Panama 2015 / by William Bryan

Panama City is a sprawling metropolis full of friendly people, good food and beautiful sites, there’s just one thing that the city lacks. After leaving the airport for our hotel in our rental car, my dad and I quickly learned that Apple Maps isn’t supported in Panama, and I hadn’t thought to download Google Maps before the trip. So without the little blue dot following along on my phone, I pointed my dad in the right direction by following along on the map according to where I thought we were. This ended up working just fine and after driving for 30 minutes we hadn’t had any mishaps and were almost at the hotel. I told my dad to take a u-turn because we needed to double back and turn on a street that we couldn’t take a left on before. 100 feet down the road we realized that all of the parked cars were facing the opposite direction, and the few cars that were on the road this late at night were headed right towards us. This was the first of three times that we would drive the wrong way down a one-way street. We never got close to being in an accident, but plenty of locals noticed, and pointed us in the right direction. The next day we stuck with walking. We headed from our hotel to the old town in Panama City. It felt like walking 80 years back in time along the water front.

Looking at the new city from the old town. Our hotel was on the far left of this picture – we walked about 10 miles total that day.

Walking along the water we saw that many of the boats weren’t floating, they were sitting in mud as if they never get used.

When we walked back to the city from the old town the tide had risen.

Our first glimpse of the old town. This part of this city has gone largely unchanged for decades.

The French consulate in Panama.

Parts of the old town felt like I was in Cuba, not Panama. Things haven’t changed much in 50 years.

The buildings are old and often run down, but that doesn’t stop many Panamanians from living here in the old part of town.

An advertisement for one of the several Panamanian beers that I tried while traveling. This was one of the better ones.

Traffic in Panama City is notoriously bad. Every guide book that we looked at told visitors not to be on the road between 3:30 and 7 p.m. We drove north of Panama City and stopped at the canal on our way to the Atlantic Ocean where we checked out Colón. Unfortunately the Panama Canal isn’t very photogenic when standing on the top floor of the visitor center surrounded by tourists, so no pictures from the engineering marvel.

The streets of Colón were bustling with hundreds of people, taxis, colorful busses and stray dogs.

An abandoned ship sits outside the northern locks of the Panama Canal. Other ships are coming and going in the distance.

There are probably just as many taxis as there are people in Panama. Even in Colón, which isn’t as touristy as Panama City, the ratio of taxis to people is probably 1:4. There are 11 in this photo alone. When you’re walking on the street they constantly remind you that they are there by honking their horn and asking if you want a ride.

As soon as we ventured off the main road in Colón there were a lot less cars.

We spent one day driving to the rain forest and hiking. We weren’t in Panama during the rainy season, but it was still filled with lush plants, growing on plants, growing on plants.

Rural restaurants and bars. Not many people live outside of Panama City, leaving these buildings pretty empty.

We had to drive surprisingly far from Panama City to find a beach. When I finally ran into the water I realized why there was no one in the ocean with me – jellyfish.