Last month +Carlos Donderis guided us around Panama where we relaxed and enjoyed the country and their people. Although it is a total different place, I found it having many similarities with Thailand: tropical weather, slow lifestyle, big income difference between the city and the country side population; and a general feeling that they could be one of the most advanced countries in the world but their people don’t really want to… they are more or less happy with what they have and their current lifestyle and maybe they don’t want to make the extra effort.
Panama City reminded me of Asian financial cities like Singapore or Shangai, but somehow being less developed. The Panama City skyline is beautiful, I guess most of those skyscrapers where built by banks and financial institutions (Panama was a fiscal paradise until 2010).
In Panama City we visited the Casco Viejo, one of the oldest areas of the city that was designed to protect settlers against pirate attacks. Although most of the architecture was Colonial, sometimes I felt I was walking around in a city located in southern Europe.
We visited the Miraflores Locks. We all know about the Panama Canal, but I had no idea about its history. One of the most interesting things of the visit to the locks is the museum. I learned about how the French (leaded by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the same person who built the Suez Canal) failed to finish building the Canal and that is why later the United States finished its construction and owned it until 1999.
We also learned how the locks work at Miraflores and how the new locks that are currently under construction have been designed to use much less water each time a boat uses them. The construction of the new locks seems to be one of the most important things going on in Panama right now.
Visiting the locks was educational but seeing the rainforest around the Gatún Lake (inside the canal) was much more fun. We saw a crocodile, we saw monkeys, iguanas and beautiful birds (I forgot the names). I wish I had my old Nikon D90 with my 200mm lens with me! I could not take any decent picture of the animals in the wild with my compact camera Canon S90.
Everything awesome and beautiful, but the best part of the travel was visiting the Atlantic side. We started the trip crossing the jungle from the Pacific Ocean side to the Atlantic side with a 4×4. I thought I could manage talking Spanish in Panama but I was wrong!
At the north east of Panama, their people speak the Kuna Language. It is a Native American agglutinative (like Japanese) language spoken by the people from the Kuna Yala region. I only learned the word kuwedi “good morning”.
More interesting than their language is their lifestyle. Most of the 35.000 Kuna people in the region are living in 400 little islands. We visited one island that was around 300x200meters with a population of 350 people. The people in the island seemed to be happy and enjoy their simple life. They have a library, a school, a doctor etc. In one of the libraries I saw a kid learning Spanish with a book. They seem to live thanks to their fishing skills.
We stayed in another island where we were half of the population 🙂 We almost owned the island for three days. The other inhabitants of the island were a Kuna family and four other tourists. We had the sea, coconuts, sand, two toilets in the whole island, pelicans flying around, lots of wind 24 hours a day, two kindles and… NO INTERNET! I relaxed and enjoyed, now I’m back to Tokyo replenished with positive energy!
More pictures I took during the trip in my flickr.