Panama Viejo holds the remains of what used to be the country's capital. The city was attacked various times during the early part of the 17th century by pirates and indigenous people from Darien. Both an earthquake and fire also contributed to the city's destruction. Zue and I walked around these ruins and also entered the museum.
The Panama Canal
I have visited the Miraflores locks twice. There was a $15 entrance fee for the visitor center, which included a short introductory movie about the history of the Canal (available to watch in two theaters, one in English, the other in Spanish), an interactive museum, and a gift shop. Afterwards we went to the 'viewing deck' where stadium seats were provided to sit and additional information about the Canal was announced over loudspeaker as the boats passed through.
Calle Cinco de Mayo
The street, "Cinco de Mayo," is one of my favorite places in Central America. It was a great place for cheap shopping, excellent street food, and an immersion into the everyday life of Panameños. It was a window into the eclectic culture of the country - although many people were dressed in typical street clothes, there were also various traditionally clad Kuna (indigenous tribe of Panama) roaming the streets.
This long street included many clothing stores filled with latino fashion - colored skinny jeans, sheer tops, decorative heels and sandals, and swimwear. Although my lack of luggage space didn't allow me to make many purchases, I thoroughly enjoyed window-shopping. I found tops for ~$2 and jeans for ~$7. The official currency of Panama is the Panamanian Balboa, although the United States Dollar is most commonly used throughout the country. (1 Panamanian Balboa = 1 USD). I encountered two women sitting on plastic stools on the side of the road, who were offering salon services right there. I had a $2.50 pedicure, and although it was a little awkward having my bare foot laid out on the beauticians lap as people rushed by, I enjoyed the experience. In my second trip to Panama City, I found a small wooden shack on the street that served as a nail salon, and got a manicure there. I soon found that this 'plastic stool salon' was not so uncommon - Other services such as acrylic nail sets and hair extensions were also offered, and there were many male barber shops set up in small, tin covered areas along the road-side. This street also included many vendors outside of the actual stores. They set up on the sidewalk or in the middle of the road - selling fresh produce, art, and a multiplicity of other items. My favorite street food here was a quick $1.50 meal of empanadas (a fried pastry turnover filled with beef and potato) and patacones (traditional Panamanian fried plantain slices).
"El Mercado de Mariscos"
The Fish Market
The popular "Mercado de Mariscos" fish market was a great stop for lunch. There was a variety of seafood to choose from - various fish, squid, octopus, crab, etc. I tried octopus for the first time! It was prepared as Ceviche (marinated raw fish or other seafood, garnished and served as an appetizer in a small styrofoam cup with saltine crackers on the side). It was a little rubbery in texture, but the flavor was amazing. I then had a main meal of fried fish and patacones (I fell in love with patacones after trying them on Calle Cinco de Mayo!) There were many vendors to choose from, all with similar prices. A cup of ceviche cost ~$2, the price ranging slightly up or down depending on what type of seafood you selected. A lunch plate was ~$5.
The Amador Causeway
The Amador Causeway is 2-miles long and connects the mainland and four small islands (Naos, Culebra, Perico, and Flamenco). The causeway is a popular place for walkers, runners, and bicyclists (bicycle rentals are available there). I had an evening walk along the causeway - there are incredible views along nearly the entire stretch, and there are also museums, shops, and restaurants. I enjoyed a fruity, ice cream treat and the beautiful sunset during my walk.