Read an Excerpt
1) Today’s interminable number of sub-communities and mini-cultures in Bocas brings a unique mix of gastronomy, music and language to the province. More English speakers are found on the archipelago than anywhere else in Panama, while the indigenous Indians use Ngabere, Spanish or Guari-Guari. An influx of holiday-homers has brought a new era of internationalism to Bocas and 50 different resident nationalities were tallied by the locals in 2008 alone. Such a trans-national character can be a surprise to travellers fresh from the eastern provinces that step from ancient customs into a funky laidback tourist haven, complete with tropical rum shacks and a take-us-as-we-are culture. 2) El Hombre del AviónHe is rarely seen during daylight and is known simply as ‘the aeroplane guy’ but this resident of Isla Colón doesn’t fly planes, he makes them, entirely out of rubbish. Models range in size but can be as big as 2m. Each is painstakingly crafted from salvaged scrap paper, food packaging and tin cans and incorporates intricate operational parts. He favours Panamanian aircraft above all others and most models are replicas of Aeroperlas aeroplanes, usually a Short 360. They are not made for sale and the owner refuses to part with them, although visitors often attempt to persuade him otherwise. A few rather elderly examples of his work are suspended from the roof struts in the bar at the Hotel Angela. Visitors keen to view more recent works stand a good chance by being on Main Street at dusk. This is when the aeroplane guy ‘road tests’ his latest triumph, attaching a piece of string before dragging it along the centre of the road at speed to check moving parts.