You'd think that having crossed all these borders before that we'd know what to expect the second time through. However, at the Costa Rica/Panama border, we're presented with a new wrinkle. We need to show the border official that we are carrying $500. Cash. For each of us. What the faahh...?
Apparently a new rule has just come into effect requiring all travelers to show that they have "economic solvency", ie. that they can afford to be a tourist in Panama, and not panhandle on the streets of this country. Non-citizens also require proof that they'll return back to their country, like a plane or bus ticket. Since we're on our vehicles, that second requirement is waived, but it takes us some running around trying to find an ATM that will dispense $1,000 so we can wave it in front of the border official's face.
These new rules are ridiculous. Now any mugger is guaranteed $500 for every person he robs at the border. A car full of 5 people? That's $2,500 right there. Stupid!
Still rainy season in Panama City
It took us a couple of days of riding on the monotonous Pan American Highway to get to Panama City. As we got closer, Neda started developing a fever and by the time we checked into our hotel, she had a full blown flu and was bed-ridden for a few days. Kinda reminded me of the last time we were traveling this way, except that it was me that was traveling sick.
Modern city peeks through the old buildings of Casco Viejo
Panama City is pretty developed, there is the newer downtown district, a lot of run-down areas, and a historic part called Casco Viejo that is recently undergoing some renovations to attract tourists. After Neda recovered from her flu, we rode through some seedy sections of town to get to Casco Viejo.
Outside our restaurant - paid expensive tourist prices for lunch :(
The Old and the New
San Francisco de Asis church
Panama City was founded in 1519 and it stood for 152 years before being burnt to the ground by its own governor, in a scorched earth tactic to prevent it from being attacked and looted by the pirate Henry Morgan. A year later in 1672, a new city was built which would later become Casco Viejo, where we are walking around now.
Childish glee running amok in the streets!
Casco Viejo is built on a peninsula on the southwest section of Panama City
Lots of fishing and swimming off the small malecon
We can see the new Panama City rising above the harbour across from the peninsula
Most of Casco Viejo is currently being renovated, these are the newer sections
Plaza Francia is a newer section and was originally the main square and is right on the waterfront
The plaza was built as a dedication to all the French workers who started on the Panama Canal in the 1880s, some of whom lost their lives on the project. When France ran out of money, the United States took over the Canal, completing it in 1914. The obelisk is topped with French coque crowns and plaques detail the effort in building the Panama Canal.
Kuna Indians, who we first met on our sailing voyage on the Stahlratte through the
San Blas islands, have set up stalls at the Plaza Francia
Kuna masks for sale
Colourful Kuna dresses
Busker playing at Plaza de Francia
The spires in the background are from the Cathedral in the Plaza de Independencia
Would never have guessed that she was bedridden just a couple of days ago!
No idea what this colourful building was in the distance
Neda hanging out at the Plaza de Francia, fish market in the background
Hanging out in doorways is a popular pastime in Casco Viejo