I went and had my daily visit with my doctor, picked up a new Apple charger for my iphone at a fancy mall that could have been in any major US city, they even had Cinnabon. I found a diablo rojo headed to Panama Viejo which isn't in the nicest part of Panama City but it was fine. I do get a lot more attention here than in Costa Rica. There are a lot more fair skinned people in CR than Panama.
Panama Viejo is the first of several Panama City's that have been built over the last 500 years. This first one was ransacked by the Pirate Henry Morgan in 1671 and the ruins still stand over several acres of land. It's really impressive.
I climbed this tower for some great views. It's the remains of an old Cathedral.
I found a little squirrel, here they come in different colors; red, brown and even white.
I stopped for lunch at a kind of bodega, I'm not sure if that's what they call it here but it's basically a plate-lunch place. For 2.50 I got ropa viejo which was awesome for something that translates to "old clothes" in English! It was pulled pork cooked with vegetables and of course it came with rice and also some lentils, a nice break from the black beans. I think the lentils are more of a Caribbean thing. I made my way back across the city in another Red Diablo, this one so crowded that I could hardly breathe. Everyone was hot, sweaty and grumpy. Once I got closer to the center of the city I hopped off and took a cab the rest of the way to Casco Viejo where my hostel is.
I decided I still had time to explore Casco Viejo before sun down so I took a walk around the neighborhood. Casco Viejo is a historic district in the middle of renovations, it also to once was the center of the city and the president actually still lives there. There are ruins next to beautifully restored buildings next to slum buildings. There are also plazas with open air restaurants and lots of cathedrals. It's all very charming.
This is the supposed ruins of a favorite hangout and gentleman's club of former dictator, Noriega. It's on it's way to being renovated as well but it's a controversial project.
I walked around the point where there is a kind of boardwalk at the the location of the old fortress where the city used to be defended from. The views are pretty spectacular and there lots of Kuna Yala people, native from the San Blas islands north of Panama on the Caribbean side, peddling their wares. One of the favorite things I have seen today was a Kuna Yala woman in full regale pull a cell phone out of her top and proceed to have a yelling match with someone on the other side of the line.
There's also quite a bit of interesting graffiti art in Panama City. These guys are brave to do this so close to the president's mansion, or perhaps that's the point.
I also went to see the famous arc that stood for over 400 years before suddenly collapsing in 2002 for no apparent reason. It's presence supposedly convinced the Americans that there were few earthquakes in Panama and that it was a good place to build the Canal. It's been rebuilt since collapsing but for some reason they let you stand under it, which makes me a bit nervous.
I wandered my way to the ruins of the old fortress and beyond this into what they call the "Red Zone." It was definitely far different than the city blocks I had left behind and after only a few blocks I decided to turn around. There's a reason they tell tourists to stay out of that neighborhood, it's definitely as the police officer told me "caliente."