Cruising the Calle Central in Panama

Maybe “cruising” is the wrong word since it is a pedestrian-only road now, but Calle Central is definitely the place to be for local shopping in Panama City. There are a variety of options there, from big department stores to little storefronts selling just about anything you could imagine. And on a Saturday afternoon there were lots of people. Not crowded like a Tokyo subway at rush hour, but still bustling with people everywhere.


Looking for street meat? There were many options available, including this woman with some sort of grilled meat that actually looked pretty good. I skipped it the first time past and didn’t get back to her as we were wandering so I have no idea if it was any good, but it looked yummy.


Want your fortune read? Have a seat and let this woman tell your future. If I had to guess, part of the forecast would be “you will stare at my cleavage” but I’m not sure that she actually said that.


And then there were the shaved ice guys. They had a simple cart, stocked with a block of ice, a variety of fruity sugar flavored toppings and a stack of cups. They also had a very cool tool that they use to do the actual shaving work. It looks a lot like a plane that you’d use in woodworking, but this one has a place to hold the cup built in so the “planing” motion fills the cup directly. No waste and less work for everyone.


We were also warned by at least four different people to be very careful with our cameras. I was somewhat impressed that so many people were concerned for our safety, but it was also a bit strange. We survived the visit without losing the cameras, so that worked out OK in the end.

And this parting shot isn’t from the Calle Central, but it is worth sharing anyways. The local buses in Panama City are all old school buses, tricked out by their owners. This one had a particularly nice paint job on it. The only other place I’ve seen such creativity is on the trucks in India, and I think that the Panamanians take it to the next level.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Actually the Pakistanis take truck decoration to a whole new level even compared with the Panamanians. Just do a Google image search for "Pakistan" and "truck".

  2. Great to know about the trucks in Pakistan. I guess I've got yet another reason to add that to my list of destinations to see.

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