March 20, 2009

5 days in Panama, discovery of the City

After 6 months in Guatemala, I needed to get out of the country for 72 hours to renew my visa. I heard about Panama from friends so when I saw a special offer to go there I decided to book a flight in March.

Yesterday I left Xela at 8 am to go to Guatemala City to catch my flight to Panama with a connection in San Jose, Costa Rica. After a long day traveling, I arrived in Panama City at 9:30 PM. I took a shared taxi to the hostel I'm staying. On the road from the airport, we passed in front of the huge skycrappers and steel towers that are growing like flowers. The residents of Panama often joke that Panama is the "Miami from the South", except that more English is spoken.

After a short night, I decided to go to the Miraflores Locks to see the famous canal. I decided to go there by public buses, after all I'm a world traveler and nothing scare me! Took a first bus to the terminal then found a second bus which brought me to the locks. All for only US$O.50! Here they use the old american school buses into the city and you pay the driver when you get off. You have to look on the front window for the name of the destination.

The Miraflores Locks were built in 1913 and stand at the Pacific entrance of the Canal. The canal is stretching on 80 kilometres from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colon on the Atlantic coast. About 35 boats cross it everyday and pay up to US$126,000 of canal fees. But if they don't come through the Canal they will have to go via the Cap Horn and that will take them 2 to 3 more weeks. Crossing the canal takes 24 hours for big boats.
When I was at the Locks I saw 2 big boat crossing. Quite a spectacle!
The Canal was built by the American but in 1999 it was given to the Panamian Government.

Then I decided to take a taxi to Casco Viejo. Living in Guatemala teached me to negociate all prices and I'm getting good at it ;) I paid $5 instead of $8. Casco Viejo is the home of the last remnants of the City's colonial heritage. I especially liked the Plaza de Francia dedicated to the 22,000 workers, most of them from France, Guadeloupe and Martinique, who died during the construction of the Canal.

Back at the hostel, I realized that my camera was doing some strange noise. Oh no! It's not the time to let me down. As i was planing to buy a new camera here (because it's cheaper due to low taxes), I decided to do it today. I went to one of the big shoping center of the city and found one nice camera. So will try it tomorrow! How exciting!

To see pictures of my trip, click here

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