Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May 2, 2007 - Colon, Panama

The Free Zone in Colon, Panama is the second largest in the world. Hong Kong is the largest. It is a walled and gated district of crumbling buildings filled with all kinds of consumer products. Most of the stores are wholesale only, but there is a strip of shops containing the brand names that we all know - Fendi, Gucci, Puma, Nike, Polo, etc - that do retail sales. While I wandered through the Guess shop, Sten was speaking with another boyfriend/husband/father/insert-male-relation-here outside. He explained that for Americans and Canadians, the Free Zone is no big deal, because we have access to all these products at home. But for South and Central Americans, the Free Zone is Nirvana.

Even if you don't need any brand name apparel, the Free Zone offers one attraction that shouldn't be missed - the pushcarts. We had a tasty lunch of rotisserie chicken, tostones and soda for a grand total of $4.25.

After the expense of the Eastern Caribbean, one of the main attractions for us about Panama is the prices. Filet at the grocery store is less than $5.00/lb. A Taxi ride to anywhere in Colon is $1. A bus to the Gatun Locks is $0.75. A 2 hour bus ride to Panama City is $2.50. A movie at the mall is $4.00 a person - we're hoping to see the new Spiderman when it opens later this week. At the yacht club, lunch for the two of us, including a bacon cheese burger, club sandwich, and beverages is $7. A bottle of beer at the yacht club is $1, a pitcher is $4. As a result, there are a bunch of guys with long white beards who are there when the bar opens at 10am. By 2 in the afternoon, their tables are half covered with empty bottles of the local brew - Panama, Balboa or Soberana. Sten refers to these guys as the "Captains of the Bottle." By 7pm the cruisers have cleared out of the joint, and the locals have taken over their bar stools.

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