A seemingly endless array of skyscrapers stretch along the city coastline creating an imposing view. An outlook that would rival the best of the world cities. Connecting the waters edge to these most modern towers of real estate, is an inviting natural wide open expanse of lawns, gardens, trees, walkways and cycle paths. Almost unnoticeable between these prominent landscape features is a bustling multi lane expressway. This is Panama City. Capital of Panama, Central America. A small nation of just four million people. A country that connects the north with the south Americas.

From outward appearances, it almost seems at odds this city belongs to a country designated as third world. Curiously this definition originally came about during the cold war period. Those aligned with the US, first world. Those with the Ruskies, second world. All the rest, third world. By that definition, guess which country you’d never expect to be a third world country? Austria! Yes, God’s own garden, Austria. But clearly that definition has now evolved to refer more to developing countries.

I have however a simpler definition. I call it the Third World Footpath Index (TWF Index). It’s simply how easy it is to seamlessly walk the city footpaths, how huge the difference in footpath heights are as you cross from street to street. And more defining, the number of mini sinkhole like footpath hazards. Ones that create fear that one step wrong and you’d never be seen again!

So by this definition, Panama City starts from the coast as a leading first world class city, with the most modern infrastructure. This includes a subway line (with more to come) that far rivals what you find in the likes of New York. However, venture back beyond the skyline of sky high cost real estate and you’ll find yourself rapidly moving through the second world into areas with a high TWF Index. Unfortunately this reflects a city with one of the highest income disparities.

But it’s a city and country on the move. Growing as the central finance and transport hub for Central and South America. A country that attracts high numbers of foreign retirees as well as droves of backpackers who come to enjoy the huge natural diversity the country offers. And central to Panamanian’s pride in this progressive country, is the Panama Canal. An impressive engineering feat in its own right. Meet Carlos to tell you more…..

If you’re interested to find out more about the Panama Canal (the new canal was actually completed 2016): click here

And for more about Panama: click here

16 comments On Panama

  • Veronica Lawrance

    After watching the construction of the original Panama Canal on ‘7 Wonders of the Industrial World episode 6 The Panama Canal’ (Netflix) I was amazed at the new developments, but really pleased to see how beautiful it is now compared to then. Looks fabulous Chris.

    • I was amazed too Veronica. I never expected a canal would require this complex network of locks because of the difference in height between the seas. And how the locks move these huge ships up and down to the next level. Plus the engineering required to ensure the canal doesn’t malfunction to avoid a tsunami of water to the lower sea level.

  • A fabulous “cameo” of Panama, Chris, and perfect for a semi-literate Brit like me. What a fantastic way to “keep in touch” with the people you have befriended during your journey of discovery. I only wish I could have got to know you better. Keep up the good work. “Respecto para Chris”.

    • Thanks for your comment Roger. It’s not the landscape whether the architecture, castles or the mountains that make a trip memorable. It’s the people. I always remember how you made that hike fun with your good ol’ Brit humour. Enjoy València. (PS was this too heavy Roger?)

  • Ahoy captain a pretty famous stretch of water you’ve been sailing

  • Yup, been through the Canal on a sailboat. Tis pretty interesting. When you return to the city go up to the canal administration building. Amazing murals on the building of the canal.

    • Its quite amazing watching the lock in action but that would certainly be a great way to experience it going through it Ellen.

  • Great trip report I remember seeing Michael Palin going through the Panama Canal and have always been amazed at this feat of engineering.Great interview with the guide.Are you still practising your Spanish?

    • Thanks Sheila. I asked the guide to speak in English more so that I could understand what he said,! So yes still a work in progress.

      PS if you want to check out Sheila and hubby Pete’s view of down under where they are currently touring, check out their great blog at

  • Another great report Chris, you have now paid your dues and you can head home anytime you like. We are currently in Bali having to flee the rigours of another Dragon Boat training regime.
    Make sure you are not left up the Panama Canal without a paddle.
    Cheers Les and Ang

    • Thanks Ang and Les. Smart move skipping up to Bali. I saw what looked like Dragon boats in Panama harbour. But I wasn’t sure so I kept going!

  • Love reading your Blogs Chris. Feel like we are travelling the world with you. Stay Safe xx

    • Quite sincerely it’s really nice to know that people like you Judy are enjoying being part of the journey.

  • Hola Chris !
    Lovely picrures ! Nice to read all about your trip , the places you are visiting , their culture, and moreover, your great experience!
    Are you still learning Spanish? Or…perhaps you are still looking for another good teacher ?

    • Hola y gracias Alice. Very different to València. I even think less English is spoken here so yes am taking some more tuition.

Comments are closed.

Site Footer