Playing Around in Panama

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There have been so many wonderful trips I have taken in the past…these were my pre-blogging days. However, despite my lack of technology to document and record my travels, I still did so through the good old fashioned way: a travel journal.  Looking back through my old travel journals, I have been working on compiling several new posts on places I have been to throughout my high school days and university years. I will be sure to note what years these trips took place, just to give readers a heads-up that the information being provided may or may not be exactly up to date. However, the jist of my travels and the structural bones of it all should still serve the purpose of showing readers just how wonderful these places truly were for me. We are going to start with my Central American adventures: first up, Panama!

Back in 2009 …

We arrived in Colon, Panama via our Carnival Freedom cruise ship. Panama had been one of three stops during our Central American cruise venture (posts on the other two locations to come!) and my mom and I were more than excited to get out and explore this new country. With only one day to get a feel for Panama, clearly not enough time to embrace this place fully, we filled our day with all that we could, and I think considering the number of hours we were limited to, we got a good taste of Panama.

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We docked at Colon, a sea port on the Caribbean Sea/Atlantic Ocean coast of Panama. From here we boarded a tour bus and left the city to go and explore Panama City. Our first stop was the Panama Canal, an intricate canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

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Sitting today at  26 metres (85 feet) above sea level, the canal was constructed in order to connect both oceans to create a faster and more ideal trade route. Today, the canal is a key instrument in international maritime trade.234

From the Panama Canal, we continued our tour right into the heart of Panama City. This city was not what I ever pictured our imagined it to look like – the city scape to me looked so modern and non-traditional, it looked like some place from the future.

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As we approached the city and got more into the heart of it all, I began to see a side to Panama that I had only seen in movies and travel books…the traditional and old buildings from a time of the city’s first origins.

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The beautiful façades, the churches on every corner, ruins from old convents, bustling plazas, vibrant pastel colours all around, the stereotypical panama hats being sold on side streets – this was the Panama that I had envisioned before our arrival.

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Upon our tour bus stopping at several designated picture-taking locations, many children came running up to us on the streets. After loading back on the bus and driving away to our next destination, the same children ran after us and jumped onto the back of our bus. Our tour guide instructed us to not give any money to these children and to watch our bags for pickpockets when loading and unloading the bus.

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I was startled and bothered by what I saw and heard, feeling guilty and selfish that later that afternoon, I would be loading back onto my fancy cruise ship once more, eating my three-course meal, and dressing to the nines to experience it all…I did not feel like having any of it in that moment on the bus. I suppose that is the purpose of travel though – to open your eyes and mind.   280

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Prior to this trip, I never really considered how real the issue of poverty was in the world. This trip really changed my perspective on travel and the world. I developed a bigger appreciation for the things I am so blessed with day in and day out, but also, I grew more aware and was greatly intrigued by how many other places in the world are affected by similar issues. Most importantly though? What could I do to make a difference? This birthed a fundraiser event I held later in university and it sparked my interest in taking a seminar class on Issues in Development, my favourite university class to date.

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My overall thoughts? Not enough time in this country – I don’t even think I could give it a fair rating! From what I saw, I was intrigued by the beauty of the city, but I am not sure if I would venture down again to Panama to further explore it.

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Perhaps Panama City would not be on my return list, but I think I would like to make a trip to this country once more to explore Bocas del Toro and Isla de Coiba. I read about these locations on one of my favourite travel blogs, Alex in Wanderland, and fell in love with Alex’s posts on the hostels, dive spots, and coral surfing she experienced at these places. Maybe one day I will return to Panama, because in all fairness, visiting a country for less than 24 hours is by no means any true way to experience any destination.

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Have you ever visited Panama?

What places are worth exploring if I were to return? 

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