----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: Panama: Casco Viejo

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Panama: Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is old Panama, a formerly bad area being restored to glory. Until the recent renaissance, Panama was probably the only country in the world where the presidential residence was in the middle of a slum. But that is changing rapidly.

There used to be a lot of police in the blocks surrounding the presidential palace. Now there are a lot of police in the southern part of the peninsula, from thirteenth street down. Fabulous remodels sit half a block from decrepit old buildings, some mere shells. And everywhere you see construction, as these shells are turned into modern buildings on the inside.

The hostel that I stayed in has three stories of old woodwork, a huge courtyard/atrium, a balcony with a view of the modern skyline across the bay, and immense rooms. It was a convent at one point, then nursing home. Now it is a hostel, renovated just enough to work. In a few years, the owners, three American men in their twenties, will be sitting on a fortune.

Meanwhile there are restaurants and a few souvenir shops, little mini-supers and hole-in-the wall beauty shops, and remarkably, sidewalks that are for walking, not blocked by displays of clothing and pirate DVDs.

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