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Panama City – Modern, Quaint and Wild Jungle


Panama City is a city of contrasts. On one hand it is a modern big city filled with skyscrapers, a metro system, quaint old neighborhoods, and several gigantic shopping malls that you can easily get lost in. Like most big cities it also has urban sprawl, nightmare traffic jams and is generally not very pedestrian friendly.

Be sure to visit Casco Viejo — it’s the original Panama City of the early 1900’s. This actually was the entirety of the city! It deteriorated into a slum and then as often happens in such sections, it rebounded and is being actively renovated. It’s a great walking area filled with old churches, museums, small parks, upscale eateries, and hip nightlife.

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Parque Natural Metropolitano

Within Panama City is a square mile sized nature park (about the same size as New York Central Park). But you won’t see any manicured grass, joggers, mom’s with baby carriages, eateries, or even sidewalks here. Instead, it is composed of dense wild jungle with only a couple hiking trails and park buildings. It is an animal refuge and botanical reserve.

It’s also known as the Lungs of Panama City because of the amount of oxygen produced by all this greenery. When in the park it seems you are miles away from the hectic city energies. But in fact, I walked there in 15 minutes from Albrook Shopping Mall, one of the biggest and busiest malls in the city.

The trail up to the view point is a bit steep, but it’s a wide packed gravel trail, so no worries about mud when it rains. Due to heat and humidity, this was one of the hottest sweatiest hikes I’ve ever done! But the view was worth it.

I must admit that I didn’t see much wildlife (unless you count long chains of leaf-cutter ants). Only caught a fleeting glimpse of a toucan. I did however hear constant back and forth challenging monkey cries from the dense under brush.

From the photo you can see it was a pretty cloud filled morning. And sure enough, partway back down, the rain started and then became a tropical deluge. Luckily I was quite near a large rain shelter, so I took refuge there for about an hour. The mist in the air clung to a huge spider web, making it quite visible and shimmery sparkly.

(Click on any photo to open light-box and browse full-size images.)

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