5 Places in Panama I Need to Visit

I’ve been a lazy/busy chap recently and haven’t applied myself to the task of either blogging about Panama or travelling. This is terrible! To raise my enthusiasm for both I’ve decided to write about 5 places that I really want to visit here in Panama. Some of them are on the beaten path and others stray a little further but they all have their own charms. This year – let’s make these all happen.

La Miel

A land of opportunity. A honeyed land…. All these are word we use to describe an unobtainable paradise, a fleeting dream of what could be but never will be.

La Miel is that utopia.  Continue reading

January 2014 Photos of the Month

By James Bloomfield

January has been a really busy month for me, with a bunch of travel and work dominating my time. I went to Colon a couple of times, travelled to the Portobelo National Park (images to come), and walked around the city a bunch. I’m always keen to get strolling around more and my new work arrangements should allow me to do this a lot more easily – meaning more images here!

I decided to include some of my Costa Rica images in another post and keep the bulk of my January images here.

Check out the pictures below and let me know what you think!

Casco Viejo, Panama

A battered red door in Panama City’s old town, Casco Viejo.

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Excellent Video of Festival de Los Congos y Diablos

I LOVED this festival in early 2013 and had a great time tasting delicious Caribbean food, partying with whip-wielding devils, drinking with diablos, and being generally ludicrously crowded into a tiny town. It was amazing and I think this video only takes in about 1% of the madness and fun – I’m definitely making this happen in 2014! Check it out and while you’re at it read my old post too, with pictures of the event.

LOUD frogs at Bala Beach Resort, Caribbean Coast

It is amazing just how loud these little creatures were that night. Normally it can be relatively calm at night on this stretch of coast between Sabanitas and Portobelo but this night our little amphibious friends were out in force. The lone light you can see there is the restaurant at the resort, as it is not yet open for guests until January. Looking forward to heading back out there and grabbing some more photos of the local area.

Street Photos November 2013

By James Bloomfield

urban gardening panama

Garden centre in San Francisco, Panama.

These photos were taken during a busy month for me. Helping to organize an art show, working with children in Colon for a few days, as well as a bunch of more corporate stuff, kept me on my toes. I decided to upload the photos I had taken in this period of time, as it was simpler than ever thanks to a new smartphone. I’m impressed at how well these turned out considering the tiny format. The one major thing I found to be perfect for using a smartphone was its discrete nature – no one is turning around at the monstrous gun barrel that the modern DSLR can represent.

Sign in Coco del Mar, Panama

Plants are from God, take care of them.

panama urban photography

Gas tank and crates at the back of Restaurante Jimmy’s

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Festival de Los Congos – Portobelo, Panama

By James Bloomfield

My first experience of the Festival de Los Congos began with a bang. Literally. As the rear axle of my compatriot’s 4×4 thudded against a rock, we knew that it was going to leave at least a couple of marks.

caribbean festival panama

A man poses with a doll’s head.

A whirling explosion of devil masks, wooden sticks, fried food and Caribbean culture, the Festival de Los Congos is unmissable. I had an amazing time watching the Caribbean culture of Panama take the centre stage for a brief time. It felt like a massive outpouring of joy and anger, as the devils whirled, the children ran through the legs of adults and smoking meat tantalized our nostrils.

panama diablos

A passionate man with a revealing perspective.

diablo rojo carribean

A close up of a Diablo.

Each costume is lovingly made and then systematically, thoroughly and brutally destroyed. It feels right. These costumes shouldn’t be preserved. They need to be sacrifical, to absorb all the manic energy and frustration of living amongst the slums on Panama’s Caribbean coast.

I couldn’t bring myself to look at another pollera after this. I love the culture of Panama but, as one of the incredibly eloquent speakers here put it, “Panama has many blacks – why don’t we have the same importance as the pollera and party dresses?”. I couldn’t help but agree; the sheer vitality of this festival and its proximity to Panama City should make it more relevant.

Nowhere have I felt more energized in Panama, as well as simultaneously saddened that this is probably likely to remain a very local event. I have had many good times in Panama but this made me feel slightly wistful – I know that lots of foreigners and Panamanians look down on the Congo culture. They really shouldn’t. There is a wealth and sense of fun here that should be more Panamanian, should spread beyond Maria Chiquita and Portobelo to knock down the complacency of the reinas and the carnavales. Perhaps it will one day….

diablo rojo panama

A Diablo stares a boy down.

diablo panama

A diablo mask.

diablo rojo panama

Diablo with lolling tongue.

James Bloomfield