Colon, Panama : Snubbing the Canal
I can’t fake it. It’s time for the unvarnished truth. We stopped in Panama and ignored the major attraction – the Panama Canal. We made that decision knowing that the canal is maybe the greatest engineering feat of modern man. Most of our shipmates disembarked and started towards the Gatun Locks and Gatun Lake, the largest man-made lake in the world.
The few passengers who didn’t sign up for the canal excursion were headed to Fort San Lorenzo, built on orders from King Phillip II in 1595. The location was chosen for its commanding view of the mouth of the Chagres River, the perfect spot for defending against enemies.
Welcome to Colon, Panama
With so much to see and so little time to see it, why would we make the unconventional decision to stay close to the ship? Our reason was relatively simple. A few years back we spent several weeks in Panama, and we trekked the country from shore to shore. During that trip we enjoyed a day at the Panama Canal Museum, studied the history, and watched a ship pass through the locks. It was amazing and no quickie return would give us the same feeling we captured when we had time to properly savor the canal, the country, and the people. If you haven’t been to Panama, let me suggest you scribble it on your bucket list.
During our prior visit we stayed close to the foot of Ancon Hill, hiked to the top each morning and watched the city come alive below us. We took time to listen to monkeys chatter and birds squawk. We ate at local cafes, shopped non-touristy markets, and became friends with Panamanians we met along the way. Panama is a country to be appreciated slowly, not rushed.
Colon Shopping Center
When our cruise ship pulled into Colon, the second most populated city in Panama, we decided to break the hectic pace of a new port every day, and we simply disembarked, sat at an internet café, drank a beer, checked out a few shopping stalls, and did some people watching. We relived memories of our earlier time in Panama. It was good for the soul.
Enjoying a Local Beer
Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for Wandering Educators.
Feature photo:Brightly colored clothes at the Colon Shopping Center
All photos courtesy and copyright Bob and Julie Royce.