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Panama City: Hong Kong on the Isthmus
Panama City is often called "Miami of the South," or "Dubai of the Americas," referring to its sparkly skyline and booming economy. As long as we're throwing out metaphors, I would add "Hong Kong on the Isthmus" to the mix--just look at this view of the financial district from the colonial quarter, Casco Viejo. But, given Panama City's multiple personalities, it really cannot be accurately analogized with any of these cities. Panama City has a feel and taste all its own. A growing community of expats from all over the first world blend with a rooted culture that withstood fierce attacks from pirates like Henry Morgan in the 1600s. The El Cangrejo district hosts opulent casinos; a new Trump tower is nearby in Punta Pacifica. Across the bay in Casco Viejo, the labyrinthine, cobbled streets--designed purposely to confuse marauding pirates--are now dotted with chic restaurants and boutique hotels, alongside humble shops, backpacker hostels, and many piles of rubble from buildings that were bombed by the Americans in the 1989 invasion. Ancon district is home to Parque Natural Metropolitano, the only nature and wildlife preserve within the boundaries of a city, and is a refuge where one can wander sylvan trails and commune with a wealth of exotic flora and fauna without ever leaving Panama City. The Caribbean coast is less than an hour by train. Many people only see Panama City in an afternoon stopover on a canal cruise, but it is a destination that merits a longer stay.
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