Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

After 2 months of traveling from beachside to mountain scape, immersing myself in the small town Panamanian lifestyle, I felt the urge to get back to the city life. I never intended to go South to Panama City, rather to make my way North to Costa Rica next; however, something was calling me to go to the city, get a taste of the most modernized and largest city in Central America.

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My hostel balcony overlooking the Panama City skyline (photocred: Ray Butterfield)

So here I sit, situating my Kammok hammock into more of a hammock chair. I had one pole above me to work with on the balcony of Luna’s Castle, so I tied knots in the sides of my Roo hammock to make it shorter, then wrapped my Python Straps from above to hang my Roo from there. Quite possibly the most inventive hang I’ve done, proving to myself once again that you can literally hang a hammock anywhere!

I nested in my new-found hammock chair all afternoon, gaining relief from the humid climate with a breeze gifted by the afternoon rain shower, watching the rain plummet to the brick paved streets as I enjoyed a refreshing mist in the process. I took the time to appreciate the contrast between the vast and modern city skyline on my left, and the picturesque and historic architecture of Casco Viejo on my right, as I reflected on the past week….

As I mentioned in my latest blog post, I decided to create a yoga teaching opportunity for myself and offer donation classes in the park near the hostel I stayed at. It continued to be a proven success, having students each day, even regulars who showed up on their mat daily, who also became good friends. Some had a regular practice, while others had never stepped foot on a mat before. There were mornings people were hung over, or belly full of the free pancakes that the hostel offers, and yet they always continued to inspire me by showing up, no matter what.

The sun generated a natural hot yoga studio for us as we sweated it out, and harnessed the energy of the bustling park in the middle of an active city surrounding us. This week really challenged my teaching in the best way possible. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re doing yoga in a park. There were the occasional groups of tourists who stopped to take pictures, dogs parading themselves around and then marking their territory, sprinklers going off in the middle of meditation…. The water guy even had a great marketing strategy of asking us if we needed water, but not so great execution of asking in the middle of class.

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Yoga class in Quinto Centenario Parque

One week in the city is enough to get your fill of bustling city life, while checking all the tourist attractions off your list. I visited the museum for the Panama Canal, which is really interesting and totally worth the $15 entry fee, even if you’re not into engineering, in my opinion. It explains the history of how the Panama Canal was built–like I had no idea the canal construction was started by the French, and then after an epidemic of diseases they stopped construction, then the United States picked it back up and completed the project. And the country of Panama just finished construction of a new canal that runs parallel to the original on my birthday of this year, June 26th. The new canal is wider and uses a different lock system, and was constructed completely by Panamanian citizens. The lock system on the original canal is still the same construction from over 100 years ago, which is what we witnessed a massive cargo ship go through.

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Cargo ship going through the original lock system of the Panama Canal

One bright, sunny day, me and a couple of fellow hostel goers, Matthieu and Andra from Switzerland and Germany, rented bikes from the hostel and rode to the Isla Naos, an island connected to the city by causeway. We were on pretty raggedy beach cruisers who looked like they have had a lot of life experience, but regardless still fun to ride. It took us about an hour one way, and once we got to the island, we got a great view of the skyline underlined by the scenic marina. Andra just arrived from Germany and was not yet accustomed to the Latin America heat, along with Matthieu and I who had been here for months and were still dripping sweat. So we made our way back on the beautifully paved bike lanes along the water front.

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Thanks Andra for taking this candid shot!

Another eventful day consisted of walking around the historic area of town where my hostel was located, Casco Viejo, meaning Old Quarter. This area of town was once a dangerous run down part of town, but thanks protection laws on the architecture of the buildings and people buying the land and revitalizing it, this is now the most expensive place to live in Panama City, and in my opinion, most beautiful because of how they did a great job of maintaining the historic architecture. A group of us hostel goers, Anki from Germany, Ray from Florida, Zach from Montana and I strolled around the brick paved streets in the late afternoon, to take in the beauty this part of town had to offer. Casco Viejo is a great mix of expensive restaurants, quaint gift shops, buildings in ruins, local housing, and buildings renovated into hotels or art galleries. Every turn has a unique flair, and you never know what you’ll see next. My favorite part was seeing the endless street art lining any concrete wall or building-less block.

A lot happened in this city in one week’s time. I made so many great friends, reunited with older friends unexpectedly, had a lot of laughs and saw so many amazing places. I’m really happy I went off track in my so-called “plans” and just went with my heart. Next stop, crossing the border and going to Costa Rica! Until next time Panama….

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Standing leg raise pose overlooking Panama City! (downtown on the left, Casco Viejo on the right)

 

 

 

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