• Joanna

Wonder of the World

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

My own personal tour of Panama City continued… as I attempted to explore every nook & cranny… while attempting to stay relatively dry. The rain here comes in with such pounding force, but usually ends as quickly as it began.

At one point, I decided I’d walked enough and figured hailing a taxi was much in order. My feet were getting sore, as flip flops aren’t always the best for a long day of city trekking. I was heading towards El Cangrejo, a vibrant and hip neighbourhood in Panama ~ known for its hip bars, laid back brewpubs, trendy restaurants, cool cafes and busy casinos.

Sounds like my kind of neighbour.


El Cangrejo was located about 45 minutes walk away from where I currently was standing. Much too much more walking for this beach style of footwear. Taxi, it shall be…


Another particularily irritating trademark of travelling alone, is the depths of personal invasion to which some taxi drivers will dive…


Deep. Way deep.


It’s a real thing… and for as long as i travel, I doubt I will ever fully get used to it.


This taxi driver was no exception to the rule.

Almost as soon as I got in, I was bombarded with the usual questions. I must also mention, the taxi and/or the driver was positively dripping with Drakar.

”Where is your husband? Where is your boyfriend? Where are your children?”

I played it cool… as usual… and just tried to smile and laugh it off… but nothing deterred him. He just kept on pestering. I even pretended to not speak Spanish… but it didn’t work. He had the English questions cued up and ready to go.


Finally, it got to the point where I ended up having to answer him ~ no husband, no boyfriend, no son…


Then the next bout of questions begin… why???


… I don’t have a husband or a boyfriend or children because I just want to fucking go to El Cangrejo, señor… muchas graçias…


I think he finally got the hint, because then he started explaining the facade differences between apartment buildings and office buildings.


Thanks, tips…

I can‘t really remember when I really started to take a vested interest, but for quite awhile now, I have wanted to see the Panama Canal… It was a bucket list item… and a must-do while I was in Panama.


I had originally booked a tour that was set to go through the first canal lock, but unfortunately they had to cancel, due to scheduling problems. The alternative day didn’t really work with my schedule, so I was desperate to find another one. That’s when I discovered Tony.


Tony’s tour guaranteed to cover the most emblematic places in the city… and visit the canal. It wasn’t exactly the sail through I had originally been hoping for, but at least it was something.


Tony picked me up at 7am and off we went. I was the only person on the tour, so I had his undivided attention… and he, mine. We began our tour, speaking only in Spanish, but eventually the historical and technical dialogue became too difficult for me to keep up… and we had to revert to English.

It cost me $10 to enter the visitor center. There were four floors to pass through on our way up to the observation deck. Each floor was like a small, interactive museum, depicting a different historical tIme of construction, but our tour guide hurried us through. A ship was about to enter the first lock.


Exciting!


There I was… watching a freight ship about to go through the Panama Canal. Wow.


I think I speak for everyone when i say we were completely enthralled with the brilliant functioning of this incredible man-made wonder of the world.

Fascination’ does not begin to give proper justice to how I was feeling, as I

watched this enormous ship sail in from the Pacific… make its way through the first lock… on its journey through to the Caribbean and eventually, the Atlantic…


Hats off to the masterminds of days gone by…


Apparently it takes between 8-12 hours for one ship to pass through the entire system. Of course, we did not have that time… so we could only stay until the ship had entered Miraflores Lake.


Tony also took me over the Bridge of the Americas, a 1962 bridge that spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, and connects the north and south land masses.

Tony was very knowledgeable about the history of Panama… which is good, considering he is a guide. Very interesting.


I did not know a lot about the American invasion of Panama, but I will be reading up on it now, in order to educate myself on the topic.


The Invasion of Panama was codenamed Operation Just Cause, lasted over a month between December 20th, 1989 and January 31st, 1991. When I first read about it, I read the codename as in “Just Cuz, ” as opposed to “Just Cause.” Thought that was a little cheeky. Almost as if they had nothing else to do.

I noted that Panama was very patriotic right now. There were flags and banners hanging all over the city.

It turns out the November is quite the month for celebration, with parades and festivities galore.

Day of the Dead - November 2nd Separation Day (from Columbia) - November 3rd

Flag Day - November 4th

Colon Day - November 5th

Los Santos Uprising Day - November 10th

Independence Day (from USA) - November 29th


Tony took me back into Casco Viejo, but as opposed to using to front entrance, he used the less impressive, back entrance. The old part of Panama City. El Chorillo.


This part of the city was almost identical to Casco Viejo… but… big but… in this neighborhood, the roads were not red cobblestone, they were speckled with potholes and littered with trash. The buildings were not restored to original beauty, but dirty, crumbling and uncared for. Squatters had laid claim to each deteriorated structure and moved in by the dozen. Everywhere you looked, the streets were filled with those suffering from mental and/or physical illness and drug problems.

Apparently the government has the intention of restoring this area as well, and it will be interesting to see its transformation… but for now, all tourists are advised to stay out!


Back in Casco Viejo, Tony instructed me to get out and pop into see a few churches. So much for the walking portion of my tour!

I did what I was told to do… though I have little to no interest in seeing churches anymore. I’ve seen enough… like bloody caves. It’s over. While I was in one of them, some lady yelled at me because she figured I was getting too close to some scaffolding. I have now been yelled at in a church. If I had a nickel for every time…


My bucket list is just being checked away!


I have much difficulty with donating to the churches. Especially the grandiose, filled with silver and gold and previous gems. Walking past the donation box and feeling a certain degree of obligation to contribute, does not sit well with me. As the richest organizations in the entire world. I think they should be donating to me. Me and my travels.


I do have to admit, I was quite enthralled with a nativity scene displayed in one of the many churches I visited. It was like the birth of Christ meets miniature world. The time and the overwhelming amount of detail put into this lavish display was mind-bogglin.

When my tour was over he asked me what kind of food I’d like to eat and I said, quickly and politely, that I ‘pretty much‘ liked everything… which was quite a bit of a lie. A lot of a lie, actually.

Seafood, it was… and suddenly I was being driven out of Casco Viejo and I found myself dropped off at the local Seafood Market. Tony ran into inform all the servers about my dislike of cilantro, handed me a menu and was off like a flash. I stood there… in a tizzy, trying to figure out what had just occurred… and how I was going to get out of the situation.


I do like seafood… but I wasn’t entirely in the mood for a full fish feast at 11am. I had not even had a coffee yet…


Coffee first. Fish second.

Always.


I smiled, thanked them all profusely… and made my way back to Casco Viejo. I promised to return… when I was in the mood for pescado.


I had full intention of visiting the Canal Museum after lunch, but the rain and my laziness ended up triumphant. Torrential downpour and early mornings have a way of inducing an afternoon nap.


When I first announced my plans to visit Panama… a friend was adamant I visit her friend, Oscar, who lived in the city. Of course! As much as I am often hesitant to meet strangers, I usually jump at the chance to meet locals. As a tourist, it provides you a completely different perspective.

When I discovered they didn’t really know each other, and had only met through video games, I decided to forgo the pleasure and tried to back out immediately.


After much encouragement, I changed my mind and agreed to meet Oscar at my hotel restaurant.


He was delightful.

I am glad I had a change of heart.


We spent the better part of two hours deep in conversation about Panama, it’s history, places to go, our friends and family, future dreams… and even the issues and a couple humorous stories about the less fortunate. He had been concerned I might wander into El Chorillo.


It was a fabulous night and I am now proud to call Oscar from Panama, my friend…


😊

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