Jack and I have one day to see the Panama Canal and the other major Panama City sights today. I conducted quite a bit of research on Panama prior to the trip. I don’t like to be the Ugly American, so I study-up on a place before I go. I learned that Panamanians are snappy dressers, and despite the heat and humidity, they frown upon wearing shorts. I conveyed this fact to Jack more than once during our email exchanges prior to departing.
Jack is wearing shorts. Not only that, but he is carrying a big, bulky JANSPORT backpack with nylon straps dangling all over the place. Why does he need a backpack when we’ve hired a car to take us around for the day? We’re not going to the library to study.
THE PANAMA CANAL & MIRAFLORES LOCK
The Panama Canal is our first sightseeing stop. Jack and I start at the Panama Canal Museum, which is far more interesting than I had imagined (I’m about as much into feats of engineering as I am into birds). We move on to Miraflores, one of three locks forming part of the Panama Canal. Ships are lowered or raised here, allowing them to transit to or from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The lock is worth seeing: it’s only one meter wider than the largest ships that pass through it. Unfortunately we catch no boat action, as the best hours for viewing vessels are around opening (9:00 a.m.) and closing (5:00 p.m.) time.
Casco Viejo, Panama City’s historic quarter, has been in the travel spotlight lately, billed as an up-and-comer (travel and leisure), but it still has a lot of upping and coming to do. We catch glimpses of potential glamour among the crumbling buildings and decay, but it still feels mostly seedy, even though I typically find charm in a certain amount of dilapidation. I wouldn’t feel comfortable here alone.
Going from one extreme to another, we ask our driver to take us to the Bahá’í Temple. To oversimplify, Bahá’í is an inclusive religion delivering the principle message that humanity is one single race and encouraging one global society. Only eight Bahá’í houses of worship exist (although more are under construction), and I’m a fan of the one just north of Chicago, a graceful white tower with symbols of many of the world’s religion etched into it. The Panama City temple shares the same dome-like shape and nine-sided design (as do all the temples), but lacks the splendor. It’s tranquil here, though, and we’re happy to have made the detour.