Today we headed for Panama City. The drive to the airport from Boquete takes about 45 minutes. You have to drive to the town of David. I was amazed to see all of the new development springing up on our way to David. There were a bunch of gated communities going up almost every 10 miles. Panama is becoming a popular destination for retirees, hence the gated communities.
We talked to your driver about the growth to get his opinion about it. On one hand, he thinks the development is good because it will bring more business for him therefore more money. On the other hand, with more Americans moving to Panama, bigger US companies are going to move into these communities, which in turn raises the cost of goods for everyone. For many locals, higher prices for things like groceries and clothing would be a great challenge for them. Nonetheless, it was interesting to get a locals opinion about it all.
Once we arrived in David, we connected with our flight to Panama City. The flight to Panama City is about an hour. It was a very beautiful flight. Panama is so green. I am glad we got a bird's eye view of the country. We also were able to see the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the same time which were very neat.
After we arrived in Panama City we met up with Kenny from Tecal tours to begin our Panama City tour. We started our tour with a visit to the Museum in the old part of Panama City. This museum explains the conditions of the country when the first settlers arrived and how the country developed from there.
Then we head to tour ruins from the first buildings ever built in Panama. This was so cool. It is amazing to think we were viewing buildings that existed a hundred plus years ago. I climbed up an old bell tower that was part of one of the first churches. From the top of the bell tower I could see all of the ruins in this particular area. The interesting thing I noticed as we drove in this area of the city was that the ruins are pretty much right in the middle of the city. We would drive around and see some old ruins on one block and then on the very next block, there would be restaurants, businesses and apartments.
Our next stop was to go to the newer part of Panama City. We then headed to the "white house" of Panama. It is so crazy because you can walk right up to t he office where the Panama president's offices are. Normally the president would live in this building too but Panama's current president has young children and wanted them to have a more relaxed atmosphere for home life. The only security near this particular building is guards at the beginning of each block and then a security guard inside the building. Not quite as tight security as the President of the United States. Very very interesting. Also located in the office building of the President are Herons. They are just free to roam about the building. I thought this was a nice touch.
When we are finished with lunch, we head to the Miraflores locks. We first toured the museum and learned about the construction of the Panama Canal. Given the time frame of when the canal was constructed, it is such an amazing site to see.
After we tour the museum, we get a chance to watch a boat go through the locks. This is a very complicated process but it works flawlessly. It takes about 45 minutes for the boats to go through the locks. It is crazy how large these boats are and how much cargo they carry. The boats have to shut off their engines and be pulled through the locks by locomotives that are located on either side of the boat. Then they drain the water on one side of the locks until it is even with the other side. Then the locomotives pull the boat through and they raise the water level again and the boat continues on its way.
Kenny told us that the ships are becoming increasingly larger and can't get through the canal. Because of this, the Panama Canal is going to have to be remodeled or else it will become obsolete. Already they have to unload some of the larger ships' cargo and put the cargo on a train. Then the train goes across the length of the canal with the cargo. When it gets to the other side, they unload the train and put the cargo on another ship and it continues on its way. When one thinks about the time and effort it takes to do this, it is easy to see why the Panama Canal is such an important landmark to Panama and many other countries.