There is more to Panama than the off shore tax evasion data leak. Here are enough reasons to visit this tropical paradise.
This article on Panama first appeared here in The Quint.
If you aren’t living under a rock, then you ought to have heard of the Panama papers. What is said to be the biggest data leak in history, has implicated leaders and celebrities from all over the world. But it has also put a spotlight on the country from where it all originated, that’s Panama.
However, there is a lot more to this small Central American nation than the off shore tax evasion accusations will ever tell. And from my recent experience of travelling through it, here are five reasons why I think it’s worth putting Panama on your ‘must-visit-in-this-lifetime’ list.
The Panama Canal
Probably no engineering marvel has shaped so much of a country’s past and present like the Panama canal has. Panama has always been a strategic geographic location, given that it is a bridge between the continents of north and south America. First, France unsuccessfully tried to build a canal to connect the Pacific and Atlantic in the 19th century. USA then took over the project and built the canal by 1914. It controlled both the canal and the Panama canal zone till 1977. The canal and territory came under complete Panamanian control only in 2000.
The canal is a traveler’s pipe dream. It’s where history, engineering marvels, great views and a functioning spectacle come together. Visit the Miraflores Locks to get fascinating insights about this historic place. Then enjoy a chilled Balboa while watching ships and vessels pass through.
Miami Of Central America
Panama city, the capital of Panama is a cultural melting pot and also one of the liveliest cities on the planet. But the one impression that will stay with you is the ‘sea and skyline’ view. While I am tempted to say that it is a la Mumbai, the fact is that Panama city is grander with sky-rises that truly seem to reach for the sky.
Many Panamanians refer to Panama city as the Miami of Central America, and I cannot agree more. The city’s skyline visible from Cinta Costera does make you feel like you are in the famous American beach city.
Panama is a nature lover’s paradise, with over 44% of its area under forest cover. The country and many of its forests are famous for birds among other kinds of bio-diversity. A small but strong example of this is the Parque Nacional Metropolitano , which is a rainforest in the heart of the country’s capital.
Travelers can reach this park quite easily and take a walk through its comfortable trails. One can also indulge in bird watching and get some splendid views of the city from the mirador.
Red Devils or Diablos Rojos as they are locally known are the notorious buses of Panama. These school buses are often used for public commute. They are known for their festive decoration, eccentric paintings and loud Panamanian reggaeton. If that wasn’t enough, the drivers are also known for their racing madness and rash driving.
Your driver might even be flirting with a female passenger in the face of oncoming traffic. Clearly, riding in one of these is not for the faint-hearted.
The Indian Connection
It might seem that this central American nation is too far from India for any influence to have effect. But, it manages to spring a surprise here too.
There is a 15,000 people strong Indian community and many of them work in the shipping industry, while others run businesses. A majority of them are of Indian origin from the Carribean countries. However, there is a sizeable number of first generation Indians who migrated from Gujarat and other areas for commerce.
So if you ever feel like paying your respects to Radhe-Krishna or Sai Baba while in Panama, you wont have to take a flight back home. All you will need to find is templo Hindu (Hindu temple).
If you need more reasons to love Panama, you’ll just have to plan a holiday there. So, get booking.