The Old City of Panama Viejo
Stay And Play
The Old City of Panama
Staying in the old city of Panama has its challenges. For starters it is old – no kidding you might say. But this means it is midst a HUGE renovation era. Every other property seems to be getting a facelift or an internal gutting. The lack of insulation and soundproofing seems to mean that the noise carries down the alleyways.
I’ve never been so pleased to leave our VERY noisy hotel/hostel and my son says he has never stayed in a noisier place. We had a family room but it seemed to us like a little jail cell. It is very clean but has no windows at all which means no natural light. On the top of the door were open louvers which meant the sound came in right from the main reception area.
The incessant chatting in the reception where everyone seemed to congregate meant it was like they were inside our room, and there was no blocking the noise because we could not climb up to shut the louvers. But this is something that comes with older buildings.
The owner is lovely and recommends us to his other hostel. So we wander 2 blocks around up past Villa Agostina which is draped with great artwork. The whole area is being restored and is an eclectic mix of quaint and crumby.
We head to the nearby square. This picture is taken from the balcony of our new room and we love the outlook which means yes, we have a window. In fact, we have French doors!
But at first, we are requested to return in 2 hours when our accommodation is ready.
This hostel has a real mix and for the first time, I see older people traveling the world alone and staying here.
Let’s Go Shopping
So we wander around the streets and find a cute store. Their masks are incredible and we especially love the monkey masks. We have only just agreed to cut down on our spending. But the Kuna who make these artworks sell them based on the number of hours they placed on them: $1 an hour. So when a mask is $45, that means it took 45 hours to make them! Not much of an income though. So needless to say, I now regret not buying these masks. In fact, in later years I still really regret not buying this mask. But we would have to send them back to Australia and have them fumigated and possibly risk their safe arrival.
You can see the Kuna ladies in the background of this picture. They seem to always have slim legs, a unique style of dress, and a happy smile.
New City Beyond
We take a walk along the old city wall and it is hot because it has an open expanse of brickwork paving with no shade. In the distance, you can see the new city.
It’s time to then head to market stalls in the old city of Panama square. It is a really pretty area. Since we are visiting on a weekday, it is super quiet.
Explorason’s birthday is in March, and he desperately wants a hammock. So after multiple visits to many stores, he finally selects a double hammock tight here at the market. We will pop this away for next month.
He then adds a musical clay pipe to his birthday collection.
We wander around trying to get an iced chocolate. Now, this area is modernized and the prices are very western, so don’t expect prices like in the country areas of Panama. This area is being redesigned for the tourist.
We do love the old buildings. There is a mannequin leg hanging off the balcony! Many of the buildings are now meticulously restored. You can wander along here just for the architecture alone.
Lanes and alleys in the old city of Panama
We also wander back through lanes and alleys. some are gorgeous, and some are in terrible disrepair, but all are on the mend. We pray and hope our room is ready.
Lovely return verandah
My son delights in the return veranda balcony we have there.
You can see him up on our balcony. This hostel – Pan-American is way better. We get a large private room and ensuite. The water is hot – yeah – the first real hot shower we have had in weeks. It is clean and includes breakfast for $39 a night. Let’s see how quiet it will be tonight.
Old Panama City is in transition
Panama is an amazing area with great weather pattern. We watch the kids play soccer next door and love the floral design on the ground. There is a lot of detail going into the restoration of the old city.
The modern lounge area is really nice. We meet a heap of lovely travelers here. We all exchange cards and emails so we can hook up for travel tips.
Later as night comes and our windows open to this atrium. There are two atriums, both with tables at the base and decorate walls. Guests decide to party at the base area so it echoes upward and is getting noisy. After the lack of sleep last night this is not what we need tonight.
Earlier that evening we had a nice time on the rooftop lounge area – though I do confess it made me nervous as a mother. It also made me wonder if it was safe when people drink up here. We can see the Panama Canal new area that is being made in the distance.
The opposite roof area has a nice bar. But this is closed in February as Panama Carnival is on. I’m right about my fears. I’m told that party people drink and do crazy things so there are no drinks up on the rooftops tonight. It has a great outlook all the way to the new city but they fear people will fall off the rooftops!
Sunset over the old city of Panama
We end up taking our dinner up here – fish and chips n the rooftop – all to ourselves! Alas, even though the bar is closed, we discover that a few people bring their own drinks, and there is a table of complete drunks so we leave fairly promptly after consuming our food.
Inside our room, we hear the trucks still going crazy in the street outside as they
fix the roads. The party people run around slamming doors, and then the drunks decide to stand outside our door screaming. The old city of Panama is so lovely, but it is a noisy place.
So much for peace and quiet that by 2:00 a.m. my son is crying himself silly as the noise in this place is terrible. I take him into my bed and give him a cuddle but I don’t get much sleep.
Next morning we meet a lady who is like us and she has had no sleep and can’t believe the noise. She has changed her plane ticket and is leaving early as she is so sleep deprived. The old city of Panama is just not a quiet place!
Time To Leave
Sometimes when things don’t go right, there is no point persevering and it is best to change your plans. That’s how several guests felt this morning, just like us. We decided to check out a day early and head back to the mission base in the hills where we have left our bags.
Packing our bags and popping into a security room means we can head out for one last time in old Panama City. We love the alfresco area of town and the gorgeous feel.
Time For A Bus out of the old city of Panama
We have to take the local buses back. Seeing I have only taken it back one time I am really nervous. I am tired, and I have to handle all the bags on public transport. This is one of the times traveling is not fun as I am so worn out from lack of sleep.
We do manage to find the right bus but it is around a 45-minute wait. Inside, it is decorated with fur and the music blasts which is kind of cool. This is all the driver gets to see through the front window under the layers of writing, and trinkets.
Speeding Bus Driver
It is another 45 minutes journey through the jungle area. We barely get to stop the bus in time. We have our bags taken off and I pay.
I get my son to hold the front door open while I grab all the bags out of the back. I am so scared the bus will leave before we have everything off. Only on my signal, can Explorason release his hold on the door of the bus, and off it shoots into the distance again.
Share a Taxi
We grab a taxi and throw the bags in the back after striking a deal. Next thing there are more people getting in.
We are going the wrong way! He tells us this is OK in Spanish and I kinda figure it will all work out. I am too tired to care.
Back at the Mission Base
We get back to the base – finally! We discover we have arrived on a great day. They have had no gas or water for days, BUT the water truck has just given them a small top up. I madly make a dash for the shower and take an army-style one-minute wash.
I am so happy to be back. It kind of feels like home. My son knows people and it is safe so he can wander around and I can relax.
When I stayed here last time, I thought it was noisy. Now I think it is so quiet compared to where we have been in Old Panama City. I fall asleep easily as an overtired single Mum and I am so very grateful to be here!
Questions and Comments
- Are you a regular tourist to Panama?
- Have you visited the old city of Panama Viejo?
- Do share your thoughts and comments with us below.