I hopped off my Panama City bus at the last stop and made my way towards Casco Viejo. Or so I thought. I walked in the wrong direction and if I have ever wanted to snap my little iPhone away at any place ever this was it. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and I was doing the whole “solo traveler” abroad thing for the first time so I resisted all temptations to point and shoot (pic above is from a later night) and attempted to hide the curiosity in my eyes while taking it all in.
Feral cats scurried around the alleyways and I stumbled into a full Panamanian street marketplace of fruits and goods from the backs of run-down pick-up trucks and wobbly wooden carts. Dozens of families sat in groups on the door stoops of one-room, pastel-interior apartments with clothes lines hanging door-to-door. Buildings that had obviously been through a fire or three sat just between occupied units, two-to-three stories high with balconies.I strolled with purpose in the direction of the loudest chatters and passed a moldy park pillar platform that would be home to at least a dozen men that night.
Here’s a shiny snap compliments of Pouya Razavi of what this area has looked like during the day with people and tents around:
My timing was substantially more desolate and the locals thinned until it was just me and the cats and the night so when a taxi showed up I figured I’d be better risking my luck on wheels and cabbed it over to the real Casco Viejo.
I later found my stumble was Avenida Central — the original shopping area and busiest street of Panama City before shopping malls existed, and home to the Carnival and Independence Day parades. It runs through the old centre (where I was) through the two most dangerous, heavy gang activity neighborhoods of Panama — Santa Ana and El Chorillo — so (typical), probably best to keep this venture for a daytime activity in the future.