Panama City, Panama
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
07/10/2001 Miramar Hotel 1620 KM 217881 KM

PHOTOS
 
Prostitution is legal in Panama, where upscale and low-rent brothels coexist, along with massage parlors, where “servicing” is against the law, but takes place at lower rates, since lower taxes are paid by the owner.

On the southern tip of the city peninsula, girls hang out at the Paseo de las Bovedas (Promenade of Vaults).


 
Panama City, home to 700,000 people, is a banking and trade center.

Playing volleyball without a net in front of a ruined church near the former Noreiga headquarters


 
The Catedral stands at Plaza de la Independencia, where Panamanian independence was declared on 3 November 1903.

One of the many colorful balconies at Plaza de la Independencia, the main plaza just two blocks from the ocean


 
Panama City offers glimpses of poverty and wealth. The Chorrillo district, where Noreiga’s headquarters was located, is among the poorest areas.

Where Noriega’s headquarters stood now stand homes built by the US for displaced people due to the 1989 invasion. We couldn't help but notice these buildings looked 50 years old, not a mere decade old.


 
Now a park, this was once the headquarters of Manuel Noreiga, destroyed during the 1989 US invasion and overthrow of his government.

The space between these palm trees is the same as the narrowest width of the Panama Canal.


 
One of several advertisements aimed to induce Panamanians to buy one of the former US military homes near the Panama Canal.

This former US military facility for Panama Canal workers has become “The University of Knowledge”. This structure at least has a use, whereas most we see sit empty and, sometimes, fading in value.


 
When the US administered the Panama Canal, thousands of US soldiers “protected” the passage. Thus, there was a need for military housing, all of which was given to the Republic of Panama on 31 December 1999, when the US honored the initial treaty calling for its removal on this date. Now, countless of these former US military homes sit empty.

All my life I've heard about the famed Panama Canal and upon seeing the Miraflores Locks, I slumped, thinking, “It’s so narrow.” Granted during inception in the early 1900s – no boat or ship came near the size of our enormous super vessels of 2001.


 
Once the tremendous ships, many overflowing with containers, reach the Panama Canal, they are turned over to Panama Canal pilots who lead the vessel, with assistance from locomotives through the 80 kilometer-long waterway.

Built over a 10-year period, the Panama Canal has seen more than 850,000 vessels pass through the waterway since the opening on 15 August 1914. The Republic of Panama assumed full control of the Panama Canal on 31 December 1999.


 
In the afternoon, we visited the fabled Panama Canal, where enormous ships carry massive cargo through the narrowest point of 33.5 meters.


 
 
PAIGE'S NOTES
 
7 October 2001 – All my life I've heard about the importance of the Panama Canal, and just after college I learned more about it when I dated a guy who spent a few years on one of the nearby bases due to his career-military father. To see it firsthand was a must for me. Jim and I arrived to find two enormous cargo ships passing through the Miraflores Locks, and just as I've been told, there looked to be almost no room between the ships’ shell and the canal wall.

The Panama Canal turned out to be much smaller than I had imagined – yes, it runs 80 kilometers, but spectators don't view most of that. The real action is when a ship passes through one of the three locks, where the tightest spot is 33.5 meters wide. The average cost a vessel pays, to be piloted through the stretch by one of the canal’s captains, is US$45,000 and the entire passing takes roughly 24 hours.

Almost since the Panama Canal opened in 1914, there have been constant, on-going widening programs, and, at present, Panama reports a US$1 billion expansion underway. Seems that back in the early 1900s, the architects – in their 10 years of building the canal – should have envisioned a need for a wider passageway through the locks, but I suppose they showed enormous forethought when looking at the boats being used back then. In an ever-changing and modern world – planning 100 years out is perhaps impossible.

The most shocking part of our Panama Canal visit was the hundreds of homes left empty from the 31 December 1999 pullout of the American military and their families, leaving a developed and well-built ghost town in the area around the canal. The US gave the military homes and facilities to the Panamanian government when the Canal reverted to Panama and we are told that the present government is trying to sell the homes for US$150, 000.

 
 
Panama Canal
 
AUDIO
 
  Panama Canal (Jim)
  Night life (Jim)
  Panama City and the Panama Canal (Paige)