Some of our friends moved to Panama over a year ago and it was in our mind to visit them sometime and explore this country in Central America. When we met up with them in Calgary after Christmas and heard all great things about Panama, we decided to make our thoughts of going on a winter vacation a reality! After we booked our flights, my parents asked to join and we invited our uncle as well so we had a fun crew to tour around with!! It was the first trip with my newly purchased Canon 5DmIV camera and a great chance to quickly see how much I prefer it over the previous model. I’m really happy I upgraded!
We started off with a few days right in Panama City, staying at the Eurostars Hotel which was nice and the location worked great. There was an incredible view of the city from the pool deck on the 27th floor. The first day we did a hop on/hop off city bus tour and spent the morning at the Miraflores Visitor Centre. It was really interesting to learn about the Panama Canal, how it was built and watch a couple ships pass through the locks from the viewing terrace. We also enjoyed lunch out on Flamingo Island and then wandering the cobblestone streets Casco Viejo admiring the Spanish Colonial architecture and colorful buildings. It was fascinating to be in the historic area of the city and then look across to the pretty, modern skyline all part of the same city. We got into a sketchy yet interesting area – there were many security guards around – but seems we missed a good portion of that part of the old city before we ended up by the fish market.
It was great to learn about the canal at the visitor centre and see ships pass through from that perspective and the following day take a Panama Canal partial transit boat tour. It was amazing to be out on the water and better understand how the canal works. An engineering marvel of the world!
It takes ships 8-10 hours to pass from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean (or vice versa) and the record toll paid by a ship to pass through is getting close to a million dollars in the new expanded locks but saves nearly 3 weeks of travel when ships have to go around South America so it’s worth it. In three sets of locks on the west side of Gatun Lake, our boat raised up 86 feet from sea level to match the lake’s elevation. We were tagging along with the Mermaid Express and found it neat to watch the tugboats help manoeuvre such a massive ship through the canal and into the locks. I have to say the Panama Canal was really interesting. A new experience for me! And incredible to think of the work that went into creating the canal and the constant management required to keep everything organized as so many ships use this shortcut to move freight around the world.
We went under the Bridge of the Americas and later the Friendship Bridge.
I hope to share the second part of our trip soon…Playa Coronado and a couple day trips into the jungle!