Global Journeys with Jill Dutton

The Harmonious Blend of Old and New: A Journey through Panama City with Eric Carrasco

October 31, 2023 Jill Dutton Season 1 Episode 14
Global Journeys with Jill Dutton
The Harmonious Blend of Old and New: A Journey through Panama City with Eric Carrasco
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Prepare to be swept away on an exhilarating journey as we traverse the bustling cityscape and lush rainforests of Panama City. Our guide, the knowledgeable and passionate Eric Carrasco, owner of Hobby Pro Tours, peels back the layers of this city's rich history and teeming cultural diversity. Imagine strolling down the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo, savoring the diverse flavors of the San Felipe Neri Public Market, and breathing in the pulsating vitality of this city where the old and the new converge so seamlessly. We're not just spectators on this journey, but active participants, sharing our own experiences, from the charm of the historic American Trade Hotel to the awe-inspiring Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal isn't just a waterway; it's a testament to human ingenuity and the transformative power of progress. We'll shed light on its captivating history, its profound impact on Panama City, and its future in an era of sustainability. 

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to Global Journeys with Jill Dutton, the captivating travel podcast that takes you on an extraordinary adventure around the world. I'm your host, jill Dutton, and I am thrilled to be your guide through the mesmerizing tapestry of cultures, landscapes and experiences that await us. Global Journeys with Jill Dutton is more than just a travel podcast. It's an exploration of humanity itself. Through the power of storytelling, we illuminate the lives of the remarkable individuals we encounter along the way, whether it's through the eyes of a fishing guide, a distillery owner, a mixologist, a historian, chef, or even a farmer. Each person we meet adds a rich layer to the narrative of culture and place. In this podcast, we embark on a transformative journey where the focus goes beyond the typical tourist attractions. Instead, we dive deep into the hearts and souls of the places we visit, uncovering the hidden gems and untold stories that make each destination truly unique. Join me as we venture off the beaten path, seeking authenticity, connection and a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit. Together, we'll unravel the tapestry of cultures, one story at a time. Although my writing career began in the late 90s, when I created and launched a wellness publication called Evolving Magazine, since 2015 I've worked as a travel writer on a mission to seek out the locally celebrated foods, liquor trends, outdoor activities and stories of those I meet along the way. My work has been published in Wine Enthusiast, a far woman's world, first for women, insider road trippers, modern farmer chilled magazine and many more digital and print publications. I'm also the creator of Global Plates the people we meet, the food they eat a syndicated column. Creating this podcast is the next step in my journey of sharing the stories of the people I've met along the way. So pack your curiosity, leave your preconceived notions behind and let's embark on Global Journeys with Jill Dutton, where each episode promises to inspire, educate and awaken the wanderlust within us all. Welcome, fellow wanderers, to another exciting episode of Global Journeys with Jill Dutton. Today we're embarking on a thrilling expedition to the crossroads of the Americas, where rich history meets modern vibrancy. That's right. We're exploring the mesmerizing Panama City. Panama, panama City, a city where skyscrapers rise against the backdrop of lush rainforests and where the centuries old meets the ultra-modern, all against the stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Whether you're an intrepid explorer, a history buff or simply someone looking for a taste of tropical paradise, panama City has something for everyone. This episode combines my personal experiences with the invaluable insights of a knowledgeable local guide, eric Carrasco of HobbyProTours. You can find a link to HobbyProTours in this episode's show notes or visit wwwhobbyprotourorg. On a driving tour with Eric, we'll dive into the heart of this incredible city, uncovering its rich history, savoring its diverse cuisine and exploring the vibrant culture that makes Panama City a truly unique travel experience. We'll walk you through the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo, where colonial architecture whispers tales of the past, and we'll also take you to the gleaming skyscrapers of Punta Pacifica, where the city looks toward the future. But first let me share a little bit about my own adventure in this captivating city. It was a sunny day as my guest Yvette and I stepped off the airplane. I could already feel the warm embrace of Panama's tropical climate and I was eager to explore this bustling city and uncover the hidden treasures it held. Yvette and I landed in Panama City about noon, eager to explore. Although our final destination was Bocastel Toro to stay at the Casa Caillouco Eco-Adventure Lodge, we planned to arrive a day early to explore Panama City. You can listen to that episode about Casa Caillouco in last week's podcast if interested. Our Panama City guide, eric, picked us up at the airport and transported us to the American Trade Hotel. The American Trade Hotel is a luxurious and historic boutique hotel located in the heart of Panama City in the Cusco Viejo district. The six-quizet establishment is renowned for its stunning architecture, rich history and top-notch amenities. Originally built in 1917, the hotel is a magnificent example of neo-classical and art deco design, showcasing Panama's cultural and architectural heritage. The American Trade Hotel is housed in a beautifully restored building that was originally the headquarters of the American Trade Developing Company. The historic structure has been meticulously preserved, providing guests with a unique blend of old world charm and contemporary luxury. Whether you're a traveler seeking a unique cultural experience, a history buff interested in the rich heritage of Panama, or someone looking for a luxurious escape in the heart of Panama City, the American Trade Hotel provides a captivating and immersive setting to enjoy all that this vibrant city has to offer. Once Vettnai settled into our rooms, we took off on foot to explore. First up was lunch and coffee, as we had been traveling since early in the morning. Right on the square near the hotel, we found a delicious coffee shop in Delhi called Casco Antiguo and ordered a cappuccino and empanadas to hold us over until dinner as we strolled through its narrow cobblestone streets. The colorful facades of well-preserved colonial buildings whispered tales of Panama's past. It felt as if I had stepped back in time, and yet the energy of the city was anything but antiquated. The locals were warm and the aroma of street food filled the air. Within walking distance we toured the Church of St Josepha, 1670s church with a golden altar. We found the Molus Museum, but it was unfortunately closed on Mondays. Also within walking distance are the Museum of Panamanian History and the Panama Canal Museum. We popped into unique touristy shops, enjoyed the sounds of the city and discovered street vendors selling handmade molas To discover local foods. The San Felipe Neri Public Market is about a nine-minute walk from the hotel and there you'll discover produce, panamanian fried foods, fresh juice, fish and more. That evening we headed next door for outdoor dining on the square at La Fissaria Seafood. A leisurely meal at Fried Seabass was enjoyed under the stars with the sounds of the city surrounding us. A synchronistic event happened and a Facebook friend saw my post about the hotel. He commented that he was also in Panama City, just a block away. We decided to meet for a cocktail after dinner at the rooftop bar across the square at Casacascos, with loud music playing. The three of us enjoyed a cocktail atop the roof overlooking Casa Viejo. It was thrilling and romantic and a night I won't forget. After such a long day, we were ready for sleep as we had an early pick up in the morning. Our driver, eric, was picking us up early and taking us on a half-day tour of Panama City before our 1pm flight to Bocas del Toro. Here's a pro tip when visiting Panama. Keep in mind when scheduling flights there are two airports in Panama City that you'll utilize. If flying into Bocas del Toro From the US, you'll fly into Tokumen International Airport, but to fly to Bocas del Toro you must depart and arrive at the Albrook Marcos Aguiliburte International Airport. Keep this in mind when scheduling flights. Our driver said visitors often missed their flight home because they didn't realize they needed to change airports. We scheduled our visit to arrive a day before our reservations at Casa Caillouco in Bocas del Toro, allowing us to leisurely enter into the country without rushing to the next airport, but had the added benefit of a day and a half in Panama City to explore On the route home. We didn't plan for this extra day of travel and experienced an 18-hour travel day with a boat ride to Bocas del Toro, the flight to Panama City, a flight to Miami with a 3-hour layover, then the flight home to Kansas City. Next time I'll break up this long travel day with another night in Panama City. Back to our tour of Panama City. Eric was a knowledgeable guide who made the city come alive with his insights and passion for Panama. Eric took us to the Panama Canal, a marvel of engineering, where we witnessed the colossal ships passing through the mirror floor's locks. It was a jaw-dropping sight and a testament to human ingenuity. While there, we watched the IMAX 3D film that's narrated by Morgan Freeman and called Panama Canal. A land divided, a world united. It's a visually stimulating history of the Panama Canal. After visiting the canal, we toured several areas of the city. Eric's passion for his city was contagious and his stories about Panama's history, culture and modernization were both engaging and enlightening. The following recordings were made during our tour of Panama City and Eric talks about his background, the building of the Panama Canal, the history of the city, tourism, and don't miss destinations and more. I hope you enjoy the tour as much as we did Music plays. Eric, if you would tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up and what led you to start a tour. Company Music plays.

Speaker 3:

My dad was before my uncle. I applied for a job in the Panama Canal in the 60s, actually two years before I was born. He applied for a job in 1965 for the Panama Canal. So the way they hire people back then they have to swim across, like you see, the channel that we you have to swim across and come back Under the bridge of the Americas, that big bridge we can see when we got to the city that is called Bridge of the America Bill in 1962 by the US and it's a little bit wider. So that was the only test. They didn't require anything else. You can go over there and come back. You hire. So my dad was Panamanian, so he got hired. He was actually the guy that when the vessel comes in, they usually group of 10 of 12 people, depending on the vessel jump into the boat and they will help the mills with the cable because they have to attach on every lock. They have to attach the vessel to the mill so the mill can hold it in the middle while it's going through. So their solo-mount employee has to go into the boat while they're going through. So in 1965 my dad was hired then. So in 1967 I was born, when I was actually 94 I was probably 24 years old I wanted to learn English. My older sister married a guy in the US. She was already there and so I decided to go to the US and learn English and I was supposed to be there for six months a state tenure. We married there. We're still married, and I brought her to Panama for the first time in 1998. Jeff US citizen. So she was like, oh, I like it here, I see myself living in Panama. So in 2003 we decided to loop off to Panama. So I decided, hey, why don't we start like a do-company? They were not that many then and then I decided to start this business, started like a driver, you know, and then when the big tour guys were doing tours, I was like walking behind and listening and then reading a lot, learning about dates and numbers. So, about Panama, I did a study that's amazing, still music. Okay, now we're gonna go through this. It's called paraíso. Actually, these little tile and the one that we bat, they're gonna be wiped out. If I don't have a canal, it's gonna own this. This is gonna turn into a forest and the other one that is sitting below it's gonna be color bar lake. There was about five miles going. Let me see east from here, west from here. That way there is a main river, just like the Chagrin River. The Chagrin River is the only river that feeds freshwater and into the Panama Canal. So they want another river. There's one that is about six miles from here. That river goes from the middle of the country but then the water goes to the, the Atlantic Ocean. What the Panama Canal wants is that water to come into the lake. They want to spend about, maybe about I'll find out exactly how much is the budget for that. They're spending 250 millions in land. They're buying land like they're buying this land. They buying this next land. They're buying all this land. They want more forest, more water, because they want a water tea the next a hundred years to the business. Because, hey, a lot of vessels that are going through you know they're how they make the money is that has the most container that they can carry going through. And the Panama Canal say well, now you cannot look at that one. That's a post-pandamax. That vessel is paying over a million dollars to go through. Today that vessel can carry 11,000 containers. Look, he said evergreen 11,000 containers. So they can. If the Panama Canal calls. They say listen, next month you cannot come back with 11,000 containers, just bring six thousand. They're gonna say, well, I'm sorry, but we're not using the Panama Canal anymore. They have other options. I'm gonna give you one option. Yeah, if that vessel leaves China, he wants to go to New York. He has two options. He can go to the middle east, africa and use the Swiss Canal and cross the Atlantic. It takes two more days. Or they can do it and there's no limit over there, because the Swiss Canal they don't use locks, it's just an open, wide channel, very wide. And the other option if they want to save two days, they can come through the Panama Canal. And right now you know the efficiency is what is it? Or is it their main goal? Efficiency is I want to carry the boats and I want to save time, so two days for them is billions of dollars. If you look at that vessel on top, it's missing a lot of containers. It's missing a lot of container because I seen the same vessel having maybe six more containers on top on each row and that's probably about a hundred fifty roll over there. So if that already is limited, but the Panama, if they hear, like in the future. The future of the Panama Canal is compromised. They're gonna start like a listen, we're losing money about going through the Panama Canal. We're gonna have to start finding another, another route. So the Panama Canal does not want that. They want to hear it. Well, the Panama Canal is working on it like for the next 100 years we can go through with no limit. So they want more water in the lake because of the climate change. We're not getting that punch rain like we use. Yeah, I can tell that this all is missing a lot of containers of top. So that means yeah, yeah, it's moving. Yeah, so right now we left, china is heading to the east coast of the United States. Maybe first stop is Miami or straight to New York, and that has to merchandise for Christmas. So it's very important that merchandise gets there on time. They want 50,000 more acres of water, and so they buy more land. They buy every private land they can own near the Panama Canal. They can turn it into a forest or a lake. They will do it.

Speaker 1:

Now this tour that we're on with you today. Is this something that a visitor could book with you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sure, sure. And where to do take-ins, just so that it's on the ground.

Speaker 3:

You okay, depending on what time is store. We do a morning tour and I want to go as early as I can to the Panama Canal first, yes, and then after that we do the Panama Canal. When, then we do the city and then we do the old town and then we do the Amador Island. This is the tour. One is called the full day, that we'll do this thing, and then we go to the rainforest as well. We like, we go into rainforests and we enter the freedom natural part. That is the full day. It usually takes about six hours, six to eight hours to bed, and then there's the half day. That's the one we do it today. With the half day we do Panama Canal, panama City, old Town and the Amador Islands.

Speaker 1:

The story begins as all like does with water.

Speaker 3:

In forests. That was built in purpose so we can make it rain more in this area. Yeah, so it's part of 130,000 acres of protected land. We'll stay mules. They assist the vessel once they're inside the chamber with the cable and they keep the vessel in the middle so they don't hit the doors or the wall. This is the only part of the world that exists, built by Mitsubishi Kawasaki. What's the purpose? The vessel will have to go around Sappamori. It was $2.3 billion, so from 1.6 to 1.8 billion in the early 2000s. Now it's 2.1, 2.3 billion, because now we have bigger vessels going through.

Speaker 2:

And as far as visitors, are Coast people coming from? I mean, is it just a mix from all over the?

Speaker 3:

world, yeah, all over the world free location, us for sure. In visitors we get all kinds. We get European, us, canadians, latin America, a combination of all.

Speaker 2:

What's the name of the neighborhood we stayed? Our American friend Hotel, was that that?

Speaker 3:

is the old district, it's San Felipe. It's called the Old Town, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Old Town, yeah, okay. And then they said we're supposed to stay or go ahead and ship this. They got about $4.5.

Speaker 3:

So what's the name of the hotel? San Felipe, san Felipe, san Felipe, San Felipe, san Felipe.

Speaker 2:

Now, as far as visitors, if someone's staying in Panama City, I don't know if there's the market for fresh seafood, but it's like guided fishing a thing where people get rid and have a tour guide take them out for fishing.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, I do a lot of deep sea fishing, but I'm also in the top five places in the world for deep sea fishing.

Speaker 2:

Marlin fishing Tuna yeah, Obviously there's also a high cave. What was the name of that mountain, the hill that you?

Speaker 3:

said the Ancon Hill. Over here they have excellent hiking. They got a town type hiking that takes about five to eight hours depending on your skill.

Speaker 1:

As we travel on this exciting podcasting journey together, I invite you, our incredible audience, to be a part of it. Share your own travel stories, insights and recommendations with us. Whether you have a hidden gem in your hometown or a dream destination that has captured your imagination, we want to hear from you. Your suggestions will help shape the future episodes of Global Journeys with Jill Dutton, guiding us towards extraordinary locations and experiences that deserve a spotlight. Remember, this podcast is not about just the host or the guests. It's about the collective exploration and discovery that unites us all as wanderers in this vast world. So reach out to us through our website, social media channels or email and let your voice be heard. Send your suggestions to me at Jill at Global Journeys with JillDuttoncom. I can't wait to hear from you. Until next time, may your travels be filled with endless curiosity, open-hearted encounters and transformative adventures. Love Travels, fellow explorers, and keep wandering.

Exploring Panama City
Eric's background
Panama Canal