In the image above, you can see a panoramic view of the Pacific Coast at Panama City's shore.
Panama has it all: a capital, Panama City, which is the center of government and business, a very active lifestyle, a completely American culture (though they all speak Spanish - and in most cases Spanish-only), malls based on the American model, and with prices which can be compared to prices in the US, excellent restaurants, shiny hotels with great service, and much more. And - how can we forget - the Canal, which guarantees to this fast-growing country an income of millions of dollars per day.
Well, this doesn't come without problems: traffic jams are constant and transportation has become one of the main problems of the city, and most of the efforts from the current government were in the area of solving the transportation issues at the capital.
It is not difficult to find these kinds of situations, or even worse:
It is also a lot of sightseeing. Besides the canal, there are some very nice places to visit, like the Gamboa Forest, seen in the picture below from the peak inside the forest (there is a cablecar to the peak), the tour to the Emberas Indigenous Colony, the Panama Express Train, and a visit to the cities of Colon and Portobello, which are relatively near Panama City but already at the Caribbean Sea. Colon is a Duty Free Zone, very active in imports and distribution companies. Portobello is more of an historical city. Both can be accessed by car via de Panamerican Highway. BTW, prices of rental cars about here begin around $45 per days, depending on the size of the cars and the number of days.
Bocas del Toro is a set of Caribbean Islands, in which one can stay for the weekend in nice and simple hotels or cabins, and visit around the other islands by boats like the ones in the picture. The Colon Island (nothing to do with the city of Colon) is the main island in the archipelago, and there are some other 8 islands with much seashore to see, besides boat rides with the dolphins, and other things,
I haven't been in San Blas yet, but the information I have is that it is even more original than Bocas. There are some islands there which don't even have electricity, so if you intend to spend the night there, you'd better have a flashlight and some sets of replacement batteries.
There are a lot of contrasts in the country: let's begin by the fact that the country has been for some 3 generations under a very big North-American influence, at the times that the Americans controlled the canal, and despite of that, nearly 75% of the population does NOT speak English.
It continues on the fact that the country (or at least the capital) has a very easy to identify American lifestyle, but this is supported by an infrastructure which can still be characterized third world. This is one of the main issues that the last governments are struggling to fix, and the results are visible to the eye. The country's infrastructure improves day-by-day.
They have their own currency, the Balboa, which is rated 1-1 to the US Dollar. As a result of that, the whole country runs on US Dollars. You can find Balboas only in coins relative to the cents (like the American cents, you will find coins of 1-cent, 5-cents, 10-cents and 25-cents), and the largest one, of One Balboa. Everything over that sum is already US Dollar bills. Sure, you can use dollars and cents for the smaller values as well, nobody will see the difference (which actually does not exist).
Weather: Panama is always hot and humid. For my experience, temperature is always over the 28 Celsius. However, rain is a different story. There is a rainy season of nearly 6 months, which begins in May and ends near November. This season is also divided in two parts, the initial period in which we have mainly summer showers in the afternoon, and the continuation after August in which there are full days of rain. In these days in which I have been here (this week), I have seen everyday an amount of rain which I don't see in Israel in the whole year. And in this point, it is interesting the way in which life continues here under the heavy showers. I compare to Israel, and with a quarter of the daily precipitation we have had here, Israel would have severe floods in its main cities, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Herzlyia, Netanya, etc, and traffic would stall. But here, it is just another day.
In summary, this is it. A great place to work and also to enjoy good vacations, with good and refreshing hotels in Panama Cities, Spas, Casinos, great restaurants, and a lot to see, at the side of a beautiful Caribbean coast which has been left almost untouched by time and civilization.
Well, with this I will conclude my article. I hope I managed to give a little feeling of what this country is. It was important to me, since I have been spending around 33-50% of my time in this area.
See you in the next post.