Saturday, September 11, 2010

Panama For Vacation Anytime

Guest post By Antonio Khatemi

Panama, the nation that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, benefits from record tourism. Panama offers its visitors uncultivated beaches, national parks, mountains, shopping, various terrains plus art at matchless prices.

Ask anybody what they've learned about Panama and almost all will mention the famous Panama Canal. Other people may recall Noriega, the former dictator who later regained notoriety for his exile to France.

A noteworthy part of Panama's history occurred while it was "under the Yankee boot". The Yankee boot refers to the 85 years (1914-1999) that the United States controlled the Panama Canal. U.S. occupation left many legacies like the dollarized market, units of measurement (gallons, pounds, etc), use of certain words (a vehicle is parked or something is priti - English pretty) and American vehicles.

The contemporary city of Panama is known as the City of Skyscrapers due to the numerous towers that climb the sky and vie in height and structure. What is striking is that the construction boom exploded only in recent years as a combination of a package of tax benefits bringing internationals and the fact that prior to 1999 the city wasn't allowed to be developed in particular areas. At present, even Donald Trump has put money into multi-million dollar real estate developments in Panama, including a building with a 62-story hotel and marina, much like the Burj Al-Arab, Dubai.

Balboa Avenue, which runs along to the Pacific Ocean, the new Costa del Este (with land reclaimed from the ocean or the Avenue Spain, the capital's financial hub, are the picture of Panama in its new modern and sophisticated era. Panama is also proud to be a matchless shopping mecca.

The remnants of Panama's pre-Columbian and colonial history are sheltered in the old part of town and reveal its historic side. The Spanish landed in Panama in the 1500s. They founded many cities, one of which was Portobelo. Portobelo housed treasures of the Spanish crown until it was sacked by pirates in 1671. In the present day all that is left are the remains of the city's cathedral, homes the clergy lived in and a few massive historical ruins, known as Panama La Vieja. It is located in the midst of thick tropical vegetation outside of Panama City.

Fortunately, the old city's great altar, which was covered in gold, was rescued from the violence of pirates and brought to what is currently Casco Viejo - 'the Old City', where the modern city was rebuilt. There, the narrow cobblestone streets, colonial building fronts and wrought iron balconies reside with clothes hanging from windows, neighbors listening to loud reggaeton, improvised hair salons in the center of a Kuna Indian village beside Kuna Indians selling their colorful textiles (the molas, considered one of the most sophisticated handicrafts in Latin America).

The government recently began rebuilding the neighborhood, starting with buildings in the vicinity of the park and the Palace of the Herons, a presidential home. The former convent, once falling apart, has now been transformed into lofts and the old military facilities have been turned into stores and eateries. Old homes are now home to Panamas boutique hotels.

Some suggest that Panama may become the new Costa Rica, with mega-hotels and resorts dominating areas on the Pacific. However, the difference is that in Panama there are actually still indigenous regions such as Kuna Yala, Embera and Ngobe-Bugle. These are semi-autonomous places where large-scale building projects are strictly forbidden.

These territories are significant since before the Spanish, the Canal, the Americans, Noriega or the skyscrapers ever came to Panama, the natives claimed this place full of fish, trees and butterflies as their home.

But there is so much more to Panama. Over and above the bits of prominent history or the enormous tourist potential of the interoceanic channel, the nation was formerly a Spanish colony, a Colombian state, and an American protectorate with a vastly rich heritage.

Panama is now committed to strengthening its own character. And in part, this means being certain that this individuality is evident in every one of its points of interest, from shores on both sides to the plains, wetlands, mountain forests, historical monuments and shopping centers. And according to the Ministry of Tourism, it appears that this approach isn't affecting the country's tourism business at all. More than 1,000,000 travelers experience Panama every year.

Panama can't help but recognize the amazing tourist prospects it possesses as an interoceanic passage. But there is so much more. The nation also possesses a rich history. It was previously a Spanish colony, a Colombian state, and an American protectorate. Despite its amazing success as a tourist destination, Panama is now dedicated to rebuilding its own personality. In part, this means being certain that this personality, and the history that helped build it, is evident in every one of its attractions, from shores on both coasts to the plains, marshland, mountain forests, historical monuments and shopping malls. According to the Panama Ministry of Tourism, the approach is not harming the country's tourism industry in the least. More than a million travelers experience Panama each year.

While acknowledging the enormous tourist prospects of the interoceanic passage, the country that was once a Spanish colony, a Colombian province, and an American protectorate is now dedicated to strengthening its own identity. And in part, this means ensuring that this character is portrayed in all its points of interest, from the shores on both coasts to the plains, wetlands, mountains, forests, historical monuments and shopping areas. According to Panama's Ministry of Tourism, this approach isn't hurting the country's tourism industry at all. More than a million tourists experience Panama every year.

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