After several weeks in rural Peru, flying into Panama’s frenetic coastal capital was a severe shock to the system. As our cab navigated crowded roads at breakneck speed, we silently gaped at the hustle and bustle of Panama City.
Thanks to the famous canal, this is Central America’s richest capital, and everywhere there are signs of wealth and investment: soaring skyscrapers, flash new hotels (including a Donald Trump property), and shiny shopping malls boasting luxury labels. Looking at the skyline jutting out to sea, I reflected that it didn’t look all that different from Dubai’s cityscape. Here’s beyond the urban cityscape:
We were delighted to discover there’s still a part of the city that encapsulates old Panama: Casco Viejo, a warren of winding streets and rickety colonial houses. The neighbourhood has been gentrified in recent years, with a lot of careful restoration going on. Today, beautiful boutique hotels rub shoulders with peeling, ivy-covered apartments, where banners of laundry adorn rusting balconies; it’s a charmingly convivial combination. Seeking more Panamanian flavour, we headed to the Mercado de Mariscos, or seafood market. This dock-side building is packed with fishmongers selling their wares, as well as small cafes serving fish just off the boats.
I have to admit, the smell nearly put me off: city drains combined with fish guts is not pleasant! But having found a table sufficiently far away from the drainage ditches, we were soon scoffing down the plumpest, freshest mahi mahi – alongside Panama’s trademark coconut rice and beans, fried plantains and lashings of hot chilli sauce.
Despite the delicious seafood, a couple of days in the big city were enough, and we quickly set off across country, to Boquete. This lush region of forest and volcanoes is known for its coffee, because although Panama is only a very small producer on the world stage, the beans grown here are excellent.
A Tale of Two Travellers
Taking a year out from the rat-race to explore the world, former Dubai journalists Lucy Taylor and Joe Mortimer chart the highs and lows of life on the road, and travelling as a couple. Both of them have been writing their individual columns exclusively for FoodeMag dxb: His & Her column. Below are some of their travel stories… according to him!