now although this feels like a yank bashing session I would like to clarify that I love the big ol US of A and the American people. Would happily live there if it wasn't for their stupid 2 week a year holiday culture!! My issue is that I come to Central America and all I hear are American accents from all angles. I am sure the Costa Del Sol is exactly the same with the Brits and that is why I don't go there!
Aside from this Bocas has some great qualities...we did a nice boat trip to the islands and cays. Started with seeing "Flipper" and his buddies mating with the local bottle nosed female dolphins...must of seen 30 all together. Next stop Cayos Zapatillas sand island with decent reef around it although the visibility wasn't amazing. Post lunch was Cayos Coral which had some of the most colourful coral I have seen in the world. Have to admit although Bocas is good the San Blas is much better in terms of scenery, people, snorkelling and experience.