We visited Panama when I was five. That was probably a good five years early, because the main purpose of the trip was to see the Panama Canal, the most important canal on Earth. I had no clue what or where the Panama Canal was, or even what it was supposed to do. So I had little appreciation for its significance at the time.
Our hotel was the Panama Marriott Hotel, which was an extremely fancy building, quite like Panama City, which has a striking skyline with skyscrapers galore. We first went to the Metropolitan Natural Park, which is located in the mountains above Panama. From there, we hiked for a few hours, occasionally taking pictures of the city from above. We got some wonderful views of Panama City, which is a surprisingly wealthy place. Its GDP per capita is actually three times than of the rest of Panama, because the rich of Panama live in its capital.
Since we’d also commuted all the way to Panama, the day was cut short. The next day, we would be visiting the Panama Canal. We took a boat tour on one of the tankers, the way a cargo ship would go through the canal.
I will tell the story from two different perspectives: my actual perspective at the time of the visit, and what I think now. When I entered the canal, I had no clue what the canal was, as previously stated. I had no idea why we were here, and though there was a tour guide, I wasn’t really interested in what he was saying. Basically, I was just bored. I stayed at the bottom half of the ship, basically doing nothing but waiting for the tour to end so that I could do something more fun. I saw the canal itself, but it just wasn’t the most interesting thing in my mind.
Compare that to what I would’ve said today. It would’ve been around the lines of “Wow”, or maybe, “How many ships go through the canal?”. I wouldn’t just sit there, for sure. The way the canal works is actually quite fascinating. The Pacific and Atlantic oceans are at different sea levels, unlike in the Suez Canal’s case. This meant that a lock system to raise and lower ships was needed. In the middle of the Canal is Lake Gatun, finished off with a few more locks. When we arrived at the Atlantic Ocean, my five year old self wasn’t aware. We arrived at Colon, which is on the other side of the Panama Canal. It has a deep Caribbean influence, and we could see how geography impacted the culture of Colon. Since we were constrained by time, we weren’t able to get to many sites, and instead had to stay near the port. After the day trip, we turned back to Panama City. It was night by then, so we went to sleep. The next and last day in Panama, we did two things. First was exploring old Panama City, which is a beautiful place with old Spanish architecture. We also embarked on a yacht to Taboga Island, which is off the Pacific Coast.
Exploration was part of the journey to the yacht filled port. We looked around and took photos of the architecture. We didn’t go deep, though, and instead got on the yacht. It was very luxurious, with even a bedroom. However, we mainly stayed on the deck. Finally, we reached Tobaga Island, where we played in the sand. I even found a shell, though it looked like a piece of a skull. Afterwards, I tried my hand at snorkeling, which proved hard, because I couldn’t sleep.
We returned home the next day. It was a short trip, but we were very productive. I just wish I visited the canal when I was older.
We visited Panama a few years after, on a layover. We’d just visited Jamaica, and so we would have a day in the hotel. We stayed in the hotel for the first day, and for the second day, we went to the mall, though we planned to go to Old Panama City. We had very little time, and we made the most of it.
- Visit the Panama Canal. This is a wonder of the modern world, the reason why Panama is a country. It would be a disgrace to not visit it.
- Old Panama City is a beautiful place, with Spanish architecture. Don’t miss out!